Humanitarian Update - Uganda, Volume IV, Issue 6

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 30 Jun 2002
June 2002
LRA intensify attacks in northern Uganda

There has been an increase of security incidents in the second part of June to date. A large number of LRA rebels, over 600, are said to have crossed to Uganda from around 10th June, led by Vincent Oti. Other LRA groups seem to have consequently crossed into Uganda, for the Gulu RDC places the current number of LRA inside Uganda at 2000. The rebels are now wreaking havoc in the three northern districts of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader. District authorities recommend UPDF escorts particularly for food relief vehicles, but also for those traveling/working outside the town centres. Since the LRA incidents intensified though, many NGOs and international organizations have either scaled down field activities to a minimum, or are on standby. Many local residents spend nights in Gulu town, for safety. Agencies are however continuously assessing the situation so that they resume activities to the vulnerable population. WFP, a major humanitarian actor in the north, halted food distributions on 19th June 2002 to 316,000 IDPs in protected camps and other projects in Gulu District. In Kitgum and Pader Districts, only 71 percent of the planned monthly distribution was achieved during June due to security delays, affecting a further 149,000 IDPs and refugees. WFP, which has had talks with the 4th Division Commander in Gulu, plans to resume food distribution when requirements for security/escort are provided by the UPDF.

WFP notes that delays in food distribution during this hungry season will result in increased hunger, anger and frustration in IDP settlements. It is therefore necessary to increase security for all food convoys, WFP staff, other humanitarian actors and vehicle movements. The increased risk of LRA attacks on IDP settlements following food deliveries and distribution consequently means need for increased security around IDP settlements.

There is still a gap in timely and accurate information on security related issues, consequently, numerous rumours on security incidents abound. Hopefully with the UPDF Public Relations Officer (PRO) in place, and a Joint Command Center that was opened up on 22nd June to act as an information focal point, flow of facts pertaining on the ground might be easier. Furthermore, the Assistant Commissioner in the Office of the Prime Minister, Department of Disaster Management and Refugees, informed humanitarian agencies during a meeting on 4th July that Government will look into how it can avail relevant information on the situation in the north to them.

Meanwhile, with humanitarian organizations not accessing the IDPs, conditions in camps are likely to deteriorate at a fast rate, especially in camps that have had new IDP influxes from other camps. The priority issues now are food and accommodation (camps where LRA have attacked and burnt down huts and camps with new IDPs); currently school buildings are being used as accommodation. Other needs such as water and sanitation and health will also have to be assessed. The situation in Omer/Amuru and Guruguru, and several other camps are reported as bad. In marawobi and Guruguru camps in Kilak County for example, UPDF foot patrols found people leaving in caves in Kilak hills. Gulu district authorities plan to lead an assessment of IDP camps in the near future. Gulu district authorities plan to lead other humanitarian organizations in an assessment of various camps. During a District Disaster Management Committee (DDMC) meeting held on 27th June, priority areas were identified for assessment as follows: Pabbo and Pagak, scheduled for Saturday 6th July; Alero and Palwong for Monday 8th July; Olwal and Ongako on 9th July.

Security is definitely the main issue, that is, increase security around the camps, and provision of proper escorts plus securing the main roads. The LRA seem determined to operate in small groups, and attack as many places as possible. The various raids and ambushes have been widely covered in the media and the chronology below, starting from the latest reported attack, serves to show the current uncertainty of the security in the north.

Highlights:

6th July - Rebels ambushed a UPDF pick-up at Oroa-Labolo 35 km on Kitgum-Lira road. Eight soldiers were killed on spot, two were injured and are admitted in Kitgum Government Hospital. The vehicle was reportedly hit by a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG).

6th July - At about 9:40pm, a group of rebels attacked Oyuru village 6 km on Kitgum-Lira road. Killed one teacher and three other civilians, about ten huts were set ablaze. The rebels ir presence on Lira road was noticed until the early hours of Sunday morning, civilian traffic on Lira road was delayed until noon before they were flagged off.

