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Posts Tagged ‘LRA’

Loosing all hope – a wish to commit suicide

Posted by African Press International on August 31, 2013

– When Uganda resident  Rose Lamwaka had two sons abducted by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) 10 years ago she felt she had lost all hope. “I w as feeling a lot of pain, I was feeling like committing suicide,” says the 51-year-old widow with seven grandchildren.

Last week, Lamwaka joined hundreds from the northern district of Lamwo to remember their abducted children, still missing from the decades-long civil war between the LRA and the government. More than 200 family members with relatives still unaccounted for read the names of their lost ones in a ceremony of prayer and song.

Northern Uganda was the epicentre of a legacy of violence, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says the number of people abducted since the war started in the late 1980s ranges between 52,000 and 75,000. Though Uganda has been free from LRA attacks since 2006, and a number of former child soldiers have returned, the ICRC estimates thousands remain missing from the north as a result of the conflict.

“Because there is no official figure of those missing, we had to extrapolate on what we found here,” said Camilla Matteucci, ICRC protection coordinator. “And our projection is that at least 10,000 people are still missing in northern Uganda.”

Left behind

The commemoration in Uganda not only acknowledged those still missing but also marked the end of a four-month community counselling pilot programme for more than 200 affected family members of the abducted in Lamwo District. As that project initially targeted only one sub-county, it used those affected families as a baseline to extrapolate the total number that have gone missing across the northern region.

According to Beatrice Ocaya, the local women’s councillor in Lamwo, the ceremony was an important step in recognizing the ongoing support needed by families torn apart by the LRA conflict.

“There is no longer war, but some parents are ever crying,” she said.

ICRC says relatives left behind have been silently suffering with ambiguous loss, and the isolation that breeds has far-reaching social and economic impacts on populations still recovering from conflict.

“They don’t know if the person is alive or dead, if they’re still with the armed group, which also puts a stigma on the family, and therefore it’s hard for them to deal with the community at large,” Matteucci said.

For Lamwaka, the group brought her relief, and support from her community. “Other people are really understanding, they sympathize and care,” she told IRIN.

A global loss

To mark the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on 30 August, the ICRC has released a handbook to call for a broader global response to the families of those missing in conflict and natural disasters. The handbook draws on more than 10 years of similar ICRC projects, from the Balkans, to Nepal and Timor-Leste – all countries where thousands have gone missing with families left behind to bear the burden – and provides an understanding of what families of missing persons go through. It also acts as a practical guide for local “accompaniers” from the community, trained by ICRC to counsel peer support groups to be able to share experiences and coping mechanisms.

“Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are separated from loved ones in such situations,” said Marianne Pecassou, head of the ICRC team dealing with missing persons, in a statement. “The families will tell you that what they need more than anything else is to find out what happened to the person who vanished. Unfortunately, in too many cases, that question may never be resolved. But they also have other needs that go far beyond this.”

According to ICRC, during the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, they received more than 34,000 tracing requests from families searching for answers.

Legal issues such as inheritance and property rights, the financial stress of searching for the lost while supporting a household, as well as the psychological trauma of loss have devastated communities already scarred by conflict.

According to Milena Osorio, ICRC’s mental health and psychosocial support adviser, psychological needs such as emotional isolation, feelings of guilt, anger, depression or trauma, and tensions among family members or with members of their communities are common.

“The families of missing people frequently find themselves grappling with uncertainty. Most societies have religious or cultural rituals to deal with death,” said Ms Osorio in the statement, “but there is very little to help the families of missing persons.”

In May, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged member states to join an international treaty aimed at “eliminating enforced disappearances and stop impunity for this scourge”.

pc/kr/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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“Big and important opportunity for reconciliation” Museveni government reinstates Rebel amnesty

Posted by African Press International on June 1, 2013

Photo: Voxcom/IRIN
At least 26,000 members of armed groups, mostly from the LRA, have been granted amnesty (file photo)

GULU,  – Civil society in northern Uganda has welcomed the reinstatement of legislation granting blanket amnesty to members of armed groups who surrender.

