Editor's Note: Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) is a longtime advocate of social justice and human rights work. He previously chaired the Subcommittee on Africa and traveled to Uganda with President Clinton. In 2009, he and Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) introduced the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, which Congress passed with broad bipartisan support on May 12, 2012. In his Enough Moment, Congressman Royce shares the important role of accountability and justice to bring peace in war-torn regions.
I have served on the Foreign Affairs Committee since I came to Congress in 1993. I chaired the Africa Subcommittee for eight years, starting in 1997. I traveled to Uganda with President Clinton. Uganda is a bit deceptive, in that many sections, including the capital of Kampala, are free of violence and enjoy relative prosperity. Because the violence occurs in rural areas, and because Uganda has been celebrated as an ‘African success,’ the spotlight on LRA atrocities and its recruitment of child soldiers hasn’t been so bright. Frankly, without advocacy NGOs, this would be a forgotten conflict.
I fought very hard to bring to justice the president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, who threw his region into war. My efforts included a well-timed New York Times op-ed that I wrote pressuring the president of Nigeria, Obasanjo, to turn over Taylor, then exiled in Nigeria. Many opposed me, arguing that the apprehension of Taylor would destabilize the region, or alternatively, would be inconsequential. Now, Taylor is being tried for war crimes, and the two countries are at peace. Bringing one man to justice can lead to peace, whether it’s Charles Taylor, Joseph Kony, Omar Bashir, or an indicted Congolese warlord. Indeed, imposing accountability can work wonders, while unaccountability guarantees conflict. I’m committed to resolving these conflicts because they’re not irresolvable. There is hope.
I meet with many constituents interested in these issues, both in Washington and in my Orange County district. They also write my office. I always learn from them. Step one is simply calling or writing your local member of Congress, requesting a meeting in his or her district office. In July 2009, Resolve, Enough Project, and Invisible Children organized a lobbying day on Capitol Hill, encouraging members of Congress to support my bill on northern Uganda. Having a physical presence in Washington is very effective. I think it’s great that there are so many activists, including young people, concerned about human suffering in Africa.
UPDATE: Since this Enough Moment was written, in May 2012, the International Criminal Court found Charles Taylor guilty on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Photo: Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA) (U.S. Congress)