Northern Uganda (Uganda, East Africa)

Origin of Northern Uganda Conflicts:
Uganda with a population of 27.4 million has been embroiled in a civil war in the north for over 20 years. The conflict begun in 1986, when the Acholi ethnic group of northern Uganda formed an anti-governmental movement against the Government of Uganda
(GoU) and President Museveni. The Rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) led by Joseph Kony seeks to over throw the government and institute a rule of law based on Biblical Ten Commandments. The LRA frequently targets civilians, mostly young people with mutilation, rape, murder, looting and burning villages as well as abduction of women, children and youth to serve as child soldiers, porters and sex slaves. An estimated 66,000 children and youth have been abducted by the LRA since the conflict began. The government forces, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), have also committed abuses involving young people such as rape and murder, especially with the internally displaced persons ( IDPs) camps under their protection.

An estimated 90 percent of the population in northern Uganda has been displaced and children and women being the most affected. In an effort, to isolate the LRA, the government forcibly relocated many people to the IDP camps called “Protected Villages” which are guarded by the UPDF. The insecurity and policy of forced relocation has resulted in 1.6 million IDPs suffering from chronic poverty, inadequate nutrition, poor sanitation and limited access to health care services and education. In mid 2005, a multi agency health and mortality survey led by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that nearly 1000 people mostly children die each week in IDP camps in northern Uganda due to preventable diseases. An estimated 80 percent of IDPs are children and women.

Current Situation:

In August of 2006, a cessation of hostilities agreement was signed by the GoU and the LRA. Since then, security has increased for travel of both humanitarian workers and IDPs. The LRA has frequently stalled progress towards achieving peace, including withdrawing from talks in January 2007. In February 2007, the LRA and the GoU agreed to extend the cessation of hostilities through June and peace talks resumed between the LRA and the GoU in April 2007 until now. Few LRA security-related incidents have been reported since the start of the peace process.

In October 2005, the International Criminal court ( ICC) issued warrants for Kony and four of his top commanders, including Vicent Otti, whom Kony killed after accusing him of siding with government in the on-going peace process. Some have credited the threats of the ICC, but Kony his commanders are seeking immunity from prosecution by the ICC, in favor of local traditional justice

Since August 2006, many people in northern Uganda are considering returning home, but a large scale has not occurred due to un affordable challenges including lack of infrastructure in rural areas throughout the north. This includes poor roads and lack of
access to safe water, sanitation, primary health care and education. As of May 2007, 409,253 people have returned to their villages of origin (Lira, Apac and Oyam districts) where the conflict and displacement was among the shortest in northern Uganda. An additional of 395,492 mostly children and women have relocated to “Satellite Camps”

Despite the return of 800 children from the LRA who used to serve as soldiers, sex slaves, porters from the LRA in 2006, an estimated 3,000 women and children still remain with the rebels and on –going negotiations have not yet secured their release