Advocates in Action Blog Posts
Every once in a while, we are given a chance to have a big impact with very little effort. Right now is one of those times.
Though enormous progress has been made in the past year, efforts to bring Joseph Kony to justice and end LRA atrocities are now stalling due to disagreements amongst governments in central Africa. High-level diplomacy from President Obama — alongside partners at the United Nations and African Union — is needed to help defuse tensions. Yet so far, such leadership has been missing.
But a bipartisan letter is now circulating amongst Members of Congress that calls for President Obama to step up and weigh in personally with regional governments to get things back on track. For that letter to make a splash with the President, it needs your Representative’s name on it. With as little as a single phone call, you could make that happen.
Click here for instructions, and take 30 seconds to make that call today. The deadline for signatories is the end of the week, so let’s get on it. We’ll report back soon with the results.
Father Benoit and Sister Angelique arrived in Washington, D.C., last Sunday and they have had quite the schedule. After a whirlwind of meetings and appearances, they are now in New York City for more meetings and a press conference at the United Nations. After that? They are headed to Europe for even more advocacy meetings. Scroll down for some photos of their time in the United States so far.
The delegates arrived this week with a clear aim to communicate the LRA-affected region’s continuing need for international assistance. The LRA remains a threat to civilians in some of the most remote communities in Central African Republic, DR Congo, and South Sudan, and the international community can help by investing in the region’s infrastructure and the efforts to rehabilitate the affected individuals and communities. Their written testimonies from the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Hearing are now available online.
With a clear message and the moral courage to deliver it, Father Benoit Kinalegu and Sister Angelique Namaika were able to speak with several members of Congress and administration officials.
Members of Congress included Jim McGovern (D-MA), Senator Landrieu (D-LA), Senator Coons (D-DE), Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Rep. Lowey (D-NY), Rep. Wolf (R-VA), and Rep. Duncan (R-SC).
Our thanks to them and their staff for making it a priority to engage with the LRA issue.
This week, Resolve called on Congress to provide increased funds for U.S.-led programs that help pinpoint the locations of LRA fighters attacking civilians in central Africa. In a letter circulated to members of the Senate’s defense appropriations subcommittee, Resolve and partner groups acknowledged the importance of such efforts:
“Disparate groups of LRA fighters are currently operating in remote and largely inaccessible areas of Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan. Their attacks against civilians have spanned a geographic area the size of California. Regional governments lack the capabilities needed to locate and track LRA groups in such difficult terrain. Timely information about the locations and movements of LRA groups can help prevent LRA attacks on civilians, enable early warning for civilians at greatest risk, and increase the prospects for bringing Kony and other top LRA commanders to justice.”
The U.S. is helping gather information on the locations of LRA leaders and groups by flying airplanes outfitted with advanced surveillance technology over areas of suspected LRA activity. This information can be shared with governments and local community leaders to prevent LRA attacks. However, because the terrain where the LRA operates is so vast, current efforts have not been adequate.
Last week, we reported that a Senate committee had authorized $50 million to expand existing surveillance efforts. However, for those funds to be used, they have to now be included in budget legislation overseen by the defense appropriations subcommittee in Congress.
We’re going to be doing all we can to help secure that $50 million in next year’s budget – but we’re going to need help. If one of your senators is on the defense appropriations subcommittee, you may be hearing from us! (Of course, you have our permission to call your senator’s office in the meantime.)
Photo credit: Finbarr O’Reilly
Last month, Evelyn Apoko, a former LRA abductee who is currently living in the United States as part of the Strongheart Fellows program, wrote a personal letter to leaders in Congress asking that a resolution on the LRA now before Congress be amended. She specifically requested that Members of Congress add a provision to the resolution calling for increased precautions to be taken to avoid endangering children within the LRA during military operations.
On Thursday, when the House Committee on Foreign Affairs voted to pass the resolution, they also accepted Evelyn’s suggestion and adopted her amendment. In her letter, Evelyn shared from her own personal experience:
One day when I was still with [the LRA], I was with a group of other abducted children when we heard the loud noise of helicopters and then explosions as bombs dropped all around us. It was the Ugandan Army, trying to kill the rebels. After the bombing, children lay all around me, dead and dying. Two little children that I was helping care for died, along with their young mother and many others. Sadly, it was the children who were killed, while the commanders all escaped[…]
I do believe that Kony – and all like him – must be stopped. I want him to face consequences for his actions, for the many many lives he has destroyed… However, I do have one very important request as you consider what you will collectively do on behalf of the children of Africa: I ask that you keep the faces of the abducted children in your hearts, not the face of Joseph Kony[…]
My main concern is these children don’t have any way to get out at the moment, and they will suffer when the military attacks Kony. The bomb that almost took my life was an air bomb attack meant for the LRA. It’s a thin line between the lives of the children and the life of Joseph Kony.
