Remember your nightly bedtime routine as a child? Those innocent moments of brushing teeth, reading a book, and saying our prayers before turning out the light are what many children in central Africa dream about when they actually have the opportunity to sleep. The stories told by children in Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and across central Africa sound like a scene from a horror movie: hiding from ‘bad guys’ in fear of being abducted, murdered, or displaced from their families. Unfortunately, this is reality for thousands of people in this region, and the ‘bad guys’ are the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA.
The LRA, led by the maniacal Joseph Kony, is known for vicious attacks against civilians. Kony’s guerilla army has been terrorizing, torturing, and maiming innocent civilians since 1986. Under his leadership, the LRA abducts, exploits, and forces children to serve as killers and sex slaves, all in the name of Kony’s delusional idea of overthrowing the Ugandan government. These merciless events have come to haunt the citizens of many foreign nations including the United States.
The truth is this is an issue our country does need to fight. We have significant investments in peace and stability of the region as South Sudan becomes independent later this year. In February, during a visit to Africa, Senator Boozman had the opportunity to meet with Ugandan officials and hear directly from top officials in their government how they are working with surrounding countries to end the LRA’s destruction. In addition, he was fortunate enough to travel to the headquarters of U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, in Stuttgart, Germany to discuss the LRA and U.S. attempts to help bring an end to Joseph Kony’s tortuous reign.
We have a moral obligation to help protect people in central Africa from these rebel forces that are destroying families, communities, and lives. We have seen progress in recent years with Congressional support for the bipartisan Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. This led to unprecedented international momentum for a resolution to end the conflict and a comprehensive White House strategy to address the crisis. Despite our successes, there is still much work to do. That’s why we are proud to be championing a letter calling for sufficient resources to help end the atrocities committed by the LRA.
As we noted in the letter, “resources invested in ending this conflict now will not only save innocent lives, but also reduce the need for expensive emergency humanitarian aid and promote stability in one of Africa’s most volatile regions.” Congress required the implementation of a strategy to defeat the LRA and protect people living in their path, and we must follow through with our commitment.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is a member of the foreign relations committee. Senator John Boozman (R-AL) recently traveled to Uganda to discuss the LRA with the government there and with U.S. officials in the region.