ARLPI’s Position on the Current Situation in North and Northeastern Uganda
JULY 12th, 2009
Over the last couple of months, allegations have surfaced regarding the formation of a new rebel group known as the Uganda Patriotic Front (UPF/UPP). A number of individuals have been arrested and allegations have been passed against high profile individuals resulting in a lot of political ‘mud slinging.’
At the same time, as the population in the region struggles to rebuild their lives and return home, the community is now in the throngs of hunger and famine.
We the religious leaders who make up the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) are greatly concerned about the current situation we are experiencing in Northern Uganda.
While some critics feel that religious leaders should not comment on things that are political in nature, we believe that we are responsible to speak out on behalf of the people we serve. With the people in mind we would like to put forth the following responses to the current state of the region for reflection:
Arrests of Suspected Rebels:
While we applaud President’s Museveni’s halt of arrests by Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) officials, we express our sadness that suspects were not handled in a way becoming of professional security organs. The way in which the arrests are alleged to have been conducted by neglecting the rule of law, only lead to exasperating fear among the population as it is reminiscent of the abductions by the LRA. This uproots traumatic memories among the population causing further undue damage.
We ask that the government be sensitive to the experiences of the people of Uganda in general, in particular Northern Uganda and act in a way which will not further destabilize efforts to bring healing and reconciliation to communities. The rule of law must be adhered to by all and the proper procedures observed after arrests are made.
We the Acholi Religious Leaders who make up ARLPI wholly condemn any group or individual(s) who resort to the use of violence or intimidation in order to achieve their agenda. Such actions only prove to destabilize the region and undermine any efforts made to better the lives of the community.
We therefore urge those who are unsatisfied with the status quo to advocate for change through legitimate political processes and other legal means.
The Role of the Media:
The media has an important role to play in the promotion of peace and unity throughout the region. That being said, we want to remind the media of their responsibility to report well informed, independently verified, and non-partisan stories in order to educate the public.
We therefore implore journalists to practice responsible journalism and to verify facts before their stories go to publication. They should also make every effort to avoid being used as a political tool by unscrupulous individuals who wish to further their own personal agendas.
Contradictory Messages by the Government, Politicians, and other Leaders:
Recently various contradictory statements have been made by various leaders showing a lack of communication and disunity among those in office. Not only has this been illustrated in the way in which certain individuals handled the potential new rebel group, but also regarding the possible arrest of Sudanese President Omar El Bashir should he visit Uganda.
We therefore request that all officials regardless of political affiliation take the necessary steps to curtail the spread of contradictory messages so as to avoid the further spread of misinformation which has caused great fear and confusion among the public.
In Preparation for 2011 Elections:
In light of the upcoming 2011 elections, we urge politicians to refrain from engaging in tactics which take the focus away from the needs and problems in the region and instead focus on individual personalities.
As allegations have recently surfaced that many issues regarding security, peace, and development in the region are being either exaggerated or fabricated to further the agenda of groups or individuals, we ask that all leaders put the needs of the people first and do not use the plight of the population for personal gain. We therefore request that you act with the utmost integrity by focusing on how one can uplift the common Ugandan so that the country may be a pillar of democracy in the region.
We also urge all leaders to encourage their supporters to refrain from any use of violence or destruction so that we may prevent what we have witnessed in neighboring countries. May the country we have worked so hard for realize the fruits of prosperity.
As many have begun the process of return and resettlement throughout the region, many individuals have not wreaked the fruitful harvests they had hoped for due to both weather related issues and inadequate provision of farming equipment/resources to returnees.
Hunger related deaths have been reported in both Lango and Acholi regions, while Teso has been the worst hit. We are deeply pained to see our children experiencing such hardships.
We therefore urge the government and all other stakeholders to immediately react to the crisis by soliciting funds and food to provide for those who are suffering as a result of hunger. We also ask for better early warning systems and preparedness measures to be put in place so that such widespread affects can be avoided in the future.
To our beloved communities we urge you to continue working hard and not be discouraged. We also ask that you do all you can to play your role in achieving food security by practicing good stewardship in order to ensure you do not sell of all your foodstuffs to earn a profit.
For too long have the people of north and northeastern Uganda been victims of the circumstances which surround them. We pray that we all do what we can to ensure the relative calm that we are all enjoying throughout the region remain. Let us work together to build a harmonious and prosperous country for all to enjoy.
Together for Peace,
Archbishop John Baptist Odama-ARLPI Chairman
Al Hajji Sheik Musa Khalil-ARLPI Vice-Chairman
Rt. Rev. Bishop Nelson Onono-ARLPI Founding Chair, Chairman Finance Committee
Rt. Rev. Bishop Benjamin Ojwang- ARLPI Core Team Member, Kitgum Diocese
Rt. Rev. Bishop Macleord Baker Ochola II- ARLPI Founding Core Team Member
Fr. Julius Orach-ARLPI Core Team Member, Chairman Welfare Committee
Bishop Sabino Odoki-ARLPI Treasurer & Core Team Member