Press Release: New Law Gives President Obama Mandate to Help End LRA's Violence and Child Abductions in Central Africa
WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama has signed landmark legislation giving him a clear mandate for robust action to help end Africa’s longest-running insurgency and rebuild communities devastated by the brutality and thousands of child abductions of the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, state the Enough Project, Resolve Uganda, and Invisible Children.
The Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, which Congress passed with broad bipartisan support on May 12, states that it is U.S. policy to support efforts “to protect civilians from the Lord’s Resistance Army, to apprehend or remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield in the continued absence of a negotiated solution, and to disarm and demobilize the remaining LRA fighters.” It also requires President Obama to develop a comprehensive, multilateral strategy to protect civilians in central Africa from LRA attacks and take steps to permanently stop the rebel group’s violence. Furthermore, it calls on the United States to increase humanitarian assistance to countries currently affected by LRA violence and to support economic recovery and transitional justice efforts in Uganda.
President Obama signed the bill into law yesterday evening, during a White House ceremony that included key Members of Congress and representatives of Enough Project, Resolve Uganda, and Invisible Children.
“President Obama personally told us that he is committing his administration to do all it can to bring an end to the scourge of the LRA,” said Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast. “The bill made it to Obama's desk because of the untiring work of activists all over the U.S. Now that we know the activists are being heard, it is time to raise our voices even louder to make sure President Obama follows through with a robust and effective plan to neutralize Kony and the LRA leadership.”
The human rights groups applauded and thanked the Congressional co-sponsors for their leadership on this historic leglislation. The law was introduced into the US Senate and House of Representatives in May 2009, and has since become the most widely supported Africa-specific legislation in recent Congressional history. The law was cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 65 Senators and 202 Representatives, representing 49 states.
Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) said, “I look forward to seeing the implementation of the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. For decades, the people of Uganda and surrounding countries have suffered under Joseph Kony’s LRA; under this act, the United States can begin working on bringing Kony to justice and instituting a roadmap to peace with the Ugandan leadership.”
Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) said, “I applaud President Obama for signing the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act into law. This measure sends a clear message that the United States is committed to bring new leadership and resources toward ending the Lord Resistance Army’s reign of terror in Central Africa. I look forward to working with the administration to develop a plan to enhance the protection of civilians, to disarm Joseph Kony and the LRA, and to bring a lasting resolution to this conflict.”
The legislation states that it is U.S. policy to support efforts “to protect civilians from the Lord’s Resistance Army, to apprehend or remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield in the continued absence of a negotiated solution, and to disarm and demobilize the remaining LRA fighters.” It also requires President Obama to develop a comprehensive, multilateral strategy to protect civilians in central Africa from LRA attacks and take steps to permanently stop the rebel group’s violence. And it calls on the United States to increase humanitarian assistance to countries currently affected by LRA violence and to support economic recovery and transitional justice efforts in Uganda.
U.S. Representative Ed Royce (R-CA) said, “This bill’s success is due to the grassroots effort of young people across the U.S. committed to ending the atrocities of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army. This is just the first step. This legislation should spur the administration to devise a strategy to put the LRA on the path to extinction. Congress and human rights activists must press the administration to devise a credible strategy; and then have it executed. This is the moral policy given the unfathomable atrocities of the LRA. It is also what is needed if the region is to have a chance at peace and stability.”
U.S. Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) stated, “The signing ceremony was a tremendous tribute to the thousands of activists across the country who organized themselves, educated their neighbors, and pushed the Congress to do the right thing. We will need them to stay engaged as we move to make the goals of this legislation a reality.” He also stated on a YouTube video, “To all the people, especially the young people, who took time to write letters, to email their members of Congress, to come down to Washington, you made this happen. So congratulations.”
The law aims to help secure a lasting peace in Uganda by increasing assistance to war-affected communities in northern Uganda and supporting initiatives to help resolve longstanding divisions between Uganda’s north and south. It seeks to increase funding for transitional justice initiatives and calls on the Ugandan government to reinvigorate its commitment to a transparent and accountable reconstruction process in war-affected areas.
The White House issued a statement by President Obama on the signing of the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. The president recounted stories of loss and pain caused by the lawless actions of the LRA.
The president stated: “The Lord’s Resistance Army preys on civilians – killing, raping, and mutilating the people of central Africa; stealing and brutalizing their children; and displacing hundreds of thousands of people. Its leadership, indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, has no agenda and no purpose other than its own survival. It fills its ranks of fighters with the young boys and girls it abducts. By any measure, its actions are an affront to human dignity.
“Of the millions affected by the violence, each had an individual story and voice that we must not forget. In northern Uganda, we recall Angelina Atyam’s 14-year old daughter, whom the LRA kidnapped in 1996 and held captive for nearly eight years -- one of 139 girls abducted that day from a boarding school. In southern Sudan, we recall John Loboi -- a father, a husband, a brother, a local humanitarian assistance worker killed in an ambush while helping others in 2003. Now, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, the people of Dungu and of Obo, too, have their stories of loss and pain.
“We mourn those killed. We pray for those abducted to be freed, and for those wounded to heal. We call on the ranks of the LRA to disarm and surrender. We believe that the leadership of the LRA should be brought to justice.”
Resolve Uganda is a U.S.-based coalition of humanitarian, faith-based and advocacy organizations working to get U.S. political leaders to take the steps that will permanently end the war in northern Uganda. For more information, visit www.resolveuganda.org
Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on crises in Sudan, eastern Congo, northern Uganda, and Somalia. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. For more information, please visit www.enoughproject.org
Invisible Children uses film, creativity, and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore Northern Uganda to peace and prosperity. Programs on the ground focus on long-term development through education and economic opportunities, while awareness and advocacy efforts focus on educating and inspiring the Western world to use their unique voice for change. The organization was created after the release of the 2004 film “Invisible Children: Rough Cut,” a revealing documentary about the plight of child soldiers in northern Uganda. For more information, visit www.invisiblechildren.com