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NGOs urge UN resolution on protection of civilians in the north

[Uganda] Northern Ugandans IDPs have been resettled to government-controlled camps, sometimes forcibly, in the face of the ongoing civil conflict.
Thousands of civilians displaced by the conflict live in crowded camps. (IRIN)

Nongovernmental organisations working in strife-torn northern Uganda urged the UN Security Council on Wednesday to pass a resolution demanding the protection of people affected by the insurgency, saying 1,000 civilians in the region were dying of conflict-related causes every week.

The call came as Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni met members of the Security Council who were on a tour of Africa's volatile Great Lakes region.

"Almost 20 years of war in northern Uganda have seen nearly two million people driven from their homes and over 25,000 children kidnapped and forced to fight for the rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army [LRA}. Yet the UN Security Council has never passed a resolution on northern Uganda," said the coalition of over 50 aid agencies, including Care International, Oxfam and Save the Children.

The Security Council mission said Museveni had told them that the LRA had been weakened militarily, but elements of the group continued to cause problems.

"We, this morning discussed the situation and we were made to understand that strong progress has been made. There are still some difficulties, and we are still looking at the humanitarian situation," said Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, France's ambassador to the UN, who led the mission.

"This is a humanitarian situation that is a concern for all of us," he added, saying that the UN was trying to see that food reached internally displaced people's (IDP) camps.

The NGOs described the conflict in northern Uganda as the "world's worst case of mass child abuse".

"Every week, 20 children are kidnapped by the Lord's Resistance Army and forced to fight. If it was happening in Europe, the UN Security Council would have acted years ago. Instead, the 20-year silence of the Security Council has condemned thousands to death," said Emma Naylor, Oxfam's country programme manager for Uganda.

The aid agencies said that many of them had been forced to restrict their work in northern Uganda two weeks ago following three LRA attacks, which left two aid workers dead and several others seriously injured.

UN humanitarian operations in northern Uganda resumed on 1 November, after a review of the situation, according to a statement issued by the UN humanitarian coordinator in Kampala on Friday.

Grouped under the umbrella Civil Society Organisations for Peace in Northern Uganda (CSOPNU), the coalition of over 50 national and international NGOs advocating for a just and lasting peace in northern Uganda said they feared that death rates in the IDP camps could rise if they failed to deliver vital supplies such as food, water and medicines.

"The UN Security Council must take firm action and challenge the Ugandan government to protect its own people. If the government cannot do this, then the Security Council must agree to a resolution which commits the international community to protecting the millions suffering in sub-Saharan Africa's longest-running war," said John Reinstein, deputy director of Save the Children in Uganda.

On Monday, the EU urged the Ugandan government to protect its citizens from attacks by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and to ensure that those affected by the conflict continued to receive humanitarian supplies.

In their statement, aid agencies cited a recent report on the IDP situation in northern Uganda, which showed that between January and July 2005 nearly 30,000 people died as a result of diseases and conflict in the region. Some 11,068 of the victims were children under the age of five.

Violence was the cause of almost 4,000 civilian deaths during the first seven months of 2005, with an average of 20 violent deaths every day, according to the report. An estimated 1,168 people were abducted by the LRA during that period - an average of 42 per week. Almost half of the abductees were children below age 15, the report added.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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