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Tough Talk from Secretary Clinton, Senator Feingold on LRA

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Tough Talk from Secretary Clinton, Senator Feingold on LRA

Posted by Meghna Raj on February 27, 2010

Appearing on Capitol Hill this week to testify about the Obama administration’s foreign policy priorities, Secretary of State Clinton offered some specific details – and personal dedication – on the topic of stopping the marauding Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa. 

At a hearing called by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Russ Feingold, chairman of the Africa Subcommittee, asked Secretary Clinton to describe how halting the LRA figures in to the U.S. government’s budget priorities. Secretary Clinton laid out specific funding intended to both help civilians who have suffered at the hands of the LRA and bring an end the rebels’ violent grip on the region.

Secretary Clinton said that the United States has already provided $6.4 million to support and improve the effectiveness of the military responses to the LRA, and she expects to notify Congress of additional funds soon. While the funding already dispensed was welcome, Enough’s LRA field researcher Ledio Cakaj put the $6.4 million figure in perspective: In just one day, the Ugandan army spends an estimated $5,000 on food for its soldiers tracking the LRA.
While much more support and work is required to effectively end the LRA insurgency, it was encouraging to hear Secretary Clinton directly address the terror caused by the LRA:
“I have been following the Lord’s Resistance Army for more than 15 years. I just don’t understand why we cannot end this scourge. And we are going to do everything we can to provide the support we believe will be able to do that.”
Watch the whole exchange between Senator Feingold and Secretary Clinton:

Senator Feingold continued to shine the spotlight on LRA violence by pushing for additional support and passage of The Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009 (S. 1067) in a statement submitted for the congressional record today. Feingold called the continuing violence perpetrated by the LRA “senseless and horrific.” He noted that senators from both sides of the aisle have signed on to legislation that calls on the U.S. government to devise a strategy to end the LRA’s brutal violence and begin rebuilding communities destroyed by more than two decades of conflict:
“It shocks our collective conscience. That is why Senator Brownback, Senator Inhofe, and I, along with 60 of our colleagues, leading human rights groups, and thousands of young idealistic Americans have come together around this bill.”
In fact, according to the Congressional Research Service, no bill focused on sub-Saharan Africa has had so many cosponsors since at least 1973.  
While it is evident that legislation and funding are just the beginning of what it will take to end the LRA’s reign of terror and address the deep wounds of the civilians left in their wake, it is encouraging to see the momentum building among U.S. policymakers to end what a U.N official once called “the world’s worst neglected crisis.”