Acholi Religious Leaders Want UPDF out of Congo

1768 Views Gulu, Uganda

In short
Acholi religious leaders say the presence of the Ugandan Army in the D R Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan could strain bi-lateral relations at a time when they need to work together to address the Lord’s Resistance Army problem.

Acholi religious leaders say the presence of the Ugandan Army in the D R Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan could strain bi-lateral relations at a time when the countries need to work together to address the Lord’s Resistance Army problem.

In a press statement on Wednesday, the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) asked government to develop a withdrawal plan for the UPDF in coordination with the regional governments where the LRA rebels are operating.

Sheik Altai Musa Khalil, the ARLPI vice chairperson said the government should consider pulling out its forces and task the United Nations with full responsibility of protecting civilians and ending the rebel attacks.

The prelates noted that the populations in the LRA conflict affected areas feel the LRA has become a trade name and a business and that they view the presence of UPDF in the their countries as a continuation of that business.

The statement quotes one unnamed South Sudan Commissioner saying people have negative attitude towards the UPDF and they think that the Ugandan army is in their country to loot diamond and timber.

In September 2007, a Swiss-based research study accused Ugandan troops of looting truckloads of valuable trees from South Sudan, where they were pursuing LRA rebels who were hiding in the region.

The Small Arms Survey said the UPDF cut teak trees in Equatorial region during Operation Iron Fist, which had been approved by the Khartoum government.

During the International Peace Day at Kaunda Grounds in Gulu on Wednesday, Musa Khalil said the truth about the situation in the neighboring countries is not often talked about. Instead, the politicians prefer to say that the LRA have been wiped out and they pose no threat anymore and peace has been achieved.

He questioned how a handful of men could displace 350,000 people in Congo.

In 2009, Ugandan government launched Operation Lightning Thunder against LRA, who were hiding in Garamba National Park in Congo.  

In February 2010, Bishop Richard Domba, of Dungu catholic diocese in the Democratic Republic of Congo, told journalists in Gulu that the LRA rebels had intensified their attacks on several villages. Bishop Domba claimed that the rebels were raiding villages and killing civilians, abducting children, burning schools and crops in the field and ambushing vehicles.

The Bishop appealed to the governments in the Great Lakes region to find a lasting solution to what he described as the LRA menace.