Uganda: missionaries concerned at hasty executions after priest's murder

 The Mill Hill Missionaries have expressed their concern at the way two soldiers were tried and executed on Monday, for the murder of Fr Declan O'Toole and two parishioners days before. They issued the following statement yesterday: Whilst expressing their satisfaction at the UPDF's (Ugandan Army) desire to see justice done, the Mill Hill Missionaries wish to convey their extreme unease at the manner in which the trial was conducted and the hasty fashion in which the sentence was carried out. This manner of action can only fuel the growing suspicion that a full investigation was to be forestalled. The views of the people of Jie as reported in The Monitor of Tuesday March 26 should be listened to with the attention and seriousness this deserve: "The people of Jie want the officers who sanctioned the killing named before the executions are done. They fear the real perpetrators will go free". During the five years he served in Karamoja, Fr Declan O'Toole got increasingly involved in promoting peace and reconciliation in this violent region. It is clear from his communications both to his family in Ireland and to the Mill Hill Missionaries in London, how passionately involved he was in this ministry and acutely aware of the risks involved. When recently he witnessed a glaring example of army brutality in the village of Nakapelimoru - part of the parish of Panyang'ara where he served - he himself was beaten by one soldier and ridiculed by others. This prompted him to lodge a strong protest with the local commander and to inform the Irish Embassy in Kampala. Contrary to persistent reports in the press he did not flee. In fact at the time of the incident he was scheduled to accompany the Superior General of the Mill Hill Missionaries to Soroti and to drive a fellow missionary going on leave to the airport at Entebbe. In the circumstances he used the occasion to seek suitable outlets for his growing concern that the ongoing army brutality against local civilians including women and children should not go unnoticed. After lodging his protest and rallying support for his cause he returned to Karamoja to be with his people and, as tragically we know now, pay the price for his courageous involvement. As may be clear from the above, Fr Declan was not a violent man. He passionately believed in peace and reconciliation. That is why the summary execution of the alleged perpetrators of his murder seemingly without due process, flies in the face of the very principles he stood for. We strongly urge the government of Uganda to order a full investigation to elucidate the circumstances of the crime and lay to rest the lingering suspicion that Fr Declan O'Toole may have been the victim of a pernicious form of army revenge. We owe it to the memory of Fr Declan to state categorically that the summary execution of the two soldiers hastily convicted of the murder is reminiscent more of the ancient principle of 'an eye for and eye, a tooth for a tooth' than of the gospel values Fr Declan gave his life for.

Share this story