After impassioned lobbying from thousands of activists, historic legislation aimed at ending Africa’s longest-running war is on the verge of passing the Senate. With a record 61 cosponsors, the bipartisan Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act was submitted last month for Senate passage by unanimous consent.
But a lone senator – Tom Coburn of Oklahoma – is single-handedly blocking the bill, jeopardizing the progress toward peace so many have worked to create. Nicknamed “Dr. No” by his Senate colleagues, Senator Coburn objects to funding authorized in the bill that would help rebuild the communities devastated by the violence that plagued northern Uganda for more than two decades. If Senator Coburn is not convinced to allow the bill to pass, the legislation will die with this session of Congress.
Too much is at stake to let that happen. According to recent U.N. estimates, the LRA massacred over 100 people last month and continue to terrorize communities in three countries. Enough’s LRA researcher Ledio Cakaj reported yesterday that the death toll for the past two months may be as high as 400 in northeastern Congo alone.
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Unless he hears from enough of us, Senator Coburn won’t budge. But we have allies in this fight. Last week, Oklahoma’s other senator – Republican Jim Inhofe – took to the floor of the Senate to plead for the bill. He called specifically on his state’s junior senator to lift his hold and allow it to pass.
If we succeed, President Obama will be required to develop a strategy to help stop LRA attacks and abductions, arrest rebel leader Joseph Kony, and provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance for the victims of Kony’s atrocities. That’s the kind of leadership that has been missing for the 24 years and counting.
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Michael Poffenberger is the executive director of Resolve Uganda, a D.C. based advocacy organization.