JUSTICE AND PEACE NEWS.
A NEWSLETTER OF THE JUSTICE & PEACE COMMISSION OF GULU ARCHDIOCESE (UGANDA)
1. EDITORIAL. FEAR OF SPIRITS, SYMPTOM OF DESPERATION
A bizarre event, unreported by the Press, has dominated Kitgum during June. For weeks panic has gripped thousands of people, who assured that a strange spirit tormented people at night causing them great pain. For several nights a chorus of people wailing could be heard in town and surrounding areas. The fear spread in other displaced camps too. The problem became so serious that several humanitarian organisations dealing with night commuters had to provide extra counselling to calm children down before sleep. Even district leaders called for a rally to deal with the issue.
Traditional beliefs in spirits are not new in Acholi, and for good or for bad they have been for generations a part of its cultural heritage. What is new, and surprising, is this phenomenon that could be best described as mass psychosis, or a powerful indicator of the degree of desperation people have reached.
After so many years of inhuman life in IDP camps, wanton killings, mass abductions, hunger, disease and intimidation, it is only understandable that people are broken inside and have lost hope in the future. This is a breeding ground for all kinds of irrational fears, which can easily spread fast.
This fact should make us all reflect seriously. Particularly for us, followers of Christ who came to set us free from all forms of slavery, it should be a call not to falter in the struggle for peace and human dignity. The downtrodden of Northern Uganda need good Samaritans ready to listen to their cry and restore their lost human dignity.
2. A STORY WITHOUT HOPE?
Alvaro Ybarra, a journalist from Spain’s leading daily ABC and a renowned photographer, toured parts of Gulu and Kitgum districts from 8th to 16th June. The excellent pictures that feature in this July issue are his courtesy. His professional practice has taken him over the years to some other conflict areas of the world like Colombia, Chechnya, Bosnia, Sudan (Darfur), DR Congo and Kashmir. Before leaving Uganda he agreed to write this very personal piece for us.
Being quite familiar with some other world’s hot spots, like Chechnya, Colombia, or Sudan, I must say that at least in these conflicts there are some economic, strategic or simply ideological issues lying underneath. However, Northern Uganda’s most outstanding characteristic is its sheer lack of logic. This absence of reason continues to feed the meaningless conflict that has been killing human beings in this strikingly beautiful land for the last 19 years. This is the only conclusion I have reached after days of having a close look at this humanitarian disaster, which continues to make its way down a path of non-return.
One cannot but be puzzled by the one and a half million internally displaced persons packed in camps which remind us of the “gulags” of the time of Stalin; or by the 30,000 children abducted by a terrorist group led by a sick mind who has deprived Acholi of a generation of souls. To top it all, it is hard to understand the international community’s neglect and indifference for so many years, which has relegated this conflict to a nameless forgotten corner.
As a foreign journalist, I feel like looking into all these persons’ eyes and simply ask them their forgiveness for having abandoned them, nay, for not having considered them important enough to feature in the world news. Our immediate job of writing or broadcasting the latest news often makes us forget the essence of our profession as journalists, which should make us look at these innocent persons not just as mere stories, but as real human beings.
Unfortunately, that is what so often we have presented to the world: stories written in simplistic and sensationalistic fashions. During the last two years, for instance, we have directed our attention almost exclusively to the “night commuter” children, a topic which has fed many stories on Northern Uganda, at the expense of sidelining the reality of 1.5 million displaced whom we seem to have decided of late that they are no longer important news.
Before leaving Uganda, a friend of mine asked me to write my thoughts about this war. I must say that I feel overwhelmed by my thoughts and that, for the first time in my career, I have felt ashamed while using my camera, not only because of the international community’s neglect, but also because so often we journalists have oversimplified this war, making it appear just as a story without hope.
