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Sudan Tribune

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North Uganda security vastly improved – UN

May 15, 2007 (LABWOROMOR) — Security in conflict-ravaged northern Uganda has vastly improved, presenting an opportunity to rebuild the region and return life to normal, the U.N.’s top humanitarian official said Tuesday.

John Holmes
John Holmes
John Holmes, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, is in Uganda to highlight the situation of hundreds of thousands of people displaced by a brutal 20-year-old conflict in northern Uganda, despite ongoing peace talks aimed at ending it.

“The security situation (in northern Uganda) has clearly improved beyond all recognition but it is not completely safe. … The fact is people here are starting to go home and that is very good news. We have the opportunity to make this a success story,” Holmes told journalists.

“There’s a lot of infrastructure to be put in, and there’s a lot of services they need. They still need to feel safe and know that the LRA (the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army) has gone away for good,” Holmes said.

Aid workers say that the monthslong peace process mediated by the government of Southern Sudan has produced a landmark, but fragile truce that has allowed up to 360,000 people to return to their homes.

But although people are moving out of camps, many are not going home because they still do not feel safe.

“I moved here because life in the camp was not good,” John Otyang, 47, told The Associated Press at Labworomor, a resettlement site that is much closer to his home. Otyang moved here with his wife and seven children in March from a displacement camp 5 kilometers away.

“The camp was congested and we had no access to land to grow food. We feel more secure than one year ago. The rebels are very far away and there have been no reports of atrocities,” Otyang said.

He said his family still did not feel safe enough to return home but was monitoring the peace talks in Juba, Sudan, in the hope that a final deal is reached.

Otyang’s eldest son had been abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army in 2003, forcing the family to seek the relative safety of an army-controlled displacement camp.

After meeting with residents of Labworomor, where the U.N. and non-governmental organizations give food rations and provide sanitation, Holmes pledged further U.N. support for both their return home and the peace talks.

He said he was encouraged to see so many people “halfway home.”

Southern Sudan has been mediating talks between the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army and the Ugandan government since July. A truce has been signed but the talks have not progressed much and have faced postponements. They have been seen as a good chance to end the northern Uganda conflict that has affected eastern Congo and Sudan’s south.

The Lord’s Resistance Army is made up of the remnants of a rebellion that began after President Yoweri Museveni took power in 1986. The rebels are notorious for cutting off the tongues and lips of civilians and abducting thousands of children, turning the girls into sex slaves and the boys into fighters.