Marion Weinzapel is one of four Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet working in the Diocese of Gulu, Uganda, with Archbishop John Baptist Odama. She describes how the Kony 2012 video gone viral complicates the peace process many have long worked on in her own informal interview with him.
INFORMAL CONVERSATION WITH ARCHBISHOP JOHN BAPTIST ODAMA ON “KONY2012”
Mar. 9, 2012: Sr. Marion Weinzapfel, Gulu
Archbishop Odama: “This is a complex issue. It can’t be handled so simply. It will not be easy to have Kony caught. In the process there many be many loses of life. But for us in general, [Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative], we always advocated a process of dialogue.” [Archbishop Odama was not speaking on behalf of the ARLPI but out of the spirit of this group which he chaired from 2000-2010. The ARLPI may be forthcoming with their own statement.]
“When the ARLPI wanted to talk with the LRA, we managed to meet LRA leader, Sam Kolo, in Paluda in Palabek on the 29 December, 2004. That was possible because we had first gone to the military and asked them to withdraw all mobile forces in the area. [Kolo himself later came out and has since attended Gulu University.] All were thinking that 2005 would be the year of peace. But in 2005, the government forces attacked the LRA and shattered the trust that had been built up.”
“The ARLPI worked together with religious, cultural and political leaders. The Rwot David Archana representing cultural leaders and Mrs. Betty Bigombe was present for this historic 2004 meeting with Kolo along with Jacob Olanya.”
In November, 2008, another meeting with the LRA took place. The meeting lasted for 6 hours and I spoke directly to Kony: ‘Kony, your life and the lives of those in your hands, and the lives of all those in Uganda—civilians, military, government and those of Sudan are very precious and should not be lost.’ I could see that Kony listened intently and that statement made an impact on him. I wanted to arouse a sense of humanity in Kony and touch his heart. But two weeks later, ‘Operation Lightening Thunder’ happened. The LRA then responded with vicious attacks on civilians.”
In September of 2010, I visited the United States with the now retired Bishop Ochola of the Anglican Church to converse with the State Department, Office of African Affairs, to address the issue of military intervention in the bill: ‘Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009.’ We asked to keep the application of the new law focused on non-violent actions.
It is clear that Archbishop Odama feels that the world-wide effort to stop Kony through the video KONY2012 by Invisible Children hinders rather than helps the situation. “Kony will only hide deeper and the trust needed for dialogue become more elusive. The Archbishop explained that you can’t do both—have a military option and a peace process going. You either do one or the other and leave enough time for success.“
Finally, Archbishop Odama says that current efforts for dialogue are moving slowly. Leaders are now trying to work in low-key ways with their counterparts in Sudan and Central African Republic. Yet, they have not given up hope that dialogue can still happen.
Related information can be found at the Africa Faith and Justice Network.