IOM assists Ugandan rebels to get amnesty

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) office in Kenya launched a programme on Monday to screen former Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army rebels who wish to apply for an amnesty and return to Uganda.

A total of 48 men, 30 women, and 43 children had so far come forward, Charles Kwenin, Regional Project Development Officer told IRIN on Wednesday. Registrations were to take place until 7 February to allow all the ex-combatants, some of whom came from different factional groups, an "equal and fair chance" of reporting, he added.

The Ugandan Amnesty Act, signed in January 2000, provides for an amnesty to Ugandan nationals involved in "acts of a war-like nature", and covers any Ugandan residing within or outside the country who has engaged in armed rebellion or war against the government since 1986.

Following a fact-finding mission in May 2000, the Ugandan government estimated that there were 2,866 Ugandans - including dependents - living "irregularly" in Kenya. Many of these had already gone home unassisted, said Kwenin, leaving a current estimated total of about 1,000.

Once the applicants had been determined to be "bona fide former combatants" by an Amnesty Commission, they would be eligible for repatriation assistance, which included rehabilitation, reinsertion and reintegration support provided by IOM, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), and other NGOs, IOM said in a communique.

The programme had initial funding for 500 former rebels to return from both Kenya and neighbouring Sudan. To date, the organisation had returned 292 people from Sudan to Uganda.