juj. Deprived of the support he enjoyed in Sudan and faced with the defection of several of his lieutenants, he has agreed to return to the negotiating table after many interruptions. Held in absolute secrecy in Gulu, capital of one of the provinces where the LRA holds sway, these negotiations are being conducted by Betty Bigombe, a former minister of the Ugandan government and currently advisor to the World Bank. Since the beginning of this year she has been in contact with Vincent Otti, the LRA's second-in-command. In parallel with this background diplomacy and supported by the clergy and traditional leaders of the Acholian ethnic majority, President Yoweri Museweni's government is maintaining a strong military presence in a bid to contain rebel assaults against civilians. Indeed, they are the principal victims of this forgotten conflict: 1.6 million people (80% of the population) who have been displaced in camps where the living conditions are virtually intolerable due to promiscuity, lack of water and hygiene as well as disease. One hundred thousand people have been massacred. What's more, every evening some 45,000 children turn into "night commuters" to avoid being captured and forced to become soldiers (in the case of the boys) or sexual slaves (in the case of the girls).
Since the end of 2003, the SDC's Humanitarian Aid Unit has been involved in this crisis which is only one of many raging in the Great Lakes region. It has earmarked CHF 3.5 million (as against 3.4 million in 2004 and one million in 2003) for programmes run by its international partners (ICRC, WFP, UNICEF, FAO) and non-governmental organisations (MsF Switzerland), notably in the area of food security, basic health and the reintegration of children and women who succeeded in fleeing from the LRA.