In October, soon after President Obama announced that he was deploying advisers to central Africa to help stop the LRA, Michael Gerson wrote an article for the Washington Post, defending the president’s decision. Gerson was President Bush’s lead speech writer for five years and is a respected conservative thinker and writer.
Late last week, Gerson wrote another article about the LRA for the Washington Post, this time following a trip to Dungu, DRC, with Ben Affleck and a team from Eastern Congo Initiative. He gives examples of the depth of Joseph Kony’s brutality and recommends ways that the U.S. could expedite an end to the “nightmare.”
He specifically mentioned our long-time friends and partners, Invisible Children, and their early-warning radio network.
This is a good article that serves to re-introduce the LRA conflict to the national dialogue this election year and hopefully it served to remind readers that the LRA exists and remains a threat.
“But for this region to be repaired, the LRA must be broken. Military forces of Congo and the CAR are incapable. So the task has fallen to Ugandan soldiers, advised by the U.S. military. More than 80 U.S. special operations forces have been deployed to forward operating bases in Congo, the CAR and South Sudan. Their mission is to provide intelligence and assistance to the Ugandan military, which has skilled trackers — some of them formerly with the LRA — on Kony’s trail.
An American combat mission in this conflict is not contemplated. But the U.S. government should press Congo to readmit Ugandan troops pursuing the LRA. And the U.S. military could aid the UPDF with more advanced air and communications capabilities. A small, final push might remove the LRA’s most capable leaders from the field.
After a four-year nightmare, Francoise hopes to go back to school. Joseph Kony, the author of nightmares, remains at large in some jungle camp. He is not a supernatural being. He is human, and thus mortal. It is time to prove it.”
PS – As an aspiring speech writer, I have to remark that that last paragraph is money. If it were delivered orally by a confident speaker? Unstoppable.
After President Obama delivered the State of the Union Address last Tuesday, the White House invited questions from the American people that would be answered by the President’s top advisers (via Twitter, of course. This is 2012).
Your activism caught the attention of the President’s team and they responded directly to this tweet from @KasperAgger: “Thanks to the President for sending advisers to help stop #LRA attacks. What’s the plan in 2012 to ensure success?”
Here was the response from Ben Rhodes, a senior White House official, in 137 characters:
The White House also gave a shout out to “bottom-up activism” in regards to the #LRA issue among others.
This was a great opportunity to show the President that we are committed to seeing the mission completed and that we expect him to follow through on his promise. Last week’s Twitter success was a good start—but only a start—to what we’re hoping to accomplish in 2012.
Speaking of which, there is a Google+ conversation (again, 2012) scheduled with the President TODAY (Monday) at 5:30pm EST. Several of you have posted questions about the President’s plan in 2012 to help finally see an end to LRA violence. We’re crossing our fingers that he responds!
Thank you again to everyone who participated in White House Twitter Q&A last week and asked about the LRA. Let’s continue to take advantage of the opportunities our leaders give us to ask questions and express our desire for ending LRA to become a higher priority. Of course, if our leaders don’t offer us an opportunity, we’ll just have to create that ourselves. More about that later.
The Uganda Amnesty Act of 2000 grants amnesty to any rebel combatant from 1986 onward who lays down his or her weapons and renounces the rebellion. According to JRP’s report, more than 10,800 former members of the LRA have received amnesty through the Act as of August 2008, and have re-joined their communities with less harassment and stigma than they otherwise would have experienced without this national policy of forgiveness. The Amnesty Act has been shown to actively encourage combatants to defect from the LRA, with the promise that they will be accepted back home. This is very important, as so many LRA combatants were abducted as children and were unwilling combatants in the first place.
As reflected in the report, JRP researchers interviewed a spectrum of Acholi community members, from local leaders to former-abductees, and asked what they thought of amnesty. Their findings show overwhelming support for the Amnesty Act and many respondents argued that Uganda’s amnesty policy is partially to thank for the peace that the region has experienced since the LRA left Uganda’s borders in 2006. It helps clean the slate and faciliate forgiveness for the unwilling fighters, from both their community and their country.
