CAFOD partner shot dead by Ugandan rebels

 The following statement was issued by CAFOD this afternoon: CAFOD is deeply shocked and saddened by the news of the death of Okot Stalin, a Caritas colleague who was killed Wednesday (26 October) in an attack near Kitgum, Uganda. He was shot dead by suspected rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) as he drove his motorcycle along the Kitgum-Mucwini road on his way to monitoring a programme. This was one of three separate attacks on aid workers in the region in which two people died and four were critically injured. Mr Stalin worked for Caritas Gulu, a diocesan Caritas located in northern Uganda - an embattled part of the country that has witnessed the killing and orture of tens of thousands of people, the abduction of more than 22,000 children to serve as soldiers, and the widespread sexual exploitation of women and girls. An estimated 1.5 million people have fled their homes since the conflict began in northern Uganda nearly 20 years ago. A total of around 70 catechists have been killed by the different groups involved in the conflict. Mr Stalin's funeral on Friday was held in Kitgum and attended by colleagues from Caritas Gulu. CAFOD humanitarian officer Robert Cruickshank is currently working with Caritas Gulu on supporting those affected by the forgotten conflict. He said "After a period of relative calm in this long-running conflict =, these deaths could mark the opening up a new and concerning chapter in which aid workers are becoming targets. Whilst we evidently hope for peace and pray that this is not the case, we cannot assume that this conflict will end soon. "Those people who have been forced from their homes are living in the most abject conditions and this conflict has not been given the attention it deserves from the international community. It remains a forgotten tragedy." Increased insecurity in the area has threatened humanitarian aid organisations. However, as Fr Pierre Cibambo, Caritas Internationalis Desk Officer for Africa said: "Pulling out of northern Uganda is not an option for Caritas - it isn't even possible. Caritas Gulu is there. It has worked at the parish and grassroots level for more than 15 years, and will continue to be there assisting those in need." The continuing violence in northern Uganda only underscores the need for Caritas to push forward with its work in peace-building and reconciliation.

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