State of the World's Minorities 2006 - Uganda
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Publication Date||22 December 2005|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2006 - Uganda, 22 December 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48abdd7178.html [accessed 18 September 2014]|
In July 2005 parliament approved a constitutional amendment, which scrapped presidential term limits. Voters in a referendum overwhelmingly backed a return to multi-party politics.
The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), formed in 1987, is a rebel paramilitary group operating mainly in northern Uganda. The group is engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government in what is now one of Africa's longest-running conflicts. It is led by Joseph Kony, who proclaims himself a spirit medium and apparently wishes to establish a state based on his unique interpretation of biblical millenialism. The LRA has been accused of widespread human rights violations, including the abduction of civilians, the use of child soldiers and a number of massacres.
It is estimated that around 20,000 children have been kidnapped by the group since 1987 for use as soldiers and sex slaves. The group performs abductions primarily from the Acholi people, who have borne the brunt of the 18-year LRA campaign. The insurgency has been mainly contained to the region known as Acholiland, consisting of the districts of Pader, Gulu and Kitgum, though since 2002 violence has overflowed into other districts. The LRA has also operated across the porous border region with southern Sudan, subjecting Sudanese civilians to its horrific tactics.
Up to 12,000 people have been killed in the violence, with many more dying from disease and malnutrition as a direct result of the conflict. Nearly 2 million civilians have been forced to flee their homes, living in internally displaced peoples (IDP) camps and within the safety of larger settlements, sleeping on street corners and in other public spaces. IDP camps themselves have been attacked and burned down, leaving thousands homeless. Despite these forced migrations, the plight of the Acholi people has received little media coverage in the developed world. Not until April 2004 did the UN Security Council issue a formal condemnation.
From the middle of 2004 rebel activity dropped markedly under intense military pressure. There were reports of significant numbers of LRA rebels taking advantage of the government Amnesty Act. In mid-December 2004 a number of civilians were killed by bands of LRA operating near the Sudanese town of Juba. These rebels had purportedly lost contact with their chain of command under the ongoing government assault. On 31 December 2004, a truce in place since mid-November expired without an agreement.
The signing of a peace deal ending the civil war between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army prompted speculation that a more stable Sudan would help end the LRA insurgence. In late January, SPLA leader John Garang pledged that he would not allow the LRA to operate in the south once he gained formal control of the region. On 3 February 2005, President Museveni announced an 18-day cease-fire, backing away from previous commitments to sustain military operations until the LRA committed to withdraw from the bush and admitted for the first time that it was recruiting former abductees and returning them to the battlefield. The army stated that around 800 former abductees had been recruited, hundreds of whom are believed to be below 18 years of age.
During the first half of March 2005, the LRA carried out six reported attacks in which 12 civilians were reported dead and about 50 were abducted, often in response to government proclamations that the rebels were nearly or completely defeated. The government has been the target of increasingly pointed criticism from the international community for its failure to end the conflict. International aid agencies have questioned the Ugandan government's reliance on military force and its commitment to a peaceful resolution. In May 2005, the World Food Programe reported that 1.4 million people displaced by the conflict were facing severe food shortages. The ongoing insecurity prevented the IDPs from tilling and planting farm land, as well as making it difficult for relief organizations to reach persons in need.
International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo formally opened an investigation in January 2004. Some local Ugandan groups have criticized this move, as an ICC prosecution of Joseph Kony and his senior lieutenants is seen to make a negotiated end to the conflict nearly impossible. In November 2004, President Museveni was reported to be exploring ways to withdraw the referral made to the ICC, which was seen as a complication to what appeared to be a significant movement towards a negotiated peace. In February 2005 the ICC announced that 12 arrest warrants were to be issued for LRA war crimes suspects.