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UN Humanitarian Coordinator Visits Uganda


United Nations humanitarian relief coordinator Jan Egeland is in Uganda as part of a four-nation tour to assess and highlight the security and drought situation in the region.

The U.N. official met with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni Friday on the issue of the civil war in northern Uganda, where a rebel group called the Lord's Resistance Army has been terrorizing communities for almost two decades.

A report released Thursday by a coalition of aid agencies says the rate of violent deaths in northern Uganda is three times higher than that of Iraq, and that more than 25,000 children have been kidnapped during the war.

In recent months, the rebels have expanded their bases and activities from Uganda into the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.

Egeland tells VOA recent threats by President Museveni to send Ugandan troops into the DRC to hunt down the rebels is not the way to solve the problem.

"The time of armies crossing borders to fight on each others' territory should be over," he said. "The Congolese army say that they have now dedicated a battalion of soldiers to find and apprehend the LRA, and in southern Sudan both the new government forces and the U.N. force will try to take and apprehend the LRA fighters. So this is now a regional problem of big proportions and the Security Council therefore has to become even more seized with the matter."

He urges the international community to work with all three countries to demobilize rebel fighters and bring peace to the area.

Egeland arrived in Uganda Thursday, and is scheduled to visit northern Uganda Saturday.

During his 10-day trip, he is also scheduled to visit Sudan, Chad, and Kenya to assess and highlight situations of insecurity and drought in the region.

"Finally I will go to the Horn of Africa where 11 million people are now facing drought and possible famine, and I will be able to launch a humanitarian appeal in Nairobi on their behalf," he said. "We urgently need more resources for our humanitarian work in both northern Uganda, in Darfur, in southern Sudan, and on the Horn of Africa."

Egeland urges regional governments, regional organizations, and foreign donors to help pastoralists and subsistence farmers in the region to become more food secure and set up irrigation and other systems to cope with the drought.

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