Key sections of Uganda’s Amnesty Act were allowed to lapse in May 2012, meaning that members of armed groups, notably the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), no longer automatically escaped prosecution if they willingly abandoned their armed struggle.

Earlier this month, these sections of the act were reinstated and will remain in force for two years. Only top LRA commanders are ineligible for amnesty.

“We will endeavour to make known widely the decision of the government to restore the amnesty and will play our part to encourage any person still involved in armed rebellion to take advantage of the amnesty, which is a gesture of reconciliation and goodwill on the part of the people of Uganda,” said of a press statement by a coalition of civil society organizations in northern Uganda.

The region has yet to recover from decades of conflict.

“Big opportunity”

“Restoring the amnesty law in its totality is a big opportunity for the country to answer prayers for people, particularly in northern Uganda, crying for their person still held in captivity by the Lord’s Resistance [Army] rebels,” noted Stephen Oola, a transitional justice and governance advocate with Makerere University’s Refugee Law Project.

“We hope that it [the amnesty law] will stay to achieve its main objectives of facilitating a peaceful end of conflict and reintegration of rebels back to their communities. This therefore demands for all actors to engage in credible solutions to peacefully end the LRA conflict,” he said.

“I have been living in fear knowing that somebody from this village would take me to court because you know when you are in the LRA doing bad things is hard to avoid.”

Janet Awor, who abandoned the LRA in 2012 and returned to her village of Awor, in northern Uganda, said: “I have been living in fear knowing that somebody from this village would take me to court because you know when you are in the LRA doing bad things is hard to avoid.”

She continued, “Now I need to go and check if my certificate is ready at the amnesty office in Gulu, because I had applied for it at the office of the Amnesty Commission upon my arrival in Kampala.”

The act has granted blanket amnesty to more than 26,000 members of armed groups, mostly from the LRA, since it came into force in 2000.

Uneven application?

In Uganda, former LRA mid-level commander Thomas Kwoyelo is being triedfor war crimes in the first case of its kind before the High Court’s International Crime Division.

The trial has been viewed by some analysts as a case of selective justice; former high-ranking LRA commanders, such as Brig Kenneth Banya and Brig Sam Kolo Otto, have all received amnesty, according to Human Rights Watch.

Another LRA leader, Caesar Acellam Otto, who was captured by the Ugandan army in the Central Africa Republic in May 2012, has also not benefited from the amnesty.

Accelam’s wife, Nightly Akot, who was captured alongside him said: “Let him be [set] free because he is no different from other senior LRA commanders enjoying the amnesty.”

ca/aw/am/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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The Coup in CAR will not stop the hunt for Kony

Posted by African Press International on April 14, 2013

Wanted

KAMPALA, (IRIN) – The search for the Ugandan rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the rainforests of the Central African Republic (CAR) will continue despite the ouster of President François Bozizé by rebel group Séléka, officials say.

Séléka overran the capital, Bangui, on 24 March, putting Bozizé to flight. The rebels named their leader, Michel Djotodjia, the new head of state.

“I don’t think the overthrow of President Bozizé by Séléka will change our mission and position in the hunt down of LRA rebels. We are in CAR with the mandate from [the] AU [African Union] and UN [United Nations],” Uganda’s state minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem, told IRIN, adding that his country is committed to capturing LRA leader Joseph Kony.

Uganda has some 2,500 soldiers deployed around the border areas of CAR, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, where Kony and his fighters are thought to spend most of their time. The Ugandan troops are joined by 500 Congolese fighters, 500 South Sudanese and 350 CAR troops, all operating under the auspices of the AU. In late 2011, the US deployed 100 special forces to the region as military advisers to the effort.

