Detention of Missionaries a "Terrible Misunderstanding"

Uganda Held 3 Priests, Included Misna Director

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ROME, AUG. 30, 2002 ( A “terrible misunderstanding” is how Church sources in Uganda described the 24-hour detention of three Comboni missionaries by the African country’s army.

The missionaries were detained Wednesday when soldiers leveled a house occupied by militiamen of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army near the Sudanese border.

During the firing between the troops and guerrillas, Spanish missionary Father Carlos Rodríguez Soto was wounded in the leg.

He and Italian missionaries Father Tarcisio Pazzaglia and Father Giulio Albanese were interrogated by the military authorities in the city of Gulu, scene of clashes between the insurgents and the security forces. Father Albanese is editor in chief of the Misna news agency.

“The important thing is that it ended for the best and that dialogue continues its course in North Uganda so as to give this afflicted land a little peace,” Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu said in statements published by Misna.

“The military ambush and consequent capture was fruit of a terrible misunderstanding,” the prelate said. Military officials had authorized a meeting between the missionaries and the rebels but had not informed their army colleagues in time, he explained.

“The dialogue between the government and rebels of the LRA must continue,” Archbishop Odama concluded. “The sides are preparing delegations that will have the aim of bringing our land closer to peace.”

The Church in Uganda has played a key role in peace negotiations. Archbishop Odama was a player in a secret phase of negotiations that led, for the first time in 15 years, to direct contacts between the Ugandan leadership and rebels.

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