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Leading Human Rights Organizations Back LRA Legislation

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Leading Human Rights Organizations Back LRA Legislation

Posted by Laura Heaton on May 22, 2009

In a joint statement issued yesterday, 22 human rights, humanitarian, and faith-based groups, including Enough, voiced support for legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that would commit the United States to comprehensive efforts to help civilians threatened by one of the world’s longest-running and brutal insurgencies in the world.

The Lord’s Resistance Army has terrorized northern Uganda for more than 20 years, employing a brutal campaign of child abductions, forced conscription of child soldiers, sexual slavery, and murder.

If passed, the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act would require the Obama administration to develop a regional strategy to protect civilians in central Africa from attacks by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and enforce the rule of law and ensure full humanitarian access in LRA-affected areas. The Act additionally commits the United States to increase support to economic recovery and transitional justice efforts in Uganda.

The legislation also aims to help secure a lasting peace in Uganda by supporting measures to assist war-affected communities in northern Uganda and to help resolve longstanding divisions between communities in Uganda’s north and south. It authorizes increased funding for recovery efforts in northern Uganda, with a particular focus on supporting transitional justice and reconciliation.  It also calls on the Ugandan government to reinvigorate its commitment to a transparent and accountable reconstruction process in war-affected areas.

Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, reacted to the legislation, saying:

The LRA has long posed a terrible threat to civilians. This bill will help the US government support for comprehensive multilateral efforts to protect civilians in LRA-affected areas and to apprehend or otherwise remove the group’s leader, Joseph Kony, and his top commanders from the battlefield.

In related news, Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), who is the lead Republican sponsoring the LRA legislation in the House, addressed the challenge of the LRA on his blog today. He emphasized the fact that halting Kony, although he is just one man, would be a game changer in northern Uganda and neighboring countries.

The world is full of complex crises. They can seem overwhelming.  It is fashionable to blame conflict in Africa on poverty and other environmental factors. But sometimes just getting rid of one person does make a big difference. History is full of captivating leaders with bad ideas who do great damage. It’s a lesson I learned from West Africa, where Liberian president Charles Taylor ran a gangster regime that brought havoc to neighboring Sierra Leone.  After his hard fought removal, the region is peaceful.  Kony’s removal won’t guarantee peace — but it will make it possible.

The Enough Team contributed to this post.