We were grateful for the chance to help Evelyn deliver her letter to Members of Congress, and celebrate this success with her. As a result of Evelyn’s advocacy, the text of the resolution now includes a provision calling on the U.S. to help regional governments “incorporate precautions to protect abductees within LRA ranks, especially children and women, when carrying out operations against the LRA.”
We thank Representatives McGovern (D-MA), Royce (R-CA), and Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) for their leadership in adopting this important amendment. Soon, the Senate will take up their version of the resolution, and we’ll be asking them to do the same.
This week, we received some big news as the committees in Congress that set America’s foreign aid budget released their proposals for 2013. Thanks to the committed activism of young people across the U.S. and support from a few key champions in Congress, we’re now very close to securing $10 million for life-saving programs in communities targeted by LRA violence.
At a time when the U.S. foreign aid budget faces the constant threat of major cuts, it is a remarkable achievement to have both houses of Congress in agreement that the U.S. should be investing new funds to help stop LRA violence and support affected communities in their recovery. Our team has been working with activists across the country who have been calling, writing and meeting with their members of Congress as part of the KONY 2012 campaign that launched in March. This week’s news provides further evidence that their voices are making an impact here in Washington.
The Senate and House of Representatives released separate versions of the foreign aid bill, and later this year both houses of Congress will negotiate a final version before voting it into law. The version released by the House of Representatives, drafted by committee leaders Kay Granger (R-TX) and Nita Lowey (D-NY), includes language that would guarantee that the U.S. continues to make it a priority to fund programs that help protect civilians and rescue and rehabilitate LRA abductees. This very encouraging progress was pushed forward, in large part, by the hard work and lobbying efforts of young activists. In fact, Representative Granger recently wrote a letter to students she met with for a KONY 2012 lobby meeting, saying,
“I really enjoyed our discussion and was encouraged by your commitment to end these atrocities. It is refreshing to see how informed and engaged you are… Rest assured, I will continue to ensure that we provide funding to help protect the citizens in LRA-affected areas, assist them as they rebuild their lives, and finally bring Kony and his leaders to justice.”
Congrats to all of the students who have been lobbying Representative Granger and many thanks to the Congresswoman for listening and responding to the voices of her constituents.
But wait, there’s more! In addition to that good news from the House side, the version of the foreign aid budget approved yesterday by the Senate committee, led by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), takes things a step further by allocating a firm $10 million for life-saving programs in LRA-affected communities. Here is the full language of the Senate budget bill.
Huge thanks are in order for Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Graham (R-SC) for their leadership, as well as for Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) who championed the allocation on the committee.
And of course, to all our advocates — particularly you lobby meeting leaders out there — we can’t thank you enough for the hard work you’ve done and we hope this news serves as an encouraging reminder that all of your efforts are working.
Our Resolve team will continue to work with activists this summer and into the fall to help ensure that the $10 million in the Senate budget is included in the final version of the foreign aid bill. Stay tuned with us if you want to help make that happen.
Stop at nothing.
When it comes to getting things done in Washington, one of the keys is to have strong champions in Congress. And – as Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) wrote in an editorial this week – it is the actions of young people across the country who have inspired them to take a stand:
“Letters and emails have poured into Washington from students from around the country, each bearing the same message our own children delivered to us: Kony and the LRA must be stopped and brought to justice…. Our challenge as Senators is now the same as our challenge as parents — sustaining this newfound level of engagement and interest.”
“There are moments in history, rare as they are, when millions of Americans galvanize around a crisis far from home and try to find a way to act. This can be one of those once-in-a-generation moments.”
As far as action goes, these two are leading the way. Senator Coons joined with Senator Inhofe (R-OK) to introduce the KONY 2012 Congressional resolution, and spearheaded the creation of a video where he joins seven other Senators in discussing why this issue matters to him.
Senator Landrieu is leading efforts to increase funding for programs in central Africa that help rescue and rehabilitate LRA abductees. She also introduced a Senate resolution supporting leadership from the African Union to help governments in the region protect their people from LRA attacks.
Now we need even more Senators to follow their lead. And to make sure that happens, we need only heed these Senator’s advice: when young people act, Senators listen.
So take a moment right now to act and make sure your representatives join Senator Landrieu and Senator Coons. Take action here.
