Monday, September 2, 2013

Uganda: Disturbing reports continue on child soldiers

New Vision ( Uganda ) reports 

Youth being recruited into rebellion - army

                                  UPDF crossing river Semuliki in pursuit of the Allied Democratic Force (ADF) rebels

By Anne Mugisa 

Uganda together with the UN force in Congo and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) are monitoring clandestine recruitment of Ugandan youth into rebel activity in Congo, the army has said.

I have seen some fairly convincing reports that back this up. I suspect children from across the great Lakes Region are being targeted. I have also seen allegations that are laughable. 

The youth, according to information from security sources, are being tricked with promises of jobs on farms in the Democratic Republic of Congo and once there forcefully conscripted into the rebel ranks. The rebel groups to which these youth are being taken, according to the sources are mostly, ADF, NALU, PRA, LRA and UPC which are based in the eastern DRC.

M23 have been known to recruit children in Rwanda to be cow herders. It will be interesting to see the results of M23 former leader Bosco Ntaganda's prosecution as it progresses.

Ntaganda, a Rwandan-born Tutsi rebel known as "the Terminator," is accused of murder, rape, sexual slavery and recruiting child soldiers during 15 years of rebellion in resource-rich eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Arua Resident District Commissioner, Ibrahim Abiriga said  that relatives of the some of the youth have complained about the disappearance of their children.

Army spokesman, Paddy Ankunda said over the weekend reports indicate that the recruitments are not only in West Nile, but some are carried out in Kampala.

“Some people have been lying to the youth that there are jobs in the DRC including in copper mines and farms. People need to be vigilant and careful about who approaches them with prepositions of jobs and other promises. We are also appealing to the youth to know that these are wrong people out to use them not to make their lives better,” Ankunda said.

It is a problem that can be alleviated by lifting the region out of poverty.

Several MPs from the West Nile area confirmed hearing about such reports but said they had not seen the youth who had been recruited or their families.

Bernard Atiku (Ayivu County), Christine Acanyo Cwiny Ai (Nebbi Woman), Alezo Tom Aza (West Moyo) and Fungaroo Kap Hassan (Moyo County) said that they have been hearing that the recruitments are on the areas near the border shared by Uganda, Congo and Sudan.  They denied hearing such reports in their constituencies.

Fungaroo said that this could be a spill over problem from the instability in the DRC. He said that some of the problem could be the porous borders where there are Congolese citizens in Uganda whom those recruiting come after. He said the people of West Nile have made it clear that they do not want war and the rebel groups that were there handed in their arms to government and abandoned rebellion.

There are a huge number of Congolese refugees in Uganda. It would seem likely that they would be a target for recruitment.
He said that all the people want is development and that so far there are positive things that are taking place which include the tarmacking of the road and the construction of Arua Airport and Karuma power dam. But, he added, that the projects should not be delayed because they will help in reducing unemployment which some people could take advantage to divert the youth.

 “We talked about these problems with the leaders and the elders. We are trying to sensitise people especially elders to use tribal links to sensitise their tribe mates across borders to resist anybody who wants to use them to destabilise the area,” Fungaroo said.  

I support anything that can be done to wipe out this criminal activity. It is not recruitment it is kidnapping lets not forget that distinction. 

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