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Following the July 2005 referendum on political systems, Uganda has now a multi-party system of governance. For the first time in twenty years candidates standing on party tickets are now campaigning for the forthcoming presidential elections, which will take place on February 23.


The existence of political parties is one of the trademarks of modern democracy worldwide, but not the only one. Some other features include freedom of the Press, tolerance and respect for others people's views, independence of the judiciary, absence of interference from the military in civil affairs, keeping of a spirit of consensus on national issues and consistent upholding of human rights at all levels.


Keeping this in mind we may wonder whether, despite having a multi-party system we have democracy in Uganda. Events unfolding at snowball speed in recent months have cast a cloud of doubt. The untimely arrest of presidential  candidate Dr. Besigye, attemps by the military to interfere with the work of courts of law in what is widely regarded as a growing militarisation of  society, the removal of presidential limits, threats against the media and insults against the opposition parties during the electoral campaign are some of the worrying signals. Little wonder that, according to recent opinion polls, most Ugandans have serious fears that the forthcoming elections will be free and fair.


Different groups have given early warnings: the judiciary, NGOs, media practicioners and the international community. Religious leaders have also expressed serious words of caution, particularly through the Uganda Joint Christian Council. The Catholic Bishops issued a pastoral letter dated November 11.


While the document has many valid points, it was published with a month of delay, without incorporating concerns arising from some more recent developments and couched in a highly diplomatic language that at times can make it be interpreted in whichever way anybody may want.


Democratic systems can take many years to be put in place, but there are minimum standards that should be universally respected. While the Church cannot take positions on partisan politics, she must do more than just watch events taking place. She must act standing for evangelical values of tolerance and human rights, being more decided and outspoken in the defense of democracy.



The Archbishop of Gulu Archdiocese John Baptist Odama has said if the reason why the leader of the Lord’s Resistance army (LRA) rebels Josehp Kony is not coming out of the bush is the fear of arrest by the International Criminal Court (ICC), then he has offered himself to be arrested if that can bring peace.


“I appeal to the LRA, for the sake of children who are the future of Uganda, come out. If you fear ICC, I as bishop will be offering myself to be arrested and taken to court if that can bring peace,” Odama said.


Odama made the statement after the prayer for peace in Northern Ecclesiastical Province held in Adjumani, Arua diocese January 3rd to 4th, 2006. The prayer was organised by Gulu Archdiocese to initiate a process of healing of memories and reconciliation for the people and communities in the greater northern Uganda, thus contributing to national reconciliation.


Thousands of pilgrims came from Lira, Arua, Nebbi, Gulu and Adjumani. Others from southern Sudan and other dioceses in Uganda.


“ICC, if you hear that Kony and his commanders want to come out, please leave them, come and arrest me instead, I am ready for that,” Odama added as thousands of pilgrims nodded in his support.


He said he was forced to make the statement because peace is so much desired by people in the north and Uganda as a country. “I accept to be a prisoner if that can bring peace,” he emphasized.


Cardinal Emmanuel wamala thanked Odama for his statement and assured him that, “When you are arrested, all these bishops and the religious will be ready to accompany you to the jail.”


He also thanked the Acholi religious leaders for their duty and initiatives for maintaning peace, however, he was not happy that many times they were misunderstood.


 He said part of the source of insecurity in Uganda has been rejection of God and wondered why foreigners who come to Uganda admire the land and her people yet we don not like ourselves.


“Are we nice to foreigners and not to ourselves?


We are vandalising our country, destroying our people. What legacy are we leaving for our children and grand children,?” said Wamala.


Odama urged people in  the north and Uganda generally to be people of peace. He told them to unite and promote forgiveness among themselves.


He added, “Parents, lead your children to peace. Leaders of different groups lead your people to peace. Bishops, leade your dioceses to unity and peace.”


Bishop Fredrick of Arua diocese said it’s duty of the Church to bring peace and a right to see that everyone lives in peace.


He said it’s remarkable that the Church leaders have accepted that they have not done enough to bring peace.


“I am grateful to see a change in us and the change is good for our region,” Drandua observed.


He commended Acholi religious leaders for trying their best to talk to Kony but said Kony did not come out because he does not fear God.