7th July - Brought several attacks as highlighted below

  • At daybreak, LRA attacked Porogali 20km on Kitgum-Lira road. The army detach and IDPs' huts were set ablaze and unspecified shops were looted.

  • Rebels are said to have over-run Acholi-bur trading centre, 15km on Kitgum, Lira-Gulu Road, at about mid-day. They looted unspecified shops and retreated westwards. The LRA also reportedly attacked a UPDF detach before proceeding to Acholi-bur trading centre.

  • Between 12.00pm and 1.00pm, about 25 LRA rebels attacked Kitgum-Matidi township, Chua Sub-county Headquarters. Kitgum-Matidi is 15 km east of Kitgum town on Kitgum-Namokora/Kalongo road. Details are still scanty but the rebels reportedly killed Reverend on his way for a Sunday service.

  • A pick-up of the Kitgum Town Clerk travelling from Kitgum town to Kitgum-Matidi was ambushed 8km away and set ablaze. The Town Clerk and his family members survived the ambush and safely walked to Kitgum. Heavy gunshots and artilleries could be heard at the direction of Kitgum-Matidi at about 5.00pm. A helicopter gunship arrived into town late evening and flew to the direction of Kitgum-Matidi.

  • The rebels are also said to have Attacked Mucwini sub-county headquarters. Mucwini is 14-km north-east of Kitgum on Kitgum-Agoro road. The District Internal Security Officer (DISO) refuted this information and said he would require more time to confirm the rumour. However, the DISO Kitgum confirmed the attacks on the above mentioned trading centres. He added that their work is getting increasingly difficult due to lack of adequate forces on the ground, though reinforcements would be available shortly.
8th July - A civilian was reportedly abducted 2 km on Kitgum-Lira road. From Kitgum DISO's office, rebels are now scattered in the southern parts of Kitgum and utilize very sophisticated communication gadgets.

8th July - The Policemen captured by the rebels in Patongo attacks were set free, with a letter asking civilians to stop moving together with the army, and that the Government be informed that they (LRA) have come to stay.

Note:

  • The trends of the weekend attacks have instilled great fear in the residents of Pader/Kitgum Districts. Even soldiers are said to flee for safety together with civilians. As a result a huge number of civilians have opted to relocate to town for safety.

  • Because of the series of weekend attack on trading centres in Kitgum/Pader, there were rumours of an impending LRA attack on Kitgum town. Consequently, hundreds of civilians moved to town for safety.

  • The fact remains that civilians are overwhelmed by fear. It is also noticeable that there are few soldiers to guard civilians in and outside town and local officials have informed civilians over local FM radio to use their judgements on determining their security situation.
5th July - Rebels returned and burnt all remaining huts in Alero IDP camp and also reportedly instructed people to abandon camps. IDPs consequently fled without food and basic domestic necessities. The IDPs are reported to have moved in tow directions: one towards Gulu town and another towards Anaka IDP camp to the south west of Alero.

3rd July - Alero IDP camp, Gulu was attacked in the morning, UPDF detachment reported overrun, about 1060 huts burnt, unconfirmed reports of two people killed and an unknown number abducted, though mothers and the elderly were released.

2nd July - UPDF reportedly bombed an LRA site in Gulu District in Nwoya county, specifically Alero camp. A similar incident occurred in Kochgoma.

2nd July - a group of between 1900 and 2000 LRA rebels went through the main street of Kitgum town, but were later repulsed by UPDF. Causalities are yet unknown.

2nd July - another rebel group was sighted 2 km outside Pader District headquarters. Headquarter-staff moved to Achol pii refugee camp to be protected by the UPDF detachment at the camp. A third group of rebels was seen at Corner Kilak in Pader (Half way between Lira and Kitgum).

Currently, WFP is discussing alternative food distribution system in the camps. They are looking at spending less time in the camps so as not to expose their staff to unnecessary risk.

