18 April 2007 The peace process in Northern Uganda has fostered improved conditions for beleaguered civilians there, according to a senior United Nations official, who called for continued efforts to bring stability to the region which has been torn by a violent rebellion for some two decades.
“The humanitarian situation in northern Uganda and parts of Southern Sudan has improved significantly in the past year,” said UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Margareta Wahlström on Tuesday.
“People are returning to their homes and re-establishing their livelihoods,” she added, while cautioning that “a final peace accord between the parties remains necessary to sustain and promote further progress on the humanitarian front.”
She welcomed the recent extension of the Cessation of Hostilities between the Government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the resumption of their peace talks.
Sustained security improvements over the past year, attributable to the peace process, have given some 1.4 million displaced Ugandans – many of whom have spent two decades in overcrowded camps – renewed hope that peace will finally come and encouraged many to begin the process of returning to their homes, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a news release.
In the past year, more than 300,000 of the displaced have left the camps to return to their areas of origin in northern Uganda, OCHA said, crediting the cessation of hostilities resulting from the ongoing peace talks in Juba, Southern Sudan.
Among other assurances that the situation is improving, there have been no civilian abductions since the start of the talks. And there has been a reduction in the phenomenon of “night commuters,” children who daily travel long distances to escape a conflict which has been characterized by atrocities against them in order to seek shelter overnight in urban centres.
Despite this progress, however, northern Uganda requires continued emergency relief and protection, as well as assistance in returns and early recovery, OCHA warned. Some 1 million displaced remain in the camps. And while returning families benefit from greater access to cultivable land, the lack of schools and health facilities in areas of return have prompted some to leave their women and children behind in the camps.
Meanwhile, in eastern Teso district, the 130,000 displaced Ugandans who remain in camps have little prospect for return due to continued instability resulting from insecurity in the neighbouring district of Karamoja, the Office pointed out.
Over the past two decades, the conflict between the Government and the LRA has resulted in more than 100,000 deaths and the displacement of 2 million people.