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Subject: UGANDA: Sudan urged to help free abducted children [2000712]

UGANDA: Sudan urged to help free abducted children


NAIROBI, 12 July (IRIN) - The European Parliament has tabled a resolution urging the Sudanese government to stop supporting the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and particularly to cooperate in freeing allchildren abducted by the rebels.

The resolution noted that thousands of children had already died in captivity from hunger, disease, beatings, stabbings and the fighting itself. It said a peace accord signed in Nairobi last December between Uganda and Sudan had included a pledge from the Sudanese government to cease support for the LRA and guarantee the safe return of abducted Ugandan children from the LRA's bases in Sudan.

"The political will to implement the peace accord has been lacking on both sides [and] both countries have continued to support each other's armed rebels," the resolution said. "Very few abducted children have been returned by Sudan."

The European Parliament said Uganda, for its part, should speed up implementation of the amnesty act approved by the Ugandan parliament in December, despite its rejection by LRA leader Joseph Kony. It also urged the Ugandan government to continue efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in the north of the country.

It said international oil companies working in Sudan should halt their operations as long a child abductions and slavery continued. "EU [European Union] companies [should] refrain from oil investments in Sudan," the resolution added and requested EU member states to exert their influence to this effect. "LRA representatives are allowed to collect funds, make public statements and operate freely from the territory of the EU," the resolution stated.

"[They] have been travelling unhindered within the EU and between the EU and Sudan." It called on individual member states to put an immediate end to this.

"The European Parliament calls on the government of Sudan to consider the issue of the abducted children as a humanitarian issue and separate it from the larger political issues in the region," the resolution added.

According to UNICEF, the LRA has abducted at least 14,000 children during its 14-year rebellion in northern Uganda, some as young as seven years old. About 5,000 have returned or escaped but 6,063 remain unaccounted for. Following the Nairobi agreement, Sudan began facilitating releases earlier this year - 21 children were freed in January and a further 51 in April - but UNICEF says that since then there have been no further releases. Observers say this is probably pending further negotiations between Uganda and Sudan.

UNICEF's communications officer in Kampala Keith Wright welcomed the European Parliament's resolution. "Any statement against the LRA by a significant group can only be supported," he told IRIN. "It's a good thing that governments can be so outspoken." He stressed that a major provision of the Nairobi agreement was the condemnation of human rights abuses, which includes child abductions. "The agreement is not yet dead," he said.

"It still remains the best opportunity to address this issue."


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Keyword: children