1 July - About 80-100 armed LRA rebels attacked Patongo town Pader district killing an estimated 14 civilians and 2 UPDF soldiers. 9 rebels were also reported killed in the incident.

29th June - About 50-80 LRA rebels attacked Purongo IDP camp, 45km on Gulu-Pakwach road. 8 people including a UPDF soldier were reportedly killed and 11 others injured.

28th June - An estimated 50-80 LRA rebels struck Purongo IDP camp and a UPDF military detachment at around 2.30am, about 45km along Gulu Pakwach Road. 8 people, including a UPDF soldier were reported killed and 11 injured, while 27 were abducted (figures are not yet clear).

26th June - an estimated 30 LRA attacked Coope trading centre in Aswa County, Gulu district. Three people were abducted, food was looted and shops broken into.

25th June, LRA attacked Anaka hospital in Nwoya county, shot and wounded the UPDF soldier on guard and stole the hospital's radio equipment.

Also on 25th June - LRA attacked Kitgum town at dawn. 15 houses were burnt and 2 people killed. UPDF were reportedly deployed in the town to beef up security after the attack.

24th June - An estimated 20-50 LRA attacked Iceme trading centre in Oyam North constituency, Apac District at 10.30am. 14 people were reportedly abducted, and a vehicle burnt. 13 people were rescued on 25th June by UPDF.

24th June - About 50 LRA attacked Lalogi Central Primary School, 37 miles from Gulu-Moroto Road at 9.00am, several pupils were reportedly abducted and forced to carry the loot.

24th June - LRA attack in a Kitgum town suburb- Hill Top has been reported. Four people were reported killed in the attack.

23rd June - Sudanese helicopter gunships bombed positions held by LRA in southern Sudan - Military sources say that Kony's bases in Nisitu and Ngangara were hit after an earlier attack by LRA on their army detachments (hence the bombing was a retaliatory attack). There were casualties on both sides. This is the second time in less than three months that Sudanese forces bomb Kony's positions in Southern Sudan.

23rd June - Camp residents of Mutema and Ober-abich in Amuru, Gulu reportedly fled the IDP/protected camps and are camping in Amuru Trading Centre, where there are a few soldiers left.

According to the LC3 Chairperson, the UPDF withdrew from the above areas on Sunday, 23rd June, leaving people vulnerable to LRA attacks. Though the 4th Division Deputy Commander, Col. Francis Okello said he wasn't aware of UPDF withdrawal from the said camps.

21st June - Pagak IDP camp leader (camp is a km from Anwar and approximately 20 km from Gulu town) reported that people from smaller camps in the area were coming to his camp, increasing the number of people from approximately 14 000 to about 20 000. Pagak camp has 7 soldiers on guard, giving IDPs a sense of security. The new influx is likely to cause problems of accommodation and food among others. At the time of reporting, they were using schools as temporary accommodation facilities. If the current fluid security situation continues, it is assumed other large camps to face the same problem.

21st June - An ambush on the Regional Police Commander's vehicle on Gulu-Kitgum road. One policeman killed. Rebels reportedly used RPG.

20th June - 6 people (two girls under 18) abducted a few hundred meters outside the Senior Quarter area in Gulu (approx. one km from Gulu town center). Rebels are said to have came with name list. This incident caused a lot of fear, and hundreds of people from nearby villages started spending nights in Gulu town. Those international organizations based outside town have also relocated Gulu town.

20th June - An ambush reported in Pajule, Kitgum.

19th June - UPDF detachment in Cwero, near the IDP camp, attacked by a great number of rebels. 3 UPDF reported killed.

18th June - An estimated 50 rebels attacked UPDF detachment in Pabbo, Kilak County. 2 UPDF killed. - Due to rebel activity, several roads in and out of the three northern districts of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader have been closed for periods of time, depending on the security in that part at the time. For example Lira-Kitgum, Gulu-Kitgum the UPDF also advises humanitarian agencies who have to work in the districts to use military escort.

