Uganda + 1 more

Uganda: NRC country programmes

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The Norwegian Refugee Council has the following goals for its work in Uganda:
  • Improve the living conditions of internally displaced persons

  • Contribute to the return of internally displaced persons

  • Promote internally displaced persons' rights

  • Help strengthen schooling for children and young people
This is what we are doing:
  • Distributing food to internally displaced persons in the Gulu and Kitgum provinces in northern Uganda, in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP)

  • Providing teacher training, rehabilitation of schools and development of teaching pedagogy for children in conflict areas

  • Information, advice and legal assistance for returned internally displaced persons
Recent developments in projects:

The Norwegian Refugee Council's efforts in Uganda are concentrated on distribution of food and support for basic education in the northerly parts of the country, where several hundred thousand people are still displaced and living in protected villages. This is a result of more than 15 years of war between rebel movements and the government. In 2002, the food distribution programme will be expanded to also include school dinners - the "School Feeding" project, which has had positive effects on attendance at school and performance, especially among girls.

For two years now, the Norwegian Refugee Council has been running a training project for school teachers. The goal of the project is to inform pedagogues about the special situation facing pupils and teachers that have lived in close contact with acts of violence and conflicts for many years. Another important aspect of this project is the construction and rehabilitation of school buildings. An external evaluation of the project was carried out in 2001, which recommended that the project be extended by at least one year.

The political situation is still unstable, and the military is unable to provide the population with the necessary protection from attacks by rebels. Former residential and agricultural areas have been destroyed and are overgrown. Once security improves in the area and people can start to return to their former homes, assistance will be needed to re-establish agriculture (tools and seed), and support to rehabilitate homes and water posts.

In association with Legal Aid in Uganda and other local organizations, the Norwegian Refugee Council is currently establishing a scheme for internally displaced persons in the northern areas that includes information about their rights and free legal aid. Very many of the internally displaced persons know very little about their rights and do not have the means to use the normal legal system. Uganda has recently introduced new agricultural legislation, which will mean that many people will need advice and legal aid in connection with returning to their homes and new settlement.

Recent developments - the conflict and the refugee situation

The war between the government and the rebel movement the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda escalated in 1998. However, in the first half of 1999 there were signs of a positive development. In May 1999, Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, offered amnesty to members of the LRA, and many LRA members turned themselves in. In the wake of this, plans were prepared to help internally displaced persons to return to their homes. However, because of the escalation of the rebel activities from December 1999, the return process has not yet started. The rebels have not taken advantage of the promise of amnesty, and although the attacks are less serious now than in 2000, the situation is still unstable in northern Uganda. The peace talks that were resumed in April 2001 have not led to any concrete results, and the situation has been marked by heavy clashes - first and foremost in the southern part of Sudan. There have also been random attacks in northern Uganda, and as yet there are no signs of improvement. A large majority of the population still live as internally displaced persons in so-called "protected villages".

These camps or "protected villages" were established by the Government in 1996 as a temporary solution to the serious security problems prevailing in the area. They have now existed for more than five years and the living conditions are constantly deteriorating. In October, the Government, waiting to pursue its military campaign against the LRA, ordered the local population back into the camps, thus worsening their already significant suffering. Peace talks, though apparently wanted by both sides, have made little or no progress and the future seems more and more uncertain for the increasing number of IDPs.

In December 1999, Sudan and Uganda entered into an agreement that was supposed to prevent support for the LRA and SPLA's rebel activities. However, this has had little or no effect on the conflict. Uganda is militarily active in the war in the Congo (DRC) and has shown little capacity to protect its northern areas against Sudan, despite the recent attacks.

The conflict has led to more than 600 000 Ugandans having to flee internally within the country. According to Amnesty International, the LRA has abducted 11 000 children, who have been forced to fight or serve the soldiers. These children are subject to serious abuse.

Yoweri Museveni was re-elected as president in March 2001.

Background

The peace and progress in southern parts of Uganda form a stark contrast to the civil war in the north, where the LRA has terrorized the population since 1986. In response to Uganda's support of the rebel movement Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), the Sudanese authorities have provided the LRA with weapons, given them financial support and allowed them to set up bases on Sudanese territory. The LRA is probably wholly dependent on support from the Sudanese authorities. The rebels have no political goals other than wanting to govern Uganda according to the Ten Commandments, which is absurd in the light of the suffering the LRA inflicts on the civilian population. 90 % of LRA is made up of child soldiers, and most of the leaders were probably soldiers in their childhood.