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UN calls for peaceful resolution of northern conflict

5/14/2005 6:10am

NAIROBI, 13 May 2005 (IRIN) - The UN Security Council has condemned atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in northern Uganda and called for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The Council president for May, Danish Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Lّj, told reporters following a briefing by UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, that Council members hoped for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

She encouraged the government of Uganda to seek and facilitate such a solution. Members of the Council, she added, condemned atrocities committed by the LRA and called on the rebels to cease all acts of violence and enter into peace negotiations.

Egeland told the Council on Tuesday: "The Security Council should strongly restate its support for a peaceful resolution of the crisis, and demand that the LRA immediately cease its violence and enter into a ceasefire agreement."

The Ugandan government, he added, should be encouraged to be unwavering in its commitment to seek and facilitate a peaceful end to the insurgency.

In November 2004, the Ugandan government started negotiations with the LRA, mediated by former minister for northern pacification, Betty Bigombe, but the talks reached an impasse in February when a unilateral government ceasefire ended and the chief rebel spokesman, Sam Kolo, surrendered.

Egeland said: "The end of the ceasefire has been accompanied by an increase in violence, and by several horrific incidents in which civilians were mutilated by the LRA.

"Insecurity is preventing humanitarian agencies from expanding basic services to the 1.4 million IDPs [internally displaced persons] and IDPs from increasing cultivation and food production," he added.

Despite the prevailing violence, he said, the UN had continued to increase its activities related to the protection of civilians. The UN Children’s Fund, for example, was reinforcing its child-protection team.

The UN was also helping the government to establish a national IDP policy, Egeland said, and the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights was setting up a team of international field monitors.

Egeland stressed the need for reintegration programmes to be made more attractive in order to draw LRA fighters out of the bush. He said that more resources were needed to strengthen "pull factors" for demobilization and reintegration of young LRA fighters.

"At present, those who escape, surrender or are freed go to reception centers which can hold up to 700 people at a time," he said. "However, once people leave the centres and go home, there are not enough reintegration services or programmes for them.

"I would ask member states to earmark more resources to develop the necessary programmes for disarmament and reintegration which we can then broadcast to those locked in the vicious cycle of violence in the bush," he added.

The LRA has fought the Uganda government since 1988, waging a brutal campaign that has displaced more than 1.4 million people. The rebels have particularly targeted children, abducting thousands of young boys and girls for recruitment into its ranks, or to be turned into "wives" for LRA commanders.

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