Uganda: Worst crisis on earth

2003-11-11 12:34

Nairobi - A top United Nations official on Tuesday described the 17-year-old rebel war in northern Uganda as the worst forgotten humanitarian crisis on earth.

"The conflict in northern Uganda is the biggest forgotten, neglected humanitarian emergency in the world today," Jan Egeland, UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, told a news conference in Nairobi after a two-day visit to Uganda.

"I was shocked, it is a moral outrage what has happened and is happening," he said, adding that the war waged by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government had led to the displacement of 1.3 million people.

"This is not a war where the civilian population is affected through collateral damage, it is a war targeting the civilian population, and especially children" said Egeland.

"We should ask ourselves: how can we as an international community accept that a war is continuing that is directed and targeted against children... who are abducted, brainwashed and made into child soldiers or sex slaves and forced to attack and kill their own families in their own villages," he added.

"How can we live with a situation where nearly a thosuand children per month are abducted by the LRA to become killing machines against the civilian population?" he asked.

"I know of no place in the world where such a bad situation has so little international presence and so little international relief," he said.

The LRA took over the leadership of northern Uganda's rebellion in 1988, two years into a conflict fuelled by the perceived economic marginalisation of the region by Kampala.

The group's campaign to oust the government of President Yoweri Museveni and replace it with a regime based on the Bible's Ten Commandments is marked by extremes of brutality, often targeting civilians.

The LRA completely lacks a political face, a characteristic that makes negotiating an end to the war all but impossible.