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3 WFP Trucks Attacked in Uganda - 2003-08-15


The United Nations World Food Program says three of its trucks carrying food aid were attacked in the region of Karamoja in eastern Uganda Thursday by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army. The three drivers and two of their children were apparently abducted.

The World Food Program says this is the first time that commercial trucks carrying food aid have been attacked in this part of Uganda. It says its food convoys are regularly escorted by the military in the dangerous northern part of the country. But, until now, Karamoja was not considered to be a risky area.

WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume says the agency does not know why the Lord's Resistance Army attacked the trucks.

"They left the food, and they left the trucks," she said. "They burned part of the trucks, and we have no clue of the whereabouts of the drivers, as well as their two kids. And, that is the really very worrying part of it. But, they left the food over there, and right now, we are in discussion with the military. So, what they are doing is discharging [unloading] the trucks and charging [loading] other trucks. Under very heavy military escort, they will bring the food where it was supposed to go."

Ms. Berthiaume says the trucks were carrying 130 tons of food, enough to feed more than 4,000 people for a month. She says the food was going to a drought-stricken area, where malnutrition rates have soared to nearly 17 percent.

The Lord's Resistance Army is a group of rebels who want to overthrow the Ugandan government and run the country, they say, according to the principles of the 10 commandments.

The group first appeared more than a decade ago.

Ms. Berthiaume says, over the past year, the rebels have abducted 8,400 Ugandan children. She says people in the north live in absolute terror.

"Many people are displaced because of the fighting, and they do not want to go home because it is too dangerous for them," said Christiane Berthiaume. "They are scared. And, obviously, if they are not going back home, it means that they are not working the land, so there is no harvest. So, they really depend totally on us. And, WFP has launched an appeal at the end of July for $54 million dollars to help 1.6 million victims, drought victims, displaced people as well as refugees. We do have refugees in the northern part of Uganda."

WFP is the only humanitarian agency that delivers food aid to displaced people in the North.

Ms. Berthiaume says she hopes the attack on WFP's food convoy does not signal a new trend.