Interestingly, some of the respondents said they wished that even the top commanders would be granted amnesty, arguing that almost everyone aside from LRA leader Joseph Kony was at one time a victim.
Currently, the Amnesty Act of 2000 is due to either expire or be extended in May 2012, making JRP’s report especially timely.
In the case of the LRA, amnesty is an important component of peace and restoration that must go hand-in-hand with focused efforts to support ex-combatants as they seek healing and reintegrate with their communities.
But we can’t fully enter 2012 until we have properly thanked you for your generous support in 2011. We especially thank all of our Cosponsors and donors for making our work possible. So let’s officially wrap up 2011 by looking back at just a few examples of what your support has allowed Resolve to accomplish:
You sent Paul, our director of advocacy, to central Africa.
This past fall, Paul returned from a 3-month research trip visiting some of the most remote communities targeted by the LRA. He gathered stories and information that were not yet known by the outside world, and since his return, he has been working round the clock here in DC, sharing what he’s learned with policymakers in Congress and the White House.
You helped us launch the LRA Crisis Tracker.
It has been praised in national media and referenced by one of President Obama’s officials in a Congressional testimony as an example of innovative work being done by a non-profit to help protect people from atrocities. And most recently, it was used by the U.N. on the ground in central Africa to help rescue 13 women and children who escaped the LRA.
You helped us get historic action from the President and tens of millions of dollars for LRA-affected families.
Our round-the-clock engagement with the Administration and Congress, both here in DC and via nation-wide grassroots campaigns, helped galvanize public and bi-partisan Congressional support for the President’s recent decision to deploy 100 advisers to central Africa to help stop the LRA. Additionally, our collective efforts to lobby Congress for funding for the President’s LRA strategy resulted in the authorization of tens of millions of dollars in new funds for live-saving efforts in communities targeted by LRA violence — more than double the amount previously directed toward the LRA crisis!
These accomplishments have stemmed in large part from your generous support. See what can be done? Please join us for 2012.
As we announced earlier this week, we are partnering with Invisible Children to make some major noise this spring and insist that our leaders work together to make 2012 the year that LRA violence ends. We believe this is possible if we apply enough pressure on our leaders and make this conflict un-ignorable. We’re launching coordinated efforts to make this happen, and we are so grateful for your support as we head into this exciting year.
P.S. Want to play a special role in making Kony 2012 — and all of our efforts this year — a success? Become a Cosponsor or make a one-time donation today.
It’s a new year and we couldn’t be more excited about what’s in store. This spring, we will be partnering with Invisible Children for the Kony 2012 campaign. We’ve got big plans. And we’ve got one clear message for our leaders: Make 2012 the year Joseph Kony is brought to justice.
It is entirely possibly that — after 26 years of war — Joseph Kony could be brought to justice and LRA violence ended permanently, this year. And what we do in the coming months will help determine whether or not that happens.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Details are still forthcoming, but let’s just say that the youth of the world are going to make some major noise this spring. Noise that can’t — and, we promise, won’t — be ignored. Resolve will be making sure that the noise you create reaches the ears of the right people in Washington. They’ll need to know that we support — and we expect — their leadership to make 2012 the year LRA violence is brought to an end.
Our Resolve team is looking forward to working with you and our friends at Invisible Children to make sure that Congress and President Obama work together more than ever before in 2012 to fulfill their promises and see this mission through to the end. Soon, we will be providing you with concrete steps for connecting with your members of Congress. But until then, we strongly encourage you to book a screening with Invisible Children. Screenings will be a major touch point for the spring’s campaign, and we guarantee that you will want to be part of it.
We’ll keep you updated on what you can do advocacy-wise. So stay in touch.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who is currently making a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, said — on camera — that he supports the deployment of troops to stop the Lord’s Resistance Army.
