Northern Uganda Update
For the past 20 years, the people of northern Uganda have been caught up in the middle of a conflict between the Government of Uganda and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Up to 2 million people – eighty percent of the population of the north – have been displaced and forced to live in camps. Currently some 1.2 million people are displaced.
The LRA has used horrific tactics that include forced abduction and conscription, mutilation, torture, rape and sexual assault. Abduction and forced conscription of children has ruined lives and torn families apart. Violations of basic human rights have proliferated both inside and outside of displaced persons camps. It has been a little-noticed humanitarian catastrophe.
The International Rescue Committee runs programs in the districts of Lira, Pader and Kitgum. In Kitgum district, IRC provides basic health services to more than 152,000 displaced people in ten “core” camps and their environs. In addition, IRC supports HIV/AIDS testing and prevention activities, water and sanitation projects, children and youth protection programs, skills training and other programs to help earn an income – benefiting about 200,000 people. All of these programs are intended to help the displaced to become self-reliant.
In Pader and Lira, the IRC emphasizes education programs for children, especially girls, and tries to get children back to school and away from exploitative child labor.
Last year, the LRA and the Government of Uganda signed a cessation of hostilities agreement, but a final peace settlement has yet to be negotiated. Peace talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA resumed in April, offering renewed hope to the people of Northern Uganda. These talks represent an unprecedented opportunity to end this long-running war.
Under the auspices of south Sudan’s leadership, and with the involvement of the U.N Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Joachim Chissano, both sides have returned to the conference table. The stakes are high: if this opportunity for peaceful settlement of the conflict fails, the conflict may reignite.