IRIN Emergency Update No. 251 on the Great Lakes
Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for the Great Lakes
Tel: +254 2 622147
Fax: +254 2 622129
UGANDA: UNICEF campaigns against LRA child abductions
In a coordinated campaign backed by UNICEF, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch-Africa today (Thursday) released reports condemning the kidnapping and murder of children by the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The human rights groups charge that 8,000 to 10,000 children have been abducted in the past two years. The children, some as young as 11-years-old, are subjected to a regime of extreme and arbitrary violence. Their deliberate brutalisation has involved forced participation in the killing of other children. Girls are allocated to LRA commanders as sex slaves. Those caught attempting to escape have been tortured and beaten to death. The LRA is provided with base camps in southern Sudan by the Khartoum government. In return, the LRA is used to battle the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and to destabalise neighbouring Uganda, the reports allege. The abducted children, after rudimentary military training, are compelled to fight. Some 3,000 to 5,000 children are believed to remain in rebel captivity and form the backbone of the LRA.
UNICEF's Executive Director Carol Bellamy said in a statement today, "the evidence of these unspeakable acts is overwhelming." Bellamy called on the Sudanese government to immediately denounce the LRA. UNICEF supports the demand by the two rights groups that the UN Special Rapporteur on Children in Situations of Armed Conflict investigate abuses by the LRA. "There is never just cause for the death or torture of a child," Bellamy said. "Just as there are calls for an investigation into the alleged human rights violations in the Great Lakes region, so the international community must exercise the same conscience towards the children in Uganda."
Khartoum cuts ties with Kony, press claims
The Ugandan press has alleged that LRA leader Joseph Kony has fallen out with Khartoum, the Kenyan 'Daily Nation' reported today. Military sources in northern Uganda claimed last month that Sudan had cut supplies to LRA base camps, forcing Kony and some 300 rebels into Uganda. Their arrival sparked a series of clashes with the army in Kitgum district. Some 50 child soldiers were reportedly rescued after one battle. On Monday, quoting a captured LRA intelligence officer, the state-owned 'New Vision' said that Kony and his followers were attempting to escape into Kenya. Since March, 800 rebels have surrendered to the army, the private 'Monitor' reported on Wednesday.
Border security tightened
The 'New Vision' said on Tuesday that the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had deployed troops along the Ugandan and Burundi borders. The newspaper noted it was not clear whether the deployment was to suppress ethnic clashes in eastern DRC or to contain the Ugandan rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) operating out of the region. Meanwhile, the Ugandan army claimed to have killed an estimated 20 ADF rebels in a weekend ambush in the western district of Bundibugyo. The rebels were believed to have been part of a group that attacked a displaced camp at the trading post of Nyahuka, 10 kms from the DRC border, last week.
Meanwhile, a battalion of Ugandan troops trained as peacekeepers by a US special forces team held their passing-out parade yesterday. The 770 soldiers from the 3rd "Suicide" battalion will form part of Washington's so-called African Crisis Response Initiative. Reacting to concerns that the training programme amounted to provocation of Sudan, President Yoweri Museveni said: "we have been fighting Sudan for a long time without the Americans," the 'New Vision' reported.
BURUNDI: Resettlement suspended
The governor of Burundi's northern Kayanza province has suspended the dismantling of regroupment camps and the return of people to their communes, humanitarian sources report. The governor indicated that increased rebel activity, particularly in the Butaganzwa and Rango communes, was responsible for the freeze on the programme. To date, seven camps have been dismantled and some 32,500 people returned to their homes out of a total regrouped population in the province of almost 90,000. It is believed the process will not restart until the security situation has stabilised.
RWANDA: DRC refugees settle in Mudende camp
The pace of refugees crossing the DRC border from Goma to Rwanda has slowed. According to UNHCR, 3,408 Tutsi Congolese fleeing violence in Masisi entered Rwanda between Saturday and yesterday. They are believed to have come from two sites in Goma where ICRC had registered some 4,000 internally displaced people. The refugees are settling in Mudende camp, in northern Rwanda, which last month was attacked by Hutu rebels in a raid that killed more than 130 people. The camp now holds some 11,000 refugees. Meanwhile, some 100 soldiers were arrested in Goma between 14-15 September under a new campaign by the national army to improve security in the area, local radio reported.
TANZANIA: Hungry leave their farms
Hungry farmers are abandoning their villages in parts of rural Tanzania in the search for food, a spokesman for the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) told IRIN. Some are hiring out their labour to "relatively rich peasants but even they don't have much to offer," the spokesman said. Drought has wiped out an estimated 30 percent of Tanzania's expected 1996-97 cereal production. In localised cases, the situation is far worse. In Dodoma in the central region, some households have only been able to harvest little more than a bag of sorghum to last a family until the next season. "In the rural areas people have resorted to eating wild fruits," the spokesman said. "We know of cases of people dying from eating the wrong wild fruits."
Livestock prices have crashed as farmers sell off their animals. A cow which previously fetched US $100, is now exchanged for a bag of maize - which currently costs between US $20-40. In a normal season the price of maize is around US $10. The government has responded to the crisis by waiving import duties on food imports. According to CCT, the local implementing partners of the NGO consortium Action by Churches Together (ACT), poverty will hamper access to food for the increasing numbers of vulnerable people. There is also concern over the inadequacy of Tanzania's transport infrastructure to reach some of the country's more remote regions.
Although this season's "short rains" (September-January) have begun in some areas, "tropical rains are very unpredictable" the CCT spokesman said. He feared a repeat of last year which only achieved 25 percent of average rainfall.
CONGO: Fighting continues
Congo's warring factions, ignoring a ceasefire appeal by African regional leaders, pounded each other's positions with artillery on Wednesday for the third consecutive day, AFP reported. The rival forces of President Pascal Lissouba and Denis Sassou Nguesso are also believed to have brought reinforcements into the battered capital of Brazzaville. A joint communique issued on Monday from a summit of seven African heads of state in Libreville, Gabon, called on both sides to commit themselves to a definitive ceasefire in the three-month conflict. But neither man signed an accord and Lissouba refused to attend the two-day meeting.
Nairobi, 18 September 1997. 15:00 gmt
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