The Catholic Archbishop of Ugulu has praised the peace agreement between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) as a sure sign of lasting peace, Fides news agency reports.
“This is a great outcome and we are confident that soon there will be an all-inclusive peace agreement signed,” Archbishop John Baptist Odama said.
The 20-year war in northern Uganda has left over 100,000 dead and has forced 2 million people into refugee camps.
Members of the Community of Saint Egidio, a Catholic peace-making organization, joined representatives of Tanzania and South Africa, the former President of Mozambique, as well as a special UN envoy in the mediation efforts that began in July 2006. The efforts were led by south Sudan’s vice-president, Riek Machar.
The agreement was signed in Juba, the capital of southern Sudan.
The ceasefire agreement restricts the LRA in the area of Rikwangba to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and southern Sudan. The agreement proposes a 10-kilometer buffer zone around the LRA assembly area, guarded by troops from the Sudan’s People Liberation Army. In addition, the agreement calls for the disarming of LRA troops by neutral forces and monitoring of the ceasefire by mediators and other African representatives.
The agreement follows a recent accord requiring that the crimes committed by the LRA be tried in a Uganda court rather than in the International Criminal Court that had issued a warrant for the leaders of the guerilla army.
According to Archbishop Odama, “The Ugandan laws will be revised in conformation with the standards of the International Criminal Court. That way, whoever is rendered responsible for the most serious crimes will be judged by a State court that will adhere to the international legislation on criminal material in crimes against humanity, and those who are found guilty of lesser crimes will be sentenced under the traditional judicial system of the Acholi community.”
The Acholi are the main ethnic group in northern Uganda. Both victims of the violence and members of the LRA belong to the group. The Acholi justice system, called “Mato Oput,” obliges the guilty to make public apologies to the injured party or community and to make reparations to the victims.