A United Nations official and clergy have clashed over a claim that killings in northern Uganda during the insurgency do not amount to genocide.
Mr Patrick Amihere, the United Nations representative in the northern Ugandan, clashed with the clergy during a dialogue on Amnesty Act in Gulu on Friday, when he said the killings do not amount to genocide as claimed by the clergy, because there was no deliberate and systematic destruction in whole or in part of the Acholi ethnic group.
“The bishops and other leaders should be acquainted with the legal instruments and not let their understanding and perception limit the dealing with complexity of the crime,” Mr Amihere said during a meeting organised by the Northern Uganda Transitional Justice Working Group to seek opinions of northern Uganda leaders on the Amnesty Act.
The retired Bishop of Kitgum Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Macleord Baker Ochola II, had earlier said that whereas the Amnesty Act, which will expire in May, should be extended and amended to realise its full goals, the government must also take responsibilities for “genocide” in northern Uganda.
“Government was there and they acted as if there was no government. LRA was killing people and they were not stopped,” Bishop Ochola said.
He said the world should not only prosecute LRA leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity, but also investigate the killings in northern Uganda.
“UN says mental element and how do you judge mental intent to destroy a tribe, of course there was genocide in Uganda and it is clear,” Bishop Ochola said.
Bishop Ochola quoted a report released by African Peer Review Mechanism in 2004 that stated that 1,000 children were dying per week in IDP camps in northern Uganda, adding that although it is difficult to measure mental state to adduce genocide, there were underlying elements that indicates that genocide occurred.
The Bishop of Christ Central Christian Ministries in Teso, the Rev Bernard Ebian, wondered whether the UN was satisfied with any research reports on the killings.
The Rev. Ebian claimed that at times the UN officials were escorted by government agents to people who were told by the government to downplay factual information.
He said the people in Teso were demanding further investigations into crimes committed in the region during insurgency to ensure peace, security and reconciliation.
The Chairman of the Itesot War Victims Association, Mr Papa Imodo, said alleged mass murders carried out by government troops in Teso Sub-region in the 80s amounted to genocide.
He cited Serere were he claimed that 200 people were killed and Mukura where 69 people were suffocated in a train wagon.
The government has previously dismissed claims that the northern war was a genocide, denying allegations that it targeted the Achoil. Most deaths have been blamed on the LRA.