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A new bill released in the U.S. Senate yesterday would recommit the United States to helping bring about a conclusive end to the more than 20-year reign of terror by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and to supporting northern Ugandans rebuild their communities.
Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) introduced the much-anticipated legislation, which calls on the United States to support a multi-pronged regional strategy to end the massacres, and to stabilize and rebuild the communities long-affected by the marauding LRA. In his statement to the Senate chamber, Senator Feingold recognized the efforts of young activists in the United States, who he credited for keeping this issue in public view.
And as a result [of their activism], the United States has made increased efforts to help end this horror. Those efforts have yielded some success, but if we are now to finally see this conflict to its end, we need to commit to a proactive strategy to help end the threat posed by the LRA and support reconstruction, justice, and reconciliation in northern Uganda. This bill seeks to do just that.
Feingold highlighted the support provided by the United States in Operation Lightning Thunder, the recent joint operation between the armies of Uganda, southern Sudan, and Congo aimed at halting the LRA leadership and stabilizing the region. As Feingold reported:
The operation failed to apprehend Kony and over the following two months, his forces retaliated against civilians in the region, leaving over 900 people dead. It’s tragically clear that insufficient attention and resources were devoted to ensuring the protection of civilians during the operation. Before launching any operation against the rebels, the regional militaries should have ensured that their plan had a high probability of success, anticipated contingencies, and made precautions to minimize dangers to civilians.
But Feingold was quick to point out that it is because of the complicated nature of operations against the LRA – and the U.S. role in the most recent one – that the United States has “a responsibility to help see this rebel war to its end.”
As Feingold explained, the bill also recognizes the importance of rebuilding the communities devastated by the ongoing conflict and addressing the grievances that helped pave the way for the LRA to gain a footing, many years ago, in northern Uganda. The bill calls on the United States to provide additional support and resources to the Ugandan government’s Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) that has struggled under the weight of “a lack of strategic coordination, weak leadership and the government’s limited capacity.”
In sum, the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009 calls on the Obama administration to develop a strategy for dealing with the LRA and comprehensively addressing the instability and destruction left in the rebels’ wake. The administration will lay out the details of the strategy, but through this bill, Congress can ensure that, as Sen. Feingold emphasized, “this issue will not get put on the back burner and that we will not continue to rely on a piecemeal approach.”
Enough’s most recent strategy paper – Finishing the Fight Against the LRA – provides a detailed review of the hard lessons of Operation Lightning Thunder and recommendations for the U.S. leadership moving forward. An accompanying Activist Brief outlines ways that citizens can advocate for increased U.S. attention to the scourge of the LRA. The June Lobby Days on Capitol Hill are coming up, so click here for details on how to sign up.
Photo: Congolese army procession at the ceremony marking Ugandan army's withdrawal at the end of Operation Lightning Thunder. Julia Spiegel/Enough