Statement in French here
We, the religious leaders from regions affected by the LRA crisis in Uganda, in Sudan, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in Central African Republic (CAR), reunited in Yambio from 8th-10th of September 2010, under the initiative of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio in collaboration with the Inter Church Committee, as a follow up of the Kisangani conference on the LRA in February 2010. Unfortunately the delegation of the Central Africa Republic was unable to participate due to logistical complications; two leaders of refugees from Central Africa have participated in our deliberations.
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been terrorizing civilians in East and Central Africa for over two decades. While it began as an especially Ugandan rebel movement, it has since build bases in multiple regions of Africa and holds within its ranks abducted children as fighters from several nationalities. These troops have raped, kidnapped, forcibly conscripted children and killed civilians in Uganda, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, creating massive displacement, leaving a legacy of poverty and fear, and promoting the very real possibility for future political instability.
The implications of this multiple warfare are immense. The LRA is committing atrocities across very remote areas of already unstable nations, and DRC, Sudan and CAR all have internal conflicts that prevent them from sufficiently allocating their forces in a fight against the rebel group. Similarly, the international community has so far failed to develop a comprehensive plan to deal with the LRA as a regional threat, instead addressing the crisis in a piecemeal and haphazard way in the four different countries. The LRA is seen as the responsibility of everyone and no one at once, and the lack of a coordinated and comprehensive strategy to address the problem is the predictable result. Summary of actions taken after Kisangani meeting
• Uganda: an open letter was written to the President of the USA, Barrack Obama, stressing the need for a non violent approach/solution in the implementation of the LRA Bill and enters into consultations with regional civil society organizations, NGOs and communities.
• Sudan: awareness was raised by mobilizing the population to peaceful action through prayer.
• Democratic Republic of Congo: Kisangani report and letter were send to the special representative in DRC of the UN Secretary-General as well as to the special envoy of the US to the Great Lakes; Kisangani declaration was widely broadcasted on several media; a diocesan congress was organized in Dungu on all LRA issues; a national ecumenical committee on LRA issues has been constituted headed by the Archbishop of Kisangani.
• The Central African Republic: Kisangani declaration was handed over to the President and broadcasted on local radio stations1.
Developments in the context since February 2010, Kisangani Conference
The conference was unanimous that LRA atrocities give no sign whatsoever of being on the decrease.
• In Southern Sudan attacks are on the increase in the vicinity of main urban centers leading to massive abductions, displacements and killings. It is a big fear with the upcoming Referendum that the LRA could be used by enemies of peace to carry out attacks against civilians preventing the referendum from taking place in Western Equatorial.
• In Congo attacks are not solely targeting civilians but also military contingents. The territories of Haut- Uele and Bas-Uele are affected by the LRA.
• Although the majority of IDPs in North Uganda have returned to their homes, fear for LRA’s possible return remains. There is also the problem of former combatants fearing to go back to their communities.
• The LRA is fully active in the Central African Republic, in Haut Mbomou and Mbomou.
Challenge of community protection
The conference observed that protection of communities is a big concern in all LRA affected areas. The conference was unanimous in its concerns for the need of protection of communities. Although the context differs, the initial community defense mechanisms in the three countries resemble.
Despite some efforts of the government of South Sudan to provide security to the communities in Western Equatorial State, the main local community coping mechanism is through the Arrow boys, community protection units, whose actions and efforts in providing security to the community are not encouraged by the SPLA, thus undermining existing potential to neutralize the threat of the LRA. The role of UNMIS appears to be limited to investigating incidents and casualties, although valuable as such, its contribution to the security of the community remains limited. Although the presence of the UPDF in Western Equatorial State is generally appreciated by the population, communities are concerned about the solitary approach of UPDF, their prolonged presence and absence of clear mandate. 1 As the delegation of CAR could not be present, this is not necessarily a full list.
Democratic Republic of Congo
In the DRC the self defense units, initially very active and effective, have been forbidden by the government. Considering the insufficient capacity of the Congolese armed forces to assure the protection of the communities their security has degraded. The Congolese armed forces limit themselves to the centers of the agglomerations and not the peripheries. At the main roads many checkpoints are set with the sole purpose to extract money. Officially the presence of the UPDF combat troops has ended with only intelligence officers remaining, but presence of troops is regularly observed and their mandate is not known.
Central African Republic
Although the Central African delegation was not present, the conference is aware of increased activity of the LRA in the Central African Republic. The UPDF has extended its operations, there is little collaboration observed between the UPDF and the local populations and their scope of activities is not known.
Recommendations and engagements on community protection
In all four countries our national militaries in LRA affected areas must take responsibility for protecting their civilian communities in the region from LRA attacks. Their capacity in rapid responses and deployment should be strengthened. Also UN presence, such as UNMIS and MONUSCO, should be given greater capacity to deploy quickly in response to LRA attacks and sightings. In addition, their mandates and rules of engagements should be better communicated to local communities.
