Ugandan army cautions displaced people not to rush into resettlement

News and Press Release
Originally published
KAMPALA, Aug 14, 2007 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The Ugandan army has advised internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Acholi sub-region in the northern part of the country not to return to their homes before the comprehensive peace agreement is signed at Juba talks.

General Aronda Nyakairima, the chief of defense forces, advised the IDPs, living in numerous camps in the region to go to satellite camps at parish level, as was recently recommended by the district disaster management and security committees.

"On the issue of decongestion, we (UPDF) are advising that before the peace agreement is signed, we must go slowly on the decongestion process," he was quoted by Daily Monitor on Tuesday as saying.

About 400,000 IDPs in Acholi land had by June moved to transit sites closer to their homes, while 55,000 had moved back to their villages, according to a report by the inter-agency committee.

Nyakairima said the displaced could only go to their homesteads to prepare land for cultivation and build some houses but must return to the transit camps in the evening.

"In Gulu and Amuru districts, 88,000 IDPs have left the bigger IDP camps and moved to the transit sites, while in Kitgum district 77,000 IDPs have gone to the satellite areas," the report said.

According to the report, 194,000 people in Pader district have moved closer to their villages.

Gulu and Amuru districts had 120-newly created transit sites, Kitgum 69 and Pader 171, the report further noted.

The two-decade insurgency of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has displaced over 1.4 million people in northern Uganda. Acholi region is among the worst-hit areas of the prolonged conflict characterized by rampant abductions, torture and killing of civilians by the rebels.

A recent survey involving almost 3,000 adults in the districts of Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Lira, Oyam, Soroti and Amuria, showed that over one third, or 37 percent of adults interviewed in Acholi, Lango and Teso regions said they had been abducted by the LRA.

The survey carried out between April and June 2007 by the Human Rights Center of the University of California Berkeley, the Payson Center for International Development of the Tulane University, and the New York-based International Center for Transitional Justice.

Among the respondents, 21 percent said they had been abducted for at least one week, 13 percent for at least one month, and 2 percent for at least one year.

Earlier studies mainly focused on children abducted by the LRA, to be used as combatants or sex slaves, have estimated their numbers to be between 25,000 and 66,000.

The Acholi suffered the highest rate of abduction, with almost one in two (49 percent) spending some time in captivity, followed by the Langi (25 percent) and the Teso (4 percent).

As relative peace returned to the north after the rebel group and government were engaged in peace talks in Juba, southern Sudan, last year, IDPs were encouraged to return home in some areas while in other districts they were involved in a decongestion plan in the first phase.