President Obama’s strategy to help stop violence perpetrated by the LRA provides a broad blueprint for action. For that blueprint to become a legitimate path to peace, the administration must take immediate steps to put it into action. Over the next few weeks, Resolve and the Enough Project will be partnering to outline six steps the Obama administration should take to kick-start implementation of the strategy. Ultimately, the success of the strategy will be judged by whether it actually keeps people in central Africa safe from LRA attacks, but by taking these six steps President Obama can demonstrate he’s serious about achieving that goal.
Item 1: Make the LRA a priority at the U.N. Security Council
The first arena for President Obama to implement the strategy is the United Nations Security Council. The Council should play a key role in forging an international consensus on how to address LRA violence, but in recent years it has neglected the issue. This month, the United States holds the presidency of the U.N. Security Council, giving U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice the chance to put the LRA on the Council’s agenda.
There are several matters Ambassador Rice should push for this month and into 2011. The first is to ensure that U.N. peacekeepers in Congo and Sudan dedicate adequate resources and troops to areas under attack by LRA rebels. More peacekeepers are especially needed in Congo, where LRA commanders oversaw brutal massacres in December 2008 and 2009.
One encouraging sign from the Security Council came when it released a statement on the Central Africa Republic. The Council welcomed greater commitments from the governments in the region and called for “the countries of the region and the relevant United Nations missions to continue to enhance coordination and information-sharing regarding the threat posed by the LRA.”
This is a welcome start, but there is much more work to do at the Council during the coming year. The Council should examine ways the international community can effectively protect civilians and apprehend LRA commanders in the Central African Republic. There are no peacekeepers in LRA-affected areas of CAR, and recent reports indicate that the Ugandan army is slowly withdrawing troops deployed there. These troops provided at least some protection to civilians. The Security Council should also initiate additional investigations about links between the LRA and the Sudanese government, and request the U.N. Secretary-General write a report about the influence of LRA violence in the region.
The U.S. presidency of the Security Council is a perfectly timed opportunity for President Obama and Ambassador Rice to demonstrate they are serious in seeking to implement the new LRA strategy. Let’s hope they don’t miss this chance.
We can help them realize we are paying attention during this opportune moment. Our friends at Oxfam have designed a campaign to remind the U.N. Security Council of the fear among Northern Congolese that the massacres of the past two Christmas seasons will be repeated. Please check out and join their campaign.
Photo: U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice at the United Nations (AP)