Lord's Resistance Army
ordered to attack Catholic missions
LRA child soldier
KAMPALA, 17 Jun 2003 (IRIN) - Catholic
missions in northern Uganda are on high alert after the rebel
Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) declared that they would be the
next target for its attacks on the civilian population of the
Speaking on a Catholic radio network used by missions in
northern areas lacking cellphone coverage, Joseph Kony, the LRA
leader, ordered the attacks to be directed against Catholic
priests, nuns and missions throughout the areas in which the
rebels are operating.
Father Carlos Rodriguez, a Catholic priest of the Acholi
Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative (ARLPI), who has made
several efforts to facilitate dialogue with the LRA, told IRIN
that he and some colleagues had heard the broadcast.
"We heard it ourselves in a radio communication. There is no
doubt that the order was given to attack us, the Catholic Church
and its missions," Rodriguez said.
Previously, the LRA, which says it is fighting to replace
Uganda’s current government with a theocracy based on the
Biblical Ten Commandments, had indicated that it was willing to
place its trust in Acholi religious leaders for peaceful
negotiations. Most ARLPI representatives are also
representatives of the Catholic Church.
But Rodriguez said nothing had really changed. "We have never
had any illusions about being more protected than anyone else.
The fact that Kony can kill, maim and abduct innocent children
means no-one is really protected," he told IRIN.
Father Joseph Gerner of the Catholic parish in Kitgum - one of
the north’s most troubled areas - said no extra security
measures would be put in place, because Kony’s pronouncements
did not signal any threat that was not already present. "Will
they attack us? Well, anything is possible, but then we knew
that anyway. This changes nothing. Are we supposed to just shy
away from our work?" he asked. "No. We intend to continue to
help protect the people of northern Uganda as best we can."
He noted, however that Kony’s statements had revealed a very
worrying shift in the LRA’s rhetoric. "This is very strange,
this change, given that before it was only the Catholic Church
they said they would trust," he told IRIN. "I can only guess
that someone must be telling him that we are against them."
Rodriguez said the LRA was still furious that the peace efforts
being made by the ARLPI had led some of its senior commanders to
come out of the bush and rejoin society. "Kony is clearly angry
about the fact that we helped some LRA to finally come out," he
told IRIN. "But we won’t stop. We are here and still ready to
receive anyone who wants to renounce the killing of innocent
Meanwhile, the attacks on civilians continue. Paddy Ankunda, the
Ugandan army spokesman for northern Uganda, told IRIN on Monday
that 10 civilians were killed and an unknown but susbstantial
number of children abducted in an attack on a trading centre in
Apac District, in north-central Uganda, late on Sunday.