Oil discoveries around Uganda's Lake Albert - Bishop sees no return to civil war despite rebel warning
From Ecumenical News International, Nairobi:
UGANDA: Bishop sees no return to civil war despite rebel warning
By Fredrick Nzwili, April 02, 2009
Ugandan Anglican Bishop Nelson Onono-Onweng has said he is confident that civil war will not return to the northern part of his country, despite warnings by a rebel leader that the discovery of huge oil reserves in the region might re-ignite fighting.
"This is nonsense. This is propaganda," Onono-Onweng told Ecumenical News International from Gulu in the north of Uganda, in a reference to the rebel leader's comments.
Onono-Onweng, bishop of the Diocese of Northern Uganda, is part of the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, a group of Christian, Muslim and traditional leaders that has worked to bring peace to the region, where the rebel Lord's Resistance Army began fighting 20 years ago.
In 2006, the Ugandan government and the rebels signed a truce, and two years later they signed a cease-fire that stopped short of an all-out peace agreement.
Another church leader, Roman Catholic Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu, noted how the territory had changed since the cease-fire.
"The region remains calm and people are re-adjusting themselves to new life, though not completely. They are still waiting for the formal conclusion of the talks," Odama said.
Still, the LRA's chief negotiator, David Matsanga, told a news conference in Nairobi on March 13 that the discovery of oil in Uganda's northern region could ignite a fresh war.
International oil companies operating in Uganda have announced plans to step up production following oil discoveries around Uganda's Lake Albert, which have been reported to be among the largest deposits discovered in the region.
Tension has been increasing in recent weeks as rebel leader Joseph Kony has repeatedly failed to sign a final peace deal to end the LRA rebellion against the Ugandan government.
Kony and his supporters are holed up in neighboring Congo, and have been the target of a joint military operation by Uganda, Congo and the semi-autonomous region of South Sudan.
This military operation has now wound down but the operation led to a violent backlash by the LRA against hundreds of Congolese civilians.
Despite the uncertainty, Onono-Onweng said he was confident the LRA would not return to northern Uganda.
"How can the rebels defeat three armies? We do not see how they can return," the bishop said.