BY DOREEN KAJERU
Uganda’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Lt Gen Jeje Odong, has said that the country is a refuge in the Great Lakes region.
“The role of Uganda is to provide security to the refugees. As long as we are able to do that, we would have made our contribution to giving a sense of continuity to the lives of the victims,” he said.
While addressing the Peace and Reconciliation Conference of the Great Lakes Region, held on November 1, at the Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology, Uganda Christian University, Mukono,
Odong said that in an attempt to resolve conflict in the society, we ought to think and understand what drives the conflict.
“In the Great Lakes region the conflicts we have in Bunyoro, Karamoja, Rwanda, Burundi and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are majorly about resources, but also about politics and ethnicity.”
The minister added that the function of the state is crucial in the fight for peace and reconciliation and the phenomenon of national security predates the construction of the state.
When asked about the involvement of the UPDF in the South Sudan crisis, Odong said that the UPDF was not a mediator but went to create an environment for the two parties (leaders) to talk peace.
“It is important as the mediator to clearly show both parties that they can trust you; the moment one of them suspects bias, your role will be no more.
“Alternatively, increase the power on one of the groups so that the other is vanquished,” he said.
The conference, held under the theme “Preaching reconciliation
in a broken world,” focused on finding the context and scope of brokenness in the Great Lakes region, with special emphasis on building the culture of cultivating peace across families, churches and society.
Dr John Senyonyi, the vice chancellor Uganda Christian University, said that the discussion on brokenness, peace and reconciliation is very important and should never be foreign to the conversations of Christians.
“Weknowthatwelivein a broken world, although we are not talking about it communally or at the national level. We know thatitisalwaysbeforeus and we live with it even in our homes, institutions or wherever we are,” he said.
With reference to Jesus Christ as the prince of peace, he affirmed that as people, we have peace in God and therefore should have peace with one another.
The Archbishop, Church of Uganda and Chancellor Uganda Christian University, the Most Rev Stanley Ntagali, said that the conference should put emphasis on brokenness born out of the intra- state conflicts, which are majorly armed conflicts.
“It is the wounds born of this particular category of conflicts that we should focus on, and healing must entail a transformation of the distorted relationships that gave rise to the conflict in the first place.”
Ntagali added that conflict sprouts from the unfair distribution of resources between different parts of the country along ethnic, regional and religious lines. This leads to political and religious estrangement.
The conference brought together scholars, leaders and clergy from South Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Australia and Uganda.