2011 Peace Day Speech

Wednesday, 21 September, 2011

 

Introduction

 

We gather today to mark the annual International Day of Peace. Since the 1981 U.N. resolution establishing September 21st as the International Day of Peace, this date has provided individuals, organizations, and nations the opportunity to participate in practical acts of peace on a shared occasion.  Envisioned as a day of nonviolence and global ceasefire, both personal and political, Peace Day is concerned with commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace between all peoples and nations. 

 

In describing Peace Day the U.N. has observed,

 

This day will serve as a reminder to all peoples that our organization, with all its limitations, is a living instrument in the service of peace and should serve all of us here within the organization as a constantly pealing bell reminding us that our permanent commitment, above all interests or differences of any kind, is to peace.”

 

Recommendations

 

Despite the recent relative calm, for years peace was a stranger to our region. And, although peace is returning to our own community, conflict and carnage continues to occur in neighboring nations. In Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of South Sudan the LRA continues to sow terror and destruction.  In these places, peace is still a stranger.

 

A commissioner in South Sudan describes the ongoing situation like this:

 

“The LRA has become a trade name for anybody who wants to do anything.  The Government tells us that the LRA are finished.  But on the ground people are dying.  People are still internally displaced and scared of returning home.  Those who have ventured to their farms are either killed or kidnapped by the LRA.  We do not know who to believe and trust.”

 

A regional religious leader recently described the sentiment on the ground by saying:

 

“The people feel abandoned… People feel that the LRA has become business and that many want the LRA to continue. People have a negative attitude towards the UPDF—they think the UPDF is just there for diamonds and timber.  People have lost hope that peace means true peace.”

 

The truth about the situation in neighboring countries is not often spoken of.  Instead, politicians prefer to tell us that the LRA has been all but wiped out, that they pose no threat anymore, and that peace has been achieved.  We are told that the LRA is now only a dozen members strong.  If this is the case then one must ask how can so few rebels displace 350,000 people?  How can so many lives be lost and disrupted by a handful of men?

 

In truth, the LRA continues to disrupt and kill.  The situation has not been resolved.  The violence has not ended and there is much work that still remains to be done.

 

Given the ongoing nature of this unrest and the vested interests that we have, as both Northern Ugandans and global citizens, in seeing peace restored to our region, we the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative would like to propose the following recommendations to all stakeholders involved in the LRA conflict:

 

 

To the Lord’s Resistance Army

• Immediately desist from all forms of violence against the civilian population.

• Release those abducted so they may return home to their families.

• Allow uninhibited access to individuals in need so that humanitarian aid can be provided to

   them.

• Show a commitment to peace by renewing communication with the GoU and/or other

   stakeholders.

• Honor commitments made during the Juba Peace Talks.

 

To the Government of Uganda

• To develop a withdrawal plan for Ugandan troops in coordination with the regional

   governments and the United Nations to ensure civilian protection and containment of the

   conflict.

• Honor the commitments made to the Juba Peace Talks and seek ways for the hurried

   implementation of the agenda items.

• Fulfill the commitment to the Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) both financially

   and practically to ensure effective performance.

• Prioritize reconciliation and forge ways to foster harmonious coexistence.

 

To the Regional Governments of LRA Affected Areas (Uganda, DRC, South Sudan, & CAR)

• Pursue dialogue with the LRA as a means of ending the conflict.

• Continue to engage in robust diplomacy with regional stakeholders to meet the needs of the

   affected people.

• Develop and support a joint containment strategy to ensure the violence does not continue to

   spread.

• Make it a commitment to meeting the humanitarian needs of the LRA affected communities in

   a time sensitive manner.

• Develop a plan to foster the return and rehabilitation of individuals who have been abducted by

   the LRA in their respective countries.

• Engage in trust and confidence building approaches with the LRA.

• Foster the return and rehabilitation of those who defect from the LRA.

  

To the International Community

• Continue to aid in the provision of resources and services to affected individuals/communities.

• Help to ensure the protection of civilians through non-violent means.

• Help to facilitate the return of LRA combatants.

• Increase support for the implementation of the items agreed upon in the Juba peace talks,

  especially transitional justice mechanisms which foster community reconciliation in accordance

  to what was agreed under Agenda Item #3 on Accountability & Reconciliation.

• Advocate for the reinstatement of the UN Special Envoy for LRA Affected Areas.

• Investigate, expose and hold accountable those who work to ‘spoil’ peace talks both locally and

   internationally.

• Investigate allegations, expose, and hold accountable those who provide assistance to the LRA.

• Renew their commitment, advocate for, and provide assistance to explore and utilize non-

  Violent methods to resolve the conflict

• Engage with stakeholders at the grassroot level of all LRA affected areas in the region in order 

   To determine a consensus on how to move forward.

 

As the Juba peace talks brought the possibility of a lasting solution between the conflicting parties closer than ever, the failure of the regional governments to exhibit patience was a devastating blow to all who had been laboring to ensure the successful completion of the talks. The failure to fully exhaust all avenues to achieve a peaceful solution to the conflict and the faith many are putting in military action despite the consequences it has had on civilians is severely troubling.

 

One of this year’s Peace Day themes is “making your voices heard.” It will only be through genuine peace talks that this will be accomplished and the many people still caught in the conflict will have their voices heard.

 

This year’s other motto is “youth must engage now.”  We all know the pivotal roles that youth play in conflicts. Too often they become instruments of violence. We call upon our government to come up with holistic programmes to engage youth in meaningful economic activities such as agriculture. Today’s youth often seek the quickest and easiest means to make money. Too many lack discipline and a strong work ethic and it is because of this that youth so often end up in violent, destructive pursuits.

 

To all stakeholders we would like to suggest that too much attention has been paid to the decades of conflict and not enough to the lessons learned during the two year peace process.  After all, during this period there was a significant decrease of violence and displacement. Dialogue has the ability to produce results.  To this end, any leader who genuinely aims to resolve this ongoing conflict must first reopen lines of contact with the LRA.  Speaking with one another is imperative.

 

It is our sincere hope that all stakeholders will be responsive to all of these recommendations and support dialogue over military intervention to resolve this continuing, devastating conflict.

 

Conclusion

 

Gathering here on this special day we can all celebrate the victories of this past year, both large and small, towards the fulfillment of peace.  Let us not become complacent though.  This day should also remind us of all of the work that remains to be done.  There are many for which today is just another day of fear and suffering, another day of uncertainty.  Therefore, let us take inspiration from past accomplishments but, more importantly, let us redouble our efforts towards peace.  Let us re-devote ourselves to achieving a more just and sustainable region and world.

 

“Kacel pi Kuc”

 

“Together for Peace”

 

Yours faithfully,

 

+Rt. Rev. Johnson Gakumba

(Chairman-ARLPI, Bishop Diocese of Northern Uganda)

 

On behalf of:

+Sheik Altai Musa Khalil (the Kadi Acholi Muslim District) - Vice Chairman ARLPI

+Archbishop John Baptist Odama (Chairman of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, Archbishop of Gulu) – Member ARLPI

+Fr. Julius Orach (the Dean of Orthodox)-Member ARLPI

+Rt. Rev. Benjamin Ojwang (Bishop of Kitgum Diocese)- Member ARLPI

+Rt. Rev. Nelson Onono Onweng (The retired Bishop diocese of Northern Uganda)-Member ARLPI

+Rt. Macleod Baker Ochola II (The retired Bishop of Kitgum diocese)-Member ARLPI

+Pr. Lisa David (SDA Resident pastor Gulu)

+Pr. Patrick Okecha (Overseer Born Faith Federation)

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