Northern Uganda Leaders Condemn Rebel Massacres

Appeal for Help From Government and World Community

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LIRA, Uganda, NOV. 20, 2003 ( Religious leaders of the Acholi and Lango ethnic groups condemned the massacre of 53 people by rebels in the area around the northern town of Lira.

«We are horrified by the loss of so many human lives; life is God’s precious gift that no one has the right to take,» they said in a note sent to the Missionary Service News Agency.

Rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army carried out their attacks on four villages late Monday and early Tuesday. Lira continues to be one of the areas most targeted by the LRA rebels, despite the military reinforcements recently sent to the province.

«We call upon the government of Uganda, which has the responsibility of protecting the civilian population, to take the matter seriously,» the religious leaders stressed.

For the last two weeks, the northern district has been the scene of numerous LRA rebel incursions in the rural villages surrounding Lira, constantly claiming lives of defenseless civilians.

Expressing their condolences to the families of the victims, the religious leaders said that they «will continue to work tirelessly for a peaceful solution to the conflict in northern and eastern Uganda,» adding that «it is important that people stay calm» and «not take justice into their hands.»

The Acholi and Lango religious leaders appealed to the international community not to ignore the situation and to go beyond «nice statements,» because refugees in Lira, whose population has grown from 100,000 to 450,000 in a short time, are in need of urgent humanitarian aid.

For their part, 34 Lango and Acholi deputies of the Lira and Apac districts in northern Uganda walked out of Parliament on Wednesday in protest against the recent LRA wave of violence.

Omara Atubo, a Lira parliamentarian, said that the Lango parliamentarians would not return to Parliament until the government offers adequate solutions to the humanitarian crisis in northern Ugandan districts.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, accused by many of having underestimated the LRA threat, was expected in Lira today.

The LRA, headed by Joseph Kony, has been devastating the northern Ugandan districts since 1986. Kony’s men have killed at least 100,000 people, kidnapped more than 20,000 children, and displaced over a million.

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