Ugandan War Sinking Into Genocide, Says Official

International Help Sought to Halt Rebels’ Violence

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GULU, Uganda, JUNE 29, 2003 ( Religious and political leaders are appealing to the international community to intervene in the 17-year-old crisis in northern Uganda.

In a note circulated last Wednesday, European parliamentarian Mario Mauro said that Joseph Kony «is a mad visionary heading a rebel movement made up, to a large extent, of children abducted from towns in northern Uganda» [see related story in today’s News Briefs].

«The civil war is turning into a slow genocide of the Nile peoples,» Mauro said. «Out of a population of 1.4 million inhabitants of Acholi and Lango ethnic backgrounds, approximately 850,000 have been displaced and live in desperate humanitarian conditions.»

According to the European deputy, who is president of the Europarliament’s Commission of Culture and is a former vice president of the ACP-UE parity assembly of human rights, «a political intervention, coordinated in Europe as well as in the African continent, is imperative,» the Misna news agency reported.

The deputy also said that the Ugandan and Sudanese governments «must take charge» of the danger that weighs on civilians and Christian missions of the Ugandan region. He also called for greater security for the missionaries working in the north, whom Kony has threatened and attacked on repeated occasions.

Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Muslim religious leaders appear to be, until now, the only ones calling for peace for the civilian population in the troubled north.

Last Wednesday, Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu, president of ARLPI, an interreligious organization, appealed to the international community for help.

«Why hasn’t the U.N. Security Council introduced the problem of northern Uganda in its agenda?» he asked. In the same breath, the archbishop criticized the abandonment by the African Union.

For his part, Anglican Bishop Nelson Onono-Onweng of northern Uganda said that the army does little if anything to defend the population.

Baker Ochola, Anglican bishop emeritus of Kitgum, appealed to the rebels to stop the violence and referred to «the arrogance of the government of Kampala, which must have the courage to ask for help from abroad if it wishes to guarantee the security of civilians.»

On behalf of the Muslim community, Sheikh Musa Khali said that the Acholi ethnic group, severely tried by the war that broke out at the end of the 1980s, has no link whatsoever with Joseph Kony, leader of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army who is paid by the Sudanese government.

Last Friday, after a three-day meeting in Gulu, Archbishop Odama, along with Bishop Paride Taban of Torit, Sudan, and 50 other bishops, said the situation in northern Uganda is intolerable.

«We are making a strong appeal to the United Nations to go to the north of Uganda, in order that all necessary measures will be taken for the protection of civilians,» said a statement reported by the Catholic Information Service for Africa.

«We ask different international organizations, diplomatic missions, the East African Community, the African Union, the European Union, the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development, and the Arab League to support our proposal,» the bishops said.

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