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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
13 January 2006

UGANDA: Year in Brief 2005 - A chronology of key events

NAIROBI, 13 Jan 2006 (IRIN) -

January February March April
May June July August
September October November December


1 Jan - President Yoweri Museveni declares a resumption of the war against the rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), dashing hopes that a unilateral ceasefire and the first face-to-face talks in 10 years between the government and the insurgents in November 2004 could lead to a peaceful solution to the 19-year conflict in the north of the country. Civil society organisations and the international community put pressure on the government to resume peace talks.

9 Jan - The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Sudanese government in Khartoum and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) rekindles hope that peace in southern Sudan could help resolve the war in northern Uganda, as LRA leader Joseph Kony operates from bases in southern Sudan. SPLM/A leader John Garang de Mabior promises action and says the LRA will be "treated as enemies of the united Sudan."

13 Jan - Museveni reshuffles his cabinet, a move observers say will strengthen his hold on power and minimise disagreements in government ahead of a crucial national debate over the lifting of presidential term limits.

14 Jan - The government warns of serious food shortages in the northeastern Karamoja region, where 70 percent of some 700,000 pastoralists are estimated to be in need of food. The United Nations World Food Programme announces that it has already started feeding 60,000 children under the school-feeding programme and will feed up to 500,000 people in the region by June.

15 Jan - The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that the number of people forced by fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to flee to Uganda has now reached 15,000. The refugees are escaping clashes between Mayi-Mayi militias and Congolese rebels in Ituri, a district in the northeast of the DRC that has been the scene of fighting in recent years. At least 10,000 refugees return to the DRC by the end of January.

18 Jan - The Ugandan health ministry warns that children in northern districts could face the risk of contracting polio, following a reported outbreak of the disease in neighbouring Sudan. The ministry announces a plan to conduct two rounds of supplementary polio vaccinations, targeting children up to 5 years, in the districts bordering Sudan.

24 Jan - Three people are killed and 30,000 left homeless following a wave of fires that strike a number of camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the north. The camps are home to more than 1.6 million people displaced by the war.

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1 Feb - Uganda denies allegations in a UN report that it had continued to violate a UN-imposed arms embargo in eastern DRC. The report claims that eastern DRC is the pawn of Uganda and Rwanda, as well as renegade army troops, militia leaders and "shadowy" businessmen, all of whom have routinely violated the 2003 embargo.

3 Feb - The government declares a limited 18-day truce with the LRA in a bid to revive the flagging peace process. During the ceasefire, chief rebel spokesman Brig Sam Kolo surrenders to the Ugandan army. The ceasefire ends on 22 February with no significant gains.

14 Feb - The government drops two controversial constitutional amendment proposals that seek to give the president power to dissolve parliament.

22 Feb - Some 6,000 IDPs are left homeless when fires gut camps in the northern district of Gulu.

24 Feb - The government launches a new IDP policy to guide the country's management of displaced populations, as well as improve their quality of life.

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15 Mar - Leaders from the north arrive in The Hague to ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to refrain from issuing arrest warrants against LRA leaders. In 2004, the ICC initiated investigations into northern Uganda and then announced plans to issue arrest warrants for the top leadership of the LRA, including Kony. Local leaders fear the warrants would jeopardise the peace process.

30 Mar - New York-based lobby group Human Rights Watch criticises Uganda's policy shift towards "abstinence-only programmes" to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS, saying it could reverse significant gains made in the fight against the pandemic. Uganda had been widely acclaimed for its success in the fight against HIV/AIDS, managing to bring prevalence rates down from more than 20 percent in the late 1980s to around 6 percent currently.

31 Mar - Seventeen demonstrators, protesting proposals that would allow Museveni to seek a third term in office, are arrested in the capital, Kampala.

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11 Apr - The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague begins hearing a case brought by the DRC accusing Uganda of invading its territory and committing human rights violations. The DRC is seeking "compensation from Uganda in respect of all acts of looting, destruction, removal of property."

20 Apr - UNHCR says some 1,118 Rwandans have crossed into southwestern Uganda since 1 April. They are thought to be fleeing arrest and prosecution by Rwanda's traditional justice tribunals, or gacaca, which were set up to try suspects of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which an estimated 937,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered. Over 1,100 of the asylum-seekers are later denied asylum by the Ugandan government and advised to return home.

29 Apr - Great Britain announces that it will withhold some £5 million (US $9.6 million) in budgetary support for the Ugandan government over concerns about the progress of the country’s political transition. Ugandan opposition groups welcome the move, but the government insists the transition is being handled in a transparent manner.

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18 May - The World Bank gives Uganda $4.2 million to fund a project to resettle an estimated 11,000 former rebel fighters. In 2000, the Ugandan government enacted an amnesty law that granted unconditional amnesty to any Ugandan engaged in armed rebellion who surrendered and denounced violence.

