Gulu (Fides Service)- “ Thank you Holy Father! The appeal launched by the Pope for the fighting to stop in northern Uganda and Sudan is an important contribution for peace”, Archbishop John Baptist Odama , Archbishop of the northern Ugandan diocese of Gulu, told Fides with regard to the call to help afflicted peoples in war torn areas of Sudan and Uganda launched by Pope John Paul II during his address before the Angelus prayer on Sunday 25 July. For eighteen years the people of northern Uganda have been at the mercy of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which brings death and destruction while forcing thousands of children to join its ranks.
“At last there are reasons for hope”- Archbishop Odama told Fides -“Many of the LRA rebels are deserting and taking the government’s amnesty offer”. The amnesty means they will not be taken to court. “Here in Gulu, the situation is calm, but we have heard that there was fighting over the border in Sudan involving the LRA” Archbishop Odama told Fides. According to international media the LRA attacked villages in territory under the control of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, SPLA the main rebel group which opposes the Khartoum government.
The two wars are connected because for years the Sudanese government has supported the LRA , which has in facts is bases in Sudan, while Uganda has offered support and protection to the SPLA. “The recent violence in Sudan involving the LRA is a cause of concern and it could complicate matters” Archbishop Odama said, adding “I do not enough information to understand the reason for those attacks”.
While international diplomacy with difficulty is working to bring the Sudanese government and the SPLA to make peace, the international community continues to show little interest in the war in northern Uganda. “To address the situation we organised a meeting of religious and tribal leaders of northern Uganda and southern Sudan on 23 July and at the end of it we issued a statement denouncing the fact that the conflicts are connected with each other” the Archbishop recalled. “We welcome the recent agreement reached between the Sudanese government and the SPLA, but we would remind the international community that the situation in northern Uganda demands urgent attention”.
The above mentioned statement spoke of “inconclusive and non co-ordinated ” efforts by the international community to end the war in northern Uganda and recalled the responsibility of both national governments, of Sudan ( which supports the LRA) and Uganda to make more effort to restore peace. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 27/7/2004 righe 37 parole 461)