Catholic leader warns about cost of military action in Uganda

By Ecumenical News International
January 24, 2009

Ugandan Roman Catholic Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu is warning that a joint military campaign against the Lords Resistance Army in the Democratic Republic of Congo will create a new disaster, instead of resolving a 20 year-old crisis - writes Fredrick Nzwili.

"This is not solving the problem. It is creating more challenges for the region," Odama told Ecumenical News International from Gulu in northern Uganda on 22 January 2009.

The archbishop, who chairs the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, a grouping of Christians and Muslims in northern Uganda, spoke as a joint military campaign, composed of forces from Uganda, the DRC and South Sudan, stepped up attacks on the former Uganda-based rebels.

"War generates revenge, hatred.. . it separates people. War has no home. It does not build a home," said Odama, while asserting it was improper for Uganda to export the war to its neighbour the DRC, where a humanitarian crisis is evolving.

Since the launch of the campaign dubbed, "Operation Lightening Thunder", on 14 December, relief agencies report that nearly 100 000 people have been forced out of their homes in the northern part of the DRC.

On 17 January, the LRA was reported to have set ablaze a church in the Dungu area killing more than 100 people. Another 140 had been killed after church services in the same area over the Christmas period , according to media reports in the region.

"I urge the international community to come to rescue the people. The U.N. should have a resolution to stop this campaign and fighting. The two sides must come to the negotiating table," said Odama. "They had come very close to signing a final peace agreement. They should come back to the negotiation table."

The LRA is operating in a forested area on the borders of the DRC, Sudan, and Central African Republic, where Human Rights Watch reported it has killed about 620 villagers in the DRC and abducted 160 children in the last two months.

In South Sudan, Anglican Bishop Bismark Avokaya of Mundri diocese told the BBC World Service how rebels killed two of his parishioners, who tried to rescue two 10 year-old boys from being hacked and beaten to death.

"Both are traumatised like many others and we could not believe our ears as they shared the stories with us," the bishop said.

Ugandan church leaders have cautioned against military strikes, warning they could lead to the LRA regrouping, making it hard for them to defeat the rebel leader Joseph Kony.


With acknowledgements to Ecumenical News International (ENI) -

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