Uganda- Victims Need To Be Heard – Governments Need To Listen

Kampala, Uganda, 7 June 2010 – The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy spent the week in Uganda speaking with victims and advocating on their behalf to Government officials, the military and the media, in Kampala and Gulu, northern Uganda as well as at the ICC conference.

On Sunday May 31st, the SRSG met with victims attending the Victims Day Soccer match where she gave a halftime address with a message of strength and hope. She expressed her admiration for their resilience in the face of incredible adversity. “I have a friend, a former child soldier from northern Uganda,” the SRSG told the crowd, “Grace Akallo, who just graduated last week with her Master’s degree. I know what you are capable of, I know your strength. We are here to support you.”

Later in the week, the SRSG met with Major General Aronda Nyakairima – head of Uganda’s army, the UPDF – to discuss the standard operating procedures for the release and repatriation of children associated with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) throughout the region in the follow-up to the Security Council Working Group recommendations for children and armed conflict. She also presented the Major General with the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict.

On Wednesday, the Special Representative gave a keynote address at the ICC Review Conference in Kampala that included stocktaking of the impact of the Rome Statute system on victims and affected communities. “Those of us who have worked in the field have seen the eyes of women and children, blank and immobile after terrible experiences of violence. Anyone who has talked to these victims, who has shared their pain cannot but hope that the Rome Statute will herald in a new era for victims around the world,” the SRSG held during her opening speech.

Continuing on her mission to speak with and advocate for survivors of the LRA, the SRSG travelled to Gulu with UNICEF where she met with three teenage boys who had recently escaped from the LRA to join the Gulu Support the Children Organisation’s – a local NGO’s – rehabilitation programs. She also spent time speaking with two women and one man who were abducted as children and are now in different stages of the reintegration process. The Special Representative noted the clear difference between Agnes, who had been returned to Gulu only two months ago and Lily who had been away from the LRA for the last five years. Following her meetings with the survivors who expressed eagerness to learn new skills, the SRSG sat down with local officials to advocate for a stronger focus on livelihood training, including computer based training. “Armed conflict creates victims, but also survivors whose resilience must be reinforced by government, international organizations and civil society as well as adequate rehabilitation and reintegration programs”, the SRSG concluded her visit to northern Uganda.

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For further information please contact:

  • Timothy La Rose – Communications Officer – Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict – larose@un.org – +1 917-346-3404 (travelling with the SRSG)