DR Congo + 1 more

3000 child soldiers may be freed in Uganda

News and Press Release
Originally published
The insurgency in Northern Uganda may finally come to an end. Joseph Kony's thirteen-year-old Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group may finally put guns down to use their energies and wisdom for developmental activities other than burning it in devastating wars. Oh, what a good thing for the thousands of children in the war zone to hear. And what a relief to all the innocent people who have for over a decade lost hope for a peaceful living: without the sight of guns, of no hunger, no abduction, no rape, and no land mines. A new deal has been brokered to wipe out rebellion from Uganda. Peacefully. Behind the deal is Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, Sudan's President, Omar Hassan al Bashir and the watchful eye of the international community led by the US.
On December 8, Museveni and Bashir signed an agreement to end years of rebel activity which has cost tens of thousands of lives on their 400 km long border. The agreement was signed after a day of talks in Nairobi under mediation by former US President, Jimmy Carter and Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi acting as a witness. But this was preceded by many days of behind the scene negotiations. Reuters quote Carter as having said "The two leaders have negotiated a very wonderful step forward towards peace and reconciliation, which we trust, will lead to the full restoration of diplomatic relations between Sudan and Uganda." In April 1995, Uganda severed diplomatic relations with Sudan, accusing Khartoum of backing and giving sanctuary to the LRA. Similarly, Uganda is accused of doing the same for Col. John Garang's Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) which controls Southern Sudan, bordering Northern Uganda. The newspaper photographs showing Bashir and Museveni on a round table signing an agreement to end conflict, have sounded drums of hope to people living in rebel controlled areas. However, only one day after the signing of the agreement, Allied Democratic Front (ADF) rebels raided Katojo Prison in Western Uganda which borders the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. The ADF rebels abducted 365 of the 841 prisoners. ADF rebels operate in the remote Western Rwenzori Mountains and are infamous for killing innocent civilians including the eight tourists from Britain, America and New Zealand. Excluding the raid, there are signs indicating that the new deal is a well-laid plan and moving steadily on the road tp success. A Ugandan daily reported that Kenyan Intelligence arrested two leaders of the LRA in Nairobi. The LRA Secretary for Finance, Willy Oryema and Secretary in the LRA chairman's office, John Egwoku, were picked up by Kenya Security operatives and detained at unknown location. So far, Joseph Kony, 31 has remained mute on the peace deal. It is unlikely that he is aware of the proceedings of the new wave. Kony is thought to be seriously ill with AIDS in a Khartoum army hospital. Although Kony is now silent, his counterpart, Col. John Garang, has attended a number of meetings in Kampala, including one with President Museveni and he has said he supports the peace deal. With or without Kony's participation in the deal, there is expected to be an influx of formerly abducted people wishing to return to Uganda. During the years of persistent wars in Northern Uganda, former abductees, victims of the war, and the government of Uganda have shown a wonderfully high level of trust and confidence in World Vision interventions. The peace agreement, if implemented, would disband and disarm terrorist groups, an area where organizations like World Vision might be expected to play a more active role. Perhaps, the most critical aspect of the agreement for World Vision is the promise by the two leaders to return all prisoners of war to their respective nations and to locate and return abductees to their families. While the combatants will put down their arms, World Vision partnership will have a major task to restore hope to the victims of war and to help sew their lives back together. If all goes well, there will be between 2000 - 3000 children now in Kony's captivity, will return home. These children need rehabilitation, food, shelter, clothing, and education. They need love. If anybody has ever been helpful, generous and kind, this is the time to take courage. Who knows, the new deal might be the beginning of a new renaissance. What a great end and beginning to the millennium it will be.