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8 June - Museveni pledges to forgive Kony if he surrenders to government forces, assuring him that he will receive the same treatment and immunity from prosecution as other former LRA commanders such as former rebel spokesman Kolo.

17 June - UNHCR reports that at least 7,000 Sudanese refugees have crossed into Uganda fleeing ethnic tension and food shortages, joining some 160,000 Sudanese refugees already living in the country.

28 June - Police use tear gas and water cannons to disperse dozens of demonstrators in Kampala protesting a plan to amend the constitution to remove presidential term limits.

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8 July - The Ugandan army reports that three weeks earlier it had killed Ali Kony, eldest son of LRA leader Joseph Kony, and rebel chief-of-staff Maj Gen Lakati Owor.

20 July - Uganda achieves its targets for the number of HIV-positive people accessing antiretroviral (ARV) therapy six months earlier than anticipated. It had intended to have 60,000 people on the life-prolonging drugs by the end of 2005, but by July over 65,000 were receiving the treatment.

21 July - At least 40 armed Ugandan cattle rustlers are killed by Kenyan warriors and security forces when they cross into neighbouring Kenya to raid cattle. The incident reinforces the need to disarm the Kenya-Uganda border communities, which are notorious for cattle rustling and violence.

28 July - Ugandans vote overwhelmingly in a national referendum to repeal a two-decade ban on political parties. Opposition parties boycott the poll, saying there could never be any justification for putting to a vote the fundamental right of association and assembly.

30 July - John Garang, newly appointed Sudanese vice- president and SPLM/A leader, dies in a helicopter crash en route to Sudan following a visit to Museveni. He is widely mourned, and fears arise that the LRA could intensify their activities in the south of Sudan as a result of his death. Garang's death also raises concerns that Sudanese refugees will refuse to return home.

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5 Aug - The health ministry reports that a rare strain of the cholera bacteria has claimed the lives of 56 people and infected 2,200 others in several areas of Uganda over the past four months. IDPs in the north are particularly susceptible, given that they live on less than three litres of water per day, far below the 15-litre-a-day international recommendation.

12 Aug - The Ugandan Broadcasting Council shuts down K-FM radio following the airing of a talk show about Garang’s death. The show's host, local journalist Andrew Mwenda, is later arrested and charged with sedition, but he is freed on bail a few days later. Although the station is reopened a week later, the government still comes under criticism from rights groups.

24 Aug - The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria suspends of all its grants to Uganda due to "evidence of serious mismanagement" of the funds. The government sets up a commission of inquiry to investigate the claims.

29 Aug - A new report by the Ugandan health ministry and its partners finds that an estimated 1,000 people displaced by the 19-year war in northern Uganda die every week from violence or disease, notably malaria and HIV/AIDS.

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10 Sep - A major road linking northern Uganda and the southern Sudanese garrison town of Juba is reopened after almost two decades of disuse and insecurity. The road is expected to improve commerce between the two countries.

19 Sept - Hundreds of LRA soldiers - under the leadership of LRA deputy commander-in-chief Vincent Otti - flee Sudan for northeastern DRC. Uganda demands that the Congolese government disarm and extradite the insurgents and threatens to invade its western neighbour should they fail to do so. Kinshasa vows to resist any invasion and later sends 2,000 troops to the northeastern town of Aba to attempt to disarm the rebels.

30 Sept - A joint survey by the Ugandan government and its partners finds that mortality rates for children in northern Uganda's IDP camps are above emergency levels.

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7 Oct - The ICC issues arrest warrants for five senior LRA members, including Kony and Otti. The move is met with mixed reactions - the EU praises the effort to end impunity, but local northern leaders say it is the final nail in the coffin of the fragile peace process.

26 Oct - Col Kiiza Besigye, Uganda’s opposition leader, returns home after four years of self-imposed exile in South Africa. Besigye, who lost to Museveni in his presidential bid in 2001, is chosen as the candidate for main opposition party Forum for Democratic Change.

27 Oct - LRA rebels in the north kill two humanitarian workers. The next day, relief agencies suspend all nonessential field missions as a precautionary measure until the situation is reviewed. Another aid worker is killed in early November, further threatening humanitarian activity in the north.

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11 Nov - The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria lifts its suspension of grants to Uganda, citing the country's "intensive efforts" to rectify "serious mismanagement" of funding.

14 Nov - Police arrest Besigye on charges of treason and rape. He is accused of leading an armed, DRC-based insurgency, the People's Redemption Army, and is also linked to the LRA. Besigye is denied bail and in addition charged by a military court with terrorism and illegal possession of weapons. His arrest provokes violent riots across Kampala and leads to local and international criticism of the government's handling of the case.

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22 Dec - Great Britain cuts another £15 million ($26.4 million) in direct assistance to Uganda due to concerns about democracy. Similar measures had been taken throughout the year by Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, with several of them questioning the government's commitment to democratic reform.

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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 2006

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