If a front runner for the GOP nomination is on board with the deployment, it bodes well for the future. Romney’s statement follows a wide range of bipartisan leaders who expressed support for Obama’s recent decision to send U.S. advisers to help regional governments address LRA atrocities.
He was talking to The Des Moines Register in the context of an hour-long interview. Around 58:00, he is answering a question about Jihadism and the U.S. military. He says he would be very cautious about deploying large numbers of American troops and putting them in harm’s way. Rather, he favors sending small numbers of advisers to aid national militaries when we are working to achieve common goals. He mentioned Obama’s deployment of 100 troops as a prime example. At 1:00:07 he says:
“The President, for instance, something I agree with, he sent men and women to central Africa, to go in and help battle the Lord’s Resistance Army. Now that’s not exactly the same as Jihadism, but it’s still a virulent and malevolent force. I support that. I support the idea of a very small number of people who can have a very significant impact to prevent something which can be very much opposed to the interests of America as well as the interests of the civilized world.”
This statement is just one more piece of evidence that stopping the LRA is a bipartisan issue. This is huge. Governor Romney, thank you!
Check out the video of Mitt Romney’s comments on the deployment of the advisers here. (Skip to about 58 min 15 sec)
We’ve told you many times before that your voice matters and that there are powerful people in Washington listening to what you have to say. It’s the truth. But don’t just take our word for it; we’ve got proof.
Congressman Jim McGovern spoke to students at Auburn High School in Massachusetts a couple of weeks ago. And of all the things he could talk about, he used Resolve’s story as an example of what young people can accomplish when they work hard towards a worthy purpose. He told the story of Resolve’s founding and the successes that our supporters have been a part of ever since.
“Just two years ago,” McGovern said, “there was too much silence in Washington, D.C., but now that’s changed because of the national movement created by Invisible Children, Resolve and a handful of other groups.”
Rep. McGovern first joined our efforts in 2008 after our Director of Advocacy, Paul Ronan, met with one of his senior staffers, Cindy Buhl, a tireless advocate for human rights. Rep. McGovern has since become one of our bravest Congressional Champions on the LRA issue, in large part because he’s seen how important ending this injustice is to young Americans. In his speech he said, “When I, as a congressman, meet young people who are so committed and serious about an issue, I have to say ‘yes.’ I have to say, ‘How can I help you?’”
We’re honored that Rep. McGovern and his team believe in our work, and we’re grateful to have them as allies in Congress. There’s no way we would have gotten as far as we have without them. Case in point: Rep. McGovern was one of the two original House sponsors of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. Thanks to leadership like his in Congress and the relentless efforts of hundreds of thousands of activists, that historic legislation passed with flying colors and paved the way for so much of the progress we’ve seen this year.
What would have happened if Paul hadn’t first met with Cindy in Rep. McGovern’s office about the LRA, or if Michael hadn’t scheduled meetings with his colleagues to get a foundation of support in Congress? What if Lisa hadn’t organized the voices of thousands of you, our supporters from across the country, to communicate how important this issue is to all of us? Every component of the Resolve team’s work relies on the other members of the team, and on the dedication of our activists and our champions in Congress.
We’ve made huge strides in advancing US engagement to help stop LRA violence, and the trusting relationships we’ve built with members of Congress and the Administration has played a part in that. As a Resolve Cosponsor your donation of $20/month – just $5/week — enables us to continue partnering with leaders in Washington like Congressman McGovern until our mission is accomplished.
It’s true: Michael might be more comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans, but a suit is an essential part of his job. As Resolve’s Executive Director, he uses his self-taught know-how about the inner workings of Washington to make sure that our policy goals and campaigns are relevant, strategic, and effective.
A significant portion of Michael’s work entails direct advocacy. That means he helps deliver the analysis from Paul’s field research in LRA-affected communities, as well as the voices of our supporters across the U.S., to the proper people in Congress and the White House. It’s demanding work that can often go unnoticed because it usually takes place behind the scenes.
