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Unicef calls for prompt return of
children and women in LRA captivity||
Unicef Press Centre
26 August 2007
Uganda- UNICEF today urged all parties engaged
in ongoing efforts to peacefully resolve the armed conflict between
the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), to
ensure the immediate and safe return home of an estimated 1,500
children and women still associated with the LRA.
Citing progress made since the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement
was signed a year ago today, including the 29 June 2007 Agreement on
Accountability and Reconciliation, UNICEF called for a redoubling of
efforts towards a timely return of children and women.
Particularly encouraging were provisions in the 29 June Agreement
to recognize and address the special needs of children, adopt
child-sensitive approaches, and protect the dignity, privacy and
security of women and girls. This reflects a common recognition of
the conflict’s impact on those children and women, with their timely
return being in their best interest, said UNICEF.
All returning children and women would receive appropriate
assistance and protection, in close collaboration with the Amnesty
Commission, District Local Governments, traditional and religious
leaders, and humanitarian organizations, said UNICEF.
“We are ready for the children and women to come home. It is time
that they come home. We will help them go back home and back to
school,” said UNICEF Representative in Uganda, Keith McKenzie. “They
have been away for far too long.”
It is expected that the majority of children and women would be
returning to their original homesteads in Uganda.
Saying that the ongoing negotiations represent a tangible
opportunity to herald a lasting peace to northern Uganda, UNICEF
also called upon all communities to receive the children and women
with understanding, acceptance and social support.
“Placing the centre of support squarely on the shoulders of the
community is essential to providing stability for those returning,
and to giving back childhood to those children,” said McKenzie.
“Without positive community support, we may easily squander the
opportunity for children and young persons, our most precious
resource, to grow up in a climate of peace and tolerance.”
More than 2,000 children returning from the LRA have been served
this year by community-based income generation, peer support and
other reintegration programmes, supported by UNICEF and its
Data available in District Local Government registers and records
maintained by numerous reception centres, which provide the initial
family-tracing and counseling assistance to returning children and
women, indicate that up to 25,000 children (including approximately
7,500 girls) have been associated with the LRA during the course of
the decades-old conflict.