The United Nation Security Council today strongly condemned recent attacks by the rebel Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Southern Sudan, and demanded that it immediately sign a previously negotiated peace accord.
A presidential statement, read out by Ambassador Nevin Jurica of Croatia, which holds this month’s rotating presidency of the 15-member body, condemned the repeated failure of LRA leader Joseph Kony to sign the Final Peace Agreement negotiated between the Government of Uganda and LRA.
It recalled that the International Criminal Court (ICC) had issued arrest warrants for “certain LRA leaders” on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and the enlistment of children through abduction. The ICC issued arrest warrants for Mr. Kony and two other LRA leaders, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen, in 2005.
“The Council reiterates its deep concern at the long-running and brutal insurgency by the LRA, which has caused the death, abduction and displacement of thousands of innocent civilians in Uganda, the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” the statement said. “It demands that the LRA cease its recruitment and use of children and that it release immediately all women, children and other non-combatants.”
Noting that “it attaches vital importance to promoting justice and the rule of law, including respect for human rights, as an indispensable element for lasting peace,” the Council reaffirmed that “ending impunity is essential for a society recovering from conflict to come to terms with past abuses committed against civilians and to prevent their recurrence.”
It called on the LRA to sign the peace accord immediately and begin the process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration to ensure a peaceful, political solution to the 21-year-long conflict.
The Council welcomed the re-establishment of peace and security in northern Uganda, which has seen the LRA disperse into Southern Sudan and eastern DRC, and called on the Ugandan Government to accelerate reconciliation, recovery and development in the north by disbursing anticipated financing without delay.
Last week the Council voiced support for a joint military operation launched by the DRC, Uganda and Southern Sudan to flush the LRA out of a remote national park in north-eastern DRC.
Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has helped ship in 24 tons of food for 8,500 people in the DRC’s Dungu region affected by the LRA. “These people are very happy,” WFP programme manager Ibrahime Diallo said after helping to supervise the distribution. “They have been waiting a long time. Now they see that when we say we will do something, we will do something.”
Local men offloaded bags and cans of food bearing the logos of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), ECHO (European Commission Humanitarian Office) and other donors. WFP’s feeding programme in the area is expected to last two or three months.
Dungu town’s population has grown as internally displaced persons (IDPs) arrived. With the area outside Dungu now considered by many a no-go zone, hunger is on the increase.
“The harvest season begins in January and they are unable to go to their farms and fields,” WFP Dungu sub-station chief Charles Gemenze said. “There is no famine but IDPs, host families and returnees need to complement what little food they still have.”