We as religious leaders demand clarification of mandate and terms of reference of the UPDF in all three countries where their presence is observed.
We, as religious leaders, request our governments to assure a better recognized position of the community efforts on promoting community security. The capacities of community protection units and their collaboration with state security organs should be strengthened.
We, as religious leaders, commit ourselves to establish and facilitate dialogue at regional and local levels between communities, state security organs, UN security presence, UPDF, chiefs, local leaders and civil protection units.
We, as religious leaders, recommend for better communication facilities in the entire LRA affected area and full coverage of mobile phone network, as well as improved infrastructure such as roads.
Recommendations and commitments in order to find a solution
The religious leaders consider it vital and urgent to increase awareness on the LRA problem at all levels as we observe insufficient interest of national governments and the international community. The religious leaders are convinced that the preferred sustainable solution is a negotiated settlement of the LRA crisis.
In this respect, we commit ourselves to the following:
• to raise local, national and international awareness,
• to organize biannually a regional peace weekend in all affected areas,
• to publish a regional bi-annual report on the security and humanitarian situation in all LRA affected areas,
• to bring joint visits to key decision makers in order to promote our message for a negotiated solution and protection of the local population,
• to consistently explore ways and means to contact Joseph Kony and open direct talks with him in view of the eventual resumption of the Juba talks.
We, religious leaders, appreciate the efforts undertaken by the US government and the US Congress in passing the LRA Bill. We as religious leaders call upon the governments of the affected countries and the international community as a whole to:
• immediately adopt a negotiated settlement as the only sustainable solution to the LRA crisis after decades of failed military interventions,
• that all concerned national governments and the international community collaborate in identifying collaborators of the LRA and immediately stop any kind of assistance,
• to increase their contribution to the protection of local communities,
• to establish an international contact group of the concerned countries, UN missions and international envoys.
On a national and local level we recommend:
• that a program is developed to disseminate positive messages through radio and leaflets to the LRA combatants to give up their fight and surrender
• that a program of community reception, aid for rehabilitation as to allow LRA combatants to surrender in a protected manner
• increased humanitarian assistance to all affected communities including IDPs, refugees and abductees
Our mission as a church in this conference is that of Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the plan of life that will restore peace to the world, remove inner tensions and troubles, and bring happiness to the human soul. It is the greatest philosophy of life ever given to man. The mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to establish this peace and happiness in the hearts and homes of the people.
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.
Signed in Yambio, 10th of September 2010
On behalf of all religious leaders present:
1 Rt. Rev. Peter Munde, S. Sudan ECS Yambio
2 Rev. Apollo Alfred Ruben , S. Sudan AIC Sudan
3 Rev. Charlsa Hipaingba, S. Sudan SPC
4 Bishop Paul Yugusuk, S. Sudan Shalom
5 Rt. Rev. Samuel Peni, S. Sudan ECS Nzara
6 Rev. John Zawo S. Sudan ECS Ezo
7 Tiberious Lecca Begarro, S. Sudan SCC
8 Bishop Richard Domba, Congo Dungu Doruma
9 Bishop Julien Andavo, Congo Isiro Nyiangara
10 Charles Bandas Samuel, S. Sudan AIC
11 P. Mario Benedetti, S. Sudan Refugees Camp Makpandu
12 John Ngbandambio, S. Sudan SPC
13 Sheik Musa Khalil, Uganda ARLPI
14 Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala – Bishop S. Sudan CDTY
15 Rev. Edward Nzeme, S. Sudan ELCS
16 Modi Enosa S. Sudan YWCA
17 Rev. Modi Angelo, S. Sudan ECS Yambio
18 Rev. John Malesh, S. Sudan Province of ECS
19 Kutiyote James, S. Sudan NDI
20 Rev. Ako Jacques, CAR Block leader
21 Benjamin Martin, S. Sudan Civil Society
22 Bishop Justin Badi, S. Sudan ECS Maridi
23 Zengba Mada Daniel, S. Sudan Adonai Mission
24 Bishop Etienne Ung’eyowan, Congo Diocese of Bondo
25 Simone Ngbidigi, S. Sudan CDTY
26 Fr. Peter Moudie, S. Sudan CDTY
Endorsed by traditional Leaders and local government:
27 H.E. Angelo Bakote Mboringba, S. Sudan Commissioner Yambio
28 H.E.Evans Mario Binzei, S. Sudan Commissioner Ezo
29 H. Highness Wilson Hassan Peni, S. Sudan Paramount Chief
30 H.E. Gbamisi Charles Babiro , S. Sudan Commissionr Tombura County