Drandua said if Kony and his rebels come out of the bush, the people of west Nile are ready to forgive. He added, “Acholi have suffered a lot, let us be ready to forgive even forgiving Kony.”




Different groups of people in northern Uganda have resolved to form a Truth and Reconciliation Committee that will be task to bring unity and peace in the region.


The resolve made during a workshop that was organised by Gulu Archdiocese as part of the peace prayer held in Adjumani, Arua diocese on January 3rd to 4th 2006. Four groups, youth, women, elders/cultural leaders and veterans had seperate workshops.


In a join report read to religious and other leaders of the greater northern region after the peace prayer, the group said the Truth and Reconciliation Committee will look into ways of healing of memories and reconciliation in the region and the country as a whole.


The groups identified the causes of bad relationships among people in northern Uganda and blamed them on the past leaders. According to them, relationship among the Acholi, Lango and West Nilers begun going sour in 1962 when former President Milton Obote disagreed with his army commander Opolot and appointed Idi Amin to carry out displinary action against the Kabaka of Buganda.


After that Amin was played against Obote and usurping power.


Killing of Acholi and Langi began until 1979/80 when the so called liberation army overthrew Amin and begun revenge on the poeple of West Nile.


Then came the 1985 rumours that led to some Acholi general in the army toppling Obote.


These causes of bad relationships among people in the north identified still haunt people of the region.


When the LRA started terrorising the neighbouring districts, the sentiments were ignited (‘You Acholi have started again’) referring to the activities of the LRA perceived as an Acholi aggression.


The groups said past leaders acted on allegation leading to several deaths. Those who survived got annoyed and revenged. And these are what destroyed relationships among people in norther region.


For them, the committee to be set should put in place a mechanism that will filter bad information or rumours to avoid poisoning people’s mind.


 They called upon Churches to unite and therefore, their followers so the unity and peace are realised.


 A need for a strong advocay needed for northern region especially on the issue of Kony LRA rebels activities.


They would like to see Gulu Archdiocese that is to spearhed normalisation of relationship among people in the north get public relations and advocacy experts that will design strategies for the activities of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee.




One may ask how bishop Taban Paride of Torit in southern Sudan has survived in forty years as a man of God in two civil wars in which about two million lives lost.


“I and the people of southern Sudan survived because million of people prayed for us,” Taban, simply said. He added, “I never called anybody animy. The leader of the rebel SPLA John Garang was my friend. The President of Sudan Omar El Bashir is my friend.”


He said even people who have wronged us should be our friends because we are all siners yet God calls us friends.


He apologised for the attrocities in Uganda as a result of wars because he said all wars that took place in Uganda from Obote regime to the current regime, Sudan’s name is mentioned.


“On behalf of the people of Sudan I ask for purdon. I want to say sorry,” he said. He however wondered why most of the killings resulting from  wars in the two countries have been in southern Sudan and northern Uganda.


Bishop Taban warned that nobody can win war except prayers and negotiation. He added that the two were the ones that brought an end to the war in southern Sudan.


Taban also warned people to stop war of revenge, hatred and anger. “If we don’t, it will finish us all starting with the perpetuators,” he warned.


He said the cause of wars and the reason for its continued existence is telling lies. “How many promises we have made to our people about ending the wars but not done?” He asked. Saying, “this should end today and people start telling truth,” and advised that, “From today we should be friends ready to die for telling truth.”


He also castigated Uganda and Sudanese political leaders for living luxurious life. He blamed the causes of poverty in the two countries on them. He said ministers live beyond their means yet their people are dying of poverty. Ministers drive expensive vehicles yet their people are poverty stricken.


He said he has firend who are ministers in Norway and Sweden who use bicycles or train to go to offices but ours drive expensive vehicles. “We are greedy and killing our own people,” he added.


The first deputy prime minister and also minister for disaster preparedness Moses Ali is however in support of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decision to arrest Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA and his commanders.


A move which Gulu Archbishop John Baptist Odama critised and offered himself to be arrested instead of Kony if that can bring and can enable the LRA to come out freely.


Moses Ali said, “I commend the court for issuing arrest awarrants for the LRA leader, Joseph Kony and his cronies. This has worked as a catalyst to end the conflict.”


According to the religious leaders however, tnegotiation is the best means to end the northern Uganda war.


