Frequently Asked Questions
What is the current situation in northern Uganda concerning the internally displaced population? Are people leaving the camps and resettling? What is happening to the "night commuters"?
For over a year, since the start of the Juba Peace Process, conditions have continued to improve in the north. Humanitarian agencies report the continued return of internally displaced persons to their home areas, either in their villages or in "land access" camps close to their land. Access to services and infrastructure -- schools, wells, clinics, and police protection -- are affecting the rate of return. Many people do remain concerned about security, and are waiting for a final peace agreement.
An estimate compiled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees finds that over 900,000 people -- roughly half of the 2005 population living in Internally Displaced Persons Camps -- have left the camps, either to resettle on their land or to live in new camps closer to their home areas, where they are better able to begin farming again. In the Lira area, the Government of Uganda has begun to dismantle former IDP camps. Generally, people in the "southern" areas of the north (such as Lira and Soroti) have felt more secure and have returned to their land in greater numbers. It is estimated 97% of people in the Lango region, for example, have returned to their home. Further north, in Acholi areas, a majority of people -- over 60%-- are still living in camps. People in northern districts continue to express concern about security and many are waiting for a resolution of the peace process.
Recent flooding in parts of Uganda, such as Teso in the east and parts of the north, plus continued insecurity from factors other than the LRA, have also slowed resettlement in some areas. The poor state of infrastructure and lack of public services (such as medical services and schools) are also limiting the return of people.
"Night commuter" refers to children who used to walk nightly into larger towns in order to sleep in more secure locations than their villages or IDP camps. At the most extreme, over twenty-five thousand children were using shelters. As security conditions have improved, the night commuting has nearly stopped, with children's organizations reporting no more than a few hundred individuals still seeking shelter, and most night commuter shelters in towns such as Gulu have now closed. Some of those still using the shelters are doing so for reasons other than security -- such as over-crowding at home, for example.
Does the United States support the Juba Peace Talks between the Government of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army? Why hasn't the United States named a special representative to the talks in Juba?
The United States supports the Juba Peace Talks both diplomatically and materially. The U.S. Mission in Kampala consults regularly with officials from the Government of Uganda and African Observers. The U.S. Consulate in Juba also follows closely the negotiations. In August a Senior Advisor for Conflict Resolution in Africa, reporting to the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, was named. The Senior Advisor's role is to tie together the regional aspects of the LRA issue, which affects Uganda, southern Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His ability to work across borders has strengthened coordination of U.S. policy responses and programs. Congress has also appropriated funds to support the peace process.
The United States government has not named an Ambassadorial level envoy to the talks, as some have suggested. The U.S. government believes that an African-led mediation process is the most effective means forward, and supports the work of UN Special Envoy Chissano and South Sudan President Kiir and his Vice President, Rich Machar.
The United States government notes that significant progress has been made under these African leaders. The U.N. Special Envoy for LRA-Affected Areas, Joachim Chissano, Government of Southern Sudan mediator Rich Machar, and observers from five African nations have worked to keep the peace process on track. The parties are talking directly in informal meetings, not in a large plenary session open to the public. This negotiating method is important for confidence-building and limits attempts by parties to play to a gallery of international observers. U.S. officials, including the Senior Advisor, have and will be present at ceremonial moments in the talks (such as official opening and closing sessions). The mediation team and African observers believe that international observers would be a distraction and cause delays, rather than accelerate the process. The United States government has, and will continue to, provide the Special Envoy, Mediator and observers our full support and stand ready to take action upon their requests.
We believe that it is important for the process to produce a durable agreement between the Government of Uganda and the LRA which addresses issues of reconciliation, accountability and justice. The Government of Uganda recently concluded a program of nationwide consultations to obtain input from the Ugandan people on the process. The consultations revealed that Ugandans want peace and reconciliation.
What is the position of the U.S. government should the Juba Peace Talks fail, or are not successful in a reasonable timeframe?
The ongoing peace process represents the best opportunity to bring an end to the twenty-plus years of conflict in northern Uganda. The process is also the best opportunity for the remaining members of the Lord's Resistance Army, now occupying Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to return to Uganda and to engage in a process of reconciliation and reintegration within their communities. However, the people of northern Uganda yearn to rebuild their lives and cannot wait endlessly for an agreement. We believe that northern Ugandans want all parties to negotiate seriously and avoid delaying peace for those afraid to return to their homes. However, should the talks fail, the United States would support, under existing UN Security Council resolutions, efforts by the United Nations forces operating in the Congo (MONUC) and Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to apprehend the LRA.
What is the U.S. government's position on the Ugandan government's offer of amnesty to Joseph Kony and other LRA leaders?
In 2006 President Museveni said that he is willing to consider extending amnesty to the LRA leader Joseph Kony, and potentially to other LRA leaders. The United States respects Uganda's right to decide on this matter, but we believe that those who have committed atrocities in this long-standing insurgency should be held accountable for their deeds.
What is the United States government doing to alleviate conditions in northern Uganda?
The United States is a major contributor of humanitarian and development assistance in northern Uganda. In 2007, the U.S. will provide nearly $116 million in assistance to the region. The U.S. has for many years been the largest contributor to the World Food Program, which provides food to those in the Internally Displaced Persons camps. Other support has been given for water and sanitation, heath care programs, and income generation efforts. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been the primary U.S. government agency active in the north.
As security conditions in the north continue to stabilize and people return to areas closer to their home, the need for new and rehabilitated infrastructure and social services will grow. It is expected that U.S. assistance will continue to shift from humanitarian to redevelopment assistance to accommodate conditions. The U.S. is working with other donors to support the Ugandan government's "Peace, Recovery and Development Plan for Northern Uganda", a $660 million reconstruction and development plan for northern Uganda.
In June 2007, USAID opened a regional office in Gulu, which gives the United States government a full-time presence in northern Uganda and allows for better implementation and monitoring of programs.
What is the role of the U.S. military in northern Uganda?
The U.S. military is involved in civil affairs projects in northern Uganda. A team of U.S. military personnel is based in Kitgum, where the team is working with the Uganda military, the Uganda Peoples' Defense Force, and local communities to rehabilitate and develop schools, medical facilities, wells, and road and bridge repairs. The U.S. military also staffs mobile medical and veterinary clinics that assist people returning to their homes. .
The U.S. military has provided the UPDF with non-lethal equipment, such as trucks, and other support. The U.S. is also involved in the training of UPDF personnel in peacekeeping and counter-terrorism techniques.
What can American citizens do to help alleviate the suffering in northern Uganda?
American citizens who want to help alleviate suffering in northern Uganda may wish to donate funds to any of several Ugandan or international non-governmental organizations working in the region. Cash donations are generally more helpful that donations of goods (such as books or used clothing), which require extensive logistical effort and expense to distribute. Please note that the U.S. government and the Embassy in Uganda are unable to receive or distribute private aid.
As the security situation in northern Uganda has continued to improve there is a greater need for assistance directed toward helping people to resume agricultural production and to reestablish their homes. Assistance may best be directed toward efforts to support food security and income generation, education, and health care.