UPDF ends first demining phase

UPDF soldiers and officials from the De-mining Action Programme, participate in wiring up the pile of weapons and explosives to conclude the first phase of the demining and disarmament exercise in Acholi sub-region on Tuesday. PHOTO by james eriku

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The fist phase of the exercise, started three years ago, saw thousands of weapons recovered and destroyed in Acholi, Lango and West Nile sub-regions, as well as DR Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic, according to the army.

Gulu

The UPDF and its partners have concluded the first phase of demining and disarmament in northern Uganda, with thousands of landmines, ammunitions and other types of military devices destroyed.

Among the 4,287 military wares destroyed on Tuesday at the 4th Division Air Force base in Bardege Division, Gulu District, include unexploded ordinances such as anti-personnel mines, anti-tank mines, 2,376 rounds of ammunition, rapid propelled grenades and mortars.

The army said the weapons destroyed were ‘left over’ of the LRA rebels recovered from operation areas of Kitgum, Lamwo, Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya, parts of Lango, West Nile, DR Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan since the launch of the programme about three years ago.

Thousands of people returning to their villages, following the closure of IDP camps and aid workers, have been concerned about the presence of landmines and other unexploded ordinances in areas that were battlefields.
Most of the mines were mainly recovered from public places such as water sources, market places, gardens, roads and sometimes in bushes.

The 4th Division Public Relations Officer, Lt. Isaac Oware, while briefing partners during on Tuesday, urged the war affected community to have hope, saying the demining and ammunition recovery would continue in villages that are highly suspected to be having them.

“Although we are now done with the first phase of the programme, we shall continue to demine and ensure that all guns that are in illegal hands are collected and destroyed to enable peace return to the region,” he said. Lt. Oware said there could still be many illegal armories left by the rebels as they fled.

The army, with support from United Nations Development Programme had slated December last year to conclude the de-mining exercise in the region but officials said the exercise was still on course.

Col. Francis Achoka, the army’s coordinator for resettlement in northern Uganda, recently said efforts to recover illegal weapons and de-mining in the region achieved its intended purpose, but added more still needs to be done.
Statistics from aid agencies that operated during the peak of the insurgency in the region indicates that about 8,500 people got injuries as a result of land mines and other weapons.

Government’s policy to rehabilitate injured people had an effective referral system but favoured mainly former fighters - rebel returnees and former government soldiers, and left out the other categories of injured people in the communities.

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