UGANDA: Appeal for help for LRA victims, ex-rebels

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Impoverished victims of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and former rebels being reintegrated into the community in northern Uganda need urgent support as the region recovers from more than two decades of conflict, an official of the European Union (EU) has said.

On a visit to the northern town of Gulu on 22 July, Vincent de Visscher, head of the EU delegation to Uganda, said the reintegration of former LRA combatants was being hindered by the high level of poverty and called for more donor support.

On the resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Acholi sub-region, De Visscher said some progress had been made but health services, schools and clean water were still needed, as was opening up roads to villages where people were settling.

Tackling these issues would help reduce the level of poverty and normalise life in the affected communities, he added.

In response to De Visscher's concerns, legislators and local leaders from northern Uganda said they would soon table a bill in the Ugandan parliament which, if passed, would see all victims of the LRA conflict compensated.

"People in northern Uganda with severed body parts and those directly affected by the conflict should be compensated so that they live a meaningful life," Okello Okello, chairman of the Acholi Parliamentary Group, said.

At least 1,500 people have been registered by the northern Uganda presidential adviser, Richard Todwong, from the Acholi sub-region with disabilities arising from the conflict.
Some of the victims who talked to IRIN at Awer IDP camp on 21 July complained of difficulties earning a living because they were unable to work in their fields due to disability.

De Visscher also launched a 500 million shilling (US$315,000) conflict resolution programme for northern Uganda, aimed at fostering dialogue among communities in the district as well as those neighbouring northern Uganda who have also been affected by the conflict.

The programme will help reconcile the communities and support traditional mechanisms of justice as well as the reintegration of ex-LRA combatants.

"We are all committed to work so that we can have a healing process for the victims of the conflict and restore hope to the people," Norbert Mao, the Gulu district chairman, said. "This is the only way to pacify this region and avoid future conflict."