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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Monday 8 March 2004

UGANDA: EC gives 6 million, rues criticism of statement on northern war

KAMPALA, 8 Mar 2004 (IRIN) - The EC is to provide 6 million (about US $7.5 million) for northern, central and eastern Uganda, where, it says, about 1.4 million people are displaced, 20,000 child and adult night commuters flee villages to seek refuge in camps and towns, and 10,000 children have been abducted by the rebel Lords Resistance Army (LRA).

The funding, to be channelled through the EC humanitarian office (ECHO), will be used to fund health and nutrition programmes, immunisation and vaccination campaigns, HIV/AIDS awareness, food security, water and sanitation. It will also support provision of shelter, blankets, jerry cans and tarpaulins, and landmine awareness, child-soldier rehabilitation and childhood education in a displaced environment.

"The context for the delivery of humanitarian aid remains a highly volatile one; often access to the population in need is restricted, and this has encouraged ECHO to develop a window of opportunity approach, whereby the partner reaches beneficiaries when a lull in hostilities permits," the EC said in a statement issued on Monday.

Meanwhile, the EC in Uganda has expressed regret over criticism in the media by a Ugandan junior minister and an army spokesman, who lashed out at its delegate for supporting a parliamentary resolution declaring northern Uganda a humanitarian disaster area.

The Irish ambassador in the capital, Kampala, Martin OFainin, who represents the EC's rotating presidency, told IRIN that the comments made to journalists by the junior security minister, Betty Akech, and the army spokesman, Maj Shaban Bantariza, last week regarding a statement from the EC, were "regrettable".

"It was very personal. Sigurd Illing [the EC delegate to Uganda] had brought that statement on behalf of all the diplomats in the EC delegation. He wasn't representing himself," O'Fainin told IRIN on Friday.

O'Fainin added that the EC delegation to Uganda had "yet to be contacted by anyone" from the Ugandan government complaining about their support for the resolution. "If the government has a complaint to make, they can summon one of us to discuss this or else attend our meetings," he said.

Akech accused Illing of breaching the diplomatic code of conduct by issuing a statement in solidarity with parliament. "There are no foreign missions in the world that just go into people's sitting rooms," Akech told journalists. "They should not just enter everywhere into our politics."

The diplomatic spat between government officials and the EC followed a parliamentary resolution on 25 February, which MPs said was intended to ease humanitarian access to the Acholi, Lang'o and Teso regions, where the 18-year old war between the government and LRA continues.

But President Yoweri Museveni rejected the resolution at a press conference in Kampala on 3 March, saying most of the north was "OK". According to the president, incidents like the massacre of more than 200 internally displaced people by the LRA at Barlonyo on 21 February were isolated. Barlonyo is near the northern town of Lira, 380 km north of Kampala,

"We couldnt support that position, because the problem is shrinking. To declare this area a disaster area - what are you trying to achieve?" Museveni asked. He went on to tell the journalists present that limits on defence spending imposed on Uganda by donors were partly to blame for the continuation of the war.

Museveni's repeated criticism of donors had earlier prompted a statement signed by 17 ambassadors to Uganda rejecting the assertion that donors' restrictions on defence expenditure had constrained the army's capacity to defend citizens from rebel attacks. "Donors agreed exceptional increases in defence spending last year that were related to combating the LRA," the ambassadors' statement said. "[But] it is the obligation of government to protect the lives and property of its people."

"The conflict which causes such suffering must be resolved," it stressed. Nearly half of Uganda's budget is funded by foreign sources, including donors who have insisted in the past that defence expenditure should be kept to a minimum.

Northern Uganda has suffered extensively from the LRA insurgency, spearheaded by rebels who claim they want to topple the government. Apart from the displaced, thousands of people are estimated to have been killed by the LRA, most of them civilians. The displaced live in congested makeshift camps, with inadequate food, water, sanitation or medicine.

Last November, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Jan Egeland visited the region and declared it "one of the worlds worst humanitarian crises".

Led by mystic recluse, Joseph Kony, the rebels abduct children to swell their ranks - boys to fight and girls, to serve as sex slaves. Religious leaders in the region have urged Museveni's government to seek dialogue with the rebels, but Museveni insists he will defeat them militarily.


This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004

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