Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to work with the United Nations for the immediate release of all children associated with the Ugandan rebel group that is notorious for its abduction and use of child soldiers.
In his latest report on children and armed conflict in Uganda, Mr. Ban noted that the LRA has not knowingly operated in Ugandan territory since the cessation of hostilities in August 2006.
However, over the past four years, the group – including “a substantial but unknown” number of Ugandan children associated with its forces – has increasingly moved into neighbouring countries to establish additional bases.
“Children and their communities in the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic have been victims of attacks that have claimed hundreds of lives and resulted in the disappearance of hundreds of children,” Mr. Ban wrote.
The Secretary-General encouraged the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict to consider visiting Uganda and the region to assess the impact of its work in the country, as well as to review the regional impact of the LRA’s activities on children.
“I strongly urge the Lord’s Resistance Army to engage with United Nations country teams in the region for the immediate release of all children associated with its forces,” he added.
In this connection, he called on his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, to create an advocacy and contact group to help bring about this release as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ban highlighted that the cooperation with the Ugandan Government has been “very effective” and has allowed the UN and its partners to successfully verify that no more children are present in the ranks of Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) or its auxiliary forces and that no cases of recruitment or use of children have been reported since August 2007.
Nevertheless, he notes that a number of challenges remain to be addressed to protect children. “I strongly urge the Government of Uganda to prioritize the protection of children in its military actions against LRA elements, either on Ugandan territory or in joint operations in neighbouring countries,” Mr. Ban said.
The LRA has waged war in northern Uganda against Government forces since the mid-1980s. Both sides have signed several peace agreements, raising hopes of a comprehensive accord to formally end the entire conflict being signed eventually.