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Attempts at mediation by South Sudan fail

Uganda's government blocks peace bids for North Uganda

Bolzano/Bozen, Göttingen, 13. June 2006

The Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) charged the government of Uganda on Tuesday with blocking the attempts at a peace agreement in Northern Uganda and thus taking into account the deaths of thousands of people. "In the light of a cholera epidemic which is spreading through the refugee camps in Northern Uganda the lack of interest in peace shown by the Ugandan government is irresponsible", said the GfbV Africa correspondent, Ulrich Delius. The situation of the 1.8 million refugees and displaced persons is becoming more desperate all the time. Cholera broke out in the large camps in mid-May and already nine persons have died of it. More than 600 persons have been infected by the bacterial illness.

The provincial government of Southern Sudan organised peace talks for this week between the Ugandan rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan government. However they have failed because Kampala has refused to deal with the LRA rebels, for whose arrest a warrant has been issued by the International Court of Justice at the Hague. "The Ugandan government has engineered this itself", said Delius. "At the same time it is only prepared to deal with LRA leaders who have power over the whole rebel movement and it is precisely these who are wanted by Interpol."

Time and again Kampala ignores calls for peace from the north of the country and is only concerned with a military solution to the conflict, criticised Delius. Claims have been made for years that the destruction of the LRA is just about to happen. However Northern Uganda has been waiting for this for 20 years. It was only last week that the United Christian Council of Uganda and the New Sudanese Church Council appealed in a joint communiqué to the government to take seriously the attempts at mediation of the South Sudanese. Under the pretext of combating the rebels the army has driven the civilian population out of their villages since 1996 in many areas of Northern Uganda. 90% of the Acholi ethnic group living there have to remain in refugee camps. 63% of the population live below the poverty line, 47% have a life expectancy of less than 40 years and 25% of their people live beneath the poverty line. 25% of their children suffer from malnutrition.

In the light of the dramatic impoverishment of the Acholi, representatives of the displaced persons are calling for a rapid return to the villages. However since the beginning of the year it is only in the regions of Teso and Lango that 400,000 displaced persons were allowed to return home. As a result of international pressure Kampala intends to move 1.8 million displaced persons in the districts of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader at all events into smaller camps.

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