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UPDF Begins Training on Sexual Violence in Conflict

The training comes at the backdrop of allegations of rape and exploitation by Ugandan soldiers who have been searching for Lords Resistance Army rebels in Central African Republic. The allegations appeared in a report released last month by Human Rights watch accusing Ugandan troops of sexually exploiting and abusing at least 13 women and girls since 2015.
19 Jul 2017 13:48
UPDF Spokesperson Brig. Richard Karemire opening the workshop at Royal suites Hotel.
The Uganda Peoples Defence Forces- UPDF has started training its officers and men on how to investigate and document sexual violence in conflict areas. 

The training, conducted by the Refugee Law Project, an outreach of the School of Law Makerere University, aims at equipping UPDF soldiers and ministry of Defense civilian staffs with skills in investigating and documenting sexual violence as a means of promoting accountability for the violations.

The training comes at the backdrop of allegations of rape and exploitation by Ugandan soldiers who have been searching for Lord's Resistance Army rebels in Central African Republic.  The allegations appeared in a report released last month by Human Rights watch accusing Ugandan troops of sexually exploiting and abusing at least 13 women and girls since 2015.

Uganda's 2,500-strong force had been deployed in CAR since 2009 as part of the AU's regional task-force, alongside US special forces, to capture or kill members of the LRA, in particular its leader, Joseph Kony. The two armies ended the pursuit in April claiming that the LRA was no longer a threat to the region.

In its report, Human Rights watch quoted 13 women and three girls, sharing tales of exploitation by Ugandan soldiers in the town of Obo, where Ugandan forces were based.  Similarly, in 2016, the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights reported 14 cases of rape by Ugandan forces in CAR, including instances involving children.

A statement released by UPDF this afternoon indicates that the training which started this morning, with UPDF spokespersons as the first beneficiaries, will provide quality and response services to victims and survivors of sexual violence such as refugees, asylum seekers, deportees, unaccompanied minors and internally displaced persons.

UPDF spokesperson Brig Richard Karemire described the training as timely since Uganda as an Island of peace has attracted multitudes of refugees, most especially women and children from South Sudan, Central African Republic, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Eritrea, among others.

The UPDF has struggled to address allegations of sexual violence raised by different reports from areas where they have deployed before including Central African Republic, South Sudan and Somalia. Brig. Karemire noted that the UPDF is investigating allegations of sexual violence raised by different reports from areas where UPDF is currently operating.

He commended the Refugee Law Project (RLP) for identifying and filling the gap and implored participants to develop a culture of zero tolerance to sexual violence in conflict areas.

He is optimistic that the training together with media coverage of court martial proceedings will go a long way in avoiding any occurrences of such acts and ensure transparency, justice and accountability to victims of sexual violence.

A 2015 United Nations report says up to 2,527 cases of conflict-related sexual violence were documented in the Central African Republic where women and girls, and sometimes men and boys, were systematically targeted by fighting groups such as Fulani Mbarara and ex-Séléka rebel fighters.

From January to September 2014, according to the report, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) recorded up to 11,769 cases of sexual and gender-based violence in North Kivu, South Kivu, Orientale, Katanga and Maniema in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The report further cites Somalia, where sexual violence remains widespread in areas where there are military offensives. Between January and August 2014, the Gender-Based Violence Information Management System recorded 2,891 incidents of gender-based violence in Mogadishu alone.

The report implicates the Somali National Army, the Somali police force and the Al-Shabaab militants. It is because of the Al Shabaab terrorist activities in Somalia and in the region that Uganda deployed forces in the war-torn country in 2007. Other countries such as Djibouti, Kenya and Burundi among others later joined Uganda under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

AMISOM troops have, sometimes, also been accused of sexual exploitation and abuse in Somalia.