Response to Lord's Resistance Army Is "Haphazard"

4-Nation Religious Leaders Call for Organization, Earnest Efforts

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YAMBIO, Sudan, SEPT. 15, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Religious and civic leaders from four nations are calling for negotiation and better coordination of international efforts to bring an end to two plus decades of terror caused by the Lord's Resistance Army.



Bishop Edward Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio, in southern Sudan, organized a four-day meeting last week, which brought together some 60 representatives including delegations from Uganda, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic. Muslims and non-Catholic Christians were also present.

The 46-year-old bishop leads one of the dioceses most hard-hit by the Lord's Resistance Army. The Sudan Tribune reported that at least seven of his parishes have been badly attacked by the rebel group, which is known for brutality.

Bishop Hiiboro spoke Tuesday with Aid to the Church in Need about a reminder of the LRA threat when eight people were hacked to death by machetes in Yambio just days before the religious leaders' conference got under way in that city. Another 14 were badly wounded.

"The impact of the LRA is terrible," he said. "There are huge numbers of refugees and displaced people trying to escape attack.

“They destroy property, leave children as orphans and, with so many leaving, there are no schools or social services.”

Forgotten

The bishop, who has led the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio for just over two years, contended that "[w]e have been forgotten by our own government, forgotten by the international community and this means the LRA think they can do anything they like."

“Think of the number of people who have fled their homes, the number of people who have lost their lives and the number of people left as orphans," he said. “The whole state [of Western Equatoria] is living in panic -- not just in South Sudan but in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. It is just too much.”

Though Bishop Hiiboro said it is not clear who backs the army, it is clear that they are well-sponsored.

"There are people who give them weapons, food and enable them to have telephone communications," the bishop explained. "It is difficult to say who helps them. It is obvious that they receive significant support because they are so very well equipped."

Open door

A final statement with 30 signatories from the conference was released Sept. 10. The religious leaders cautioned against military "solutions," noting the dire effects of past efforts.

“The international community has so far failed to develop a comprehensive plan to deal with the LRA as a regional threat, instead addressing the crisis in a piecemeal and haphazard way in the four different countries,” the report stated.

It called for collaboration from the governments of the four nations terrorized by the LRA, and urged greater international pressure from the European Union, the United States and the United Nations.

Bishop Hiiboro told the Fides agency that he is advocating a political solution, which he just recommended in a meeting with the defense minister of Uganda.

"The LRA leader, [Joseph] Kony, has sent me a letter which was delivered to various other regional and international figures -- including the U.N. secretary-general -- saying that he is willing to enter into peace talks once more," the bishop noted. “Let's not close the door on negotiations."