AFRICA/UGANDA - We hope that peace in Sudan will bring peace in Uganda” says missionary involved in teaching children in tormented northern region of Uganda

Friday, 4 February 2005

Gulu (Fides Service)- We are losing spirit, instead of a will for peace there seems to be only a desire to continue along the military path” a missionary in Gulu northern Uganda where amidst many difficulties talks continue to end violence perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), notorious for kidnapping children for use as soldiers. “People appreciate and respect the work of Betty Bigombe, who is leading mediation with the rebel leaders. However her efforts are hampered by extremist hard line army elements. We were shocked to see that at least one LRA leader who had a meeting with Mrs Bigombe was wounded in a shoot-out with the army” the missionary said.
To facilitate negotiations the government called a cease fire over a small area. The cease fire expired at the end of last year but the Ugandan President Museveni decide to extend it. “Talks continue but who knows when peace will be reached” Fides sources added. “Our hope comes from Sudan where Ugandan guerrillas have their camps. We hope that the recent agreement which ended twenty years of war will bear fruit for Uganda too”. In fact Ugandan guerrillas were supported by Sudan in exchange for Kampala’s support to the SPLA, Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Army. Without Sudan’s support the LRA might have to give up.
“Pending the arrival of peace, most people in northern Uganda live in refugee camps to escape violence” the sources told Fides.
“It is sad to see the people idle. If this continues they will get used to doing nothing. It is nearly time for sowing crops but few will do so they are too afraid to return to their fields. There is a growing feeling that work is unnecessary because food is provided by humanitarian agencies” the missionary told Fides. “Peace is fundamental to guarantee dignity for the people here”.
One important element in this situation is to guarantee schooling for children. “Missionaries and members of AVSI (Italian volunteers) are helping to organise the start of a new school year in a few days time” the source told Fides. “The missionaries have dug wells for the schools, they guarantee school lunches and try to meet needs of pupils and teachers who have no easy task. Classes have as many as 80 to 110 pupils and many of the children have lived the terrible experience of being child soldiers”. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 4/2/2005 righe 38 parole 438)