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UGANDA: WFP suspends operations in northeast after ambush

KAMPALA, 30 May 2007 (IRIN) - Gunmen ambushed a convoy of United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) trucks in northeastern Uganda’s Karamoja region, killing a driver and forcing the agency to temporarily suspend operations in the drought-hit area, the agency and the Ugandan military said.

Richard Achuka, 41, was shot in the neck and shoulder and died after the attack on four WFP trucks in Kotido District. The convoy had delivered food to schools and other sites in neighbouring Kaabong District. The attackers fled the scene.

"WFP condemns this vicious attack on a clearly marked WFP humanitarian convoy in the strongest terms and demands that the killers be pursued and brought to justice," said WFP Country Director Tesema Negash. "WFP has no choice but to temporarily suspend our activities in Karamoja until security is improved."

The agency started distributing food to half a million people in Karamoja, an area hit by a third drought in six years, in January. The region is the poorest in Uganda and has a single rainy season from June to August; almost 70 percent of its inhabitants, nomadic pastoralists, receive aid.

"The WFP truck was ambushed at Reugen [about 600km from the capital, Kampala] and the driver was robbed of a mobile phone before he was killed," the Ugandan army spokesman in the region, Henry Obbo, said. The ambush, he added, took place in a spot that has registered several ambush attempts recently.

In recent years, the Ugandan army has been engaged in a programme to disarm the pastoralist communities in the region, but critics says the disarmament has been carried in a high-handed manner.

"We can attribute this [the ambush] to the reopening of schools because some children have not returned to school for lack of school fees so they engage in lawlessness in a belief that they will rob some money and pay school fees," Obbo said.




Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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