UN rights chief condemns the military's abuses in Uganda

The U.N. human rights chief said Thursday that while northern rebels have been responsible for atrocities, the army also has violated Ugandans' rights and in doing so breached the trust between a government and its people. Louise Arbour arrived in Uganda for a weeklong visit on Jan. 7 and immediately flew to the north to see for herself the impact of the rebellion by the elusive Lord's Resistance Army rebels, or LRA.

"I will meet the president and tell him about what I have seen and what people think. There is a climate of distrust between the people and authorities," Arbour told reporters upon returning to Kampala from the north on Thursday. The government's counterinsurgency tactics and rebels' brutal mutilation of civilians, abduction of children and killings have forced more than 1.5 million people to abandon rural and isolated settlements and take shelter in at least 140 camps over the course of the 19-year war.

"The violation of rights by the LRA has been of great magnitude and although the (army's) violations may be on a smaller scale, the difference between the two is that violations by the government army are double violations because they contain an element of a breach of trust and confidence," Arbour told journalists on returning to the capital, Kampala. "If the rights are violated by an army supposed to protect the people, it is a double violation," she said.

Arbour signed an agreement with the government Monday in the northern town of Gulu under which the U.N. human rights agency will set up offices in four districts affected by the war, broadcast radio programs preaching peace and the explaining civil rights while it monitors the human rights situation in the area. She called for a return to conditions that would allow people to return safely and voluntarily to their homes.

"I am concerned that the military has taken over the work of the police in the camps," Arbour said Thursday. "We are aware of the deteriorating security situation there which called in the presence of the army, but this should not be sustained in the long run. It is not healthy for a democracy for the army to spread out in the region and leave out a civilian police force", reports the AP. N.U.

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