If you’ve ever wondered what direct advocacy looks like, today we’re pulling back the curtain to give you an idea.
In this video Michael explains how Resolve responded quickly and strategically within DC in the wake of President Obama’s October-14 announcement that he would be sending 100 advisers to central Africa to support efforts to stop the LRA. As soon as that happened, we needed to make sure that members of Congress had all the facts in front of them and could make informed opinions about the President’s decision, particularly leading up to the first-ever Congressional hearing on the LRA, which would focus on the deployment of these advisers.
Our direct lobbying efforts had a positive impact on the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) hearing and thankfully, there ended up being no major signs of opposition to Obama’s decision. But, now, we need our leaders to do more than simply not oppose action to stop the LRA. We need proactive leadership in Congress on this issue if we are going to see the kind of game-changing action needed to end this crisis. And time is not on our side.
When our Cosponsors commit to donate $20 every month — just $5 each week — Michael is able to personally reach out to Members of Congress and the Administration, cultivating allies in Washington who can stand with us in our efforts to end LRA violence. This is perhaps the crux of our work: Paul’s field research suddenly becomes much more valuable when we can delivered to the right people in leadership, and our grassroots efforts carry more leverage when we can bring the concerns of activists directly before the eyes and ears of policymakers.
Please consider becoming a Cosponsor today and help us continue our direct advocacy efforts. Our goal is to have 75 new Cosponsors by the end of this week. We still need 68 more to reach our goal. Help us get there!
P.S. Speaking of direct advocacy, today at 2pm EST, Michael will be on a panel with Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State on African Affairs, to discuss US efforts to combat the LRA. This is a huge opportunity to hear directly from senior officials in the Obama Administration about their plans to help end LRA violence and for Michael to represent the concerns, questions, and desires of those committed to see this conflict ended. If you live in DC, RSVP and come watch in person. Everyone else, watch the livestream!
Paul Ronan didn’t spend Independence Day this year the way he normally would. He didn’t have a BBQ with his housemates or watch fireworks over the National Mall. Instead, Paul spent July 4th visiting remote communities in South Sudan – a country that would finally celebrate its own, hard-earned independence just a few days later.
Paul’s trip to South Sudan was part of a 3-month-long research trip through LRA-affected areas of central Africa. Long trips like these – at least once a year – have become the norm for Paul. He needs that kind of uninterrupted time in the region to build trusting relationships with local communities, gather stories and statistics, and make rounds through the four different countries directly impacted by LRA violence. And of course, while he’s there, he makes a point to visit old friends, attend weddings of loved ones, and share meals with host families. These days Paul speaks of central Africa as something of a second home.
In this short audio piece, Paul shares about his friendship with Joseph, a young man from South Sudan who served as Paul’s guide and translator.
Like Joseph, Resolve has found a dear friend in a woman named Sister Giovanna. We’ve talked about her before—a humble and brave Comboni nun who lived first in northern Uganda in the midst of LRA violence and now serves communities in Western Equatoria, South Sudan, where the LRA has been active in recent years. Joseph is a native and Sister Giovanna a foreigner –but both are all too familiar with the LRA’s brutality, having lived in the region for many years. And both are deeply committed to seeing their communities through the crisis. Bravely and boldly, they are doing whatever it takes to see it ended.
Watch this video featuring Sister Giovanna, made by our friends at Discover the Journey (DTJ).
Without Paul’s genuine commitment to building relationships with local communities during his field research, Resolve wouldn’t know these remarkable, unsung heroes the way we do. We’re grateful for Paul’s commitment to spending months away from home, traveling from one village to another when the conditions are all but comfortable, and earning the trust of those directly affected by LRA violence.
