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Abstract

Based on fieldwork in Uganda, and informed by previous research in Bosnia and Rwanda, this dissertation explores the construction and recognition of victims under Uganda’s pending National Transitional Justice Policy. While asking broader questions, I primarily look at discourse surrounding three of the Policy’s proposed mechanisms, namely formal justice, traditional justice, and reparations. At core, my research focuses on teasing out who can be considered a victim—how is victimhood designated, allocated, recognized or denied under a transitional justice framework? In exploring this question, I aim to destabilize victimhood categories and posit what a broader and more complicated understanding of victimhood within a transitional justice scheme might look like. In particular, I focus on the phenomenon of “complex victims”— here, specifically, child soldiers—as exemplified through the cases of Dominic Ongwen and Thomas Kwoyelo, which mark the first attempts of formal justice systems to adjudicate formerly conscripted individuals charged with the same crimes of which they were victims. This dissertation explores these interactions between victimhood—with an eye towards the complex victim—and transitional justice through a series of interviews, a detailing of conversations, a not insubstantial amount personal narrative, and reflections on my own experiences over a decade.

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