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Archbishop Odama calls on the media to be proactive to ensure peaceful general elections

Tuesday 16 February 2016, by SIGNIS

Kampala, Brussels, February 16th, 2016 (New Contact/Jacinta W. Odongo /SIGNIS). With the 2016 Uganda General Elections around the corner, the Chairman of the Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC) and the Archbishop of Gulu Archdiocese, Most Rev. John Baptist Odama has urged the media to be proactive in addressing the issue of violence and ensuring peaceful elections on February 18 this year.

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Archbishop Odama (left), Simon Byakatonda (center), Valerian Kkonde

“We are caught in a very important state now in this country and you are more aware than me, but I have my concerns so that we can work together. I have no idea how the election will be. Will it be free and fair? Will it be peaceful? Nobody knows, but I am concerned about the state of this country because I wouldn’t like the country to be destabilized anymore and one of the causes is elections,” Archbishop Odama said.

He made the remarks at the Uganda Catholic Secretariat premises in Kampala on January 27 2016, during the Second Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Association of Catholic Communication Practitioners in Uganda (ACCPU) that was attended by journalists from various media houses in Uganda.

He said that the Catholic Bishops of Uganda will collaborate with the media in the endeavor to promote democracy and peace-building, and will make use of their Pastoral Letter on the guiding principles for the 2016 general elections, which was released in August last year. The Pastoral Letter is entitled, “Free and Fair Elections: Our Common Mission to Consolidate Democratic Gains in Uganda”.

Through the watchdog role, he said the local media should protect the public interest and encourage free, fair and peaceful conduct of the elections to achieve the long-term goal of democratic consolidation and human development.

“We had a terrible situation in the northern region for over 20 years and on that part I am so sensitive about the future of this country. If there is anybody who is a great patriot, I would be number two. Unless we are firm on what we want Uganda to be before, during and after the elections, we are likely to see some violence,” Archbishop Odama explained. “I think we should be proactive on this important matter because many people listen to the media. We love our country so let us be proactive in addressing the issue of violence,” he added.

The Archbishop further stated that he has begun holding talks in his Archdiocese about the consequences of instigating violence before, during and after elections, and he encouraged the journalists to do the same.

“I have been talking to the people in my Archdiocese from the urban areas to the villages and I have told them to go to their communities and pass the same message of peace. Whoever causes violence from the national level to the grassroots should be held accountable for any loss of lives, for any injuries and for any destruction. I am very hot on this issue and I am going to continue doing so to avoid violence,” he emphasized.

He quoted a line from Chinua Achebe’s book, ‘Things Fall Apart,’ about the mosquito which always disturbed the ear with noise to remind it that it was still alive, following the ear’s mockery of the mosquito that it was too weak to live long enough for marriage. He urged the journalists to emulate the mosquito’s style to be proactive and persistent in advocating for peace during this period.

Archbishop Odama applauded the ACCPU members for forming the association and for their active participation in making the visit of the Pope to Uganda a great success.
“It is our hope that the members of this association, who have met at the very important juncture, will contribute towards a free, fair and peaceful elections,” he concluded.

The AGM also attracted the Secretary General of the UEC, Msgr. John Baptist Kauta and the UEC Executive Secretary of the Social Communications Department, Rev. Fr. Philip Odii who was re-elected as an ex-officio member.

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