Annual Report: Uganda 2003

May 28, 2003

Annual Report: Uganda 2003

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The LRA re-entered northern Uganda in June from Sudan and insecurity increased sharply, forcing aid agencies to scale down many of their activities. The main towns in the region, particularly Kitgum, Gulu and Pader, were overcrowded with displaced people seeking refuge.

In March Uganda and Sudan signed a protocol to allow Ugandan soldiers to hunt for the LRA inside southern Sudan.

b In May the LRA reportedly killed more than 470 civilians in villages in the Imotong mountain range.

b In early July the LRA attacked a refugee camp in Adjumani District and on 26 July they killed 42 civilians.

b On 5 August the LRA overran a camp for Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda, killing an undetermined number. The Acholi Pii camp housed 24,000 Sudanese refugees who were subsequently relocated to safer areas in Uganda.

Talks continued between the government and a splinter group of the LRA. However, the main group, led by Joseph Kony, increased its violent activities, killing, maiming and abducting people in northern Uganda and southern Sudan. In July President Museveni agreed to talk with the LRA, but stressed that the government was keen to continue to pursue the group through military means.

In August, under pressure from church leaders, President Museveni wrote to Joseph Kony setting out the government's terms for a peace deal, including demands that the rebels restrict themselves to three locations in southern Sudan and implement a cease-fire. The LRA rejected these terms and, on 24 August, declared a "unilateral cease-fire" on condition that the army stopped attacking their positions. This was rejected by the government. The LRA soon afterwards broke their own cease-fire and President Museveni moved to Gulu to oversee personally a military offensive with the stated aim of destroying LRA camps and rescuing abducted children.

Uganda National Rescue Front II

Around 1,000 combatants of the Uganda National Rescue Front II (UNRFII) armed political group and their families returned to Uganda in April, having been based in Sudan since 1997. After negotiations with the government by their leader Major General Ali Bamuze, they handed over 135 child soldiers to UNICEF, the UN Children's Fund. On 22 June the government and UNRFII signed a formal cease-fire agreement in northwestern Uganda. UNRFII formed in 1996 after breaking from the now largely defunct West Bank Nile Front.

The Allied Democratic Front

The armed activities of the Allied Democratic Front (ADF) were reduced following a military campaign conducted by the army as well as a restricted offer of amnesty to rebels surrendering to the government. More than 500 armed ADF rebels surrendered in Kasese under the provisions of the Amnesty Law. Early in the year the army reportedly captured a senior ADF official and killed two others.

Concerns were raised about the army's conduct in operations against the ADF. A local human rights group reported in May that arbitrary arrests, torture and detention of civilians in military barracks were widespread in Kasese and Kabarole districts in western Uganda.********