But Paul wouldn’t be able to gather stories and build these relationships if it weren’t for Resolve Cosponsors. Traveling to the most remote areas targeted by the LRA is very costly– which is why few, if any, do so. But the fruits of Paul’s trips are invaluable, and our connection to communities on the ground is too valuable to lose.
By talking with those directly affected by this crisis, we can understand what they need from the international community. We use this information to shape our lobbying efforts and to advise policymakers. Resolve is then able to serve as a linchpin between local communities, government leaders, and advocates like you – all of whom are needed to see this conflict ended.
Consider becoming a Resolve Cosponsor today. Your monthly donation of $20 per month – just $5 per week—ensures that Paul can continue to visit and invest in relationships with people like Joseph and Sister Giovanna, so we can bring their wisdom to our leaders in Washington and to advocates like you until this crisis ends once and for all.
Welcome to Resolve’s second Supporter Week! This week is all about what we can accomplish together and new ways that you, our supporters, can participate in our efforts to stop LRA violence once and for all.
Each day this week we’re telling new stories of the progress we’ve made together, the heroes we’ve met along the way, and where we’re headed in the new year. To kick things off, our first story is from our Director of Advocacy, Paul Ronan, as he shares about Joseph, a young man from South Sudan who has become a real friend and inspiration to our team.
Additionally, a central focus of this week will be Resolve Cosponsors – individuals who’ve made a special commitment to our mission with a regular contribution of $20/month – just $5/week . We’re excited to celebrate our Cosponsors and the successes that they’ve made possible, and to invite you to join this small, but vital, community by becoming a Cosponsor yourself.
The progress we’ve made so far has been remarkable, but big challenges await us this spring. We’re going to need to work hard to convince our leaders that game-changing action to end LRA violence is worth the investment – and that the cost of inaction is far too high. Success will require a team effort and we want you to be a part of it.
Q: What is Supporter Week?
A: It is our week to focus on you, our supporters, and share with you what we have been able to accomplish together. It is also a time when we invite you to increase your level of engagement. Namely, by becoming a Cosponsor.
Q: What is a Cosponsor?
A: Our Cosponsors make a recurring donation of $20/month (just $5/week), advancing Resolve’s mission to see an end to LRA violence and justice for affected communities.
Q: Do I have other options of donating?
A: Yes! You can make a one-time donation here.
Q: What will I get for signing up?
A: Okay, so no one has ever actually asked us that, but we wanted a chance to tell you about the handmade ornaments from our friends at Ember Arts that each of our Cosponsors will receive. It’s our little way of saying thank-you for your commitment and sacrifice.
Q: Where does my money go?
A: As a recurring monthly donor, your financial support funds our field research, in-depth reporting, and strategic campaigns — all of which is aimed toward moving U.S. political leaders to take the kind of action needed to see an end to LRA violence and justice for affected communities. For a more detailed look at the kinds of efforts our money supports, check our Supporter Week blog series. Resolve is a charitable 501(c)(3) non-profit, so all donations are 100% tax deductible and we are committed to keeping administrative costs to under 10%.
We love the folks at Ember Arts. We deeply respect them as individuals and as true peace-builders. That’s why we are thrilled that they are partnering with us for Resolve Supporter Week (Next week! December 5-9!). Every Cosponsor, whether you’ve been supporting Resolve for a while now or whether you decide to become a Cosponsor next week, will receive a beautiful one-of-a-kind ornament from Ember Arts. It’s a joy for us to be able to thank you with a small gift that has been handmade by women in Uganda — many of whom have known the effects of LRA violence first-hand, but have pressed on to pursue their dreams.