Go ahead and say it: “You’re a nerd, Becky”
It’s true. I sit in a Washington D.C. office each day where my sole job is to call and email constituents all over the country, encouraging them to participate in lobby meetings with their members of Congress. I have details of legislation memorized, a clock for every US time zone on the wall above my desk, and dozens of Congresspeople’s districts, states, and past action neatly organized in my head – and on GoogleSpreadsheets. So I’ll gladly accept that “nerd” label, because it means I get to work with some truly inspiring activists from coast to coast and beyond (I see you, Hawaii).
My colleagues Eugene and Travis and I have helped to schedule 108 lobby meetings all over the country, and the list keeps growing. We have a stack of letters waiting to be hand-delivered and we’d love for you to add to the pile! We hear about activists who call and email their representatives every day, asking them to cosponsor the bipartisan KONY 2012 resolutions.
And because of those meetings, emails, letters, and calls, 115 members of Congress have already cosponsored the resolutions supporting U.S. efforts to capture LRA commanders and support affected communities.
But beyond seeing these concrete successes, my favorite part of the job is watching lobby meetings take place like a proud parent, collecting stories to hang on my “fridge” (read: wall) and share with friends and family (aka coworkers).
Take for instance Matt Abajian, a high school teacher from Fresno, CA:
“…I felt compelled to do more then just hang a few posters around town. With the public talking about [KONY 2012], it was a desire of mine to rely on the political process to see the talk turn into action. I was nervous signing up to lead two lobby meetings within my area [But] I cannot tell you enough what an amazing experience it was to sit in two representative meetings, being able to share my heart about the issues in central Africa as well as bring others, especially my students, along for the journey.”
Sometimes it’s the staffers who provide the inspiration. That was the case for Lindsey Williams in Denver, CO:
“One really cool moment for me was sitting in the meeting, video conferencing with two staffers from Senator Mark Udall’s Washington DC office, one of whom is from South Sudan and knows intimately about the LRA and their atrocities. He shared some of his story with us, and for me, that served as a reminder that the people I am advocating for DO have a voice and they ARE talking, we just haven’t been too great at listening. I am here to amplify their voices and make them louder so people will start listening, because when we amplify their voices, that elevates them to equals and active participants in solving issues, not just silent recipients of our good will and aid.”
Still a bit nervous about getting involved? First-time lobbyist Danny Porter from Albuquerque, NM has some words of advice after leading two lobby meetings:
“I was stressing myself out more than I should have in the moments before the meeting started, only to find myself incredibly calm once it began. Remember, the Congressmen (and their staffers) are representatives of YOU. They work for the people. So just take a deep breath, shake it off and go in there with confidence, knowing that you’re not alone in this fight and that you’re taking a stand against injustice.”
We’re in this together, and there are still ways you can get involved no matter what your schedule looks like. And hey, it’s my job to answer your questions.
So get in touch. Clearly I love it!
- Becky Dale
Last Friday, April 20th, a coalition of civil society leaders representing communities from across LRA-affected parts of central Africa released a call for action from around the world to help end the violence. They wrote,
“We… call on African governments, the African Union, the United Nations, human rights defenders, and other people of good will – from near and far – to demonstrate their solidarity with the populations of central Africa affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). We are decimated; join with us.”
The leaders — who represented sixteen faith-based, human rights, and humanitarian organizations from Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic — first called out political leaders in their own countries, many of whom have sought to downplay the impact LRA violence is having on local populations. “Despite the efforts undertaken by our governments, we deplore the fact that some governments currently minimize the LRA problem, while others are indifferent to it, and still others even refuse to cooperate to put an end to the LRA phenomenon and movement,” the leaders stated.
They also called on the United States and other world leaders to act urgently, echoing the KONY 2012 policy agenda.
“We call on all capable countries and bodies to help improve our regional forces and support them in their mission to put an end to the devastation caused by the LRA… Help ensure that soldiers receive their pay, adequate food, usable and durable equipment, transport, and means of communication, so that their priority remains tracking the LRA, and not assuring their own survival.”
Local activists requested increased international investment in roads and communications infrastructure, as well as programs to support the rehabilitation of former abductees.
The same day as the letter was published, tens of thousands of people around the world gathered to participate in Cover the Night, calling on world leaders to acknowledge the violence being perpetrated by Joseph Kony and the LRA and to act to see its end.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the Kony 2012 phenomenon has been the way in which young people across the globe are pushing adults to address the issue of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in central Africa. The Associated Press published a piece about this a couple of weeks ago, highlighting that several members of Congress increased their engagement on the issue after being confronted by their own children who asked them what they were doing to help bring Joseph Kony to justice and end LRA violence.
From politicians and parents to teachers and administrators, thousands of adults are now learning about LRA violence for the first time — or are being challenged to do something about it for the first time — because of their kids.