17th June - UPDF soldiers shot in Omarowbi camp. In the attack, 500 huts burnt, 28 abducted. In another incident, a vehicle was ambushed at Bucoro between Paicho and Awac - 4 civilians killed.

From the above incidents, LRA targets seems to be:

Security forces (UPDF, LDU, Police); disruption of traffic on the roads; abducting young people to use them to carry looted goods and possibly to beef up the LRA forces. Some of the abductees have however been released after some time. It is without doubt though, that whatever the LRA's strategy, the attacks have caused fear and panic all over the northern region. And, as pointed out above, lack of accurate and timely information from Government only serves to fuel the terror.

LRA releases 108 abductees

A group of 77 children and 31 women were abandoned by the LRA in northern Gulu district on 13th June. The group was brought from Atiak, 60 km north of Gulu town, 30 km south of Nimule, Sudan, on Thursday night. They were taken to the 4th division barracks in Gulu, to the Child Protection Unit, where they were given food and new clothes and allowed to wash. UNICEF arrived at the barracks in the afternoon on Friday, 14th June, to negotiate immediate transfer of the children and their mothers to the reception centres. UPDF said they could not release the group until the registration process was complete. It had previously been indicated by UPDF that the group would be held for 'about a week'. However, it was then agreed that the group would be released on Saturday, 15th June, no doubt in part because the large group overwhelmed the resources of the Child Protection Unit of the UPDF. The group was released on the morning of 15th June, following a press conference with the Division Commander. He explained that operation 'Iron Fist' was now in its fourth stage, which would take place inside Uganda. The three previous stages had been

  • to attack the camps and rescue people (he confirmed this had failed when the operation was compromised as UPDF did not advance due to delays in the arrival of supplies),

  • dislodging LRA from the Acholi mountains and

  • dislodging LRA from the Imatong hills. He said Kony was now somewhere near Magwe in Sudan.
Majority of the children were under 10, while most of the mothers were under 25, several were under 18. Using the same distribution key as UNICEF/IOM has used in the past, it was agreed that the group would be divided as follows:

GUSCO (Gulu) - 21 children, 5 adults
WV (Gulu) - 13 children, 14 adults
WV (Pader) - 26 children, 5 adults
KICWA/IRC - (Kitgum) - 22 children, 7 adults

10 children were sent to hospital immediately, for malnutrition and eye infections. However, according to ACF, who participated in the assessments, the majority in the group were surprisingly well-fed.

The circumstances surrounding the release remain unclear, and the Deputy Chief of Military Intelligence, Maj. Kaija, who was present at the hand-over and met the UNICEF Representative, confirmed this. He admitted he could neither say why this group was released nor if more would come later. UNICEF visited the reception centers on 16th June and found that the children and women were doing well. Teams from WV Pader and IRC also arrived 16th June to take people back to their respective districts.

Sustained security in Rwenzoris encourages return

Focus on IDPs in Bundibugyo district

As a result of great reduction of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) threat, there has been prolonged improved security in Rwenzori region, particularly Bundibugyo District. As a direct result of security there is increasing return of IDPs to their homes or to smaller settlements near their homes of origin.

According to the last verification exercise done by WFP in February 2002, there were 87,000 IDPs in camps in Bundibugyo. However, current reports indicate that about 40,000 IDPs have left the camps and either gone home or to smaller settlements near their homes of origin. This means that there are about 47,000 IDPs left in camps. There have not been current verification exercises in the neighbouring districts of Kasese and Kabarole, but reports from district authorities and some agencies indicate that IDPs in here have either returned home or been integrated into the community. It has however been noted that those IDPs in camps in valleys are not moving back as fast as those on the mountain side, and this could possibly be because of the social changes experienced during the period of displacement; for example, some have started income generating activities that are keeping them in the camps. This brings out the fact that some IDPs may never leave the camps, which may then turn into rural trading centres and humanitarian agencies will then have to support Government in addressing the issue.

