Christian Groups Welcome Uganda Ceasefire, Call for Support

LONDON - Christian Aid and its partner organizations welcomed the ceasefire between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) but questioned whether the agreement would lead to peace.

“This ceasefire is, of course, good news,” says Angelina Atyam, the chairperson of Christian Aid partner the Concerned Parents Association (CPA). “You can see the excitement on everyone’s face but we are all asking the same question – will this lead to peace?”

The ceasefire gives the LRA time to assemble at designated points in southern Sudan where they will be given protection by the regional government. Peace talks are scheduled to begin in three weeks, once this protection is assured.

“This ceasefire is important because it might help each side establish some trust” says Atyam. “Without trust the peace talks will stall.”

During the war in northern Uganda - which raged for more than two decades – more than 20,000 children were abducted and more than 1.6 million people were forced to move to camps, seeking at least some safety in numbers.

“The people coming home need to be reassured of their forgiveness,” explains Atyam. “They need to be accepted and supported as they try to reintegrate into their home communities. In many cases their families may have died. They have no homes and no money.

“There is a lot of work to do because these communities are not yet prepared to receive them. After twenty years of war they are very poor, they have little they can give to help these people returning to nothing.”

The government has already started to encourage people in the camps to return to their homes. This has begun in the Lango and Teso regions of northern Uganda and, to a lesser extent, in Kitgum, Pader and Gulu.

In March 2006 the Ugandan government established a Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) responsible for managing the recovery of the communities devastated by the past twenty years of conflict.

While this initiative was originally received very well by the international community, little has happened since March. Concerns are growing among donors that the JMC has so far failed to deliver.

"The support that is needed here cannot be provided by us alone," says Atyam. "We want to see the government taking a lead; they must help us recover."