The archbishop of Gulu Archdiocese, Dr. John Baptist Odama, has called for dialogues on a host of issues that are now destabilising northern Uganda.
The issues include land grabbing, gender violence, defilement, trauma, and a violent floating population (locally known as Aguu), especially in Gulu City. Other issues of concern to the archbishop include abortion, suicide, murder of spouses, homosexuality as well as the abuse of drugs and alcohol.
Odama raised those issues on February 22, 2023, during a consultative meeting with researchers from Gulu University held at his residence in Gulu City. The researchers included Prof. Charles Okumu, Dr. Agatha Alidri, Dr. Stella Laloyo and Dr. Francis Atube. The meeting was also attended by Father Simon Ongwech.
“People are not living peacefully. They are afraid, feeling insecure and there is destabilization of society. We need an accumulation of brains. We need to meet together and become doctors of society, and diagnose and try to find solutions which are communally accepted,” Odama said.
“We should have representatives of teachers, parents, professors, doctors, security, cultural leaders, religious leaders, the common people, opinion leaders, artists,” he added.
Odama referred to universities as “our think tank,” emphasising that the research they do should help guide the processes of finding solutions to societal challenges.
Dr. Stella Laloyo hands over to Dr. Odama some documents about research at Gulu University
To start with, Odama is organising a meeting of religious leaders to be held on March 11, 2023.
Archbishop Odama invited the researchers to his residence to discuss the role they can play in finding solutions to the challenges he outlined. His invitation was through Gulu University's Institute of Peace and Strategic Studies (IPSS), which is headed by Dr. Laloyo. The researchers are part of the BSU collaborative research team on transitional justice. BSU is a Gulu Univeristy project funded by DANIDA.
“We need to brainstorm. We need a bigger meeting to own these issues and get solutions,” he said.
Northern Uganda faced a 20-year conflict, between 1986 and 2006. Many people were killed, others were displaced, and properties were destroyed as government forces fought the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels led by Joseph Kony.
Most of the displaced were forced to live in camps, on handouts, and social services there, such as health and education, were grossly insufficient. By the time they returned home, their way of life before the war had been distorted, and the children who were born in camps, who are now adults, came to be known as the lost generation.
The researchers committed themselves to do more research on the issues affecting the communities in northern Uganda as well as engaging with the communities to discuss and find solutions to those challenges.
Assoc. Prof. Charles Okumu, a Lecturer of Literature, said the issues the archbishop outlined were “bubbles of underlying problems on which society is floating”.