New figures from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, or IDMC, indicate that people displaced by instability caused by the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, are now returning to their homes more quickly than reconstruction efforts can put basic services in place.
According to IDMC, roughly two-thirds of the 1.8 million people displaced in northern Uganda have returned home since the signing of a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement between the LRA and the Ugandan government in 2006.
While this figure is a positive indicator of the safety of a region long terrorized by the LRA, people often return home to inadequate living conditions due to a lack of infrastructure and services. Less than 30 percent of the displaced people who have returned have access to clean water. Clinics and schools in their towns are not equipped with proper facilities, supplies, or qualified personnel. The need for more humanitarian assistance from the Ugandan government and its international partners is clear.
Challenges also exist for the 378,000 displaced people who remain in camps. Many have special needs that make them especially vulnerable to the weak infrastructure and lack of assistance most returnees have encountered. Others are unable to return because the land on which they once lived is under dispute. Some children have also been left behind at the camps by their families because the camps can provide them with an education. Futhermore, many displaced people have chosen to stay in the camps because of economic opportunities nearby, especially petty trade.
The LRA continues to terrorize civilians and remains a threat to wider regional security. While much of northern Uganda has seen an improvement in the security situation since the agreement in 2006, the rebel group has continued its predations in other areas. Since September 2008, they have killed more than 1,000 civilians, abducted around 2,000, and forcibly displaced over 300,000 in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sudan, according to estimates by IDMC.
These latest figures and assessments by IDMC further emphasize the critical need for international actors to work with the Ugandan government to rebuild communities in the North so that these returns are sustainable. New legislation gaining bi-partisan support in the U.S. Congress contains important provisions for committing U.S. funding to rebuilding communities affected by the LRA’s more than two decade-long reign of terror. To learn more about this legislation and urge your elected officials to sign on to help stop the LRA and foster stability in the broader region, visit Enough’s special page on the rebel group.