Uganda Needs Talks, Not More Fighting, Says Gulu Archbishop

Urges Sudan's Participation in Peace Negotiations

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GULU, Uganda, FEB. 17, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The idea of resolving the crisis in Uganda with a war option "would mean a continuing waste of time," says Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu.



The archbishop, who chairs the Acholi Religious Leaders' Peace Initiative (ARLPI), made that assessment in statements to the Missionary Service News Agency.

ARLPI has been promoting peace in northern Uganda, in the region inhabited by the Acholi ethnic group, which is harassed by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

Since 1986, LRA rebels, led by Sudan-financed Joseph Kony, have tortured and killed tens of thousands of people and kidnapped more than 25,000 children and made them slaves or child-soldiers.

Archbishop Odama urged the creation of a negotiation platform, with the direct participation of Ugandan authorities and those governments, including Sudan, that can help the national peace process with LRA rebels.

"Every possible action must be taken to put an end to the atrocities and massacres," he said.

Archbishop Odama has continued to urge the intervention of the international community to put an end to the suffering of the civilians in northern Uganda. He particularly wants the U.N. Security Council to address the crisis.

He also wants the international community to monitor human rights violations, including the use of young captives as child-soldiers, particularly in the districts of Gulu, Kitgum, Pader and Lira.

The archbishop said he learned that the Ugandan military is now using former LRA rebels in its own strategic operations.

"We believe that this policy is not beneficial to the … cause of peace," he said.

"The same is the case of civilians recruited in popular militias, a particularly evident phenomenon in the district of Lira and more to the south toward Soroti," the archbishop added. "In our view, the people must not be armed but protected by the soldiers, avoiding a senseless proliferation of arms and ammunition in the villages."

On a visit to Uganda last November, Jan Egeland, U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, described the situation there as "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world."