Global Policy Forum

Historic Chance to End Uganda War

May 11, 2005

The United Nations top emergency official has told the BBC that there is an historic opportunity to end the 19-year war in northern Uganda. Emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland says northern Uganda is being forgotten by the rest of the world. But speaking ahead of a UN Security Council briefing, he said recent peace contacts must not be squandered.

More than 1.5m people have been displaced in what he describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. "There is an inbuilt discrimination in the sense that... if we all agree that a human life has the same value wherever he or she is born, there should be the same attention to northern Uganda as to northern Iraq," he said.

Rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army militia routinely abduct children and are forced into becoming killing machines and used against their own people, he says. Human rights groups say the LRA has abducted some 20,000 children and every night thousands flee from their villages to local towns and cities to try to find a safe place to sleep.


Mr Egeland said violence had increased since peace talks stalled, with more atrocious massacres and mutilation of civilians in the last few weeks. Last week, the LRA, which wants to replace the current government with one based on the biblical 10 commandments, killed at least 20 people in two separate attacks.

In one, they used axes and machetes to kill a group of refugees and shot those who tried to run away. However, Mr Egeland said there was now a window of opportunity to try to bring an end to the violence.


He said recent new contacts between the two sides gave an opportunity which must not be lost. Mr Egeland was referring to ongoing attempts by a former Ugandan minister to mediate between the LRA rebels and the government.

The mediator, Betty Bigombe, is in regular contact with the LRA leader Joseph Kony although he has not shown a clear commitment to ending the violence. The BBC's Will Ross in Uganda says that President Yoweri Museveni has frequently stated a preference for the military option and his comments and comments from the army have often undermined efforts to end the conflict through dialogue.

The United Nations is now stepping up its involvement in efforts to mediate an end to the war at a time when humanitarian agencies continue to send out the message that the military approach is not working. He added that there was no alternative to a peaceful resolution of the crisis. Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court has begun investigating widespread allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity said to have been committed by the rebels.




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