Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 21,143,000
    – under-18s: 12,026,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active 50,000-60,000
    – paramilitary: 1,800
  • Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
  • Voluntary recruitment age: 18 with consent
  • Voting age (government elections): 18
  • Child soldiers: indicated in government and opposition forces, some 10,000-15,000 since 19861970
  • CRC-OP-CAC: not signed
  • Other treaties ratified: ACRWC; CRC; GC/API+II
  • There are continuing reports of government recruitment of child soldiers despite legislation to the contrary. Several opposition forces, especially the Lord's Resistance Army, forcibly abduct children as young as nine who are compelled to fight and to serve as domestics and sex slaves. In April 2001 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that about one third of the more than 26,000 cases of abduction recorded to date in Uganda involved children under the age of 18.1971 In February 2001, child soldiers recruited from the Democratic Republic of Congo were handed over to UNICEF by the Government of Uganda for reunification with their families. However, an agreement between the governments of Sudan, Uganda, Egypt and Canada has seen little progress in freeing children held by the LRA in camps located in Sudan.


Despite relative political stability, Uganda has suffered from internal conflict in the north and southwest regions of the country. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), an armed group active in the north and supported by the government of Sudan, has committed egregious atrocities against the civilian population, particularly children. As a result approximately 400,000 people, around 50% of the population, have been displaced in the Districts of Gulu and Kitgum.1972 Similarly, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group active in the Southwest of the country, killed, tortured, maimed and abducted many persons, including children. The government forces, Ugandan People's Defence Forces, (UPDF) have been actively involved in conflicts of the Great Lakes region, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where Congolese children have been trained and deployed.


National Recruitment Legislation

Article 17(1)(e) of the 1995 Constitution states that it is the duty of every citizen of Uganda "[t]o defend Uganda and to render national service when necessary." Article 34(3) and (4) of the 1995 Constitution states that children (persons under the age of 16 for this specific provision) "[s]hall not be employed in or required to perform work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with their education or to be harmful to their health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development."

The National Resistance Army (NRA) Statute #3/92, the Conditions of Service Men Regulations 1993, and the Conditions of Services (Officers) Regulations 1993 all require that any recruit must be over 18 and under 30 and must produce a transcript and recommendation from a guardian. However, in its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child the Government reported: "The substantive law regarding recruitment into armed forces is spelled out in the Armed Forces (Conditions of Service) Regulations 1969. It is provided that the age of recruitment into the army is 18 years. Any recruitment below that age should only be with the consent of the person's parents or guardians or the district administrator of the district in which the person resides. No person under the apparent age of 13 shall be enrolled in the armed forces." (emphasis added)

Child Recruitment and Deployment

Although the legal recruitment age is 18, the Government of Uganda has readily admitted that child soldiers were used extensively in the 1980s in the struggle by the Museveni-led National Resistance Army. In its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, government representatives justified the use of these child soldiers as being dictated by the circumstances of the day. The government also contended that measures had been taken to enable recovery and social integration of these child victims.1973 The government denied that in late 1998 a recruitment drive of youths, many under 18 and often including street children, had been conducted.1974 However in 2000 reports continued to be received of boys under the age of 18 being recruited by the Ugandan People's Defence Forces (UPDF).1975

The Ugandan People's Defense Force (UPDF) has also provided direct assistance to opposition groups in northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by training and equipping thousands of young recruits, including many children.1976 In particular the UPDF trained hundreds of recruits from the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups at camps of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD-ML) in Beni and Bunia. Lendu children provided easy targets because many have been orphaned by interethnic killing. In 2000, recruiters for the RCD-ML routinely toured villages in recruitment drives, returning with truckloads of 100 to 200 children and youth aged 13 to 18. UPDF instructors would then provide three to six months of infantry and weapons training at Nyaluke camp. Many children reportedly died before completing the training due to abuse, lack of health assistance and deplorable conditions at Nyaluke.1977 Some 700 RCD-ML members, including many under the age of 18, who attempted a coup against the RCD-ML leadership in July 2000 later surrendered to the UPDF and were airlifted to Kampala for military training. However in mid-February 2001 the Government of Uganda granted UNICEF full access to the political and military training camp housing Congolese child soldiers and agreed to release those under the age of 18.1978 The 163 children identified, including three girls, are to be rehabilitated and reunified with their families.1979

In February 2001 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1341 (2001) calling for all armed forces and groups involved in the DRC conflict to bring an effective end to the recruitment and use of children as soldiers and to ensure the speedy demobilisation, return and rehabilitation of such children.1980


Child Recruitment and Deployment

It is estimated that between 8,000-10,000 children have been recruited by various armed groups since 1986, many of whom have been compelled against their will to fight as soldiers.1981 In April 2001 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that about one third of the more than 26,000 cases of abduction recorded to date in Uganda involved children under the age of 18.1982

Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, operates from Sudan and has received protection and support from the Sudanese government. The gross abuses committed by the Lord's Resistance Army in Northern Uganda are well documented, including the abduction of children and their use as soldiers and servants.1983 UNICEF estimates that 5,106 of at least 10,000 children abducted by the LRA since 1987 remain unaccounted for. In 2000 the LRA abducted some 700 children, an estimated 100-200 of whom remain missing.1984 Abducted children are subjected to beatings, rape, being forced to march until the point of exhaustion and being forced to participate in the killing of other children who attempt to escape. They are held in virtual slavery at clandestine camps, serving as guards, concubines and soldiers. The UN Secretary General reported that at least 85% of girls who arrive at the Gulu trauma centre for former LRA abductees had contracted sexual diseases during their captivity.1985

Resolution 2000/60 of the UN Commission on Human Rights condemned in the strongest terms the Lord's Resistance Army for the abductions, torture, killing, rape, enslavement and forcible recruitment of children in northern Uganda.

