- July 30, 2013
- Advocates in Action
Our partners at Invisible Children launched the #ZeroLRA campaign this week, and we’ve been helping them make sure it gains traction with policymakers in Washington. The goal is to ensure that US efforts to help end LRA atrocites are sustained until they bring all senior LRA leaders — including Joseph Kony — to justice and help the remaining LRA abductees return home peacefully.
In recent months, top officials in Congress and the Obama Administration have been discussing the scale and duration of US commitment to the cause. Budget pressures — in part due to sequestration — and competing priorities in Africa are putting a strain on the resources available for the LRA mission.
To their credit, US leadership has helped notch significant progress in recent years. The rate at which the LRA is abducting and killing civilians is now a fraction of what it was just two years ago. As many as 15% of the LRA’s core Ugandan combatants have defected from Kony’s ranks since January 2012.
However, there are a number of reasons that scaling down now would be a grave mistake.
- US efforts aren’t replaceable. Multilateral bodies like the African Union and United Nations have backed ongoing initiatives to stop LRA atrocities. But in reality, US leadership has been the critical lynchpin. There are some capabilities the US provides — for instance, technology that helps locate LRA groups in vast and remote territory — that no other country even possesses. US diplomatic engagement has also kept regional governments committed. The loss of this leadership would likely cause the stagnation and even potential collapse of regional operations.
- LRA leaders can still rebuild their organization through forced recruitment. As long as Joseph Kony and a handful of senior commanders remain at large, the LRA retains the capacity to abduct and integrate new members. Until those top commanders are dealt with, the risk remains strong that if the US reduces its involvement, many of the gains made in the past few years will be reversed.
- A small number of active LRA fighters cause massive humanitarian consequences. It’s notable that even with a reduction in LRA attacks, killings, and abductions over the past several years, the numbers of people displaced — at more than 400,000 — has held steady. With only approximately 250 combatants, the LRA has a massive humanitarian impact because of the way their unpredictable and brutal attacks provoke fear and panic among the civilian population.
The #ZeroLRA campaign strategy involves promoting letters to President Obama being circulated by a few dedicated Members of Congress for sign-on from other Members. The House of Representatives letter — led by Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) — can be viewed here. Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) are circulating a companion in the Senate today. Both will be sent to the President next week.
To get in touch with your Members of Congress and urge them to sign, visit the campaign website this week.