Moses Ali however said the year 2005 ended with an opportunistic note when the LRA publicly called for peace talks. He assured people of government’s commitment towards resolution of the conflict.


He has high hope that the cronic conflict that has destroyed life and property will be brought to an end to allow people regain their dignity.


He also supported what Pope Benedick XVI indicated in his message that resolution of conflict needs both the political and religious will in order to succeed.


Moses Ali thanked Gulu Archdiocese for deciding that the peace prayer be held in Adjumani. “We are greatly honoured by your presence and by deciding that we be the pioneer ot host the event that will rotate all over the province,” he said.


According to him, everybody the world over yearns for peace yet we all know that million of people have led a wretched life over the years in different parts of the world. “In Uganda, different parts experienced or are experiencing insecurity,” Moses Ali said.


Ali said for the last forty years Uganda has indulged in self destruction in terms of lives, property and infrastructure. The root cause of these civil strifes is hunger for power coupled with pride.


On LRA, he said West Nile region has suffered tremendous social and economic retardation as it was almost cut off from the rest of the country by the activities of the LRA. Adjumani, the only district of West Nile which is east of the Nile is at par with all the district of northern Uganda in experiencing suffering inflicted by the LRA.


“It has withnessed killings, abductions, ambushes, looting etc. In 2004 alone, Adjumani suffered 43 attacks from LRA,” Ali revealed.


Adjumani also has IDPs but they are absorbed into families elsewhere in the district instead of crowding in IDP camps where people suffered the consequences of poor sanitation, personal hygiene, water shortages, etc, which lead to ill-health and eventual deaths.


Ali however, commended donors, NGOs and Aid Agencies for their commitment to improve the lives of vulnerable people in northern uganda. He urged them to continue their generous spirit and increase their support to the suffering people in northern Uganda.


He anslo thanked the UN for bringing the Uganda humanitarian crisis in the lime light.Dennis McNamara, the Special Advisor to the UN Emergency relief Coordinator and Director of the Inter-Agency Internal Displacement Division described it as one of the longest, largest and least addressed humanitarian crisis in the world today.


By James Oweka 





In mid-October last year President Museveni said that he was directing the Prime Minister's office to begin the resettlement of IDPs in Teso and Lango.


The ones from Acholi, he mentioned, would go back home in April once Kony "would be history".


Few weeks later, Vice-President Gilbert Bukenya visited Lira and stated that preparations for the whole exercise-for which the Government had earmarked 6 Billion shillings- would be ready by the end of the year.


As we go to Press, nothing appears to have started yet. Moreover, the affected displaced persons have expressed serious fears about their own security.


In Teso -where there are 150,000 IDPs- continuous chronic violence by Karimojong armed herdsmen has remained an unsolved problem for decades.


In Lango, the 300,000 displaced persons are still too traumatised and it is enough that a killing occurs -as it happened on December 13, when eight people were killed in a rebel ambush near Aloi to make them reluctant to move away from the camps.


Deadlines given by the Government to implement important plans are

nothing new. In recent years we have heard many times that by such and such a date the Karimojong would be completely disarmed or that the Kony war would be over.


 In this context of unfulfilled promises, it is understandable that people may not greet with too much enthusiasm any IDPs resettlement plans.


However much everybody wishes that to take place, people simply doubt the Government's capacity, and even the willingness.


Not only that. While President Museveni during his electoral campaign simply speaks of "all IDPs going back to their homes by April", the Army -in its recent progressive report on the Kony war- talked of a decongestion programme creating smaller camps.


Even the President, until very recently, whenever he tackled this issue he prefered to speak of improving life conditions in the camps.


It is obvious that in recent years the plight of the 1.5 million IDPs in Northern Uganda has become more and more of an issue of national concern.


 This explains why the

different presidential candidates are making it one of their priorities in their electoral programmes, in contrast with 2001 when it was hardly mentioned.


Nevertheless, it is not enough to declare one's willingness to solve the problem.

The presidential candidates must also explain how they will go about it, because there is no simple solution, and above all contradictory statements must be avoided.


Otherwise it would be sad and unacceptable if so much human suffering is politicised and exploited for purposes of cheap popularity, and perhaps forgotten afterwards. Whoever will become president of Uganda in 2006, must be reminded that he will have to answer to the people in keeping to his promise.

