Dáil Éireann - Volume 580 - 17 February, 2004
Written Answers - Human Rights Issues.
Mr. Kenny Mr. Kenny
 271. Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason Ireland supplied aid to Uganda given the evidence available in respect of Government activities and the serious concern expressed in respect of human rights in Uganda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5016/04]
Mr. Kitt Mr. Kitt
Mr. Kitt: Uganda, as the Deputy will know, is one of the least developed countries in the world and has suffered grievously in its history under dictators like Idi Amin and Milton Obote. Ireland has a programme of development assistance in Uganda five other countries in sub-saharan Africa and one country in Asia with the single-minded purpose of tackling deep poverty and supporting economic and social development. The partnership implicit in that engagement does not blind the Irish programme either to the weakness of governance which is common in poor, developing countries or make it tolerant of human rights abuses.
In Uganda, there has been significant progress in development. Poverty has been reduced, the infection rate for HIV-AIDS has been reversed, the economy has grown from its low base, universal primary education has been introduced with close to full national enrolment and, in general, the quality of public service has been improved. However, Uganda has also been engaged militarily in the Democratic Republic of Congo and its heavy-handed campaign against the heinous Lords Resistance Army in northern Uganda has exacerbated the plight of innocent civilians.
In the case of the first, Ireland, in concert with its donor partners, has used the leverage of its development programme to pressurise the Government of Uganda for withdrawal from the DRC and for engagement with the peace process. There has been much progress on this issue. In April last all Ugandan troops left the DRC and, since then, Uganda has been playing a full role in the peace process. Ireland still presses for the holding to account of Ugandans who have been involved in the illegal exploitation of DRC resources and in human rights abuses. Some action has been taken and a number of senior Ugandans have lost office. More remains to be done, however.
The situation in northern Uganda is difficult and complex. Over a year ago, the Ugandan defence forces, with the agreement of the Government of Sudan, moved across the Ugandan-Sudanese border in a bid to crush the Lords Resistance Army. The LRA is an insurgent group with a strange fundamentalist religious agenda and a history of gross human rights abuses, including mass child kidnapping, and which for almost two decades had been attacking villages in northern Uganda. A year later the situation has worsened. The LRA has moved back into northern Uganda, has increased its attacks, has driven over a million people from their homes and has created a food crisis in the region.
 Ireland, again with other donors, has adopted a two-track approach to the situation. To help deal with the humanitarian crisis, NGOs like Trócaire and Concern and agencies like the World Food Programme have been given funds to enable them assist people affected in the north. On the wider issue, Ireland has pressed the Ugandan Government to reconsider its policy in the north, in particular to continue to allow for an amnesty for LRA fighters who wish to surrender, to pursue the option of a negotiated settlement and to address the alienation in the region which has allowed the LRA to operate.
In summary, while engaging in Uganda with the primary purpose of assisting some of the poorest people in the world, Ireland has pursued a critical and clear-minded policy of encouraging responsible and responsive government. We believe that dialogue and engagement are the best means to promote and secure progress in both sustainable development and democratisation.
Dáil Éireann 580 Written Answers Human Rights Issues.