Ploughing on

According to Thierry Vircoulon, Central Africa project director for the think tank International Crisis Group (ICG), “the fall of Bozizé will not change much the situation on the ground, except if the Séléka leaders insist on the departure of the foreign troops as stipulated in the Libreville agreement [a peace agreement brokered in January and breached by the latest fighting? but never successfully implemented].”

Potential problems

Some analysts say, however, that the AU’s decision to suspend CAR from the organization following the coup could have negative consequences for the hunt for the LRA.

“The AU’s suspension of CAR poses a great challenge and will slow down the hunt for Kony and his rebels. Uganda has to re-negotiate with Séléka rebels… in order for its troops to have the mandate to operate in their territory,” Ronald Ssekandi, a regional political analyst based in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, told IRIN.

Angelo Izama, a political affairs analyst at the US-based Open Society Foundation, said the hunt for Kony and the LRA would largely depend on Séléka’s control of the country.

“The deterioration of government in CAR is a significant complication for the hunt against Joseph Kony. The LRA’s asymmetrical, low-tech survival strategy thrives in conditions of lawlessness and violence, especially in the hinterland,” he told IRIN.

The LRA continues to cause death, displacement and damage in the region (file photo)

“Already the geographical terrain, as well as the size of CAR, has been a practical constraint against the forces hunting Kony. If Séléka is unable to consolidate control, it would further the physical and tactical net within which LRA can seek opportunities to rebuild weapons caches,” he added. “The Séléka rebels do not have the capacity [to limit LRA activities]… In addition, Kony is not their problem; there are much more important emergencies to deal with.”

According to Lt Gen Edward Katumba Wamala, commander of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces’ (UPDF) Land Forces, Kony’s fighters currently number about 400, and they continue to roam around CAR, DRC, Sudan and South Sudan. He said some LRA defectors recently reported that Kony was in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, while his senior commanders, Dominic Ongwen and Okot Odhiambo, are thought to be in CAR.

Kony, Odhiambo and Ongwen are wanted by the International Criminal Court(ICC) for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Uganda.

LRA still a threat

“The LRA no longer pose a big threat, but there are still [a] few pockets of LRA rebels operating in CAR under Odhiambo and Ongwen. They are a nuisance. They have continued to abduct, maim and kill unarmed people,” Katumba told IRIN.

“It is important to recall that, despite [the] relatively small number of remaining elements, the LRA continues to pose a serious threat to civilians, with dire humanitarian consequences, in the affected areas in CAR, DRC and South Sudan,” Abou Moussa, head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), told IRIN via email.

In February, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairsreported that in the country’s southeast, “there has been an increase in the LRA attacks against communities and hostages being taken.”

According to LRA Crisis Tracker, the LRA was responsible for 13 civilian deaths and 17 abductions in CAR February 2013. UNOCA says an estimated 443,000 people are currently displaced in LRA-affected areas, many of them depending on international assistance for food, shelter, health care, water and sanitation. This includes an estimated 347,000 people in Province Orientale’s Haut-Uélé and Bas-Uélé districts in DRC.

Fatou Bensouda, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, recently sent a message to the LRA, assuring them that, should they be arrested, they would not be “tortured or killed” and would receive a fair trial.

Commitment to the cause

Analysts say if the LRA threat is to be laid to rest once and for all, countries in the region must show more commitment to finding Kony.

“It requires committed governments to arrest Kony. The ICC can only base its optimism in this practical possibility. There is no government in CAR, soft states in South Sudan and Chad, and support for LRA from Sudan. It’s plausible that the situation above favours the LRA and not the ICC,” said Open Society Foundation’s Izama.

“Kony’s continued existence, and that of his entire group, is part of a much larger problem in the Great Lakes region: failure by governments to resolve internal political problems and to work together in a concerted way to bring to an end cross-border insurgencies in the region,” said Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a political scientist and senior research fellow at Makerere University’s Institute of Social Research. “Their proliferation points to the existence of problems or grievances that ought to be addressed – questions to do with citizenship and nationality, land ownership, access to services and opportunity.”

so/kr/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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