Fr. Carlos Rodríguez.




Elections are just round the corner. Our politicians are now very close to us. They pop in pubs and offer us drinks. They sent us New Year's greetings all over radios. Even those who spent the whole five years in parliament without visiting their grandmas in the village do not miss a thing, including the funeral of a stillborn.


Posters with smiling faces of Presidential, Parliamentary and Local council aspirants dot the whole country with catchy taglines like Peace, Unity, Reconciliation, Development, you name them.


There are rallies everywhere, even in places that were until recently inaccessible. This time, unlike in the past, we are going to vote under a multi-party dispensation. Although a few contenders are independents, most candidates ascribe to the numerous registered parties in operation.


I, as a voter, have been asking myself who to vote, and some how, I am spoilt for choice. All the contenders are really smooth talkers. Just the other day I met one well-placed parliamentary hopeful who was about to go and attend a funeral in his constituency- to- be, and had a nice chat with him.


He asked me about his chances of winning, and without mincing words, I told him it was difficult to gauge accurately but judging from the paucity of his posters in the IDP camps, he might not be all that popular.


"Don't worry". He told me. "This race is tight; six of us vying for it. But I will have to win by hook or crook. I am ready to spend two hundred million to get my way through. I will set aside another thirty million to buy off the agents of my competitors".


"Is that what it will take you to win? I asked.  "Yes" He replied. " These days money talks." "But how will you get back this money, whether you win or lose? I queried.


"Young man, with this money I will not fail. I will get it back after just two or three road contracts."


He said with a broad smile. He then handed me five copies of his posters and asked me to sell him well.


Later on when I looked at his poster, I found the words Peace, Unity, Development and Responsible Leadership as his agenda. Responsible leadership of all things, can you imagine?


This guy thinks that we are all idiots to believe his blatant lies. Is he what we want for a leader? Someone who is seeking to advance his own causes, or in the least, keep himself where he already is?


What we, the people, need are leaders who will take us further from where we are. We are suffering in the camps, dying at the rate of a thousand a day.


 We live from hand to mouth, not because we are too lazy to feed ourselves but because we are under virtual detention. Our children do not go to school. Our families are disintegrating. Our politicians know too well about these and want to take advantage of our vulnerability.



It is disturbing to note that some presidential candidates are using our situation as a campaign tool in some parts of the country. The press reported one

as asking the voters thus:


"Do you people know the Acholi?" "Yeeeees". They roared. "Do you know where they live?"  "In Gulu" No. You don't know. Let me tell you. The Acholi are very poor people who live in camps. Camps with no latrines, no water, and no food. They are dying there like flies. Do you know why? Because they have always voted the wrong candidate. If you vote someone else, there will be war, and you are going to be herded to the camps like the Acholi."


I am at pains to understand the true objectives of this kind of leader. Is that how we perceive unity, peace and development?  Something like "you people give me the votes so that I help get our Acholi brothers out of their misery" could have been better than the ridicule. That comparison really stinks.


Now they think because of our misery we are going to accept anything that will make us get the next meal! They think if they swing their bundles we shall all be

blinded. We need money, alright, but not in exchange with our conscience.

We are watching every step they take, every move theymake, every single day. What we want, as the Acholi,are policies that will rekindle our lost glory.


Policies that will see us go back home, bring us closer to our neighbours and the rest of the country, and provide us an platform for prosperity; not stolen money; not contract seekers. We shall not hesitate to crush the money though. There is no shame in it,

because much of it was siphoned from our coffers.


To all the voters: be wary of these smooth talkers. They will tell you everything to sell them through. They will even promise to transform hell into a livable place. This time we are voting policies, not individuals. Look closely at our needs as the Acholi.


A candidate and his party who will get our votes must show us that those needs will be adequately addressed. The money they give us will feed us for a day or two, but the ultimate effect of a wrong choice will take us five more years to be revisited.


And as is always said, if the self-seekers want to play with your stomachs, let them do so, but don't allow them to play with your conscience. Happy New Year.




It was a sad Christmas for the 30,000 IDPs living in Lalogi camp, in Gulu district. Eight people were shot dead by soldiers from the UPDF detach, in a series of violent incidents during December 26.


