Uganda: rebel leaders ask for forgiveness for 'suffering caused to our people'

 A step forward was made in the process for peace in Northern Uganda when members of the Lord's Resistance Army asked forgiveness for the suffering caused to the people in over 20 years of civil war pn Tuesday. "I ask forgiveness for the suffering caused to our people" Martin Ojul leader of the LRA delegation to peace talks with the government of Kampala, told listeners on Radio Mefa FM a local semi-government radio station. Ojul is from Gulu, the main town of Gulu province where the people are mainly Acholi, the tortured and the torturers in this endless conflict. In fact the reign of terror imposed by the LRA rebels, mainly Acholi warriors, has forced most of the same local Acholi people to abandon their homes and live in camps. "Ojul, a leading member of the LRA, has lived for years in Great Britain" Fides was told by Italian missionary Fr.Tonino Pasoline, director of Radio Pacis, the main Catholic radio station in northern Uganda, winner this year of the prestigious BBC 'best radio in Africa" award'/ "After funding the rebellion in northern Uganda for years, the Acholi diaspora abroad is now playing a leading part to restore peace in the region", the Italian missionary said. The LRA delegation negotiated with the government of Kampala the extension of the present cease fire agreement until 31 January 2008. Optimistic forecasts say by that time the Ugandan government and rebels should have reached a final peace agreement. "However there is some perplexity with regard to division in the rebel camp" said Fr Pasoline. "No one knows what has happened to number two of the LRA, Vicent Otti. Many say he was killed in clashes with the rebel leader Joseph Kony, with whom he is said to have had a serious argument. Other say Otti is a prisoner somewhere in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo where most of the LRA leaders hide". Tension in the rebel camp has grown since an International Penal Court issued warrant of arrest for the LRA leadership for atrocities against civilians for 20 years. Fearing arrest, Kony and the other leaders chose to give Ojul the task of negotiating with the government. The Ugandan government has offered an amnesty in exchange for peace. In Gulu the LRA delegation met traditional chiefs and local religious leaders to discuss a process of reconciliation and forgiveness using the traditional Acholi Mato Oput justice system. Twenty years of civil war in northern Uganda left tens of thousands dead or horribly mutilated and two million displaced and living in camps. Source: Fides

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