Here is the official statement released at The Hague on 18 March2005 (from the ICC website).
On 16-18 March 2005, leaders of the Acholi community of northern Uganda visited the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands, at the invitation of Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo who heard their views on the situation in northern Uganda.
The delegation was led by Rwot David Onen Acana II, and included Archbishop John Baptist Odama, Bishop Onono-Onweng, Jane Akwero Odwong (MP Kitgum), Col. Walter Ochora and Hon. Jacob Oulanyah (MP Omoro county).
The delegation held talks with Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo and other Court officials.
The following are statements by the Acholi delegation and by Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo.
Having been invited by the Chief Prosecutor, our mission to The Hague was to explain the concerns of our people about the ICC investigation currently going on in northern Uganda. We have held very successful meetings with him and now we have understood his position, mandates, independence and also the limitations he has in what he can do and what he has no control over.
Arising from these meetings, the Prosecutor was asked to address the following:
I invited the Acholi leaders in order to hear their views about the situation in northern Uganda.
Under the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor has the responsibility to investigate and prosecute serious international crimes, taking into account the interest of victims and justice.
I am mindful of traditional justice and reconciliation processes and sensitive to the leaders’ efforts to promote dialogue between different actors in order to achieve peace.
The Prosecutor has a clear policyto focus on those who bear the greatest responsibility for the atrocities committed. I also recognize the vital role to be played by national and local leaders to achieve peace, justice and reconciliation.
We agreed on the importance of continuing this dialogue in pursuit of the common goal of ending violence.
ARCHBISHOP ODAMA LEADS ONE THOUSAND GULU NIGHT COMMUTING CHILDREN IN EASTER PARTY
More than one thousand children from twelve different night commuters’ centres in Gulu had a joyful party on Easter Monday, 28th March.
The feast, held at St. Monica Tailoring School was organised by Gulu Caritas Counselling Centre, with the support of Caritas Uganda and ARCHRO, a UK-based charity.
It began with an open-air Mass led by archbishop John Baptist Odama, who remained with the chidren for the whole celebration. Everybody was served lunch, and after some speeches and enternaiments –including moving testimonies by some children- renowned singer Bosmic Otim coloured up the party with his songs, which made the kids dance until late evening.
Organisers commented that it was only fair to give the children, who have been commuting for years from their villages looking for safety in town at night, an occasion to enjoy and have a good time during Easter. As sister Margaret Aceng, director of the counselling centre, put it: “in all celebrations children are always the most punctual guests, only to be pushed away when the big people come. Today they are the guests of honour”.
The approximately one thousand children who thronged the big compount are only a small fraction of the regular night commuters in Gulu town. According to a local council source, at present there are at least 10,000 children who continue to leave their villages to spend the night in the different centres. Many others also commute at night in Kitgum and Pader towns.
Dear brothers and sisters,
The Peace of the Risen Lord be with you always!
Victory was the message of the Risen Lord to His disciples on Easter Sunday. Victory over suffering, death and sin!
I am addressing you during this Easter Season. In recent weeks once again our defenceless people have become the victims of murderous attacks in which a number of persons have been killed, injured, mutilated or abducted. Violence is escalating and, what is worse, hopes for peace, which had been very high during the last months of 2004 and the beginning of 2005, are running low.
It seems to have become a pattern that efforts for a lasting peace in our region do not bring sustainable results and after brief periods of hope we are quickly thrown into desperation and violence.
During these days of Easter we are living in an intense way our Christian hope, which tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ defeated death and brought us to new life. In a practical way, this should mean in our lives that we never despair and give up whenever we struggle for peace, human rights and dignity.
· I commend all those who have been involved in this latest peace effort from all sides: the mediation team –particular Ms. Betty Bigombe-, the Government of Uganda, the LRA, the Acholi civil society and the international community. Every time that you perform this noble work you are doing God’s work and He will always support your endeavours.
· In the name of God, I shout aloud, VIOLENCE AND KILLINGS MUST STOP. Human life and dignity must be respected. The lives of the civilians, of the soldiers and of the LRA are all lives of the children of God. They need to be protected and respected, because each of these lives is dear to God. The people of God deserve a better future. They have suffered enough and need to go back home, leaving behind the intolerable misery of the displaced camps.
· I sound my strongest appeal to the LRA leadership to make all possible efforts to go back to negotiating peaceful end to the war. Particularly, the cruel maiming and killing of innocent people, especially women and children who find suffering at your hands when going to look for food is a crime that God rejects. I urge you to take dialogue as the only way forward to put an end to this bloodshed which has lasted already for almost 19 years. God’s people deserve a future of peace. As Jesus came out of the tomb on the third day and rose to a new life, our suffering people –in whom the Lord is truly present- must be given a chance to come out of this dark tomb of death and fear and rise to a new life worth of a human being.
· I would like, in a special way, to appeal to our brothers and sisters involved in the work of public life to leave all political differences aside and be united for this common goal of peace. Our country is experiencing a sad descend into intolerance and violence which needs to be quickly corrected by fostering a culture of dialogue, unity, love, peace forgiveness and harmony. Be peaceful and tolerant to one another as you strive to work for peace in your own constituencies. We should avoid politics of intrigue and dishonesty.
· Arbitrary arrests and detentions of suspects for long periods of time must stop.
· Corruption, which is eating the fibre of society, has to be overcome.
I assure all of you that the Church shall continue to bless and be in solidarity with all genuine efforts for peace in our country and that we shall never give up being involved in this work.
Let us work tirelessly to make God’s plan for humanity become a reality: “My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places” (Isaiah 23:18).
Happy Easter. Alleluia!
Affectionately, in the Risen Lord,
+ JOHN BAPTIST ODAMA
ARCHBISHOP OF GULU
Gulu, 25th March, 2005.