3. ADJUMANI. THE FORGOTTEN “EAST NILE” DISTRICT
(by Lam Oryem Cosmas. JPC Consultant)
Adjumani was created as a district out of Moyo in 1997. Prior to its elevation to a district status, it was known as ‘East Moyo’ county. Adjumani is normally considered within the “West Nile’ region, but it’s geographically located East of the Nile. Adjumani has five sub-counties and four of them; Dzaipi, Pakele, Ofoa and Ciforo borders Gulu district, a distance of about 105km. As a neighbour to Gulu district, ravaged by the senseless atrocities committed by the so called ‘Lords Resistance Army’ (LRA). Adjumani is similarly affected by this carnage. However, the difference is that whereas focus and attention relieving the suffering due LRA is concentrated in Acholi and adjacent Lango sub-regions, Adjumani in Madi sub-region, does not have similar attention. For instance, there are over 15,000 internally displaced persons in Dzaipi. The only difference with those in Acholi, Lango and Teso is that they are not in “protected villages” or camps.
One would think that since the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) has a sub-office in Pakele, the people there are being supported. However, this not the case. WFP’s mandate is with refugees from Sudan and not with the local nationals. The food they sometimes get are just on humanitarian grounds and not an obligation of WFP.
I hear that the USAID founded “Community Resilience and Dialogue” (CRD) programme has also withdrawn its support in this region.
Caritas Gulu Archdiocese is implementing NAADS projects in three sub-counties Adropi, Ofoa and Ciforo with one hundred farmers in each. As part of the support besides training, from 13 – 15 June 2005, Caritas distributed pangas and axes to each of the farmers. This was after realizing during earlier visits that farmers use to spend up to 30 minutes running around to borrow such implements from among themselves.
As we move, as a Northern region and as a nation to explore ways and means to stop the LRA violence and atrocities being managed by the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) and building infrastructure for sustainable reconciliation and peace building, there is need for concerted effort to address the immediate effects and consequences of the LRA incursions and destruction in Adjumani district as a matter of urgency. These could include food and non food items, medicine and psycho-social support to children who escape and or rescued from rebel ranks who return to their communities without any counseling or support. The local community too, need to be prepared, helped and supported to deal with the traumatic situation.
The Justice, Peace & Human Rights Commission of Arua Diocese is engaging local communities in the affected areas to provide proactive responses together with neighbouring sub-counties in Gulu district. It has formed ‘Justice & Peace Committees” in sub-counties like Dzaipi for this purpose.
Agriculture is Uganda’s main source of foreign income, and the means by which the majority of the population earn a living.
5. GLOBAL CALL TO ACTION AGAINST POVERTY
During the second half of this year, 2005, three important events will take place that have the potential to make poverty history:
These events have the potential to make poverty history. We believe that this can happen through:
For us Catholics it is highly significant that these events take place durint this Eucharistic Year. In his apostolic letter, Mane Nobiscum Domine, John Paul II wrote:
Can we not make this Year of the Eucharist an occasion for diocesan and parish communities to commit thelselves in a particular way to responding with fraternal solicitude to one of the many forms of poverty present in the world? I think for example of the tragedy of hunger which plagues hundreds of millions of human beings, the diseases which afflict the developing countries, the loneliness of the elderly, the hardships faced by the unemployed, the struggles of immigrants. These are evils which are present even in areas of immense wealth. We cannot delude ourselves: by our mutual love and in particular by our concern for those in need we will be recognised as true followers of Christ. This will be the criterion by which the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations is judged (n. 28)
To learn more, you can visit the website www.fighthunger.org.
6. OUR ACTIVITIES
*Commission meeting in Gulu (Comboni Missionary Animation Centre) on June 27.
*Meeting of the Justice and Peace Commissions of the Northern Ecclesiastical Province. It will take place in Arua from June 28 to July 1. It is the first time that we shall meet from the dioceses of Nebbi, Gulu, Lira and Arua.
