Our car stopped at a government checkpoint on the way to Mumosho, a small town about an hour outside of Bukavu in eastern Congo, and Enough researcher Amani Matabaro jumped out to talk to the armed guards inside a ramshackle hut perched precariously along the cliff at the side of the road. Amani travels this route two to three times per week, and as one of the individuals we were in Congo to profile, we were riding along to meet his friends in the remote village where he grew up and check in on his many projects in the area. Before he could say a word to the guards inside, they laughed and shook their heads, “Come on, man, we know what you’re going to ask us. And you already know the answer,” and with that, Amani handed over his payment. Read More »
Congo is also known for its impressive natural resource wealth, yet it is as rich in resources as it is in atrocities given the fact that it has been ravaged by successive wars for more than 15 years. The province of South Kivu and its capital city, Bukavu, is one of the worst conflict-affected areas in eastern Congo. In light of the conflict and hardship in the East, I asked myself: Do the upcoming elections matter here?
Across the country and here in South Kivu the campaign is the subject of countless conversations among the locals. I spent some time walking around in town to capture the sentiments of people. Read More »
Just over a month ago, President Obama announced the deployment of U.S. military advisors to assist regional efforts to apprehend senior Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, commanders, protect civilians, and encourage defections from the rebel group. This is a welcome step forward in the President's implementation of the 2010 LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, but according to the latest LRA Strategy Report Card released today the U.S. still needs to do more. Read More »
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration’s recent deployment of U.S. Special Forces advisers to assist in the fight to end the Lord’s Resistance Army is a critical first step towards achieving that objective, but much more needs to be done to help end Central Africa’s longest running war and heal the devastated region, a coalition of rights groups said in its third quarterly report on the administration’s policy towards dealing with the crisis.
The groups Resolve, Invisible Children, and the Enough Project gave the Obama administration high marks for engagement and efforts to apprehend the LRA leadership, but also assigned lower marks for protecting civilians and encouraging LRA fighters to defect in the groups’ LRA Strategy Report Card. The groups noted that hundreds of thousands of civilians remain vulnerable to rebel raids across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
"U.S. policy is beginning to hone in on the kinds of measures that are required to finally bring an end to the devastation wrought by the LRA," said John Prendergast, the co-founder of the Enough Project. "With the significant step of deploying U.S. forces, the Obama administration has new leverage to ask other nations to help in a multinational effort to end the LRA as we know it. With the right African troops on the ground, the proper transport support, and a sufficient intelligence surge, Africa's longest-running militia could be neutralized, thus providing a new measure of security to millions of people throughout Central Africa."
One year ago, President Obama unveiled his strategy for ending the LRA scourge as mandated in the bipartisan LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. The administration made little visible progress on implementing the strategy until last month when President Obama deployed the military advisers, a hugely significant step. As required by the LRA legislation, the Secretary of State will release a report later this month about progress made toward implementing the President's strategy. The strategy calls for action in five areas, which the Report Card grades.
"The President's recent deployment of military advisers is a huge step forward in the administration’s multi-year effort to disarm the LRA," said Ben Keesey, the CEO of Invisible Children. "Thousands of advocates who rallied in support of the LRA Disarmament Bill stand behind the President's commitment. However, the U.S. advisers on the ground will quickly see the significant mobility and intelligence challenges that face any operation aimed at stopping LRA violence and we hope that the President provides the resources necessary to overcome these challenges and disarm the LRA once and for all."
The LRA has preyed on civilians in Central Africa for nearly 25 years. The rebel group has abducted tens of thousands of children and has been notorious for hacking off the lips and noses of their victims. The rights groups gave the Obama administration good marks for helping communities survive and rebuild noting that non-food humanitarian relief increased from $8.3 million to more than $13 million.
“The level of commitment senior US officials showed in deploying US military advisers must now be focused on diplomatic efforts to improve regional collaboration, especially between Uganda and Congo,” said Michael Poffenberger, Executive Director of Resolve. “The Administration also needs to dedicate significantly more resources towards improving civilian early warning mechanisms and supporting UN efforts to encourage LRA fighters to peacefully surrender.”
In Issue #3 of our LRA Strategy Report Cards we take stock of what President Obama has accomplished in the first year of implementing his comprehensive strategy to address Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) violence in central Africa, and what he will have to do in the coming months if hopes for an end to LRA violence in 2012 are to be realized.
By Enough Project, Resolve, Invisible Children | Nov 21, 2011
During the first stop on what has effectively become my “Southern Tour” for the Raise Hope for Congo campaign, I recently found myself catching the contagious enthusiasm of Congo advocates in Birmingham before I had even had a morning cup of coffee. These two incredible women were taking their Congo story to the office of U.S. Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-AL), and I met them at a coffee shop to prep for the meeting and learn about their efforts. Read More »
With election-related violence on the rise, and experts highlighting some encouraging trends, as well as apparent challenges, connected to the increased focus on the trade in conflict minerals from the East, now is a key moment for the U.S. government to ramp up its engagement in Congo.
Next Monday, November 21, the George Washington University STAND chapter is hosting a rally for students, activists, human rights organizations, and members of the African diaspora community. Read More »