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Churches Appeal for Peace Talks

Posted on: May 9, 1997 12:46 PM
Related Categories: Uganda

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has again rejected pleas by religious leaders and some politicians for his government to hold peace talks with rebels fighting government troops in the north of the country.

Opening a new session of the Ugandan Parliament in Kampala on 2 May, President Museveni compared the leader of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony, to Satan. He said that he was not ready to "compromise with the devil".

"Religious leaders and some politicians are asking me to compromise with Satan," he said. "But I do not think the victims of the devilish acts of Kony will forgive me if I agree to negotiate peace with these bandits."

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) of Joseph Kony, a former Catholic catechist, propagates a mixture of religion and witchcraft. The LRA claims it wants to overthrow the government and rule according to the Ten Commandments. The LRA has been widely accused of kidnapping hundreds of children from northern Uganda as well as committing widespread atrocities, including the rape of children, mutilation, looting and murder.

Leaders of Uganda's three main Christian traditions - Protestant, Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox - and Muslim leaders have called on the government to hold peace talks with rebel leaders. However, the government has said that attempts to find a peaceful settlement of the conflict have failed and that it intends to fight the rebels until they are eliminated.

Earlier this year, Anglican Bishop Macleord Baker Ochola III, from the diocese of Kitgum, criticised President Museveni's government for failing to end the armed rebellion. The bishop called for dialogue with the rebels.

In his address to parliament last week, President Museveni described Kony and other rebel leaders as "parasites of society", suggesting that they were fighting for personal enrichment and for a style of living that they could not afford through "legal toil".

The president said that it would not be wise to allow such rebel activities to go unpunished. "What if it encourages others to similarly loot as a form of 'fundraising' or 'capital accumulation'?" he asked. "When will our society ever settle down to develop? In any case these criminals have not only looted, but have also murdered thousands."