*Gathering of religious leaders from Northern Uganda and South Sudan. This event, organised by our Justice and Peace Commission of Gulu, will take place in Nimule (Sudan) from 1st to 5th August. It will be a follow-up of similar conventions which took place in Gulu on 2001, 2003 and 2004, although this year it will have a special tone since Sudan is now enjoying peace at last. We hope our peace in Northern Uganda will not take too long.
CHRONOLOGY OF RECENT EVENTS. MAY – JUNE 2005.
26th – A woman who had come to collect grass was killed by rebels at her village in Obem (Kitgum).
27th – Rebels hacked to death 8 people and displayed them on the road at Parwec, in Kitgum Matidi.
The Amnesty Commission started delivering resettlement packages for a backlog of 7,000 former rebels. They held the first ceremony at Rwot Acana’s headquarters in Gulu.
30th – Thirteen children were abducted by rebels at Abwoch village (Gulu). All of them returned on the following day.
31st – UPDF soldiers injured two young men at Koc Goma.
The WFP Uganda director Ken Davies warned of the food supply for IDPs running dry in June. He said that the humanitarian disaster in Northern Uganda was worse than the one caused by the tsunami.
1st – A LDU soldier from Amida camp raped a woman. He was arrested on the following morning and detained at the Kitgum Police station.
2nd – Rebels ambushed a lorry near Ocetokke, (Kitgum-Padibe road) and killed one soldier.
3rd – Rebels attacked Pajule centre and looted some foodstuffs.
6th – A Caritas staff escaped unhurt after he was ambushed by rebels at Paiula (Pader).
9th – Rebels attacked the Army detach at YY Okot College in Kitgum at midnight in an attempt to loot food. They were repulsed.
A soldier from Lacor Seminary Detach raped a 15-year old girl.
10th – Rebels infiltrated Kalongo IDP to loot foodstuff. The Army responded and killed one of them.
11th – Two soldiers were killed by rebels at Lakwor, near Kitgum Matidi.
12th – Reports that the chief prosecutor of the ICC was about to sign the arrest warrants for Kony and another top LRA leader.
13th – Rebels killed two young men in Akara (Mucwini).
14th – An elderly man who had gone to uproot cassava from his garden at Opete (7km from Kitgum town) was abducted and killed by rebels.
16th – Rebels killed three women in Lapul (Pader).
20th – Rebels killed four people in Lanyatongo (Pader).
21st – UPDF killed LRA Col. Opiro Anaka in a battle at his village in Nwoya county.
24th – 25th - Acholi political, religious and cultural leaders held a retreat at Paraa lodge.
25th – Rebels killed an elderly man who had gone to dig his field at Lamit (Kitgum).
Rebels attacked Agoro IDP.
REPORT FOR THE MEETING HELD IN PARAA BY ACHOLI LEADERS
“Together Making a Difference for Peace”
We Acholi Leaders duly summoned by our Pramount Chief, His Highness the Lawi Rwodi, David Onen Acana II, to come “Together to Make a difference for Peace” in our land and here assembled at Paraa Safari Lodge from June 23 to 26, 2005
RECOGNISING the persistent problems of war that have ravaged the region for the last nineteen years and the need to bring it to a speedy end;
AWARE of the agonizing rifts apparent among us the leaders of Acholi at all levels that has undermined their ability and capacity to deal with the problems afflicting our people;
REALISING the need for the people of Acholi to rally behind the Paramount Chief, the traditional leaders, religious leaders and all Acholi leaders in various levels of government;
AWARE of a lack of a proper forum to dealing with the rifts and the problems afflicting our people which has contributed to their continued suffering;
APPRECIATIVE of the efforts of His Execellency the President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the Government, the International Community, the UPDF, auxillary forces and other non-state actors towards resolving the conflict and addressing the plight of our people;
PAINFULLY AWARE of the living conditions of the people in the IDP camps and their expressed desire to return to their homes and lead normal lives;
AND FURTHER PAINFULLY AWARE of the continuing lost of life and opportunities for economic, social and cultural development and fully aware of the high cost of not action now;
HAVING DELIBERATED on these issues extensively over the past three days, in a candid and open manner, and appreciative of the spirit of reconciliation demonstrated by various leaders
NOW THEREFORE DECLARE AS FOLLOWS
PEACE AND SECURITY
1. We strongly and in no uncertain terms condemn acts of violence and indiscriminate killings by the LRA, in Acholi and the neighbouring districts;
2. We appreciate the efforts of Government, UPDF, the initiatives of Mrs. Betty Bigombe, the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) and other initiatives to bring the conflict to an end;
3. We recommit ourselves, without any exception, to cooperate with and support the efforts of the government and other stakeholders in all their endeavours towards ending the conflict;
4. We call upon the Government and commit ourselves as leaders to strengthen the capacity, status and welfare of auxiliary forces to facilitate the speedy return of the people of Acholi to their homes;
5. We urge the Government to deliberately support, empower and strengthen the police to improve the maintenance of law and order in the region as we gradually move towards stability.
