Rebel Group Atrocities Against Children In Uganda
Security Council Condemns Rebel Group's Atrocities Against Children In Uganda
Highlighting the abduction and forced recruitment of children as soldiers and sex slaves, members of the United Nations Security Council today strongly condemned the atrocities being committed by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group in northern Uganda.
In a statement to the press issued by its President for April, Ambassador Gunter Pleuger of Germany, Council members demanded that the LRA immediately stop all attacks against civilians.
The 15 members said it was vital that the warring parties in northern and eastern Uganda explore "all peaceful avenues to resolve" their conflict, and allow aid workers unrestricted access to civilians. They also said the Ugandan Government must step up its protection of displaced persons.
The statement followed a private briefing earlier today from the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, who later told reporters that "a major humanitarian emergency" was unfolding in Uganda.
"I would say this is perhaps the most under-reported story in the world today," he said. "Because where else would there be 10,000 kidnapped children in the course of only 18 months who have been terrorized into becoming killing machines, terrorized into attacking their own villages, killing their own relatives?"
The envoy said that most of the soldiers and most of the victims of the war are children. "By some estimates minors make up 80 per cent of the LRA soldiers," he said.
The children are abducted and forcibly recruited into the LRA, he said, with many girls also serving as sexual slaves for the senior commanders of the group, which wants to impose the Ten Commandments of the Christian Bible as the law in Uganda.
During a field visit late last year, Mr. Egeland said, he spoke to a girl - she has now escaped from the LRA - who said that she and other captives were once forced to take another child who tried to flee and "literally tear apart that child with her own teeth."
"The psychological trauma of these acts is incalculable. The atrocities are unspeakable and they affect thousands and thousands and thousands every month," he said.
The LRA's policy of abductions had also created a new phenomenon known as "the night commuter," he said, where as many as 40,000 children and mothers walk for hours every night to sleep outside hospitals, town halls and community centres because they feel it is unsafe anywhere else.
In its press statement, Council members said such crimes as abductions, sexual violence and sexual exploitation "should not remain unpunished." It also expressed concern about the large-scale displacement of civilians.
Mr. Egeland said the number of people uprooted from their homes because of the fighting has almost trebled to more than 1.5 million now from 550,000 in January 2002. The UN World Food Programme has been able to provide basic supplies to most of those people.
Only 10 per cent of the $127 million in donations sought by the UN to relieve the suffering in Uganda has been received so far, he said, adding that more is needed to prevent a break next month in the process that delivers cereals to the needy.
He said the Ugandan Government, regional organizations and the international community have done "far too little" for the people of northern Uganda, but he was heartened that Council members today pledged to devote greater funds and attention to the problem.