By Nathan Etengu
BBC, Mbale, Uganda
More than 45 children abducted by Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, (LRA) rebels have drowned in the Teso region after they were forced by the rebels to cross a flooded river.
Many children have been abducted by the rebels in recent weeks
Uganda's State Minister for the Environment, Lieutenant General Abubaker Jeje Odongo, said the children died on Tuesday in River Moroto along the border between Katakwi and the northern district of Lira.
He said the rebels forced the children, aged between nine and 15, to enter the river to test the depth of the waters but the children were unable to swim across and drowned.
General Odongo said that the rebels had failed to cross the only available bridge after government soldiers blocked their way.
The tragic news was conveyed at a rally attended by more that 8,000 internally displaced people from the district of Katakwi, Soroti and Kaberamaido who had taken sanctuary in the neighbouring Teso district.
"As I speak now, efforts are being made to recover the bodies so that those that can be identified are handed over to the parents and relatives," General Odongo said.
Some parents whose children had been abducted started wailing on hearing of the incident.
On Monday, about 20,000 school children marched through the northern town of Kitgum, demanding an end to rebel abductions.
Last month, many children were abducted when their school was raided by rebels.
The LRA has been fighting since the late 1980s to replace President Yoweri Museveni's secular government in a campaign marked by brutality against civilians.
General Odongo has assured the displaced people that a full brigade of Ugandan army troops has been sent into the area to stop rebels from entering the north-eastern Teso region.
He said the brigade of 3,000 troops would be supported by four battalions to be deployed along the border areas of Katakwi and Lira district.
The government says the troops will be reinforced by units of the voluntary Arrow Group made up of former rebels from Teso and demobilised soldiers who have offered to fight the rebels.