Below is a letter from James Pearson, founder of Ember Arts. He describes so poignantly the work that still needs to be done once peace has come to a community like northern Uganda. Everything about their mission is beautiful, even the statement itself: “Every woman has a dream, but in places of conflict and poverty those dreams are often postponed and even forgotten. Ember partners with these women to fan their dreams back into flame”
Take a moment to read James’ letter — we promise it will inspire you. And stay tuned for Supporter Week, which starts this upcoming Monday, December 5. Lastly, if you’re doing some holiday shopping this weekend, you’re gonna wanna go here: http://emberarts.com
Paul Ronan, our Director of Advocacy, wrote a letter to his hometown paper in upstate NY that was published last week. Paul has been working on bringing an end to the LRA conflict since 2005 when he first visited Uganda.
He was moved to write to his local paper when he saw that the Buffalo News published a piece about the LRA on its front page. This was especially staggering for him because over the course of 6 years of advocacy work, mainstream media had never covered the LRA much. That was, of course, until President Obama’s announcement that he would be sending 100 advisers to assist in stopping the LRA. The fact that Paul’s local paper deemed this development newsworthy and relevant enough to print was a symbolic break through.
We’re passing Paul’s article on to you because he talks about the conflict from a different angle than our usual. He takes a more colloquial approach to the subject, but still lays out the facts crisply. It is copied below.
Also, this is a perfect example of how you can share the story of the LRA to your local community. Newspapers are always looking for personal interest stories, especially when it features a local who has taken an interest in something outside of him or herself. Give it a try. You never know—it might be published.
Paul Ronan: A little piece of WNY halfway around world
Paul Ronan, who was born in Rushford and lives there part time, is director of advocacy for Resolve.
Nov. 30, 2011.
Six years ago, I left my home in rural Western New York in search of an adventure in the east African country of Uganda. A few weeks later, feeling a bit homesick after the trials of learning new foods and languages, our group visited a rural homestead.
As I sat watching an approaching thunderstorm and listening to my hosts discuss planting seasons, I was reminded of childhood visits to the farm that my mother grew up on and that my uncle and grandfather still work. Despite being halfway across the world, I felt strangely at home that night and for the rest of the trip.
Since that night I’ve traveled back to east Africa several times, but with a more serious purpose than adventure — to stop atrocities against innocent families like those who hosted me during that first visit. For 26 years, a brutal rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has terrorized rural villages in northern Uganda and neighboring countries, forcing people from their farms and abducting children to become child soldiers. The LRA is formed around a cadre of indicted war criminals, led by the infamous Joseph Kony, who see children as pawns in a twisted power play.
This announcement has raised some concerns that we’re putting U. S. soldiers in danger and overspending at a time when we should be doing neither. These concerns deserve to be heard, but are largely unfounded. The troops will serve solely as advisers, safely out of harm’s way, and the costs will come out of existing budget allocations.During these trips, I’ve met with dozens of people who have been victims of rebel attacks on schools, markets and even churches. Each time I listen to a father wonder if his abducted son will someday escape from the LRA’s ranks or watch a priest point out a bullet-pocked church, I can’t help but picture the same scene occurring back home in Western New York. It drives me to do what I can to bring an end to the conflict, and makes me pause to appreciate my childhood free of wondering whether any given day would end as a nightmare.
Over the years I’ve been joined by passionate Western New Yorkers and Americans from across the country in an effort to persuade U. S. leaders to help bring an end to the LRA’s rampage. Our work has helped bring together a rare bipartisan coalition in Congress, which passed legislation last year calling on the United States to take action.
Just a few weeks after returning from a visit to communities that had been attacked by the LRA, I had a chance to meet President Obama when he signed the bill. During the ceremony, he promised to “vigorously, vigorously” implement the legislation’s provisions, and our movement has been working ever since to hold him to his promise. Obama recently took a big step in that direction, announcing that the United States will send military advisers to work with regional militaries to apprehend Kony, help child soldiers escape and protect families from rebel raids.
These advisers could be a decisive factor in Obama’s broader efforts to bring LRA leaders to justice, bring peace to a troubled region and allow children to return to school where they belong. It would also let farmers stop worrying about rebel raids and get back to wondering when the rains will come and when they should start planting their fields. And that’s something I can identify with.