HC Deb 08 September 2003 vol 410 cc90-1W
John Barrett

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what estimate he has made of the number of child soldiers in Uganda. [127932]

Hilary Benn

Exact numbers of child soldiers within the regular Ugandan Army have yet to be confirmed. We believe that the Government of Uganda is taking serious steps to address this issue. In May 2002 it ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It has reinforced army recruitment systems in an attempt to screen out underage recruits. The issue remains a problem for the auxiliary forces, although the numbers are believed to be relatively small. UNICEF, diplomatic missions (including the UK) and the Uganda Human Rights Commission have brought specific cases to the Army's attention. With UNICEF's co-operation, we understand that these children are in the process of being demobilised. We will continue to monitor this issue closely.

UNICEF Uganda also estimates that the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group operating in Northern Uganda, has abducted 20,400 children since 1990. Abduction and forced conscription of children is the chief recruitment method of the LRA. 6,000 of these children have yet to be accounted for.

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