“This may seem odd coming from someone who works for a peace institute, but… the only way to stop [Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph] Kony is to capture him and kill him.”
So said theologian David R. Smock of the U.S. Institute of Peace. Yeah, it’s that bad.
Fortunately, on Wednesday night, the House of Representatives passed legislation aimed at targeting this African war criminal and designated terrorist. It now goes to the president’s desk for signature. The success of this legislation is due in large part to grassroots effort that has mobilized young people across the U.S. to the cause of ending the LRA’s atrocities.
As I have written before, the decapitation of the LRA couldn’t come soon enough. One, it’s the moral policy given the horrendous atrocities – new recruits, often drugged, are forced to rape their mothers, kill their parents and eat their victims – the LRA has committed over the past two decades. Truly, hell on earth. Second, the LRA’s continued existence almost guarantees regional instability.
As I said on the House floor on Wednesday night, the LRA’s objectives are threefold: kill, capture, and resupply for its next pillage. How has this group survived so long? One researcher put it this way: “Put simply, the LRA’s fortuitous combination of murky international alliances, child soldiers, and bumbling enemies has proved stronger than any military offensive over the last 20 years.”
The abduction and use of child soldiers is difficult to combat. But we can sever its ties with outside groups and bolster those on Kony’s trail.
Kony has long battled the government of Uganda. For that he has had the support of the Islamist government in Sudan, which wanted to hit back at Uganda’s leader for supporting Christians and animists in southern Sudan. Former LRA commanders report that Khartoum provided ammunition, intelligence training, and medical care.
More recently, there have been credible reports of the LRA gaining sanctuary in Darfur. A referendum on southern Sudan’s secession is set to take place early next year; and Darfur remains insecure. Unless the LRA is permanently dealt with now, Khartoum may very well put this killing squad to use.
The Ugandan army and others in the region have struggled with the LRA. Importantly, the bill passed last night calls for the provision of military and intelligence support to neutralize Kony and his commanders. Targeted assistance from the U.S. could tip the scales. This legislation should spur the Obama administration into devising a strategy to make this happen. Congress will have to crack the whip, aka “oversight,” to make sure they have their thinking caps on and aren’t blinded by their engagement with Sudan.
Stopping Kony won’t happen without making sure that his ties to Khartoum are cut and that those taking aim at him have what they need. His removal won’t guarantee peace — but it sure won’t hurt.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and former Africa Subcommittee chair. He also writes a blog, Foreign Intrigue, on national security issues.