Children are Targets of Violence in Northern Uganda

People of Uganda, a country in eastern Africa, have experienced a troubled political history. Current President Yoweri Museveni came to power in 1986 following a coup that overthrew former president Milton Obote, upsetting supporters of Obote’s government. In 1989, 25-year-old Joseph Kony led an armed struggle against President Museveni’s government and Uganda’s military, forming the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Initially gaining sympathy from local people, Kony’s brutal tactics eventually isolated him from his base of support. To gain recruits to his cause, he resorted to abducting children, forcing them to commit atrocities against each other and their families, and brainwashing them into believing that he is a messenger of God. To date, the LRA has abducted over 25,000 children who comprise the vast majority of the LRA’s fighting forces.

The LRA’s nighttime attacks on rural villages have forced children to seek refuge nightly in the security of town centers. These “night commuters” walk up to ten kilometers every day to sleep on sidewalks, and in hospitals, tents, and parks, waking before dawn to return to their homes and schools.

The government of Uganda has responded to this crisis by forcing the region’s population of 1.8 million people into hastily-erected camps, where they are more easily protected from LRA attacks. But the military has been consistently overrun by LRA, and camps remain vulnerable to attack. Moreover, conditions in the camps are appalling; recent mortality reports estimate that 1000 people are dying weekly due to poor health and sanitation provisions. The local population is thus trapped between the diabolic LRA and the criminal neglect of the government of Uganda.

International support is urgently needed to bolster efforts at peace mediation, improve camp protection, and to investigate sources of LRA support.

 See AFJN’s response, the Uganda-CAN Campaign (now Resolve Uganda ), for in-depth resources and advocacy opportunities!

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