By Wade Snowdon
GULU, NORTHERN UGANDA-After over two decades of absence from Uganda, Dr. Olara Otunnu, former Ambassador of Uganda to the UN and UN Under-Secretary General and Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict returned to Uganda and began a country wide journey to meet key leaders and his supporters.
On Saturday, August 29th, Otunnu arrived in Gulu and met with the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) to discuss the current situation in the region.
During the meeting, Otunnu praised the work of ARLPI’s chairman, Catholic Archbishop Odama and the rest of the religious leaders stating, “this is a very emotional moment as during the dark years, I don’t know anyone who has done more to bring international attention to the conflict...”
Otunnu further commended ARLPI for the pioneering role the organization has played in the pursuit of peace and praised the religious leaders for their courage to meet Kony to secure peace talks despite the risk to their personal safety and security.
“This country has been racked with inter-religious conflict. There has been a bad history but ARLPI has worked hard to bring the people together. As a result, rivalry between the groups has greatly diminished,” stated Otunnu.
Explaining the dire challenges the people are facing the Archbishop asked Otunnu to join hands with the population during the period of resettlement, reconstruction and development in the region.
“In Acholi, the education sector is lagging behind, people are not being able to resettle well as famine is ravaging the region, and land is a critical issue. With your vast experience, we ask that you use it for the benefit of the people for ARLPI is for the good of all our children,” said Odama.
Father Julius Orach, the head of the Orthodox Church in Gulu reiterated the need and requested Otunnu to join northern Uganda in the resettlement process as the region is failing to move a step ahead.
Otunnu is perhaps best known in Uganda for his controversial statements accusing Museveni’s government for systematic genocide of the Acholi people in northern Uganda. Claims the government vehemently denies.
Rumors have circulated since Otunnu’s return that he is being considered as a single candidate for a consortium of the opposition parties in an attempt to challenge the Museveni’s presidency in the 2011 elections.