6. We urges the Government to deliberately support, empower and strengthen the justice law and order mechanisms (Judiciary and Prisons services) in the region as we gradually move towards stability.
7. We urge the government and the local governments to coordinate NGOs and non state actors engaged in peace building to avoid duplication and conflict in their operations.
8. We strongly urge the media houses to encourage reporting that facilitate peace and does not undermine the peace process;
9. We call upon Government to design and implement a comprehensive resettlement programme for our people.
10. We call upon Government to, in the mean time fulfill its obligation under international convention; UN minimum standard for internal displacement and to commit resources to the implementation of the IDP policy.
11. We call upon the Government, Local Government and NGOs to develop and implement a comprehensive programme for reception, rehabilitation and resettlement of the returnees, reporters and children born in captivity;
12. We call upon the Government, Local Governments and NGOs to urgently and appropriately address the problems facing “night commuters”;
13. We call upon the Government, Local Governments and NGOs to develop and implement and appropriate education programme to meet the needs of those who lost opportunities for formal education;
14. We call upon Government to revive, substantially increase and implement the scholarship schemes for children in IPD camps;
15. We call upon Government to increase voluntary counseling and testing services (VCT) and make available, free anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs in hospitals in the sub-region;
16. We call upon Government to take leadership in developing and implementing a comprehensive psycho-social programme in addressing the needs of the affected persons and communities.
17. We welcome and appreciate the decision by the Government to support the institution of Cultural leader;
18. We support the move to create structures for strengthening the institution of the “Ker Kwar Acholi”;
19. We recommit ourselves and resolve to uphold, strengthen, respect, honour, support and promote “Ker Kwaro Acholi”, including its traditional mechanism of justice and reconciliation (mato oput).
20. We commit ourselves to work with the Lawi Rwodi to strengthen the relationship with between the Acholi and other regions in Uganda.
21. We call upon the Government together with the development partners to design, develop and implement a comprehensive and focus programme for the reconstruction and development of the Acholi sub-region;
22. We urge the Government to design and implement socio-economic programmes, including livelihood systems for individuals, families and communities.
23. We commit ourselves to participate in national and local politics without compromising the interests and rights of our people;
24. We commit ourselves to be mindful of public or political statements that may be misleading to Government and the LRA and likely to entrench mistrust.
25. We resolve to be united irrespective of our political or religious affiliation, and call upon all our leaders to; by word, by act and by conduct, to give true meaning to our long time cherish motto of “ribe aye teko” (unity is strength)
26. We call upon the district leaders of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader to speed up the process of forming regional Government, taking advantage of the constitutional amendment process.
27. We resolve that the cultural insitution and religious leaders to; by word, by act and by conduct, remain above partisan politics in order to maintain unity.
We hereby undertake to abide by and implement this declaration and follow up the obligations assigned herein and further commit ourselves to involve all stakeholders in its implementation.