Ugandan Prelate Grateful for Pope's Appeal for Peace

GULU, Uganda, JULY 28, 2004 ( Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu thanked John Paul II for his recent appeal to the international community and national authorities to halt the «tragic conflict» afflicting Uganda.

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On Sunday, the Pope said that «for over 18 years, the north of Uganda has been shaken by an inhuman conflict that affects millions of people, especially children.»

About 25,000 minors have been forced to become child-soldiers or reduced to slavery in a conflict that Ugandans have endured since 1986. The war, which pits Sudanese-backed Joseph Kony and his rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) against the Kampala government, has claimed 120,000 lives.

«Thank you, Holy Father!» Archbishop Odama told the Vatican agency Fides. «The appeal launched by the Pope for the fighting to stop in northern Uganda and Sudan is an important contribution for peace.»

«At last there are reasons for hope,» the archbishop said. «Many of the LRA rebels are deserting and taking the government’s amnesty offer.» The amnesty means they will not be taken to court.

«Here in Gulu, the situation is calm, but we have heard that there was fighting over the border in Sudan involving the LRA,» the prelate added.

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