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Five million people face daily terror in Uganda

Saturday 28 January 2006

Five million people face daily terror in Northern Uganda, DRC, Burundi:
UN must act

As a high-level United Nations Security Council meeting today debates solutions to crises in Africa’s Great Lakes region, its first step must be to stop the deluge of weapons and protect civilians from attacks by armed groups, said international agency Oxfam.

Conflicts raging across the Great Lakes Region, particularly in northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have lead to millions of deaths and caused almost five million people to flee across borders or become displaced inside their countries.

Oxfam said that controlling the spread of weapons and stopping attacks on civilians and aid workers by armed groups was key to bringing peace. A 2003 UN arms embargo has failed to stop weapons reaching armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where fighting earlier this week caused thousands of refugees to flee. Every day, one thousand people die as a direct result of the conflict. It is estimated that thirty thousand people have died since the beginning of this year due to conflicts in the DRC and Northern Uganda alone.

Oxfam also strongly criticized the UN Security Council for failing to take any effective action to stop the war in northern Uganda that has now entered its twentieth gruesome year.

“The region is awash with weapons and people are paying with their lives,” said Oxfam’s Policy Advisor Greg Puley. “From Burundi to northern Uganda, communities have become the battleground on which conflicts are fought. The UN Security Council must ensure that the Ugandan and DRC governments protect their own people from being slaughtered.”

The Council must work with regional governments to stop the cross-border impact of armed groups including the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). This week eight Guatemalan UN peacekeepers were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Using Southern Sudan as a base, the LRA is attacking innocent people in DRC, Uganda and Southern Sudan. Militias in the DRC also receive cross-border weapons support.

The Archbishop of Gulu in Northern Uganda, John Baptist Odama, has traveled to New York this week to officially address the Security Council and call for action towards peace:

“What should I tell the people of Northern Uganda when I return from New York?” Archbishop Odama asked. “That the Security Council members will continue to sit silently as children are abducted and killed and women and men are violently attacked every day?”

The Council will today debate a resolution on peace and security in the Great Lakes region and Oxfam believes it must include two major breakthroughs towards ending the war in Northern Uganda. First, the Security Council should adopt Under-Secretary General Jan Egeland’s recommendation to create a panel of experts to investigate the activities of the LRA and determine how the council should deal with them.

Oxfam is also calling on the Secretary General to appoint a high-level envoy to help the resumption of the peace process.

When Oxfam addressed the UN Security Council earlier this week, it recommended that all governments in the Great Lakes region must prevent and combat arms flows by strengthening the UN’s capacity to enforce the arms embargo, cooperating with the Panel of Experts set up to monitor it, and vigorously prosecuting those found to be responsible for violations. The Council must also insist that national governments fulfil their responsibility to protect their own civilians.


Notes:

Oxfam International works throughout the region, from internally displaced people’s camps in Northern Uganda to the slums of Kinshasa. The agency is working with nearly quarter of a million people in IDP camps in Northern Uganda, providing clean water, sanitation facilities and support to livelihood activities such as small businesses and other income-generating projects.

We are also working with a coalition of more than 50 local and international organisations trying to find a lasting solution to the problem. In the DRC, Oxfam is working managing Congolese refugee camps in the "Bas-Congo" region and Sudanese camps in North-East Congo. Since 1998, over 3.8 million people have died as a direct result of the conflict in the DRC.

Oxfam is calling for the following:

- That the Council unambiguously condemn the attacks on civilians and humanitarian workers by armed groups such as the LRA and FDLR, and acknowledge that these attacks, and the humanitarian crisis that they have created in Northern Uganda and Eastern DRC, represent a grave threat to regional and international peace and security;

- That the Council reinforce that governments in the region must take seriously their responsibility to protect civilians and to provide appropriate, accountable, professional and restrained security for the provision of humanitarian assistance. In this regard, we strongly recommend that the Council ask the Secretary General to provide advice, within 30 days, on how peace support operations and governments in the region can better protect civilians, particularly from militias and armed groups, and increase access of civilians to humanitarian assistance;

- That the Council adopt Under-Secretary General Jan Egeland’s recommendation to create a panel of experts to investigate the activities of the LRA and determine how the Council could most effectively deal with the threat they pose;

- That the Council act on its own recommendation from the November trip to the Great Lakes region and encourage the Ugandan authorities to explore all ways and means of resolving the conflict in the north peacefully. In this regard, the council should also recommend that the Secretary General appoint a high-level envoy to support efforts for a peaceful solution and report regularly on the humanitarian, security and human rights impact of the LRA and the conflict in Northern Uganda.

ENDS

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