Saturday, October 23, 2004

UN warning: N Uganda most neglected humanitarian crisis in the world - 20,000 children suffering


Northern Uganda is suffering the most neglected humanitarian crisis in the world with 20,000 children caught up in a war, the United Nations warned.

[Photo courtesy]
- - -

Rebellion in northern Uganda 'is worse than Darfur war'

Copy of report by David Blair, Africa Correspondent (Filed: 23/10/2004)

A guerrilla war in northern Uganda, where 20,000 children have been taken captive be brutal rebels, is the world's worst "neglected humanitarian emergency", the United Nations said yesterday.

Jan Egeland, the UN's under-secretary for humanitarian affairs, described the insurgency waged by the Lord's Resistance Army for the past 18 years as a "moral outrage".

After briefing the UN Security Council in New York, Mr Egeland said: "Northern Uganda to me remains the biggest neglected humanitarian emergency in the world."

Devoid of any popular support, the LRA resorts to abducting children, then brainwashing and brutalising them for use as soldiers and sex slaves.

The number of children kidnapped has doubled in the past two years and at least 1.6 million people - virtually the entire rural population of northern Uganda - have been forced to flee their homes and move to squalid refugee camps.

The number of refugees has trebled since 2002 and exceeds the total in the war-torn region of Darfur in Sudan. But northern Uganda has received only a fraction of the international aid given to Darfur.

President Yoweri Museveni's regime insists that the war against the LRA is being won. On Thursday, Mr Museveni described the rebels as a "crushed force" - a claim he has regularly made for at least the past six years.

Britain's ambassador to the UN, Emyr Jones Parry, said the war was "one of the great crises out there which is not recognised enough".

The LRA received weapons and training from Sudan's Islamist regime throughout the 1990s.

That support has come to an end, but Joseph Kony, a self-styled "prophet" who leads the rebels, has rejected offers of an amnesty and vowed to fight on.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Exhausted by war, Ugandan refugees 'give up on life'

Copy of 22 Oct 2004 Reuters report by Daniel Wallis

LALOGI CAMP, Uganda, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Punishing military strikes against northern Uganda's rebels have yet to benefit refugees packed into squalid camps where often only drink and sex can blot out hunger and despair, aid workers say.

Uganda's army has claimed significant victories in recent weeks against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal sect that kidnaps children to turn them into soldiers. But life remains desperately harsh for the estimated 1.6 million people who have fled to camps in fear. "Things have improved," aid worker Ben Omaro told Reuters. "Half the top rebel commanders have been killed or surrendered, but the people here do not even have the basic needs of life.

"The biggest problem we have here is starvation," he said as he watched supplies of maize and beans being unloaded from trucks at Lalogi Camp, about 600 km (373 miles) from Gulu town, epicentre of the brutal war.

HIV/AIDS is rife in the camp, fuelled by alcohol abuse and promiscuity. "When people have nothing, they are left with only sex and drinking," Omaro said. "Immorality is now very high. These people have given up on life."

Senior U.N. envoy Jan Egeland on Thursday described the crisis as the world's most neglected humanitarian emergency and urged the international community to provide more aid and put more pressure on the parties to end the killing.

The LRA, led by self-proclaimed prophet Joseph Kony, has been terrorising northern Uganda for 18 years. The group mutilates its victims and has kidnapped tens of thousands of children, taking them to southern Sudan where they are forced to become fighters, porters and sex slaves.

Egeland, the U.N's Emergency Relief Coordinator, said he hoped the peace process in southern Sudan would help end the LRA's long reign of terror. In the meantime, the people of northern Uganda still live in fear, and most would starve without food aid from the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP).

Gesturing to the sacks of grain, Omaro said the food, while welcome, was nowhere near enough to feed the camp's 19,000 residents. Children, their bellies distended by hunger, wandered naked around the makeshift shelters.

The aid convoys are heavily guarded by Ugandan troops because of the risk of attack from marauding bands of LRA rebels, who appear to have no clear objective beyond overthrowing the government of President Yoweri Museveni.

Fear of abduction, killing and mutilation by rebels has forced farmers to abandon their fields. "They have no way to cultivate their land, because if the rebels catch you far away from the camp and the soldiers you are finished," Omaro said. "All civilians are now their enemies."

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Uganda, Sudan plan to build modern railway line - to be constructed by a German company

Here is a copy of a report from the Sudan Tribune dated October 3, 2004:

KAMPALA, Oct 3, 2004 (Xinhua) -- Uganda and Sudan plan to build a modern railway line linking northern Ugandan city Gulu and southern Sudan city Juba via Nimule of Sudan, reported local press on Sunday.

Ugandan Minister of Works, Transport and Communications John Nasasira was quoted as saying at weekend when meeting the project planners in Kampala that "we have been in constant contact with the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and are planning on a joint permanent commission when the time come."

The 208-km high-speed railway line is to be constructed by a German company, Jahre Thormahlem Schwei-Btechnik, which has presented its feasibility study. The Gulu-Juba line is estimated to cost 688 million Euros ( about 800 million US dollars).

"At the moment, we cannot tell who is going to fund the project, but we shall look at the proposal and then solicit for the funds. As you see it is an expensive project, but the government will definitely contribute," Nasasira said.