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They said while active LRA operations may have ended within the Ugandan territory, it continues in the DRC, CAR and South Sudan with the same disastrous effects it had while in Uganda.
Abductions, killings, mutilations, and sexual violence continue.
According to the petition, many abducted children and children born in rebellion continue to suffer and the conflict remains a serious threat to regional stability.
“Madam Speaker, many of us have paid a heavy price as direct and indirect victims of the LRA conflict and its notorious acts and do not wish to see any more people suffer the same preventable sufferings. We have at one time been abducted; some of us have lost parents, close relatives and friends to the LRA war that, at 26 years and counting, is presently Africa’s longest running armed conflict,” the petition reads in part.
It further added: “We have been victims of displacement; many of us headed households at a tender age simply because our parents and guardians succumbed to merciless LRA killings. We have lost out on key opportunities in life because of the LRA conflict. Some of us still have relatives and friends in LRA captivity who continue to be held against their will.”
A total of 4,209 former LRA abductees signed the petition.
The recounted involuntarily spending precious and productive years of their lives in LRA captivity, missing out on incredible life opportunities including education and livelihoods.
“Madam Speaker, we note that despite incredible efforts made to stem it, the LRA problem and its perverse effects that started in northern Uganda is still with us and has now evolved into a regional security and humanitarian problem.
The end of the LRA’s gruesome deeds in Uganda was but the start of its evil acts in neighboring countries of the DRC, CAR and South Sudan where they continue to abduct, attack, maim, and kill innocent civilians and loot their properties.
As such, the LRA conflict cannot be said to be over just because it’s no longer active in Uganda, which was home to its heinous acts for over two decades. While we in Uganda are experiencing tentative peace, the LRA remains an urgent threat to human security in the region.”
The project was initiated by Invisible Children, an NGO whose goal is to put an end to the LRA war and rebuild lives.
The victims told Kadaga that recent defector reports show that many of our citizens are still held up in LRA captivity – many of them against their will but many long-term LRA captives continue to defect.
The latest person amongst us to regain freedom from LRA captivity returned in September 2013.
They pointed out the interrelatedness of communities and states, saying injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and that whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
“Some communities currently targeted by the LRA violence in neighboring countries perceive Ugandan society as indifferent to their suffering. As a result, they have associated Ugandans at large with the LRA as co-perpetrators of the heinous atrocities inflicted upon their communities,” the petitioners observed.
“This august house has a cardinal duty to set the record straight by pronouncing itself and through continuous engagement until the LRA crisis is finally resolved. Parliament should continue to play in promoting regional stability.
As Formerly Abducted Children and Persons affected by the LRA conflict, they made the following submissions:
• Address itself to the immense recovery; rehabilitation and reintegration challenges in LRA affected communities in order to change the lives of the LRA victims and communities for the better.
• Adopt practical measures in collaboration with regional parliaments, local civil society in the affected region, and international community, to promote the safe defection and repatriation of children and adults still in LRA captivity; these efforts must also properly address the issue of children born into LRA captivity with unclear citizenry, and the protection of communities that remain vulnerable to LRA killings, attacks, abductions, displacement and lootings.
• Parliament of Uganda, through the Ugandan government should lobby UN agencies and other humanitarian agencies for a humanitarian emergency response and LRA victims infrastructure development for LRA affected communities in the region to counter the development deficit and deplorable humanitarian crisis created by the conflict.
• Using Uganda’s membership and present chairmanship of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), this parliament may urge the Ugandan government to engage other ICGLR member countries and encourage them to recognize the LRA as a continued threat to regional stability.
The Ugandan government should urge the ICGLR to add the LRA issue to the agenda for discussion at ICGRL summits.
• Lobby the international community including the UN to own up and include the LRA problem as part of the broader UN mandate in the region. All regional governments of LRA affected communities must demonstrate their increased commitment and the international community its support, to the AU counter-LRA effort.
Kadaga speak out
In her response, Kadaga promised that parliament will have a special debate on the LRA conflict.
She also promised to write to the president and other UN agencies to bring to their attention the issues that the former abductees asked her to do.