We regret to say with great sadness that our FONU Programme and Advocacy Officer, Malcolm Harper died suddenly on the 9th May 2013 after a short illness. We have lost a great friend who had a big heart for Africa, especially the people of Northern Uganda. He founded our charity FONU and was the main driver behind the student sponsorship programme, the support to small community-based projects, and the peace and conflict resolution programme. He has left a big gap that is very difficult to fill. Nevertheless, in his memory, we shall with the help and prayers of well wishers, endeavour to continue the work he started in FONU. May his Soul rest in Eternal Peace.
Links to other tributes:
Links to other tributes:
The Friends of Northern Uganda (FONU) is a small group of concerned Ugandans and British people who are active in the search for a final peace settlement between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army.
The group has also been involved is supporting resettlement of war affected people by assisting community based projects and the education of children affected by the war.
For many years, until it finally left Uganda for South Sudan, the LRA operated mainly in Northern and Eastern Uganda a guerrilla campaign. The skirmishes between the LRA and Uganda government forces resulted in many villages and schools in the north of Uganda being destroyed. Many men, boys women, and girls were uprooted from their homes during this conflict and still remain unaccounted for.
After its creation the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, was asked to investigate whether the leadership of the LRA could be indicted on charges of war crimes and/or crimes against humanity. As a result, 5 leaders, including Joseph Kony, were named as indictable and arrest warrants were issued against them.
It was quite evident that the Court had only investigated one side of the coin since there was a considerable body of evidence to show that members of the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) had also committed atrocities but were never investigated. The efforts of FONU and others to seek to get this issue addressed fell on totally deaf ears. All of which left a bitterness in the minds of many Acholi who had been mistreated by the army.
When FONU first became involved in helping returnee children who had managed to return home from the bush to become reintegrated into their families and communities and to return to (largely secondary) education through the award of bursaries, we were also strongly encouraged to seek to play a role in promoting a peaceful end to the savage brutality of the war. The Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) are very active in this process. Based in the northern Uganda town of Gulu, ARLPI is chaired by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of the Gulu Archdiocese and also has the Protestant and Greek Orthodox Churches in the north and the Moslem community as members. The Paramount Chief of the Acholi People, Rwot Acana David, also encouraged us in this regard. We are still in touch with them all and with several activist men and women. We retain links with UN bodies in Uganda, with the British Government, with interested parliamentarians and with one or two members of the LRA Peace Team in London and Nairobi.
At the height of the troubles, literally thousands of “night commuters” used to walk into Gulu and Kitgum every evening in order to seek overnight security. There were a number of shelters erected for them but they were always over full and many people dossed under shop verandas or wherever they could.
Subsequently, the Government forced some 90% of the population of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader Districts to move into Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camps in which conditions were very basic and people’s livelihoods often became impossible to practise – especially agriculture. The young had little to do and schooling was far from satisfactory or universally available. It is perhaps hardly surprising that HIV/AIDS rates rose as high as 30% or more in the camps.
After much to-ing and fro-ing, the Government of Uganda and the LRA finally agreed to enter into peace negotiations in Juba, South Sudan under the chairmanship of Riek Machar, the Vice-President of the putative Government of South Sudan. The UN were enablers of the process in a number of ways and the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, appointed former Mozambiquan President Joachim Chissano as his Special Representative to the talks.
Eventually, a final peace agreement was reached and, more than once, a date was fixed for it to be signed by President Museveni and Joseph Kony but this never happened. As we understand it, it appears that Joseph Kony was not satisfied with certain aspects of it. Some of the possible explanation we have been given is that he was fearful that, if he appeared, he would be arrested and taken to the ICC in The Hague to stand trial as he did not trust assurances that this would not happen.
Working towards a peaceful settlement
The origins and consequences of the Northern Uganda conflict has been forgotten by most people, including the international community. Victims remain largely unsupported. Worryingly, since the peace talks collapsed the problem has spread to central Africa and parts of Sudan. If not resolved, there is the danger that it will return to Northern. Alongside supporting the victims of war, FONU therefore continues ceaselessly to lobby for a resumption of talks so that this conflict can be resolved once and for all peacefully.
We look forward to your support.
Rev. Dr. Alfred Joseph Banya
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