New York — The Lord's Resistance Army remains amongst the most persistent perpetrators of grave violations against children, the Secretary-General stated in his first report to the Security Council on the situation of children affected by the armed group. The report documents violations committed against children and measures taken to address the LRA threat between July 2009 and February 2012.
"The LRA continues to cast a long shadow across central Africa, causing enormous suffering for children," the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy said.
Over the reporting period, at least 591 children, including 268 girls, were abducted and recruited by the LRA, mostly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but also in the Central African Republic, and in South Sudan. In the DRC, a trend appeared in 2010, and was more apparent in 2011, of children being abducted for very short periods to carry loot before they managed to escape or were left behind. This suggests a change in the modus operandi of the armed group.
All girls mentioned in the report were forcibly married to combatants, and those who escaped with their babies born of rape were stigmatized by their communities.
The number of children killed and maimed appears to have declined since 2008, perhaps due to increased protection efforts by the United Nations peacekeepers, the massive displacement of civilians fleeing the LRA threat, and the presence of security forces in the LRA's area of operations.
"I am encouraged by the renewed international attention to the issue and the actions taken to stop all violations against children by the LRA," Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy said.
In his report, the Secretary-General lauds efforts by the Uganda People's Defence Force and the African Union to address the threat posed by the LRA. He recommended that all military efforts to address the LRA ensure that the protection of civilians is a central aspect of operations, including through the development of standard operating procedures for the handling of children separated from the LRA.
While noting the need to encourage defections from the LRA as a strategy to weaken the armed group, the Secretary-General indicated that there must be no impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including grave violations against children. "I discourage the adoption of explicit amnesty laws at the expense of accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity," he stated in the report. "I am encouraged by the recent expiry of the amnesty provisions in Uganda's Amnesty Act," said SRSG Coomaraswamy.
Noting that the weak presence of the State in LRA-affected regions had contributed to the creation of local self-defense groups, the Secretary-General urged the concerned States to expand the rule of law to LRA-affected areas and encouraged donors to provide support for such efforts, including through long-term peacebulding activities.
Link to report of the Secretary-General on the situation of children and armed conflict affected by the Lord's Resistance Army (S/2012/365)