Ugandan rebel group allegedly still recruiting children – UN report
Although the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) does not seem to be recruiting children in Uganda, women and children are still present in its ranks, and the rebel group is allegedly enlisting young people from neighbouring countries, according to a United Nations report released today.
The LRA, which has fought a civil war with the Ugandan Government since the mid-1980s, became notorious during the conflict for abducting as many as 25,000 children and using them as fighters and porters. The children were often subject to extreme violence shortly after abduction, with many girls allocated to officers in a form of institutional rape.
“Owing to the apparent absence of LRA from Ugandan territory, there have been no recent cases of recruitment and use of Ugandan children, or other grave violations against children attributable to LRA,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in a new report to the Security Council.
“However, children and women are still present in the LRA ranks, and there has been no movement on their release,” he adds.
In addition, he notes there are reports alleging that the group has been recruiting children from southern Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR).
In one case, three boys from the Sudan and the CAR who escaped from the LRA reported that they had been forced to work for the group as porters. They also reported that girls were present in the ranks, and that they were regularly subjected to gender-based violence, including rape.
On 23 April, authorities in Dungu in eastern DRC reported that 13 people, including four students, were abducted from a primary school following LRA attacks.
“These allegations are being reported while the peace talks between LRA and the Government of Uganda are stalled, notably because of the refusal by the LRA leader, Joseph Kony, to sign the final peace agreement,” Mr. Ban writes.
Last July the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict called on the LRA to unconditionally release children used in their ranks, and underlined the absence of any concrete signs in this regard.
The Group also noted the International Criminal Court indictments against five senior members of the LRA – the leader Joseph Kony, and the commanders Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen and Raska Lukwiya – on a number of charges, including the enlistment of children through abduction.
The rebel group has maintained that it had released all children and women abducted or forcibly conscripted some time ago and that those who remained in the bush were women and children related to LRA members.
Mr. Ban says that this information cannot be independently verified because of the absence of any direct contacts between the UN and the LRA leadership.
The Secretary-General urges the LRA to provide a complete list of names and ages of the women and children remaining in its ranks for verification and to carry out their immediate release.
In addition, he says the UN Task Forces on Monitoring and Reporting in Uganda, the CAR, the DRC and the Sudan, in cooperation with the UN missions in the DRC and Sudan, should develop a strategy to increase monitoring and reporting on cross-border recruitment and use of children by the LRA.