Friday, 20 June 2003

Kampala (Fides Service) – “It is certainly a good sign the fact that the Ugandan press is talking of the need to end the carnage in northern Uganda which has gone on for too long” said a missionary with years of experience in Uganda. The missionary, who asks not to be named for security reasons, was referring to editorials in The Monitor, a major Kampala daily, calling on the international community to intervene to stop the fighting in northern Uganda. Referring to threats to missionaries working in the area made by Joseph Kony, head of the Lord’s Resistance Army LRA rebel group, The Monitor says: “We fail to understand how religious leaders, not to mention civilians, can be primary targets for any rebel group; although no one can say they are safe, including religious, from the atrocities committed in a region disrupted by war”. The editorial concludes with a call to the government and the international community to stop the war: “destruction of life and property in northern Uganda has gone on for too long, it is time to stop the carnage”.
The LRA followed its threats in words with deeds. On 18 June near Acumet Father Boguslaw Zero, a Polish member of the Missionaries of Africa (White Father) suffered hand injuries, although not serious.
“This news is concerning but we cannot forget that not only missionaries are in danger” says the missionary contacted by Fides Service. “A whole people has been living in fear for years. This is the worst sort of terrorism, which strikes many but never makes the headlines. The rebels use inhuman means to terrorise people. Civilians are mutilated and murdered with spades and machetes. Thousands of children and young people are afraid to sleep at home for fear of being kidnapped during nightly LRA attacks on villages. Many seek safety in larger towns at parishes and missions. This violence is terrible and it has one precise goal: to destabilise northern Uganda”.
“The fact cannot be hidden – Fides sources say – that if the LRA guerrilla has been going on for so long (since 1986) it is because it is sustained by foreign interests. There is perhaps a plan to include northern Uganda in the Islamic orbit”.
The missionary also says that “what is so striking about this war is that the victims and the tormentors belong to the same ethnic group. Civilians, rebels, and also many of the regular army soldiers are all Acholi. But the great majority of the people are against the guerrilla war. At the beginning, in the 1980s, there was some consensus with regard to the rebellion, but not any more, in fact most of the LRA troops are boys and youths enlisted by force. The rebels leaders use cruel methods to keep discipline. One of the seminarians taken hostage from Lachor seminary who escaped, said he saw another boy, who tried to run away and was brought back, punished with 180 lashes on his back. The rebels stopped short of killing the boy because it was Friday, and the LRA does not kill on Fridays.”
On 11 May this year the LRA kidnapped a group of 41 boys from Lachor seminary. “Unfortunately we have no news of thirty of the boys. Seven escaped and four were killed” says Fides source. LM (Fides Service 20/6/2003 EM lines 45 Words: 605)