By Richard Ruati
December 19, 2009 (YAMBIO) – Catholic Bishops Conference called on the Ugandan Government and The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to revisit the Juba Peace Talks.
The Juba talks broke down last year, after Kony’s refusal to sign the peace deal.
“The Lord Resistance Army (LRA) aggression on innocent civilians especially Western Equatoria and Western Bhar El Ghazal States has created untold suffering and displacement to many people. We call upon the government of Uganda and the Lord Resistance Army to resume peace talk,” statement from the Bishops resolves.
The Bishops appeal for peace come as LRA rebels are reported to be regrouping in northern Congo and eye witness threats of bloody X-mass.
The Bishops have been meeting in Torit Diocese for their annual conference as Catholic Bishops of Sudan under the theme of “for a just and lasting peace”.
One day after the Bishops plea for the resumption of Uganda Government and LRA peace talks, Sudan Tribune contacted the Ugandan Army Spokesperson, Lt Col Felix Kulayigye.
He said “The Bishops have got right to express their views, however the Bishops should equal call upon General Joseph Kony to sign the negotiated Juba Peace Talks,” ruling out any Peace Talks with Kony who is on the run.
Felix disclosed that, “Kony is believed to be hiding in Western Bahr El Ghazal, where the Ugandan Army continue to hunt him down, however Sudan Tribune could not verify this claim independently.
The Ugandan Army Spokesperson dismissed reports citing LRA to be regrouping in northern Congo, calling it “rubbish, the UPDF is on the ground, there is no way LRA can strike.”
Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala Tambura-Yambio Diocese attended this year’s conference; His flocks have been bearing the brunt of LRA aggressions, with at least seven Parishes under Tambura-Yambio Diocese badly hit by the LRA carnage.
The LRA Marauding bands of guerrillas have crucified seven Christians during a series of raids on villages under Tambura-Yambio Diocese.
Villagers who found their bodies near the town of Nzara said it was like a “grotesque crucifixion scene”.
After the first attack six people were ambushed in a forest near to the town of Nzara and killed after they were nailed to pieces of wood fastened to the ground. At about the same time a further 12 people were abducted from a village close to Nzara.
“It was hard to take in the fact that we were so exposed to such a risk,” he said. “The attackers clearly wanted to harm the people because they knew they were at prayer.
Bishop Hiiboro responded by ordering three days of prayer, culminating in some 20,000 people walking more than two miles barefoot in sackcloth and ashes in silent protest at the alleged government inaction to increase security in the region. Government ministers from the state capital, Yambio, and Juba, the provincial capital of south Sudan, took part in the event and said they would try to increase the police presence in the region.
Bishop Hiiboro has toured most of the affected areas, with efforts from the Bishop Caritas has supplied food items to the IDPs – the most affected are the women and infants babies, as pictured above.
Bishop Hiiboro has also written to the government in Khartoum, the capital, to remind officials that under the civil war peace settlement the regime has a duty to protect the south of Sudan as well as the north.
Sudan is predominantly Muslim in the Arab north of the country but the black tribal people of the south are mostly either Christians or animists.
The Lord’s Resistance Army has waged war against the Ugandan government since 1987 but often forays into other neighbouring African countries. It has a reputation for extreme violence including random murder, abduction, and mutilation, sexual enslavement of women and children, and forcing children to participate in hostilities. The group is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States.
It was founded and is led by Joseph Kony. He has formed the guerrillas into a religious cult based on a blend of Christianity, traditional African religion and witchcraft. He claims to be a spokesman of God and a “medium” of the Holy Spirit.