UN envoy stresses need for rehabilitation of Ugandan children war survivors

Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy

7 June 2010 – Survivors of the brutal conflict that has wracked northern Uganda for two decades, most of them young people, must be helped back on their feet by supporting their efforts to acquire skills that will help them reintegrate into society, a United Nations envoy has said after spending a week in the country.

“Armed conflict creates victims, but also survivors whose resilience must be reinforced by government, international organizations and civil society as well as adequate rehabilitation and reintegration programmes,” said Radhika Coomaraswamy, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

For nearly two decades northern Uganda was ravaged by conflict pitting Government forces against insurgents of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal rebellion that mostly targeted civilians, killing and maiming them and abducting children and forcing them to fight or become porters and sex slaves for adult fighters.

More recently the LRA has fled over the border and begun conducting deadly attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR).

On 31 May, Ms. Coomaraswamy, met with survivors who were attending a Victims Day football match and expressed her admiration for their resilience in the face of incredible adversity.

“I have a friend, a former child soldier from northern Uganda,” Ms. Coomaraswamy told the crowd at halftime. “Grace Akallo, who just graduated last week with her master’s degree. I know what you are capable of, I know your strength. We are here to support you,” she said.

Ms. Coomaraswamy also met with the head of the Ugandan army, Major-General Aronda Nyakairima, to discuss the standard operating procedures for the release and repatriation of children associated with the LRA.

She also gave a keynote address at last week’s review conference of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Uganda capital, Kampala.

“Those of us who have worked in the field have seen the eyes of women and children, blank and immobile after terrible experiences of violence. Anyone who has talked to these victims, who has shared their pain cannot but hope that the Rome Statute will herald a new era for victims around the world,” said Ms. Coomaraswamy. The Rome Statute is the treaty that established the ICC.

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