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UN Envoy Applauds Government Action Against Child Soldiers

A senior United Nations envoy has expressed confidence that children in northern Uganda will be protected against armed insurgency through new Government policies aimed at ending the recruitment and deployment of child soldiers into the Uganda People's Defense Forces (UPDF).
Radhika Coomaraswamy, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, told reporters at the UN Headquarters that if Uganda's policies and principles are implemented, the country would be taken off the Security Council list of countries using child soldiers.
Although she said the Government does not have an active policy of recruiting children, in the war-torn north of the country some children had islipped through the cracksi and were in UPDF as well as in the Local Defence Units (LDUs).
Coomaraswamy stressed that the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) still remains the largest threat to children in Uganda, with at least 25,000 children known to have been recruited during their 20-year campaign of terror in the region.
The LRA uses boys and girls as fighters and porters, with children often subjected to extreme violence shortly after abduction and many girls allocated to officers in a form of institutional rape.
Coomaraswamy said the LRA has perpetrated horrific acts against civilians and must be held accountable for its actions.
However, because of the lack of security in northern Uganda, and because the judicial machinery does not function there, there had been no real end to impunity.
In addition, the UN envoy said that the humanitarian outlook of demobilized children remained bleak.
Those children had only been re-integrated into camps, where life was terrible, and not into general society.
Coomaraswamy called for a more holistic development vision to allow them to have other livelihoods and to prevent them from slipping back into military activities.

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