Prior to camp interns returning to their “original villages”, the then Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG) led by Hon Livingstone Okello-Okello appealed to the Museveni government to deploy a team of landmine experts to the return sites to eradicate the threat of landmines and unexploded ordinances in the region.
The APG said then, that there were so many landmines, bombs and other weapons that posed grave threats to the returnees and that these were weapons abandoned by both the LRA and UPDF during the brutal two decades of war between the government and the LRA.
"The government should send a team of landmine experts to de-mine all the villages, gardens, paths and water points. "We don't want to hear of people being hit to death by landmines and other objects." Aswa county MP and then APG Vice-Chairman, Reagan Okumu said.
The former Nwoya MP Simon Oyet said, "If the Government does not de-mine this region before people go back to their villages, then our people will keep on dying."
Almost seven years down the road, the ever-growing problem of uncleared land-mines and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) continues to pose grave threats to the livelihood of the civilian population and it is estimated that at least one person is injured or killed by landmines or unexploded ordnances every week in the northern region.
Landmines are a global concern since their presence can lead to profound health, social, environmental and economic impacts. In Africa, landmines kill, injure and disable over 12,000 people every year.
The most severely infested countries are Angola, Chad, Eritrea, Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. In addition, even before the spring uprising; Egypt, Libya and Tunisia had minefields dating back to World War II.
In northern Uganda, Acholi region particularly is posed to suffer from an epidemic of landmines and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) for sometime to come, because it is the most heavily mined region in Uganda since the wars that have befallen this country since independence in 1962. Therefore, half the population live in areas where the risk of being killed or injured by landmines can be considered high or very high.
Besides killing and disabling individuals, landmines also affect families and communities by preventing land cultivation, blocking passage to safe drinking water and other creative activities that children engage in.
Hundreds of children, herding animals, planting crops or just playing, have been killed or maimed by these deadly devices. The Danish Demining Group in Uganda and Mine Action in South Sudan who recently mounted a joint operation in the fight against landmines said in February that the two countries' border areas are still unsafe for human settlement and other activities as they harbour very many unexploded ordnances.
The explosive weapons were planted during the Lord's Resistance Army insurgency, which ended almost five years ago. The supervisor of the Danish Demining Group (DDG), Emmy Katukore, revealed that so far, they have cleared only 34,255 millimetres, recovering five anti-personnel mines in the process.
Considering the team has to cover nearly 80 kilometres from Lamwo district to Atiak sub-county in Amuru district at the Bibia border post, the work done so far indicates that very little progress has been made and there seems little prospect of any end to the carnage, particularly in areas that boarder the state of South Sudan, like Agoro, Madi-Opei, Lukung, Paloga, Padibe, Palabek and others like Atiak and Pabbo.
Land-mines lodged in the ground will remain waiting and active for decades. As one Khmer Rouge general put it, a land-mine is a perfect soldier: "Ever courageous, never sleeps, never misses."
Landmines are basically explosive devices that are designed to explode when triggered by pressure or a tripwire. These devices are typically found on or just below the surface of the ground. The purpose of mines when used by armed forces is to disable any person or vehicle that comes into contact with it by an explosion or fragments released at high speeds.
The impact of landmines on war-torn societies is devastating. Broadly speaking, they impede the ability of mine-affected communities to fully recover from conflicts after the cessation of hostilities. Beyond the immediate dangers to life and limb, landmines impose a heavy economic burden on these communities.
The psychological and social traumas associated with landmines can be as devastating on a mine-affected community as the immediate physical injuries sustained by mine victims.
The government needs to do more in supporting the demining team so that it has the resources and manpower it needs in making the region safer for the communities to rebuild their lives. But then again, experience has taught as that when it comes to addressing the burning issues in northern Uganda, the government will always offer excuses and drag its feet. From the Ebola epidemic, hepatitis outbreak to the tragic nodding disease that is slowly and painfully wiping away young children, communities have learnt to fend for themselves with the least intervention from a government that bears the sole responsibility to protect all citizens from harms way. By A Web design Company
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