Recent peace talks in Uganda with leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have not stopped the killing or abductions of children. This fall, three unarmed international aid workers in northern Uganda died during different attacks blamed on the LRA. In response, government forces have stepped up military operations in the region.

In the meantime, efforts for a peace accord move forward slowly at best. Rory Anderson, senior Africa policy adviser for World Vision, believes American evangelicals can influence the peace process in the same way they have pressed for peace in southern Sudan. She spoke recently with Timothy Morgan, ct's deputy managing editor.

What's been happening with peace talks with the Lord's Resistance Army?

The most recent round with [Uganda's negotiator] Betty Bigombe has the confidence of the Lord's Resistance Army as well as the government of Uganda. People are more optimistic. There are always starts and stops. Peace talks take time. The conflict has been going on for 18 years.

Is the fighting still going on?

It tends to be sporadic. We see times when there are ceasefires and lulls because the LRA is being pressured. They're not getting their regular supplies of armaments and food. These kids in the LRA are hungry. They're forced to attack civilians even during peace negotiations.

Has support for the LRA come from Sudan?

Yes, it is very well established. [Sudan] never openly acknowledged it. The LRA was based inside southern Sudan. The Ugandan army went into southern Sudan and found evidence that the Sudanese government was actually providing weapons and food. It's the same government that is also continuing war in Darfur.

What is the overall situation for the people of northern Uganda?

It's a humanitarian crisis. More than 1.6 million people have been displaced. The situation inside the homeless camps is quite grave. People are living in grass huts. They use open fires to cook food. [Huts] will catch fire and thousands of houses go up in flames.

Refugees lack access to clean drinking water—1,000 to 15,000 people share a single water source. You go to some of these camps, and you see the jerry cans lined up for miles. You also have food issues, because people can't farm their land. People are completely dependent upon international food assistance. Because of LRA attacks, people can't reliably get food assistance to these camps. You have acute malnutrition rates among children.

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What is the youngest child you've seen being abducted into the LRA?

The ideal group of children that the LRA tries to abduct is from 7 to 14. At that age they're still very impressionable. They will listen, and they're also big enough that they can carry supplies.

Are the abductions ongoing?

They're ongoing. They're continuous. They have not stopped. There have been lulls when there have been fewer abductions, but as long as the conflict continues, the abductions will continue.

Can American Christians help the peace process?

This conflict can end. Just as the U.S. government took seriously peace inside southern Sudan, likewise this is a related conflict. There have been sustained advocacy efforts by American Christians around southern Sudan—the same efforts apply and need to happen inside northern Uganda. This type of advocacy brings change.

Will putting pressure on American and African leaders help?

When the Sudanese government is serious about ending the conflict in southern Sudan and northern Uganda, it will hand Joseph Kony over and reveal where the secret weapons caches are.

High-level U.S. government pressure on all parties [is needed], because the government of Uganda has primarily relied upon a military strategy to end this conflict. Military aggression against the LRA is inflicting violence against children. I'm not saying the military doesn't have a role in this. Their primary role should be protecting children, protecting civilians.

You need to give incentive for senior LRA commanders as well as a lot of the children to come out, to see: "Oh, if I come out of the LRA, if I come out of the bush, I will have a chance to go to school. I will have enough food."

Does rehabilitation of child soldiers have a spiritual aspect?

One of the important facets of the Children of War Rehabilitation Center—part of our rehabilitation of these children—is spiritual, so they can feel the love of God and the forgiveness of God. They can begin to live a whole and productive life.

Just as the spiritual is used to oppress people, we use prayer, Bible study, and intercession to help deliver these children.

Related Elsewhere:

Also posted today is

Deliver Us from Kony | Why the children of Uganda are killing one another in the name of the Lord.
Brutality Therapy | Love and art are keys to healing.

More Christianity Today articles on Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army include:

Two Missionaries Killed in Uganda | Couple was willing to help anyone, anywhere, anytime. (March 23, 2004)
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Ebola Outbreak Leads to Suspension of Church Services | Panic and terror spread like virus as infections and deaths increase. (Oct. 20, 2000)
Innocence Stolen | A paramilitary group in Uganda is abducting younger children to fill its ranks. Those who manage to escape are plagued with haunting memories. (July 13, 2000)
Under Suspicion | Following cultic deaths of 900, independent Christian groups in Uganda come under a cloud of mistrust and fear. (May 3, 2000)

The BBC has done extensive reporting on the LRA:

Profile: Uganda's LRA rebels | The Lord's Resistance Army, which has been fighting the Ugandan Government for nearly 18 years, has become know for its brutality, but the reasons for their rebellion are less well known. (February 6, 2004)
In pictures | The 'night commuters' who flee their homes each day (February 6, 2004)
Uganda's fallen child rebels | There are few things which can prepare you for the terrible reality of witnessing a "military victory" against the kidnapped child soldiers of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). (April 8, 2004)
Uganda's atrocious war | Uganda's rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has become synonymous with torture, abductions and killings (June 12, 2003)
Uganda army in 'rights abuses' | The Ugandan army has been accused of carrying out severe human rights abuses on the civilian population in the north of the country. (July16, 2003)
Uganda business prepares for peace | For the casual visitor, Gulu does not seem like a town at the centre of a 17-year-old war. (February 26, 2004)

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