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A National Gathering of the Next Generation of Human Rights Defenders
While the “Kony 2012” video has catapulted the Lord’s Resistance Army into international headlines, Congress is pressing for more U.S. engagement to end the LRA crisis. This week, Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Ed Royce (R-CA) introduced a resolution in the House (H.Res. 583) expressing support for robust efforts to stop the LRA’s atrocities and bring the group’s leader Joseph Kony and his top commanders to justice.
The McGovern-Royce resolution urges the Obama administration to expand existing efforts to arrest the LRA’s senior leadership and bring an end to the LRA. Chief among the recommendations is the need for addressing the shortcomings of current regional and international initiatives. Specifically, H.Res. 583 asks the administration to lead a diplomatic surge to increase the number of capable regional military forces to pursue LRA commanders and protect civilians, improve cooperation and cross-border coordination among the governments in the region, and obtain increased contributions from European and other donor nations for regional military operations. It calls on the administration to use existing funds to: enhance the mobility, intelligence, and logistical capabilities of regional forces; expand physical access and telecommunications infrastructure to facilitate the timely flow of information and access for humanitarian and protection actors; and increase efforts to encourage LRA commanders, fighters, and other abductees to escape and defect from the group, including through radio and community programs. The resolution emphasizes civilian protection as a priority, especially by increasing efforts to keep vulnerable communities informed of known LRA movements and threats.
As Enough has written on several occasions, the Obama administration must strengthen its engagement to end the LRA crisis, working closely with partners in and outside of the region, including local civil society and communities. For efforts to apprehend the LRA leadership and protect civilians to succeed, there is an urgent need for more capable troops, the intelligence required to locate senior LRA leaders and identify threats to civilians, helicopters and other transport to act quickly on that intelligence, improved cooperation among the regional governments, and enhanced civilian protection. The U.S. military advisors that President Obama recently deployed to the region should not be prematurely withdrawn, and the U.S. must monitor the human rights and other abuses of the militaries involved and insist on accountability for all crimes committed. To buttress the military campaign, a strategy to encourage defections from the LRA and improved physical and telecommunications infrastructure are necessary. Lastly, the U.S. and others in the international community must make a long-term commitment to supporting and enabling communities affected by LRA violence to rebuild and recover.
A recent spike in LRA attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo—one of the three countries where the LRA is currently active—underscores the need for immediate action. Given that the Congolese government has refused to let the Ugandan army operate there, Enough is concerned that the country could again become a safe haven for the LRA.
Representatives McGovern and Royce expressed their hope that the resolution would build on the momentum garnered by the growing interest in the LRA. “There is increased attention on the terror inflicted upon innocent people by the LRA—and that’s a good thing,” said Representative McGovern. “I am hopeful that we can use this momentum as a force for change. We must do all that we can to protect innocent civilians—especially children—and end LRA violence once and for all. We made important strides with our legislation in the last Congress, but our work must continue.”
“Last week, a record-setting Internet campaign brought the attention of tens of millions of Americans to the atrocities the LRA is committing,” said Congressman Royce. “This resolution builds on past legislation and the current campaign by giving an added focus to these atrocities on children and efforts to stop them.”
H.Res. 583 commends citizens in the U.S. “for their concern and creative efforts to help the communities affected by LRA violence.”
The resolution also calls for the U.S. “to place restrictions on any individuals or governments, including the Republic of Sudan, found to be providing training, supplies, financing, or support of any kind to Joseph Kony or the LRA.”
Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Chris Coons (D-DE) are expected to introduce a similar resolution in the Senate soon.
Photo: LRA fighters (AP)