Violent-death rate in Uganda higher than Iraq

The rate of violent deaths in war-ravaged Northern Uganda is three times higher than in Iraq, and the East African country’s 20-year insurgency has cost $1,7-billion, according to a report released on Thursday.

There are now about 146 deaths a week among Northern Uganda’s estimated population of five million, or 0,17 violent deaths per 10 000 people per day.

That’s three times higher than Iraq’s estimated daily rate of 0,052 per 10 000 people since the United States-led invasion, said the report produced by a coalition of non-governmental organisations called the Civil Society Organisations for Peace in Northern Uganda.

“The Ugandan government, the rebel army and the international community must fully acknowledge the true scale and horror of the situation in northern Uganda,” said Kathy Relleen, a policy adviser to Oxfam, one of the organisations that authored the report.

The 20-year insurgency, led by the Lord’s Resistance Army, has caused almost two-million people to be made homeless, forcing them to live in government-controlled camps. The Lord’s Resistance Army holds no territory, but regularly abducts children, using boys as soldiers and girls as sex slaves.

The report estimates that 25 000 children have been abducted during the war, which it says has cost $1,7-billion over the last two decades—equivalent to the total United States aid to Uganda between 1994 and 2002.

“The government of Uganda must act resolutely and without delay, both to guarantee the effective protection of civilians and to work with all sides to secure a just and lasting peace,” Relleen said.

A government spokesperson, however, said the report painted a skewed picture and did not consider efforts made recently by the government.

“The figures do not take into account that there has been no significant violence in northern Uganda since 2003,” said Robert Kabushenga, who heads the government’s media centre.

Kabushenga said the report did not take into account that “17 000 children have been rescued from the [Lord’s Resistance Army]”.

The UN’s humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland, is due to visit Uganda on Friday for meetings with non-governmental organisations, ministers and Uganda-based UN officials before touring a camp in northern Uganda for those displaced by the conflict. - Sapa-AP

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