Kampala (Fides Service) – “We are living an extremely tense situation” says Comboni Father Tarcisio Pazzaglia, who has worked for many years in the area of Kitgum, northern Uganda. “The threats to Catholic priests and nuns made on 12 June by the lead of the Lord’s Resistance Army LRA rebels, are nothing new, we have been subject these sort of intimidation before. But this time the words are coming after deeds. All over the area the rebels have created a serious situation of insecurity. Whenever anyone, priests ordinary folk, have to travel from one village to another, we know we risk being ambushed”.
“We accept the risks, aware that our work is indispensable for the good of the people” says Father Tarcisio “at the moment for example I am on my way to deliver some material to a local school. If it were not for the missionaries and the AVSI volunteers who risk their lives to distribute food, people would starve. With the climate of fear they have created, the rebels stop people from working in the fields. The situation is bound to get worse because this is the sowing season, and this means there will be no harvest in the coming months. We have to cope with an increasing number of people who come for help and shelter in parishes and missions. There seems to be no end to the flow of new arrivals.”
The war between the Ugandan regular army and the LRA rebels is not only one of the many wars in the world ignored by the international community, it is a conflict about which little is said even in Uganda. “It is extraordinary to realise that people in the south of Uganda are unaware of what is happening in the north” says Father Tarcisio “the local papers do not give enough space to the war. This only increases the despair of the people in the north. We missionaries are often reminded of Psalm 10 <Why, O Lord, are you far away, hidden from us in times of trouble?>”
Over the past few days the LRA have launched attacks, killings, kidnappings. In early March the rebels declared a cease fire, but the treaty was never respected. Composed mainly of Acholi warriors, the LRA has been fighting since 1989 President Yoweri Museveni who took power in 1986 overthrowing a military junta made up mostly of Acholi officers. Groups of former soldiers of this ethnic group took refuge in Sudan and gave rise to various guerrilla movements including the Lord’s Resistance Army. LM (Fides Service 16/6/2003 EM lines 34 Words: 449)