Editor’s Note: This blog is cross-posted from Invisible Children and first appeared on their website.
Right now, approximately 100 U.S. military advisors are in central Africa, assisting the regional mission to end LRA violence and arrest Joseph Kony. They were first sent to the region in late 2011, as a result of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, legislation that was passed thanks to the dedicated lobbying of Invisible Children activists like you.
Every six months, the President and a team of his high-level advisors review the advisor mission and decide whether to end it, modify it, or to extend it for an additional six months. The President has continued to extend the mission since late 2011, which is a strong testament to the powerful and determined advocacy that so many of you have done over the past few years.
This August, the advisor mission is up for review once again. And unless the President hears loud and clear from us – and from members of Congress – that this mission needs to continue, there’s a chance that he could decide to scale back (or end) the mission. Thanks to some allies in Congress, we have an opportunity to make our case – but we’ve only got one week to do it. That’s why we need your voice right now.
How can we influence the President’s decision?
Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Ed Royce (R-CA), who have been long-time champions on the LRA issue from inside Washington, have written a letter to President Obama encouraging him to recommit the U.S. advisors to this mission and allow them the time they need to accomplish the goals they have been given. The letter was introduced to Congress last Monday, and will be delivered to President Obama in one week. That means within the next four days, we need to make sure that as many representatives as possible sign their name to show their support. It’s simple – more signatures means more impact when this letter is put in President Obama’s hands.
What can you do to help?
Your assignment is to convince your representative to sign the letter to President Obama by this Friday, July 25th – which means you’ve got to move fast!
First, please take a minute to tweet, call and email your representative. Then for extra credit, get 10 of your friends to take these steps as well.
It’s your member of Congress’ job to represent your concerns in Washington. We’re not kidding when we say that your voice is powerful and that you can directly influence your political leaders to take action simply by telling them what you care about (again…and again…and again). It’s all about persistence, people!
Why are these troops so important?
The U.S. advisors have played an incredibly significant role in supporting and coordinating efforts between the different African Union forces working to dismantle the LRA, protect civilians, and arrest the LRA’s top leadership.
Since the start of the US. advisor mission, we’ve seen very encouraging evidence that their efforts are having a strong, positive impact in the region. Over the past three years, we’ve seen a 91% reduction in LRA killings and 67% reduction in abductions by the LRA. Peaceful defections of LRA fighters have increased, and several top LRA leaders have been removed from the battlefield. We’ve never been closer to seeing a permanent end to LRA violence – but we haven’t crossed the finish line just yet, and it’s critically important that the advisors continue their efforts.
In spite of the progress we’ve made, it is incredibly important that our government remains committed to the mission. While Kony and the LRA are weaker than ever before, they are not beyond the point of a very vengeful return. Kony is a master of survival, and we have repeatedly seen him take advantage of any window of opportunity to evade capture and to maintain (or grow) his fighting force.
If the U.S. advisor mission is ended or weakened before Kony has been arrested and the LRA has been dismantled, violent LRA attacks are likely to escalate in areas of central Africa that have been relatively safe over the past couple of years, due to the presence of security forces. We simply cannot allow that to happen. And we have the tools to make sure it doesn’t.
The good news?
Your involvement is working; 22 representatives have already signed on to the counter-LRA letter. Check out the list below, and if your representative has signed on, we’d love for you to send him/her a “thank you” message via Twitter, email, or over the phone (or feel free to get a little crazy and do all three). A “thank you” goes a long way in Washington (since people rarely say it). We’ll keep adding to this list as more members of Congress show their support, so we can celebrate together.
Ed Royce (R-CA); Jim McGovern (D-MA); Michael McCaul (R-TX); Barbara Lee (D-CA); John Lewis (D-GA); Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC); Jim Moran (D-NY); Gwen Moore (D-WI); Karen Bass (D-CA); Bobby Rush (D-IL); Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL); Steve Stivers (R-OH); Jim Langevin (D-RI); Frank Wolf (R-VA); Maxine Waters (D-CA); Peter King (R-NY); Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX); Alcee Hasting (D-FL); Adam Schiff (D-CA); Steve Israel (D-NY); Peter Welch (D-MA); Eliot Engel (D-NY)
We need to urge as many representatives as possible to sign on to the counter-LRA letter. Take two minutes to contact your representative today.