Our chairman, Fr. Cyprian Ocen, and secretary Fr. Carlos Rodríguez visited the place the day after. Despite the very tense environment they were able to visit some of the victims' bereaved families and this is what they found out.


Everything started at around 2:00 am of December 26, when an 18-year old boy, Ojok Ojara, left a disco hall after being harassed by a soldier who made advances to a girl in Ojok's company. As Ojok reached his home the soldier shot him dead.


Early in the morning, scores of camp residents gathered in front of the UPDF detach asking for action against the culprit. Some wanted to lynch him.


According to local sources, on October 9 a woman was murdered by a soldier in the camp and no action was taken.


As tension gathered momentum, some more UPDF personnel from the nearby brigade headquarters at Opit (10 kilometres from Lalogi) arrived. Soon after soldiers opened fire against the crowd.


As a result of the shooting, four civilians were killed and sixteen injured. The wounded were later on taken to different hospitals in Gulu.


 People in the camp assured us that later that evening two more dead bodies were found. On December 28 one of the wounded in Lacor hospital died.


As the incident proved highly embarrased for the Government, a lot of contradictions arose during the following days.


 First, the Army accused the civilians of becoming "rowdy" and it stated that it acted in self-defence, "shooting in the air". However, the whole detach was later on transferred as a disciplinary measure and when the Minister of State for Security, Betty Akech, turned for the victims' burial she said that the ones responsible for the killings would be executed publicly.


On  January 3 the soldier who shot Ojok, identified ad Rubangakene, was court-martialled and sentenced to death, while three days later (in an article published in The Monitor) the Army spokesman for the North still justified the soldier's action saying that he shot Ojok when he failed to heed the Army's orders to stop at night.  


According to our documentation, gathered in our daily incidence reports which we publish in this newsletter, 36 civilians were killed by Army personnel during 2005.


 A common complain of IDPs is that often soldiers who murder civilians are just transferred to other detatches before investigations can be completed.


A Human Rights Watch report which came out in September published some similar findings.


Only last August UPDF soldiers were responsible for the dead of two civilians in Palenga, one in Kalongo, one in Omot and a child in Laroo.



CHRONOLOGY OF RECENT EVENTS  (December - January 2006)



2ND - Vincent Ottii spoke on Monitor FM radio about LRA proposal of peace talks. He asked for Archbishop Odama's mediation.


10th - During prayers for peace in the north held at Nakivubo Stadium, Kampala, UJCC  asked Government to declare the north a disaster area.

10th - Vice-President Bukenya said in Lira, during   a function with cultural leaders, that preparations for the resettlement of IDPs by the Government would be finished by the end of the year.


11th - UPDF said it would finish the LRA completely before the end of the dry season.


12th - UPDF said Kony was being shielded bySudan army officers around Nisitu.


13th - LRA ambushed a vehicle on the Aloi-Moroto road (lira district) killing 8 people.

13th - Rebels abducted six children in Wi-Kweyo, near Minakulu.


16th - Rebels ambushed a military vehicle in Lugore (Gulu-Patiko road), killing two soldiers.

16th - Rebels ambushed a lorry of Sudanese nationals few kilometres after Madi-Opei, killing eleven people.


19th - A cyclist was killed by rebels in Aparo (Kitgum)

23rd - In the opening of his electoral campaign in Luwero, Museveni said he would finish             Kony be April and all IDPs would go back to their homes.


24th - UPDF killed rebel Brig. Charles Kapere north of Goma hills, in Kitgum.


26th - A soldier killed a young man in Lalogi IDP in the wee hours of the morning. At dawn a crowd gathered in front of the barracks to protest and the Army opened fire, killing six more. Sixteen people were injured.

26th - A soldier shot two people in Lugore IDP. One of them died.


28th - UPDF said it had killed 20 LRA in a battle north of Patongo.


29th - Rebels killed two men who had gone hunting from Acet. A third one had his fingers cut off.


31st - LRA killed three people in villages in Patek.




3rd - Five civilians were killed by rebels in villages near Ngai (Apach district)


4th - During a peace prayer in Adjumani, archbishop Odama said that he offered himself to go to court to the ICC and prison instead of Kony if that could bring peace to the North.


