Atrocities in Uganda prompt UN to call on rebels to halt attacks against civilians

Atrocities in Uganda prompt UN to call on rebels to halt attacks against civilians

Jan Egeland
Deploring the murder of 128 people over the past month in a series of massacres by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda, the top United Nations humanitarian official today called on the rebel group to stop attacking civilians immediately.

Jan Egeland, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said each one of the four massacres since 16 May had occurred inside camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

“These vicious attacks against some of the most vulnerable civilians are appalling,” Mr. Egeland said, adding that “in many cases, the victims have fled attack after attack, desperate for safety.”

He also called on the Ugandan Government to redouble its efforts to protect civilians in the north of the country.

In the most recent massacre, a group of about 100 LRA members killed 25 people, including five children, at an IDP camp at Abok on Tuesday. The rebels kidnapped 26 others and burned at least 600 huts – which contained food stores for the IDPs – in the camp.

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said aid agencies have since provided some relief for the remaining Abok camp residents.

On 3 June, LRA rebels murdered 23 people at an IDP camp at Kalabong, while 20 others are assumed to have been abducted.

The most deadly of the recent wave of massacres occurred on 20 May, when the LRA struck the Lukodi camp, killing 41 people. On 16 May, 39 people were killed during an attack on a camp at Pagak.

The four massacres are only the latest by the rebel group. In the village of Barlonyo on 21 February, at least 190 people were hacked with machetes or burned to death at an IDP camp. There was another attack in the village of Odek on 29 April.

More than 1.6 million people have become internally displaced within northern Uganda since 2002 as the LRA fights the Ugandan Government. The rebel group wants to impose the Ten Commandments of the Christian Bible as law in Uganda.

The LRA has also become notorious for its kidnapping of children to serve either as its soldiers or as sexual slaves for its commanders. Mr. Egeland said in April that 10,000 children are estimated to have been abducted for these purposes.

As many as 40,000 Ugandan mothers and their children have also become “night commuters,” walking for hours every night to sleep outside hospitals and community centres because they feel it is unsafe anywhere else.