Uganda: UNICEF calls for restraint following disarmament campaign violence

Uganda: UNICEF calls for restraint following disarmament campaign violence

Alarmed at continued violence in Uganda’s northern Kotido district linked to a disarmament campaign in which 13 women and nine children have already died, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called on national and local authorities to take all measures to protect civilians.

“In addition to the immediate threat of bodily harm and death, violence can exert a cumulative toll on entire communities,” UNICEF Country Representative Martin Mogwanja said yesterday. “Violence can keep children out of school and rob them of the chance to fulfil their potential. Multiplied many times over, violence robs the community of its potential for development.”

Mr. Mogwanja’s appeal was the latest UN call for restraint in the disarmament campaign being carried out among Karamojong communities in the region. Last week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour urged the Government to review its forced disarmament strategy of the Karamojong and end violence and abuses against civilians in the area.

She said in a report that allegations of human rights violations and abuses in the region had persisted since the May forced disarmament exercise by the Government began.

Mr. Mogwanja called for restraint by all arms carriers to avoid further escalation of insecurity and minimize the impact on innocent civilians, especially children and families, who face the additional risk of unexploded ordnance left by bombardments.

“The protection of children and women is a universal imperative and a responsibility not only of the Government, in accordance with its international human rights obligations and national policy, but also the responsibility of every stakeholder and every community member in the Karamoja sub-region,” he said.

UNICEF, through the Catholic relief organization CARITAS and the Church of Uganda, has provided non-food items and first-aid kits to displaced persons in Kotido District. UNICEF has also supported non-governmental organization OXFAM in providing emergency water and sanitation services.

“There must be a redoubling of efforts to enable all children and women in Uganda to have unhindered access to protection, as well as health, education, safe water, shelter and other essential services,” Mr. Mogwanja said.