Uganda: July 14, 2002

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About 170 LRA rebels burnt down 316 grass-thatched huts at Wiya-Nono displaced persons' camp about 12 miles on Gulu-Amuru road (Lamogi sub-county) on 11 July. Four UDPF soldiers were wounded in the subsequent pursuit. They abducted 26 civilians and left about 30,000 people homeless, who then flocked toward St. Mary's Hospital Lacor for safety.

The rebel group was suspected to have been commanded by Koroyelo, who had pitched camp at Awoo-Nyim in Patiko. Otti's group was reported to have moved to Amuru sub-county, west of Gulu town. On the night of 8 July 150 to 200 LRA rebels raided sites 9 and 11 of the Maaji Settlement [in Adjumani District, north-western Uganda], killing five refugees.

The 11 July attack brings to 10 the camps so far burnt by rebels under Vincent Otti since 11 June, when they crossed into Gulu district from Sudan. However, Sudan has extended the period granted to the UDPF for Operation "Iron Fist" (the mission to hunt down the LRA inside Southern Sudan) for an unspecified time past 30 June.

The growing instability northern Ugandan Acholi districts has forced UPDF military authorities to consider confronting the problem by extending the very unpopular protected villages. About 460,000 civilians from the districts of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader (practically half of the population of Acholiland) live in what in reality are refugee camps. The Ugandan military program begun in 1996 forces civilians to leave their homes and belongings for these completely barren structures, without any health services or food guarantees. 

While these protected villages are meant to protect the population, in reality the UPDF soldiers are based in the center of the camps, leaving the civilians on the outer edges to face rebel attacks. On 11 July, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni also responded positively to a proposal that the Catholic and Protestant Churches act as mediators between the government and the LRA. - Adam Geibel

 

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