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Aid agencies demand U N action on Uganda war

Written by: Staff
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KAMPALA, Mar 30 (Reuters) The U N Security Council must act to end suffering brought by two decades of war in northern Uganda, a coalition of local and foreign aid agencies said today as U N aid chief Jan Egeland flew into the country.

Egeland will hold talks with government officials before visiting camps in the north that are home to more than 1.6 million people sheltering from fighting between troops and rebels from the cult-like Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

He has called the war one of the world's most neglected humanitarian disasters. Civil Society Organisations for Peace in Northern Uganda (CSOPNU) demanded the Security Council add its voice to their call for peace talks to end the violence.

''It should express its conviction the crisis ... can only be ended via a process of political engagement, diplomacy, and peaceful negotiation,'' the coalition said in a statement.

One study last year estimated that 1,000 people died every week in the north as a result of poor living conditions. In its new report, CSOPNU said the main war victims were children.

Some 25,000 have been abducted by the LRA as fighters and ''wives'', while tens of thousands more trudge into towns every night rather than risk being kidnapped from their beds.

Half of all camp residents are under the age of 15. A quarter of all children over 10 have lost one or both parents.

''This is a catastrophe that is fuelled not only by terrible acts of war and violence. It is also fuelled by a shameful litany of failure,'' CSOPNU said.

Uganda's government says the LRA has been greatly weakened by a combination talks, amnesty and military operations. But the aid groups accused the government of pursuing a military victory against the LRA at the expense of protecting civilians.

The government denies the charge.

The Security Council should investigate the LRA and its supporters, CSOPNU said, and it urged U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to send a special envoy on the war to Uganda.

REUTERS SK RN0530

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