Northern Uganda crisis affecting regional security

Statement attributable to Mr. Dennis McNamara, Director of the Inter-Agency Internal Displacement Division of OCHA
Kampala/Geneva, 17 March 2006 - A recent multi-donor mission to Uganda, led by Dennis McNamara, Director of the Inter-Agency Internal Displacement Division of OCHA, has expressed serious concern at the regional impact of the ongoing conflict in the northern part of the country.

McNamara concluded a week long mission in Uganda, accompanied by representatives of Canada, the European Commission, Norway, Sweden, UK and the US, where he met senior government officials, UN agencies, NGOs and community leaders, both in Kampala and in conflict-affected districts of Gulu and Kitgum.

During the mission, McNamara confirmed that the situation of almost two million civilians displaced during the 20 year conflict with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) was one of the world's most serious humanitarian crisis, with crude mortality rates among displaced children in northern Uganda higher than those prevailing in Darfur and three times that of the rest of Uganda.

The mission discussed with the Government of Uganda the need for a comprehensive approach for the resolution of this long lasting conflict, to be implemented by the Government with supported by the international community. The comprehensive approach covers key areas of conflict resolution and reconciliation, humanitarian assistance, return and reintegration of formerly abducted children and ex-combatants.

"The UN agencies and NGOs working in northern Uganda to provide humanitarian relief to the displaced families are scaling up their activities to meet the minimum standards for displaced populations while facilitating voluntary return to secure areas" said the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Kampala, Martin Mogwanja. He revealed that humanitarian agencies would soon launch a further substantial appeal to donors to ensure the implementation of the scaled up response.

The delivery of humanitarian assistance in southern Sudan, particularly in West Equatoria, is seriously affected by the LRA activity. It is estimated that the LRA has more fighters in southern Sudan and north eastern DRC than in northern Uganda. Insecurity is threatening to disrupt the repatriation process of Sudanese refugees from DRC and CAR to their homes in southern Sudan.

As recently as Wednesday 15 of March, unknown intruders attacked a UNHCR compound in Yei, resulting in the tragic death of one guard and serious wounds inflicted to two others. "This attack just underscores the difficulties UNHCR faces in our operations in South Sudan where we are trying to create an environment for thousands of refugees in neighbouring countries to be able to return home and stay home," the UN refugee agency's High Commissioner António Guterres in a press statement.

The LRA is considered responsible for the January attack on MONUC peacekeeping troops in Garamba National Park in north eastern DRC, which resulted in the death of 8 Guatemalan peacekeepers.

In response to this serious problem, the UN is proposing that all aspects of this issue, including the humanitarian aspect, be more systematically addressed. Jan Egeland, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, will visit Uganda on 30 and 31 March, at the invitation of the Government of Uganda to discuss this approach and follow up with senior Ugandan officials.

"This is an important first attempt by the UN to go beyond relief assistance and to try and develop a comprehensive plan of action for the northern Ugandan crisis" said McNamara.


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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