Saturday, October 23, 2004

 

20,000 Ugandan children abducted

This horrifying article is from www.cnn.com. The "Lord's Resistance Army" was founded and is headed by an excommunicated Catholic priest. More on this in future posts.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Northern Uganda is the world's biggest neglected humanitarian crisis, with 20,000 kidnapped children, many of them forced to serve as combatants, the head of U.N. humanitarian affairs says.

Jan Egeland, undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, said he asked the Security Council, rhetorically, where else in the world 80 percent of the fighters in a rebel movement were children and 90 percent of the population had been displaced from their homes.

"Northern Uganda to me remains the biggest neglected humanitarian emergency in the world," Egeland told journalists after briefing the 15-member council on Uganda and Sudan in a closed session late Thursday.

"For me, the situation is a moral outrage, but I'm heartened that the Security Council devoted so much time to northern Uganda."

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said after the meeting that the council considers such briefings crucial.

"It is because humanitarian crises, the risk of conflict, the way that security is disturbed, the way it affects neighbors is directly the interest of the council," he said, adding that northern Uganda is "one of the great crises out there which is not recognized enough."

Jones Parry called on the international community to support the African Union's peace efforts and respond to U.N. appeals for donations. He said the council planned to meet in Nairobi, Kenya, November 18-19 where it would discuss the conflicts in southern and western Sudan and peace efforts in the region.

Egeland said there are positive signals from Uganda's government, including government forces that help protect humanitarian efforts, a new law for internally displaced people and recognition of the scope of the problem.

"We hope on the humanitarian side that we are now seeing a beginning of an end to this 18-year endless litany of horrors where children are the fighters and the victims in northern Uganda," he said, adding that his hopes rest on increased international attention and on efforts to resolve the two decades of conflict in southern Sudan that have spilled into northern Uganda.

The Lord's Resistance Army has waged a brutal insurgency in northern Uganda, targeting mostly civilians and abducting children for use as fighters, laborers or sex slaves, since 1986. The rebels are believed to have bases in southern Sudan and in recent months have launched attacks on Sudanese civilians, reportedly killing scores.

Sudan 'progress'

Meanwhile, the Sudanese government and southern rebel movements have been making progress toward peace in their two-decade-old conflict.

Regarding western Sudan's Darfur region, Egeland said that relief efforts were bringing food, water and sanitation to well over 1 million people.

"We're exceeding many of the goals we set ourselves two months ago. However, the goal post has been put miles ahead of us because so many more people have been affected. We thought we would need to feed a million people by now; we have to feed 2 million people ... There are hundreds of thousands in desperate need," he said.

At the same time, insecurity has become the biggest constraint on humanitarian efforts, he said, adding that aid workers have been harassed, kidnapped and even killed.

Egeland said donations to the relief efforts in Darfur are short by about $190 million and that the international community needs to provide more logistical support to the African Union to deploy military forces in the conflict area.

At least 70,000 people have died and more than 1.5 million have been forced from their homes in the Darfur crisis, which began in February 2003 when two rebel groups took up arms over what they regarded as unjust treatment by the government and ethnic Arab countrymen.

Major bloodshed ensued when pro-government militias called Janjaweed reacted by unleashing attacks on Darfur villages.

Peace talks between the Sudanese government and representatives of the rebels reopened briefly in Abuja, Nigeria, Thursday after a month's suspension but were suspended again until Monday.

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