Expert testimony to U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee today details the LRA’s elephant poaching, gold and diamonds trade, and safe haven in Sudan-controlled territory; Urges support for U.S. efforts to end armed group’s atrocities
September 30, 2015 (Washington DC) – The Enough Project’s Sasha Lezhnev testified to Congress today on the current state of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and urged continuing U.S. support for efforts to end the group’s nearly three decades-long reign of atrocities.
Lezhnev, the Enough Project’s Associate Director of Policy, joined Francisca Thelin, President of Friends of Minzoto, and Paul Ronan, Project Director of The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative, as they offered testimony before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations hearing “Ridding Central Africa of Joseph Kony: Continuing U.S. Support.”
Lezhnev’s testimony included key findings from up-to-the-minute research by the Enough Project into the structure, status, and wide-ranging scope of the LRA, including:
- “Despite 25 years of counter-insurgency efforts mainly by Uganda, Kony’s LRA lives on, as its fighters abduct children as young as eight and move through dense jungles for thousands of miles on foot with virtually no technology in some of the most remote terrain on the planet. Today, I am deeply concerned about the LRA’s new economic activities and its ability to regenerate itself going forward.”
- “Today, the LRA is increasingly poaching elephants for valuable tusks, trading the ivory for ammunition, supplies, and food in Sudan, with the likely complicity of the Sudanese government.”
- “The LRA is not yet down and out, and with a new trade in ivory, gold, and diamonds, it could make a serious comeback, as it has done in the past.”
- “Strong bipartisan support in Congress for ending the LRA’s brutality has made a major dent in improving human security and preventing atrocities. Following the passage of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act in 2010, which still today ranks as the most popular standalone bill on Africa ever to pass Congress, the Obama administration deployed approximately 100 Special Forces advisors to the African Union Regional Task Force in October 2011. This has helped lead to a 90 percent decrease in LRA killings and a 30 percent decrease in attacks, and has significantly weakened a group that has abducted more than 66,000 children and youths and is responsible for more than 100,000 deaths over the past 28 years. The number of displaced people as a result of LRA attacks is down from 1.8 million to 200,000 today.”
- “The U.S. government deserves tremendous credit for sapping Kony’s LRA of most of its strength and helping allow 1.6 million people to return to their homes. However, the LRA has a history of regrouping, and I am deeply concerned that its trade in ivory and other commodities could allow it to do so again. Now is not the time to pull back, but instead to finish the job and bring Kony to justice.”
The LRA, a U.S.-designated terrorist group, notorious for the abduction of more than 66,000 youth for use as child soldiers, servants, and sex slaves over the past 28 years, has seen decline but remains a danger to people and communities in its path. The LRA has also been identified as a threat to the survival of Congo’s remaining elephants, and Lezhnev will testify that ivory from poaching along with the pillaging of gold and diamonds is a main source of the LRA’s income.
As chronicled in the new book “Mama Koko and the Hundred Gunmen,” in 2008, Thelin, a Congolese expat living in Portland, Oregon, started getting static-marred cellphone calls from her family’s coffee plantation near Garamba National Park. Overnight, the place she happily spent her childhood pulling peanuts and climbing orange trees became grounds for LRA massacres. To this day, Francisca’s family hasn’t returned to their farm. They know it’s still far too dangerous. Read Francisca’s piece “Out of Kony’s Shadow” in the New York Times (March 16, 2015)
WHAT: U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations hearing “Ridding Central Africa of Joseph Kony: Continuing U.S. Support”
WHEN: 2pm – 5pm, Wednesday, September 30, 2015
WHERE: Room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Wash., DC 20515
AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW:
- Sasha Lezhnev, the Enough Project’s Associate Director of Policy and lead LRA expert, is available for selected interviews.
- Francisca Thelin will also be available for interviews this evening and on Thursday morning.
About THE ENOUGH PROJECT
The Enough Project, an atrocity prevention policy group, seeks to build leverage for peace and justice in Africa by helping to create real consequences for the perpetrators and facilitators of genocide and other mass atrocities. Enough aims to counter rights-abusing armed groups and violent kleptocratic regimes that are fueled by grand corruption, transnational crime and terror, and the pillaging and trafficking of minerals, ivory, diamonds, and other natural resources. Enough conducts field research in conflict zones, develops and advocates for policy recommendations, supports social movements in affected countries, and mobilizes public campaigns. Learn more – and join us – at www.EnoughProject.org