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from issue no. 07 - 2003

Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala, Archbishop of Kampala, speaks

An international peace-keeping force for Uganda

by Davide Malacaria

“In Uganda the intervention of an international peace keeping force is required”. Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala, Archbishop of Kampala for 15 years, launched his appeal during the course of an interview granted to 30Days. Wamala, who is 76 years old, was nominated Bishop of Kiyinda-Mityana in 1981. In 1988 he was called to Kampala as coadjutor to the then Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga, succeeding him two years afterwards. He was created Cardinal in 1994 by John Paul II. Wamala is a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”. With him we spoke about the dramatic situation looming for the populations of the north of the country and of his memories of the historic visit of Paul VI who decided to visit Uganda in July 1969, the first Pope to set foot on African soil.

How is the Ugandan church experiencing the tragedy which is afflicting the north of the country?
EMMANUEL WAMALA: We are all saddened by this situation, we don’t know clearly what is happening, nor can we explain to ourselves how it is not possible to put an end to all of this. It is more than 17 years that this war has been going on and the situation becomes worse every day that passes.
What is the testimony of faith that has struck you most in such a dramatic moment?
WAMALA: At this moment I believe it is the fact that the bishops of the north, along with Anglican and Muslim leaders, have decided to sleep on the streets with the children who by night go to seek a little security near the churches and the hospitals. I believe it to be a stupendous witness.
In your view, is the government doing enough to put an end to this war?
WAMALA: Before Christmas the president went to the north of the country where he remained a long time. He spoke with the bishops of the region, he listened to their suggestions. Further Museveni also tried to understand why the Ugandan army was failing to defend the civilian population, asking for the removal of officers who had made mistakes. I consider, in short, that there was the political will to put an end to this war. And to seek dialogue with the rebels to resolve the situation, as the Catholic Church had also asked, through negotiation. But the rebels have given no reply on the matter.
Now the situation has worsened …
WAMALA: Yes. Now all the countryside of the north is infested with rebels who are moving into provinces where they were formerly absent. The situation is so ugly that I do not believe there is any way out of it without international intervention, analogous to what happened in the Congo.
Would President Museveni accept that?
WAMALA: I don’t think that he would agree to the idea of international intervention. But I contend that in 17 years Uganda has been unable on its own to resolve the situation. Last year President himself declared that by March he would have put an end to the rebellion. It hasn’t happened.
A study commission has worked out a modification to the Constitution which, if approved, would allow the current President to present himself as a candidate at the next elections. You have publicly expressed your disagreement. Why?
WAMALA: I did not say that the Constitution could not be changed. I said that the constitution cannot be changed solely in the interests of a single individual. Further I believe and hope that in Uganda political pluralism can be achieved. I believe that this is more consonant with natural law.
Last October the Vatican recognized the martyrdom of two young Ugandan catechists, Daudi and Gildo. What did this mean for you?
WAMALA: A great joy and also a great honor. Among other things Daudi and Gildo were martyred in the north, in the same area where so many people are suffering today. We try to speak of them to our people as witnesses to Christ who suffering for them and with them but, at the same time, we ask their help, their intercession so that our country may find peace. On 3 June last, on the occasion of the celebration of the Ugandan martyrs (killed at the end of the 19th century and recognized as martyrs under the Pontificate of Paul VI), the relics of the two catechists were also carried in procession. It was a great feast at which the faithful from many parts of Africa participated, but people also came from Europe and America.
Do you remember the visit of Paul VI to Uganda?
WAMALA: I remember it very well. For Africa it was an honor and also a testimony that the faith on our continent had increased, with the dignity of being able to host the supreme Pontiff. The teaching he left us on that occasion was, and still is today, a great source of inspiration. I remember the emphasis that the Pope put on the missionary nature of the African church struck me greatly. A missionary nature that manifests itself first of all with regard to Africa, but which does not stop on our continent. The many young people who go on mission to other African countries, but also to Europe and America, makes concrete the wish Paul VI expressed for on that occasion.

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