Uganda Can't End Conflict Alone, Says Gulu Bishop

Prelate Makes an Appeal in London

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LONDON, FEB. 9, 2004 ( Bishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu says that only international aid will be able to put an end to the conflict devastating northern Uganda.

Invited to London by the Royal Institute of International Affairs, a center of studies linked to the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bishop Odama last week made his appeal to the international community to intervene in his country. He appealed specifically to the United Nations, the European Union, the British Commonwealth and the African Union.

«Condemned to death» last November by rebel leader Joseph Kony of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Bishop Odama is president of the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI), an interreligious organization which has promoted peace in the north, home of the Acholi ethnic group.

Since 1986, the LRA rebels, led by Kony — a visionary paid by Sudan who is trying to overthrow the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni — have tortured and killed tens of thousands of people. They have kidnapped more than 20,000 children and turned them into slaves or child-soldiers. LRA rebels also have caused the displacement of 1 million civilians.

Bishop Odama said the military strategy adopted by the Kampala Executive will not succeed in ending the rebellion.

Days earlier, the International Criminal Court in The Hague announced the start of an investigation into LRA atrocities.

Effects of the ongoing violence in Uganda were witnessed Thursday by Father Giulio Albanese, director of the Missionary Service News Agency, who was visiting the Lira mission, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of the capital, Kampala.

«We left this morning from the city of Lira, in northwestern Uganda, because, in fact, some 50 seriously wounded people had arrived in our hospital,» he said.

«We drove some 30 kilometers and arrived at the refugee camp of Abia, where we found indescribable devastation,» the priest added. «All the huts were on fire, there were corpses on the ground and some soldiers explained to us that the rebels had passed by there a few hours before.»

The Associated Press said 54 civilians and two soldiers died at the refugee camp.

«Today I have been in hell, a hell forgotten by all, in a remote area of northern Uganda,» said Father Albanese. «It is terrible to see the people die, it is even more terrible to see the silence that surrounds this execrable conflict, in which those who die are always innocent people.»

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