5th - Army and district officials in Gulu called for an NGO urgent meeting and said that they wanted all child night commuters centres to be closed.





We held Ecclesiastical peace day in Adjumani, Arua diocese from   January 3rd to 4th. It was well attended. Bishops Fredrick Drandua of Arua, Joseph Franzelli of Lira and Archbishop John Baptist Odama attended. Bishop Paride taban of Juba and the Vicar general from Khartoum were also present.


JPC staff began civic education Gulu, Kitgum and Pader district. It isto educate voters of their rights and the importance of elections and the change in political system from a one party system to a multiparty system.


JPF staff held meeting with the Commissioners at the end of december at Comboni Animation Centre. It was to give accountability of the JPC work to Commissioners.


Another JPC staff meeting with the Commissioners, Chairman and the Archbishop will be held from February 2nd to 3rd at Nabinoonya in Kisubi. The meeting will be for planning and the review of our work.


Community sensitization and house hold education is on-going in Gulu, Kitgum and pader.


JPC assisted IYEP, a group of former abductees to hold sensitization and reconciliation programme at Unyama IDP camp on 17th, December 2005.



Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala has decried continued war in Uganda yet its neighbouring country like Tanzania which attained independent two years before Uganda has never had war of its own.  


"The year Uganda was established as one country, a protectorate of the British, was the year Australia was declared a Commonwealth. Australia has had its own internal problem but is a peaceful nation, hundred of times bigger than Uganda. Tanzania became independent two years before Uganda. They have never had a war o their own. But Uganda, for almost all the forty years as independent nation has been and still is fighting," said Cardinal Wamala.


The Cardinal was officiating of peace prayer organised by Gulu Archdiocese at Sacred Heart Parish in Adjumani. (BG)


He questioned why we cannot reconcile our faith in God with our belligerent spirit, our belligerent language and our belligerent attitudes. "Yet Ugandans claim to be a religious nation, bold enough always to swear 'For God and my Country," he added.

He said Ugandans are engaged in wars cannot find time to admire the beauty of their country and see God's love and wisdom in them.


He paid special tribute to the internally displaced persons (IDPs) who live in camps scattered in different zones of the north. He said Pope Benedict XVI, in his message of peace for this year he greeted all people including those who are suffering as a result of violence and armed conflicts.


Cardinal thanked the government, Church International Agencies and local non-governmental Organisations for providing protection, support, love and care for the IDPs. Wamala also commended religious leaders in northern Uganda for positive peace initiatives they have spearheaded.


"All along they have been bold calling for special courage. Little wonder that sometimes they have been misunderstood. This reminds us of the word of Jesus in Mathew (13:57): A prophet is not without honour except in his country and in his own house," added Wamala.


He said Pope Benedict XVI invited us to reflect on the relations between truth and peace. According to Wamala, peace has eluded us in the country because we have rejected truth. The rejection of truths explains the fratricidal activities so rampant in our dear country. It also explains vandalism which have left once populated centres ghost towns and villages and once the pearl of Africa a semi-desert.


Quoting the Pope, Wamala said peace appears as a heavenly gift and a divine grace which demands at every level the exercise of the highest responsibility: that of conforming human history - in truth, justice, freedom and love. He advised Christians to live out truth in our social structures and in our daily life. "Adults are to teach by word and deed the youth and children in our society that truth builds society and lies destroys it," added the Cardinal.


He blamed leaders in Uganda for what he said wilfully twisting the truth and plunging groups and nation into hatred, enemies, ethnic cleansing and genocide. However, Wamala advised that as Uganda prepares for political transition, and as leaders position themselves for soliciting votes from every corners of the nation, they should strive to prevent any form of untruth from poisoning relationships.


He said although peace is a gift from God, everybody has a role to play in preserving and promoting peace. "We all have a role to play in preserving and promoting a culture of peace," he added.


However, he said the Church points out the special role of those in military service. They have a bigger role to play. Quoting fathers of the second Vatican Council, the Cardinal said:


 "All those who entered the military service in their country, should look upon themselves as guardians of the security and freedom of their fellow countrymen, and in carrying out this duty properly, they too contribute to the

establishment of peace."


By James Oweka