Improved security is not the only positive event in Bundibugyo. A recent food security survey by WFP revealed that 80 percent of what IDPs are feeding on is from their own means. Bundibugyo is unique in that one can get three crops a year and the weather has been much more favourable here than in other parts of the country. Additionally, vanilla, coffee and cocoa are grown in the district as cash crops. However cocoa growers need training on how to improve the crop and how to market it better. Currently, it is mostly the middle-men who are benefiting most from the cocoa. There is also a problem of increasing theft of cocoa in areas where it is grown and people are not living, but this is being addressed by the Resident District Commissioner's (RDC) office.

With the above positive trends, need for general food distribution has been greatly reduced and it is on this note that WFP stopped general food distribution in Bundibugyo on 5th July 2002. A three-month family ration will be distributed to IDPs who return and already, 1000 families who returned have received a ration for 45 days. In November 2001, WFP also distributed 6000 sickles, hoes and pick-axes along with seeds from COOPI. Through meetings with the various stakeholders in Bundibugyo, including district leadership, sub-county chiefs, and humanitarian agencies, WFP communicated its intentions to end general food distributions and all are in agreement with the move.

Other WFP programme's that will continue are:

  • The current school-feeding programme, which caters for 30,000 children in an estimated 51 schools in the district. By end of December 2002, WFP hopes to have covered an additional 30,000 children, thus covering the whole district, which has an estimated 60,000 school going children.

  • Food for asset programme which has two components - food for work and food for training (for example training in contour planting so as to improve the ecology of the district). WFP will start sensitisation on food for assets in the district in July.

  • Thirdly, WFP has plans to start a development project in agriculture and marketing in July and Bundibugyo is one of the target districts.
There are more needs to meet for IDPs as they return home; mainly agricultural inputs (seeds and agricultural tools) and construction material (i.e plastic sheeting and thatch material). WFP is a food aid organization and its financial resources are limited, it therefore has met just some of all the required interventions, and other humanitarian partners are urged to intervene. Consequently, WFP drafted a budget for the identified needed items as follows;
  • Agricultural tools $135,000 (includes 37,878 hoes; 18,939 axes and 18939 pangas)

  • Seeds - $212,841 - (includes beans, 115.4Mt; soya beans, 96Mt; Maize, 96Mt; upland rice 95 Mt)

  • Estimates for construction materials need to be done
There is need for other humanitarian agencies to come in and intervene in provision of the above needs

Review of Katakwi IDPs

Though Karimojong attacks in Katakwi in 2002 have greatly reduced and are more of thefts than raids, Katakwi still has 77,000 IDPs still in camps. This is 10 percent less than the 88,500 displaced by the 2000 violent raids. The most affected areas remain the two counties of Usuk and Kapelebyong and specifically, sub-counties immediately bordering Moroto District, namely Magoro, Ngariam, Usuk, Kapelebyong, Obalanga and Acowa. Due to improved security, the displaced have more access to their gardens. Below are some of the recommendations and findings from the assessment. (For the full report, please contact Jane Namulindwa in UN OCHA, Tel. 078242801/9 or 077 749 857)

Major recommendation included;

  • The issue of security is still top priority and it cannot be overemphasized. Without security, the IDP camps in Katakwi will always be a refuge for people fleeing from Karimojong attacks.

  • While disarmament is ongoing in Karamoja, the LDUs in Katakwi need to be beefed up, because reports show Karimojong still enter the district and steal cows. Due to the isolated incidents in 2002, people fear Karimojong attacks and this has kept them in the camps.

  • First season has been unfavourable not only to IDPs but throughout the district and below normal harvest is expected. The most affected population is that living in Usuk and Kapelebyong county and those in Amuria county, particularly the sub-counties immediately bordering Usuk and Kapelebyong. The inner sub-counties of Amuria have fair food security. There is therefore need for constant monitoring the food situation in light of the IDPs vulnerability and the poor first planting season.

