The compromise [Uganda] had accepted, which the president [Yoweri Museveni] presented as reconciliation, was actually something more complex and less sturdy. It was as if, having found themselves unable to forgive, his people had concentrated on forgetting, and when they’d failed at forgetting, they’d chosen to believe what they wanted to believe. So long as nothing disturbed their conception of the past or exposed them to scrutiny, the nation could continue its halting procession along Museveni’s chosen path. To the president’s way of thinking, therefore, justice was a threat to progress, not because it promised verdicts and punishments, but because it forced people to remember.
What a very different picture this gives, compared to Catherine’s book on forgiveness and reconciliation in Rwanda. The people of Rwanda faced their past head on, an unimaginably difficult task, to be sure. But because justice was satisfied, in however inadequate a fashion, Rwandans are finding a way to put their past behind them.
By contrast, Rice tells the story of a murder trial in Uganda in which three former soldiers were indicted for the roadside execution of a municipal chief. In one particularly striking scene, Rice describes the funeral held for the chief, years after his disappearance and death. A thousand people attended the funeral, many of whom had no connection to the deceased other than the shared history of a nation that witnessed brutality and then tried to act as though nothing had ever been amiss. This belated trial, flawed though it was, spoke to the innate desire for justice that had gone unsatisfied for too long.
And isn’t this the picture we get in Scripture? We acknowledge and confess our sins, God forgives our sins, and He promises to remember our sins no more. Jumping to the end of the forgiveness train leaves out too much and makes even the forgetting impossible.