Her Excellency the British High Commissioner
All Government Representatives;
UN Country Delegate
Rt. Rev. Sheldon Mwesigye and all Religious Leaders present;
Civil Society Organizations present (CSOs)
All Ugandans present
Ladies and GentlemenWe the CSOs present are very grateful to the Government of Uganda for having considered working closely with us to promote peace in Uganda. Following the United Nations General Assembly’s declaration the celebration of the International Peace Day is observed worldwide on September 21, each year to strengthen the ideals of peace within and among all nations and the peoples.Every year a specific theme is developed due to different circumstances. This year the Theme that was chosen is: “Partnership for Peace – Dignity for All”
For many years now in partnership with CSOs, and UNSECO, the Government of Uganda has been celebrating this day. And since the goal for such a celebration is to strengthen peace ideals among people’s ,it was envisaged that it becomes more meaningful if celebrations of this nature are taken to different districts and regions which have demonstrated willingness to live in harmony so that all the people of the region, local CSOs and local governments may be strengthened in their efforts to promote and work for peace.
For that and other reasons in 2005 it was hosted in Soroti to commemorate the recovery from insurgency in the region. In 2006 the celebrations were rotated to Gulu in recognition of their efforts to serve the displaced persons and lobby for end of war and return to their homes. In 2007 the celebrations were held in Kampala it was at that time that discussions to development a National Peace Policy started In 2008 the celebrations went to Kasese to lobby for settling of the Pastoralist Vs Agriculturists in the region; in 2009 they were held in Arua to recognize the cross border conflicts and arms trafficking; in 2010 the celebrations were returned to Kampala during which a Peace Award was grated to Rt. Hon Ruhakana Rugunda in recognition for the success of peace process in Juba with Kony, and the process of developing an Issues paper was resumed; in 2011 the celebrations were held in Kotido.in recognition for the end of the disarmament in Karamoja region.
At that celebration a decision was taken by CSOs to fast track the development of the National Peace Policy. In 2012 celebrations were held in Kapelabyong Amuria to recommend the district’s strategy of sharing resources in a joint settlement with Karamojong. In 2013 celebrations were held in Moroto to show solidality for the Traditional Peace Accord of Lokiriama in 1973. The 2014 celebrations were held in Adjumani to give solidality to the people of Ajumani who had accommodated refugees since December 2013.
Since 2010 the National Peace Platform composed of CSOs and government has pursued the strategies for fast tracking the development of the National Peace Policy. It therefore agreed that in the circumstances given the possibility of delivering the National Peace Policy by September 2015, the venue of the celebration should be in a place not considered in “Conflict” in order to give Peace a “Peace Image” and advocate for values of dialogue, harmony and peaceful co-existence which is illustrated in the National Peace Policy.
Looking at different districts in our Country, Mbarara district was considered close to such a district. We are therefore very grateful to the Local Government of Mbarara District that when it was approached it accepted to host this year’s celebrations.in this beautiful city. Uganda being a member of United Nations took it upon itself to make sure that this day becomes significant because without peace there is nothing that can be achieved either on national or local levels.
Because of our history as a Country the National Peace Platform decided to generate and develop a subtheme for this day in addition to what is provided internationally. And the subtheme is “Unity in Diversity for Sustainable Peace”. This subtheme also is a key message in preparations for the 2016 General Elections.
Since September 16, 2015 different CSOs have been in this city carrying out different activities raising awareness in the population for this day. Such activities among others included Peace Walk, Radio Talk shows, Production of public awareness materials, Open debates and Dialogue in Peace Building, Tree Planting for peace, Women’s Bicycle race and name them. The climax was the Peace Vigil in this venue last night. Everything was carried out in a very peaceful atmosphere. We are very grateful to the peace that has been achieved and enjoyed in Mbarara.
However, as our subtheme suggests, Unity in diversity for sustainable peace needs to be taken seriously not only in Mbarara but in all the regions of Uganda. During the vigil peace prayer, some participants gave testimonies which gave some picture which we feel you need to be aware of as local leaders for further action.
- There is a lot of alcohol and drug consumption in some corners of the city. As we already said above this may not only be for Mbarara alone but in many regions. And in Uganda today it has been made so easy for everyone who wants to get access to hard liquor which is nicely packed in sachets. Some teachers even lamented that such sachets are carried by pupil and students during class sessions. In our view this is very dangerous
- After work when someone is going back home in the evening, he/she is not afraid of wild animals but of fellow human beings. When you meet someone, you are not sure whether you will bypass each other peacefully. We thank the security agents and the police in particular for the work done, but it seems such evil doers are hardly seen
- There is much domestic and gender based violence.
- There are some cases of child abuse
- Lack of employment for many youth.
We call upon the government and local leaders in particular to look for lasting solutions that will help in eliminating such evils in Uganda. For sustainable peace in Mbarara and indeed all over Uganda needs consolidated efforts by all. The danger is that our young people can easily be hooked into subversive activities which may be detrimental to the peace we have achieved so far.
In conclusion as CSOs we have since 2010 advocated for a National Peace Policy of which we are happy that the process is on, but we ask that it should be worked on quickly because we feel it will contribute greatly to giving a framework through which such evils will be eliminated in Ugandans.
FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY
Rev. Fr. Dr. Silvester Arinaitwe Rwoukubwe, A.J.
Executive Secretary of Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC)
For Civil Society Organizations