Global Policy Forum

Oxfam Urges Security Council to Act on Uganda War

Integrated Regional Information Networks
May 10, 2005

The UN Security Council must intervene in the worsening humanitarian situation in war-ravaged northern Uganda, the British aid agency Oxfam said on Tuesday. "The UN must take a lead on ensuring the protection of civilians, including urging the government of Uganda and LRA [rebel Lord's Resistance Army] to renew the ceasefire and recommit to negotiations towards peace," Emma Naylor, Oxfam's programme manager in Uganda, said in a statement.

The agency said half a million people had been killed in the war, while attempts to resolve the conflict peacefully had faltered over the last few months, with the two sides instead returning to military action. "In the last few months we have seen a significant rise in violence in northern Uganda," Naylor added. "The LRA has committed horrific atrocities [and] in turn, the military strategy employed by the government is not protecting its civilians; instead we are seeing increased suffering and numbers of civilian casualties."

Negotiations between the government and the LRA, which began in November 2004, stalled in February, and the region has witnessed a surge in violent rebel attacks since. "Increased insecurity has worsened the humanitarian situation, reducing access to humanitarian aid and livelihood support," Kathy Relleen, a humanitarian officer with Oxfam, told IRIN on Tuesday.

On Thursday the rebels attacked a village near the town of Gulu, 380 km north of the capital, Kampala, where they bludgeoned several people to death. By Monday, the death toll of the attack had reached 24, according to the army and church sources in Gulu. The army also said it had killed 84 rebels and rescued more than 80 children from rebel captivity during the month of April. "We need a renewal of commitment from all sides to finding a peaceful solution to this conflict," the agency said.

The statement highlighted other issues pertaining to the situation in the north, including sexual violence, which it said was commonplace and was perpetrated by both parties in the conflict. "Access to land is becoming more difficult and communities are unable to make use of the rainy season for planting crops," it added.

The agency also raised issues of inadequate water and food supplies, deteriorating security in the internally displaced persons' (IDP) camps, and increased attacks and abductions by the LRA in southern Sudan. Oxfam, the statement said, was unhappy with the international community for focusing prematurely on post-conflict reconstruction, "while hundreds of thousands of civilians remain in immediate need of humanitarian assistance and protection". "It's all very well to plan for post-war reconstruction, but the fighting is getting worse. Hundreds of thousands of people still live in fear of attack," Oxfam said.

The LRA has fought for 19 years against the Ugandan government, saying it wants to replace the government with one based on the Biblical 10 commandments. However, the rebels have become more associated with its brutal treatment of the civilian population in the north, especially the abduction of thousands of children to work as fighters, porters or sex slaves. The war has seen tens of thousands of people killed and up to 1.6 million people driven out of their homes to live in the IDP camps.




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