Allied Democratic Front (ADF)

Human rights abuses by the Allied Democratic Front (ADF), based in the DRC and active in the southwestern districts of Uganda, escalated in 1999 and 2000. According to Amnesty International more than 100,000 people have been displaced in Bundibugyo and Kasese districts since ADF attacks began in 1997.1988 It is estimated that the ADF abducted over 441 persons in 2000, and approximately 30 children remained missing at the year's end.1989 As with the LRA, there are credible reports that the ADF use children as guards, labourers and soldiers.

Other Armed Groups

In the north-west of the country the Western Nile Bank Front (WNBF), which is also reported to use children as soldiers, is allied with the LRA and supported by the Sudanese government. The WNBF has also launched incursions from bases in the DRC.

Armed members of the Karamojong, a marginalised minority group in the Northeast of Uganda, have also reportedly abducted children for similar reasons. Armed gangs of Karamojong rustle cattle and ambush and raid vehicles, at times extending across the borders into Kenya and Sudan and on numerous occasions provoking serious incidents with neighbouring countries. Other armed opposition groups include the Ugandan National Rescue Front, in the Northwest, and the Tabliqs, a Muslim group with an estimated strength of about 400 men.1990 It is not known whether these groups recruit or use youths under the age of 18 as soldiers.


Criminalisation of child soldiers

In late 1998 the Ugandan First Deputy Prime Minister Eriya Kategaya announced that an amnesty law would be adopted for members of the LRA who surrender.1991 In January 1999 the Ugandan army executed five teenage boys between the ages of 14 and 17 suspected of being ADF fighters, although such actions are not believed to be characteristic of the UPDF.1992 The Government of Uganda has repeatedly committed itself to freeing children abducted by opposition forces and handing them over into rehabilitation centres.


According to statistics provided by the two rehabilitation centres in Gulu, up until the first quarter of 1999 a total of 5,837 children had been reintegrated into their communities after receiving medical treatment, counselling and education.1993

At the International Conference on War-Affected Children in September 2000 the government of Uganda signed a joint statement with representatives of Canada, Sudan and Egypt pledging to take immediate action to free abducted children.1994

While the Government of Sudan claims to have stopped supporting the LRA, it has repeatedly reneged on commitments to secure the release of child soldiers being held by the LRA in camps located in Southern Sudan and reportedly stalled two separate meetings scheduled to monitor progress on the Winnipeg agreement.1995 The government of Sudan has assisted child protection agencies in repatriating 105 children and adults who had escaped from the LRA between November 2000 and March 2001.

In March and April 2001, following a request of the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2000, a mission from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, with participation from UNICEF and the Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, visited Khartoum, Nairobi, Kampala and northern Uganda to examine the issue of abducted children.

1970 RB Children of War database, in 3/01.

1971 IRIN-CEA, Update 1,161, "Uganda: One third of abductions involve children, UN Commissioner says", 20/4/01.

1972 Uganda: Breaking the circle: protecting human rights in the northern zone. AFR 59/001/1999, 3/3/99.

1973 Initial report of Uganda to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/3/Add.40 of 17/6/96, paras. 228-232.

1974 The Monitory (Kampale), "Angry parent protest UPDF recruits 500 secretly", 20/11/98; AFP, "Ugandan children's body denies allegation of forced army", 26/11/98.

1975 US State Department Human Rights Report 2000.

1976 HRW Report 2001, p.41.

1977 AI, "Child recruitment in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo", 4/01.

1978 UNICEF applauds agreement with Uganda on child soldiers, 13/2/01.

1979 IRIN, "Uganda: Congolese child soldiers identified in Kyankwanzi", 20/2/01.

1980 UN Security Council Resolution 1341 (2001), 22/2/01, para. 10.

1981 US State Department Human Rights Report op. cit.

1982 IRIN-CEA, Update 1,161, "Uganda: One third of abductions involve children, UN Commissioner says", 20/4/01.

1983 See e.g., Uganda: "Breaking God's commands": the destruction of childhood by the Lord's Resistance Army, AI. AFR 59/01/97, 18/9/97; The Scars of Death: Children Abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, HRW, 9/97.

1984 US State Department Human Rights Report, op. cit.

1985 Report of the Secretary General on the Abducted Children of Northern Uganda, E/CN.4/1999/69, para.23.

1986 IPS/Misa, "Confessions of Uganda's child soldiers", 21/4/98.

1987 The Independent, "Uganda, child soldiers: all they know is how to kill", 28/7/98.

1988 AI Report 2000.

1989 US State Department Human Rights Report, 2000.

1990 European Platform for Conflict Prevention and Transformation, Uganda country report, 12/00.

1991 IRIN Central and Eastern Africa, Update No. 433, 9/6/98.

1992 IRIN Central and Eastern Africa, Update No. 598, "Uganda: Five teenagers allegedly killed by army", 29/1/99.

1993 Report of Secretary General on Abducted Children of Northern Uganda, op. cit., para.11.

1994 Joint Communique on Immediate Action on Abducted Children, the International Conference on War-Affected Children, Winnipeg, Canada, 9/00.

1995 Child soldiers held captive despite commitment to release, World Vision Press Release, 7/3/01.


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