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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 08:42 GMT 09:42 UK
UN urges end to Ugandan 'horror'
Injured, starving child with feeding tube is held by his mother in Gulu, Uganda
The Ugandan crisis rivals that in Darfur, Sudan
Northern Uganda is suffering the most neglected humanitarian crisis in the world with 20,000 children caught up in a war, the United Nations has warned.

The UN's head of humanitarian affairs, Jan Egeland, urged countries to do more to end what he called a "litany of horrors" stretching back 18 years.

The conflict has displaced about 1.6 million people, said Mr Egeland.

However, Uganda's ambassador to the UN said his country was winning the war, adding: "We don't need the UN."

Frances Butagira said many commanders of the rebel militia known as the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which has been fighting government forces in the area since 1986, had been captured or killed.

100,000 deaths
20,000 children abducted and used as fighters or sex slaves
1.6m people displaced
40,000 "night commuters" - people who flee their homes by night to avoid raids
Sources: Jan Egeland, news agencies

"We shall win the war and soon," he told BBC News.

He added: "We don't need peacekeepers. We just want assistance as we wind up the [rebel] camps."

Mr Egeland was briefing the UN Security Council on the Uganda conflict.

He said that peace in neighbouring Sudan might have a positive effect.

"There is a peace process in Sudan which can have a positive spill over because the war in Sudan had a negative spill over earlier on the conflict in northern Uganda," Mr Egeland told reporters after the briefing.

Driven from homes

The LRA has been replenishing its ranks with abducted children and the International Criminal Court is investigating alleged war crimes committed by the rebels, thought to have used bases in Sudan.

Woman stands in her charred home in Barlonyo, Uganda
Thousands leave their homes at night to escape rebel raids

Their leader, Joseph Kony, says he is fighting for the rights of local people but observers say he has won little support in a war which has seen mass abduction and rape.

Mr Egeland took heart at the fact that the Security Council had "devoted so much time" to the crisis when he addressed it at a closed hearing on Thursday.

However, the UN's emergency relief coordinator stressed that world governments had to pay greater attention, provide more aid and put more pressure on the parties to end the conflict.

Some 80% of LRA fighters are children and about 90% of the local population have been driven from their homes, he said.

"We hope that... we are now seeing a beginning of an end to this endless litany of horrors where children are the fighters and the victims in northern Uganda," Mr Egeland said.

But Mr Butagira said the timing of Mr Egeland's words was unhelpful given the government successes in the war.

Peace efforts

On Thursday, President Yoweri Museveni described the rebels as a crushed force.

But the attacks on innocent civilians have not ended and each night, tens of thousands of children walk long distances into urban centres to sleep the night to avoid abduction by the LRA.

The BBC's Will Ross in Kampala says that most people living in northern Uganda call for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, partly because the military option has failed before.

But they also want their abducted sons and daughters back home alive, whatever crimes they have been forced to commit.

Attempts to hold peace talks have been made before but with so little trust between the two sides, they have broken down.

Our reporter says that with the LRA under military pressure, now is perhaps the best time to try and talk the rebels out of the bush.

But despite Mr Egeland's call, for now the government seems determined to fight on.

Uganda's war continues to take its toll

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