Oxfam urges Security Council to act on Uganda war
Crested Crane - The national symbol of Uganda. Photo by Adam Katz
May 10, 2005 by Daniel Wallis KAMPALA (Reuters):
Violence in northern Uganda has increased since government negotiations with rebels stalled in February and the U.N. Security Council must pressure Uganda to restart the talks, the British aid agency Oxfam said on Tuesday.
Security Council members are due to discuss the conflict in Uganda at a session in New York on Tuesday, but its members have yet to pass a resolution on a 19-year civil war that has created one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.
"In the last few months we have seen a significant rise in violence," Oxfam country chief Emma Naylor said in a statement released in the Ugandan capital Kampala before the meeting.
Uganda's military says it killed 84 fighters from the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) last month, while rebels have stepped up attacks on refugee camps, hacking some people to death and shooting others who run away.
"The U.N. must take a lead on ensuring the protection of civilians, including urging the government of Uganda and LRA to renew the ceasefire and recommit to negotiations towards peace," Naylor said.
She said the army had failed to stop rebels carrying out atrocities, and that new peace talks were the only way to end the bloodshed in northern Uganda, where more than 1.6 million people have been forced to flee their homes.
The fighting intensified after landmark talks, including the first face-to-face meeting between government and rebels for a decade, stalled in February with the surrender of the LRA's top negotiator.
Ugandan commentators say the government would prefer a military victory over the rebels, but its helicopter gunships have been unable to stamp out small groups of fighters moving swiftly on foot through thick forests and rolling grasslands.
At least 20 people were killed in two rebel raids on Thursday, and Oxfam said the deteriorating security situation was hindering access by aid workers.
It said there were also increasing reports of LRA attacks across the border in southern Sudan, where LRA leader and self-styled prophet Joseph Kony is believed to be hiding.
With him are some of the thousands of children kidnapped by his cult-like group to serve as fighters and "wives". His movement has not spelled out a clear list of demands.
Despite frequent statements by President Yoweri Museveni that Kony's rebels are on the verge of defeat, analysts say one of Africa's longest-running civil wars is likely to grind on unless there is more outside pressure on both sides to talk.