In Gulu, Uganda, there is also movement.
Friday saw more than 150 people gather to hear lectures from different contributors to the peace process. Religious leaders, local officials, academics, NGO representatives and others joined together to talk about their experiences, their unique perspectives, and their shared hopes for peace. The continued conflict in neighboring countries has not gone unnoticed by those now enjoying peace in northern Uganda.
“When we are comfortable, we are not going to move. We need a little discomfort so we leave our seats and we move…a lot needs to be done,” said Komakech Daniel, a lecturer at Gulu University Institute of Peace and Strategic Studies, speaking on the importance of making reintegration work for Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) victims returning to their communities.
“It is the victims, it is the survivors who are going to…tell the story. The positive story that ‘we went home and when we were home…the return was positive, the resettlement was positive, and the reintegration was positive.’”
Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) was represented by speakers of various religious backgrounds, speaking about the efforts being made to achieve peace in the region, what has worked well, and what still needs to be done.
Sheikh Musa Khalil, speaking on behalf of ARLPI urged that we not give up on the dream of seeing the LRA conflict permanently ended. “Let us keep on praying …let us keep on sending our voices to the international community so that a lasting peace comes away as far as the conflict is concerned.”
Honorable Betty Bigombe, State Minister for Water Resources and a major player in the LRA peace building process for more than 20 years, was in Gulu to meet with recent LRA defectors and took time to stop by the event. “Let me take this opportunity to thank Invisible Children for being persistent and facilitating a meeting of this nature…even if Kony is no longer on Ugandan soil, as long as he is alive he is still abducting people in Congo, in Central African Republic, in [South] Sudan, we cannot rest until he is out. Until our children are out.”
She also encouraged Ugandans to continue sending messages to those still in the LRA, telling them to come home. “Some of the messages you send from here – especially letters – get there. And it encourages them to find their way out.”
Saturday morning kicked off with a peace march through Gulu town, followed by ecumenical prayers for peace at Pece Stadium. The event culminated in a music gala with local artists performing songs and dances.