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Victims Of African Violence Sing For Justice

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Victims Of African Violence Sing For Justice

Africa

Victims Of African Violence Sing For Justice

Victims Of African Violence Sing For Justice

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The International Criminal Court has been actively pursuing cases involving some horrifying human atrocities in East Africa. But many of the victims can only find justice in a song.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

The International Criminal Court already has substantial docket of cases involving atrocities committed in East Africa. Just this past Thursday the court's chief prosecutor added Kenya to the list. The ICC won't give every victim of violence their day in court.

In fact, as NPR's Gwen Thompkins reports, many of the victims can only find justice in a song.

GWEN THOMPKINS: International criminal court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has asked the court's permission to investigate possible crimes against humanity in Kenya. Ethnic violence there following a presidential election killed more than a thousand people last year, and displaced hundreds of thousands. The International Criminal Court already has cases pending in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan, where President Omar al-Bashir has been indicted for crimes against humanity in Darfur. Moreno-Ocampo says that in Kenya, as in the other countries he's investigated, he will only prosecute the top decision-makers, those responsible for the most egregious acts.

The rest of the culprits, he says, are the responsibility of local governments. But for many victims in these countries, there will be no formal justice, no courts, no chance at compensation, and no opportunity to even say out loud what happened to them.

(Soundbite of music)

THOMPKINS: Kenya and Uganda are neighbors in East Africa. And in Northern Uganda, the Acholi people sing about what happened to them. We're hearing from Clipper Ogwang and his wife, Sabina Lamino(ph). They live outside the town of Kitkun(ph). A militia called the Lord's Resistance Army spent more than 20 years terrorizing their community and others in the region, stealing children, enslaving them, forcing them to kill their parents and siblings. Many who were not stolen were brutalized. Militia members hacked off people's hands, their heads, their lips and ears. Is there any wonder that this song is titled, �What Abomination Has Befallen Our Home Land.�

(Soundbite of song, �What Abomination Has Befallen Our Home Land�)

Mr. CLIPPER OGWANG (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

Ms. SABINA LAMINO(ph) (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

THOMPKINS: The Lord's Resistance Army decamped from northern Uganda four years ago. Its leader, Joseph Kony, is running from an International Criminal Court indictment. And the people left behind are still making peace with what happened to them.

(Soundbite of music)

THOMPKINS: The Rafiqqi Boys(ph) are singers and percussionists who live in an area outside the town of Gulu. Many of them were born during the troubles. In their song, titled �Bitter Vegetables,� they celebrate the joys that only peace can bring: taking long walks without fear of ambush, girls, spending time with friends, girls, and rekindling a culture that had all but disappeared.

(Soundbite of song, �Bitter Vegetable�)

RAFIQQI BOYS (Band): (Singing in foreign language)

THOMPKINS: In the end, being able to sing these songs out loud comes as close to truth, justice and reconciliation as many there will ever get.

(Soundbite of song, �Bitter Vegetable�)

RAFIQQI BOYS: (Singing in foreign language)

Gwen Thompkins, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song, �Bitter Vegetable�)

RAFIQQI BOYS: (Singing in foreign language)

SIMON: You are listening to NPR News.

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