Uganda UNICEF applauds cessation of hostilities in longrunning conflict

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has joined the chorus of support for last weekend’s signing of an official cessation of hostilities between the Ugandan Government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), ending a 20-year conflict there that has become notorious for its use of child soldiers.UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman released a statement today urging both sides to now aim for a comprehensive peace agreement which gives priority to ensuring the welfare of children and women.Ms. Veneman also called for the prompt return of all children and women who have become separated from their families and communities in northern Uganda.“UNICEF will continue to work with partners to provide the necessary and appropriate assistance to, and protection of, the returning children and women,” she said.An estimated 25,000 children have been abducted by the LRA and forced to serve as soldiers, while UN human rights officials have said the rebel group has used numerous other children as porters and “allocated” many girls to senior officers in a form of institutional rape.The conflict in northern Uganda has also resulted in more than 100,000 deaths and forced about 2 million people to flee their homes.Last October, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants against humanity against five LRA figures: the leader Joseph Kony, and the commanders Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen and Raska Lukwiya. The five men are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.Ms. Veneman’s remarks follow statements from Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland earlier this week welcoming the cessation of hostilities. read more