Global Policy Forum

World Must End Uganda Crisis- UN Official


By Richard Waddington

November 25, 2005

International pressure is urgently needed to end the war in northern Uganda where one of the most neglected humanitarian crises in the world has displaced nearly 2 million people, a U.N. official said. "We need massive international pressure, concentrated and sustained. It has been 20 years and it has got to be stopped," said Dennis McNamara, special U.N. adviser on displacement, referring to the Uganda's war with the shadowy Lord's Resistance Army rebels. McNamara, just back from a week-long visit, said on Friday that while the LRA was guilty of continued atrocities, the government of President Yoweri Museveni had also "failed in its obligation" to assist and protect refugees who fled the fighting.

According to U.N. estimates, the mortality rate in some 200 camps housing some 1.7 million refugees was twice that of Sudan's Darfur, with more than 1,000 people dying each week -- many of them women and children -- from disease and violence. "This is one of the longest, largest, and least addressed humanitarian crises in the world," said McNamara. "It has uprooted as many people as the Bosnian war did 10 years ago, but gets only a fraction of the international attention."

He noted that according to a group of 50 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including Oxfam and Save the Children, the U.N. Security Council had yet to even pass a resolution condemning what was happening in Uganda. "It (the situation) is extremely grave and unlikely to get better unless we take much more serious action," McNamara told a news conference. The LRA is led by self-proclaimed prophet Joseph Kony, 44, who appears to have no political agenda, though he has said he wanted to establish rule based on the Biblical Ten Commandments.

Although the Ugandan government said the LRA, infamous for mutilating civilians and kidnapping an estimated 20,0000 children to act as soldiers or sex slaves, had been reduced to "a remnant" by army action, that was not the view of villagers in the north, who described them as still strong, he said. More than 10,000 people in northern Uganda trudge miles every night to sleep in towns rather than risk abduction from their villages. Civilian militias were supposed to protect the refugee camps, but in the northern town of Kitgum they had not been paid for 10 months and were refusing to confront the rebels, McNamara added.

While the LRA carried out regular atrocities, army personnel were also guilty of attacks on women in camps in the lawless north, he said. He said the United Nations planned to increase its presence and humanitarian programs in the north next year. To do so, the world body would be seeking $220 million in funding up from $188 million in 2005. But the biggest problem remained security, both for local people and for the international aid community trying to help.




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