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Not another "Iron Fist" debacle


Following stalemate in Juba Peace Talks, World Vision urges regional governments to protect children if conflict resumes

June 23, 2008

Background

After nearly two years of negotiations, Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony has refused to sign a final peace agreement to end the civil war between the LRA and the Ugandan government. Reports of fresh child abductions in Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR) have circulated for several weeks. The governments of Uganda, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo have made statements to jointly fight Kony and remaining LRA soldiers, who have established bases in eastern DRC and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Press statement

Below is a statement addressing World Vision’s position on the potential resumption of military action against the LRA:

Six years ago, the Ugandan military, with the cooperation of the Sudanese government and support from the United States, launched Operation Iron Fist, a military offensive that was designed to rout the LRA from its bases throughout southern Sudan; capture or kill Joseph Kony; and rescue thousands of children who had been abducted and conscripted into the rebel army.

“Iron Fist” was a humanitarian disaster.
Kony and the LRA are still at-large, and the humanitarian backlash from Iron Fist resulted in:

  • An exponential increase in displacement, from 400,000 to more than 1.6 million people;
  • LRA attacks in areas that had previously been unaffected by the conflict;
  • Increased abductions: an additional 10,000 were newly abducted that year.
This simply cannot be allowed to happen again. The people of Uganda, Sudan, DRC, CAR and the region cannot afford to bear the results of mistakes like those made during Iron Fist.

Too often, military action results in humanitarian crisis. A monstrous humanitarian crisis already exists in northern Uganda as a result of the conflict with the LRA. Humanitarian crises also exist in eastern DRC, CAR and southern Sudan, regardless of the LRA. Any military action must not be permitted to exacerbate these existing emergencies.

If these regional governments insist on returning to active warfare with the LRA, they must establish a strong and effective strategy designed to protect their civilians against LRA retaliation. Special care must be taken to protect children, who are a key target for the LRA.

Furthermore, the Ugandan government has reported having garnered U.S. support for a resumption of military action. The United States would be far better served to invest its political will and financial support in regional reconstruction, rather than military action.

The people of northern Uganda have worked cautiously and hopefully for nearly two years to return to their villages and rebuild their communities. But they have done so virtually on their own, without the necessary support and resources to really make progress.

If sufficient effort and resources are in place to protect civilians in the event of military action, then there is no reason why reconstruction and rehabilitation in northern Uganda cannot occur. If the people of northern Uganda are sufficiently protected, then they should be allowed to end more than a generation of poverty and suffering and begin to rebuild their region.

Too often the international community has focused on getting a peace deal, but not on securing peace. Peace in northern Uganda will only be achieved when civilians are protected, and are free to rebuild and develop their communities. This will require continued political engagement and a financial commitment. Addressing the needs in northern Uganda provides the United States and the international community with an opportunity to finally bring Uganda’s conflict to an end, and to help build a strong and stable center in this already-volatile region.

The following World Vision staff are available for interviews:
  • Rory Anderson, deputy director, advocacy and government relations, World Vision, U.S.
  • Fortunate Sewankambo, advocacy director, World Vision, Uganda, based in Kampala
  • Rudo Kwaramba, national director, World Vision, Uganda, based in Kampala

END




World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.worldvision.org/press.
 

Who Is World Vision?

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice..



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