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Greater efforts needed to end displacement in northern Uganda, says UN expert

17 July 2009 – Stepped up efforts are needed to ensure that the last of the people uprooted by the long-running conflict between the Government and a notorious group in northern Uganda are able to return to their homes, a United Nations independent expert said today.

Wrapping up a week-long visit to the Great Lakes nation, Walter Kaelin, the Secretary-General’s Representative on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), said that he is “impressed” by progress made in tackling the displacement situation in the country’s north, where nearly 80 per cent of the uprooted have returned to their villages.

He voiced his appreciation for the Government’s actions in allowing the IDPs to find durable solutions, welcoming progress made in restoring security and freedom of movement in northern Uganda, which has seen two decades of fighting between the Government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

But Mr. Kaelin noted that “serious challenges remain for those remaining in camps to freely opt for return, local integration or settlement elsewhere as provided for by the Ugandan National IDP Policy and to ensure the sustainability of returns or other durable solutions.

Also impeding sustainable returns are the lack of water, food, health and education services, as well as land and property disputes, in areas of return, he added.

In spite of the Government’s efforts, the Representative said that the low impact of recovery and development activities in the north, especially the setting up of basic services in return areas, threatens stability and the durability of peace.

He called on national and local authorities to implement the Peace, Recovery and Developmetn Plan for northern Uganda, calling on the international community to support recovery efforts.

“The implementation of recovery projects and support for solving land conflicts would go a long way in restoring economic, social and cultural rights of those who have been deprived of their human rights for so long,” Mr. Kaelin said in a press release issued in the capital, Kampala.

Food insecurity is another cause for concern, especially among elderly people and orphans, he noted, urging authorities and their development partners to increase investment in guaranteeing the right to food.

Earlier this week, the outgoing UN envoy for the conflict in northern Uganda today stressed the need for a two-pronged strategy of pursuing negotiation as well as military action against the LRA.

In his last briefing to the Security Council as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the LRA-affected areas, Joaquim Chissano spoke about the state of the Juba peace agreements – originally signed in Sudan in February 2008 and set to take effect after the signing of a final overall peace accord – involving the LRA and the Ugandan Government.

Countries in the region, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), have joined forces with Uganda to militarily root out the LRA, following the failure by the group’s leader, Joseph Kony, to sign the final peace pact which would end two decades of fighting.

Those operations, which display a new determination by countries to collectively deal with the dangers posed by the LRA, had both uprooted and disrupted the group, Mr. Chissano, the former president of Mozambique, told the 15-member Council in a closed meeting.


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