• August 7, 2013
  • From Congress
  • 0

98 Members of Congress urge Obama to stay the course

In a strong show of support for US efforts to help protect civilians from LRA atrocities, 75 Representatives and 23 Senators signed a pair of bipartisan letters sent to President Obama today urging him to sustain US investments in LRA-affected areas until they succeed in ending the group’s threat. Letter signatories included key defense and foreign affairs leaders.

The timing of the letters is important. Obama Administration officials have admitted privately in recent months that the unexpected difficulty of tracking down LRA leaders and competing priorities in Africa are placing increased strains on the mission. The March coup in the Central African Republic also led to the suspension of military operations – which have yet to formally continue – in that country.

However, any reduction in efforts now would enable the LRA to reverse progress made in the past few years and regenerate itself by exploiting this instability in the region and abducting more civilians. As Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) wrote in the letter they led in the House of Representatives, ultimately “the scale and duration of the US advisor deployment and counter-LRA mission should be measured against progress in dismantling the LRA’s command structure, permanently degrading its capacity to continue regenerating through integration of abductees, and improving protection of civilians.” The Senate letter, led by Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), echoes the same conviction.

US support for the efforts of regional governments has notched significant progress in the last few years. As the letters note, LRA attacks against civilians – particularly those involving killings – have declined precipitously, and 15% of the LRA’s Ugandan fighters have defected in the past 18 months alone.

However, numerous challenges remain to be overcome. LRA leader Joseph Kony — thought to be hiding in Sudanese-controlled territory — and a handful of senior commanders must be removed, and hundreds of abductees who remain captives in Kony’s ranks freed and returned home. (For more on this, see our recent report showing how the US and other governments can vastly improve on existing efforts to help increase defections.)

The letters were spurred in part by the #ZeroLRA campaign organized by our partners at Invisible Children, and follow years of activism by Congress on this issue beginning with the passage of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act in 2010. The Act was the most widely cosponsored Africa-focused legislation in US history.

Representative Ed Royce, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, shared his thoughts in a statement upon the letter’s release. “Kony’s removal will help bring relief to a region where this terrorist and war criminal has long-operated without restraint… The passage of the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act put in place an effective strategy to remove the LRA threat.  Mr. President, the US must continue pressing this effort until the LRA is defeated once and for all; there can be no let up.”

“Now is not the time to retreat from the effort to rid the world of the LRA,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.  “The Obama Administration is to be commended for their work in implementing the strategy outlined in the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.  That work must continue until the job is done and the innocent people of the region are free from LRA terror.  I’m pleased to join with Chairman Royce and with dozens of our bipartisan colleagues on behalf of this important issue.”

The full list of signatories is pasted below.

House of Representatives
Ed Royce, co-author
Jim McGovern, co-author
Randy Weber
Gerry Connolly
Jim McDermott
Sheila Jackson Lee
John Lewis
Maxine Waters
Tim Walberg
Barbara Lee
Karen Bass
Jan Schakowsky
Aaron Schock
Hank Johnson
Ann Kuster
Adam Smith
David Cicilline
Chris Smith
Jeff Fortenberry
John Yarmuth
Gwen Moore
Alcee Hastings
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Steve Stivers
Henry Waxman
Dennis Ross
Paul Cook
Adam Kinzinger
Alan Lowenthal
Ted Poe
Steve Chabot
Bobby Rush
Bill Johnson
Mike Michaud
Steve Israel
Keith Ellison
Frank Wolf
David Price
Rodney Frelinghuysen
Mark Meadows
Betty McCollum
Mario Diaz-Balart
Jim Moran
Jeff Denham
Tom Marino
John Mica
Peter Roskam
Jack Kingston
Adam Schiff
John Tierney
Devin Nunes
Peter King
Steve Cohen
Eliot Engel
William Keating
Scott Garrett
Tim Walz
Marsha Blackburn
Cory Gardner
Trey Radel
Earl Blumenauer
Michael Grimm
Duncan Hunter
George Holding
Peter Welch
Joe Wilson
Donna Edwards
Joe Courtney
Pete Visclosky
Jim Langevin
Trent Franks
Emanuel Cleaver
Paul Tonko
David Loebsack
Susan Davis

Senate
Jim Inhofe (R-OK), co-author
Mary Landrieu (D-LA), co-author
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
John Boozman (R-AR)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Christopher Coons (D-DE)
Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Michael Enzi (R-WY)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Deb Fischer (R-NE)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Mike Johanns (R-NE)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Mark Pryor (R-AR)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

About the Author

Michael Poffenberger
Michael Poffenberger

Michael Poffenberger is Executive Director of The Resolve.