NEW YORK (BNO NEWS) — The United Nations (UN) on Wednesday warned that ‘grave’ violations are continuing to be carried out against children by the Ugandan rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which was thrown into the spotlight earlier this year by an online video campaign.
In the report, which is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s first to the UN Security Council on the situation of children affected by the LRA, violations committed against children, and measures taken to address the LRA threat between July 2009 and February 2012 are documented.
According to the report, at least 591 children, including 268 girls, were abducted and recruited by the LRA during the investigative period. Most of the victims were abducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but children have also been taken in the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, spoke at the UN headquarters and stated that the LRA “continues to cast a long shadow across central Africa, causing enormous suffering for children.” She said that due to protection activities and the military operations being carried out in the affected areas, the LRA is weakened but it continues to be able to carry out random attacks.
Nonetheless, the report noted that the LRA no longer attacks schools and hospitals, although Coomaraswamy added that despite this, the attacks keep thousands from attending schools because of displacement.
The LRA, which was formed in the 1980s, mainly directed its attacks against Ugandan civilians and security forces for over 15 years. By 2004, it had largely been driven of the area through a sustained military effort. It then exported its activities to Uganda’s neighboring countries, with practices that include the recruitment of children, rapes, killing and maiming, and sexual slavery. Currently, there are between 200 and 500 fighters in the LRA, the UN estimates.
In 2010, a trend appeared in the DRC, although it was more apparent in 2011, as children were being abducted for very short periods to carry loot before they managed to escape or were left behind. The information was released by a news release on the report that added that this suggests a change in the modus operandi of the LRA.
All girls mentioned in the report were forcibly married to combatants, the UN said, and those who escaped with their babies born of rape were stigmatized by their communities.
In March, the United Nations and the African Union (AU) launched the UN-supported and AU-led Regional Cooperation Initiative against the LRA (RCI-LRA) and its military component, the RTF, with the aim of bringing an end to the LRA’s activities. The RTF is comprised of 5,000 soldiers drawn form the four countries affected by the LRA – Uganda, DRC, CAR and South Sudan.