  • Seeds - improved seeds - and tools will be needed for the next planting season.

  • Though there was a general improvement in the sanitation of the various camps, there is still a great need for sensitisation on hygiene in the camps, in particular the usage of latrines.

  • Most health clinics serving almost all camps visited are overwhelmed by numbers, the District should ensure that the mobile clinics are more widespread, such that camps that are far from the trading centres or sub-county headquarters benefit from basic medical services.

  • Due to the camps situation, the youth, especially the girls are more vulnerable to contracting STDS and HIV/AIDS and there is need for education and sensitisation to create HIV/AIDS awareness among camps residents.
Major findings included,
  • Generally, the improved security situation has enabled an estimated 10 percent of the 88,500 IDPs to return to their homes. IDPs want to go home, but are waiting for security.

  • Additionally, about 90 percent of the IDPs are able to access their gardens. However, how much is cultivated depends on the distance the IDPs have to walk to tend their gardens - this varies from 2-7km. Those who walk long distances can only cultivate limited acreage and they will consequently be more vulnerable to food insecurity.

  • LDUs have been reduced from 988 to 360 from neighbouring districts. These are inadequate, do not have relevant information on the terrain and language and are thus not as effective as they would be.

  • The most common health complaint in all camps visited was the rampant malaria. This was closely followed by diarrhoea and RTIs, mostly in children. However the general observation was of good physical health of the IDPs

  • The need for support to HIV/AIDs sensitisation campaigns to raise awareness on HIV/AIDs came up frequently.
Short Notes

Refugee issues

Towards end of May, there was a serious conflict occurred between two ethnic groups of refugees, the Acholis and the Lotukos, in Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, Masindi District. As a result, three Lotoku refugees were killed and 9 injured, some of them critically. Government took action and police and the army was deployed in substantial numbers, in and around the settlement. Some 1500 Lutukos fled from the settlement and camped at the County Head Quarters. As a result of the conflict many refugee houses were burnt down. The Office took prompt actions and non-food items (NFIs) were approved for the affected families. WFP also agreed to provide food to address the emergency situation. Timely interventions resulted in containing the situation, and bringing back normalcy by the end of May. However, efforts for ensuring peace are underway. It may be noted here that both the warring ethnic groups are from the southern Sudan.

Current food security conditions and outlook till July 2002

According to the FEWS NET June Newsletter, supplies of major staples are good in most districts of Uganda and ensure normal household food consumption. Results of the multi-agency assessment of IDPs in Kapelebyong and Usuk Counties, Katakwi District, indicate comparatively adequate household food and food security compared to the same period last year. Generally, normal levels of matooke (banana), millet, sorghum, root crops and tubers support adequate access to food for people in most districts of Uganda with no major household and national food security concerns until the next harvest in July.

Rainfall Conditions: An unexpected hiatus in rainfall intensity and distribution occurred in May, starting about the second week and lasting through the end of the month, interrupting well-distributed rainfall experienced in most of the country since April. According to district agriculture and Department of Meteorology officials, the nearly three weeks break in rainfall resulted in much below normal rainfall totals recorded in many districts and affected normal growth of seasonal crops, especially cereals -- maize, millet and sorghum. Department of Agriculture officials in Kotido, Moroto and Nakapiripirit Districts and NGOs active there also report a decline in rainfall amounts in these agro pastoral areas, where a slow onset of its unimodal season has been observed since April. The dry conditions have delayed normal farmers' cultivation activities and are a concern for the population. The decline in rainfall conditions since mid May for Karamoja Region's -- Kotido, Moroto and Nakapiripirit Districts -- single rainy season has slowed down cultivation of sorghum and other crops, causing concern for the agro pastoralists and district officials. FEWS NET reports that it is closely monitoring this region.

From a WFP June report, a prolonged dry spell in northeastern, northern and northwestern Uganda has affected the first season crops, which are reported to be suffering from severe moisture stress. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the weather forecast for the remaining months of the year indicates development of

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.