Uganda's Vice-President, Dr Specioza Windira Kazibwe, has criticised an Anglican bishop for urging the Government to hold peace talks with armed rebels in northern Uganda.P Addressing a crowd in the town of Kitgum on 9 February, the Vice-President described the leader of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony, and his supporters as "killers, rapists and people who had devastated the economy". The LRA is terrorising the towns and villages of northern Uganda, killing hundreds of people and abducting teenagers to force them to become guerrillas in the struggle for control of the region.
Preaching at a special church service on 4 February after the murder by the LRA of Kitgum District's police chief, Asaph Ruteitsya, the Anglican Bishop of Kitgum Diocese, Macleord Baker Ochola II, bitterly criticised President Yoweri Museveni's Government, which has been in power for 11 years, for failing to end the armed rebellion in the north of the country.
The bishop urged the Government to begin a dialogue with the rebels to stop the carnage.
Three weeks ago, members of the LRA, which is allegedly supported by the Sudanese Government, crossed the Sudanese border into the Kitgum district and killed more than 400 civilians, including children, women and old people.
"Talking peace with the rebels does not mean the Government is weak or defeated," Bishop Ochola said, adding that peace talks were the best way "to stop the killing and displacement of innocent people." He said that granting a pardon to the rebels would be the best means to resolve the conflict.
The bishop said that the only real rebels were LRA leaders, as most of the fighting force now consisted of "so many innocent boys and girls abducted from the villages". (According to the Observer newspaper in London, UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, estimates that 3000 children have been kidnapped by the LRA in the past two years alone.).
"Why does Museveni want to be a monster?" the bishop asked, pointing out that the north Ugandan Acholi tribe, of which the bishop is a member, was the group most affected by the insurgency. "If he feels he still has some more days to rule, he should listen or follow what God wants and not what he (Museveni) desires. For God does not want his people to live in a state of fear in their country."
Several members of parliament and religious leaders have repeatedly appealed to the Government to talk peace with the rebels in order to end the fighting in which thousands of people have been killed, maimed and expelled from their villages.
President Museveni has said that the relatives of victims of the fighting would be angry with the Government if pardons were granted. The President has vowed that Government troops will continue fighting until they wipe the rebels out.