Right now, as young activists across the country continue to meet with their elected leaders, urging them to help bring Joseph Kony to justice and end LRA violence, our Resolve team has been receiving story after story from young activists – many of whom had never lobbied their members of Congress before – who are realizing the power they have to affect change in Washington. And along the way, it seems like many adults are realizing the same thing.
Which brings us to our next Kony 2012 story….
Meeting Brianne Blaisdell, a college student from Riverside, CA. Last week, Brianne led a lobby meeting with Congressman Ken Calvert (R-CA44), joined by a couple of special guests. As you’ll read below, she came away with some pretty fabulous reflections that made us smile. Check it out:
“The most awesome part of my lobby meeting was the fact that my dad took off an hour of work — on a really busy day — to come to the meeting. And not only did he come, he asked if he could speak to share his own personal reasons for caring about the issue . He took the floor for part of the meeting and was so eloquent and passionate, I couldn’t believe it. The staffer asked him some pretty tough questions and I expected him to re-direct them my way, but he answered them perfectly and with such confidence. It was so cool to see my dad step up like that. My mom also came to the meeting and started to tear up after we showed a video of testimonies from LRA-affected communities in central Africa to Representative Calvert. She kept bringing up those stories on the way home.
I’ve been a Resolve and Invisible Children supporter since I was a teenager. I always remember coming home and ranting to my family about what was going on with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in central Africa and what we can be doing about it. Now, it’s so amazing to see that this is no longer something that I believe in alone — it’s now something my whole family believes in.
I know lobby meetings sound scary. And I won’t lie and say I wasn’t nervous leading up to first meeting. I’ll admit, professionalism isn’t something that comes naturally to me as a 20-year-old college student with a casual style and ripped shoes. The idea was nerve-wracking. But once you’re in that meeting, you forget about the nervousness. It really becomes more of a conversation and the fear subsides. Trust me, if it’s possible for me, it’s possible for you too!
Lobby meetings really aren’t as frightening as they seem and the benefits are so unique and so rich. All I can say is that it’s worth it. I strongly recommend anyone who feels passionately about an issue to meet with their representative — or their representative’s staff — to discuss what’s important to them. No matter how afraid you are, the experience will leave you feeling confident, knowing you can take a stand for what is right, you can have your voice heard by Washington, and that you can accomplish difficult things.
Do it. So completely worth it.”
- Brianne Blaisdell (pictured above with her father in front of Rep. Calvert’s Riverside office)
We’re so thankful to Brianne, Mr. and Mrs. Blaisdell, and the thousands of other activists across the country who have given their voices and their time — and stepped out of their comfort zones — to move our leaders to help end LRA violence.
Inspired to take action yourself? Click here for 3 things you can do right now. Keep up the great work, advocates.
Stop at nothing.
This Monday kicked off the second phase of the KONY 2012 campaign, during which activists across the U.S. are emailing, calling, and meeting with their members of Congress, urging them to take action to help arrest Joseph Kony, end LRA violence, and seek lasting peace for affected communities in central Africa. More specifically, they are asking representatives to cosponsor the Kony 2012 Congressional Resolution (H. Res. 583 / S. Res. 402) which was introduced in both the House and the Senate following the release of the Kony 2012 film.
So far, 91 members of Congress — Republicans and Democrats — have officially cosponsored the resolution and several more, as a result of local lobby meetings with activists, have verbally confirmed that they will be cosponsoring as soon as they return to Washington after the April recess.
Our team continues to receive a stream of wonderful stories from young activists across the country — many of whom have never lobbied their representatives until now — who are now filled with excitement about engaging politically to help end LRA violence. These high school and college students are not only making waves in Washington, they are proving to them themselves and their peers that their voices are powerful.
We’ve been humbled and inspired by the young people we get to work with, and we wanted you to share a few of their stories with you.
Josh Stegmeier, a high school junior from Longmont, CO, accidentally signed up with us to lead a Kony 2012 lobby meeting, thinking that he was simply signing up to attend one. Our lovely fellow, Becky, convinced Josh that he would do a great job leading — and that she would help him every step of the way — so he agreed! This week, Josh and 9 others met with Representative Cory Gardner (R-CO4) and despite being a lobby-meeting rookie, Josh did a fantastic job leading the group (no surprise there) and it went off without a hitch. Here were a few of his thoughts after the meeting:
“We were so happy with how it went, it was hard to put into words. Representative Gardner was really appreciative of us meeting with him (as we were of him). I’m really looking forward to seeing what Rep. Gardner will do. I think we’ve got his vote…… If there’s anything Resolve needs help with in the future, feel free to let me know! I had such a fun time; it was truly a memorable experience.”
College student Sarah Scinto and 9 other activists from Wilkes-Barre, PA, met with Representative Tom Marino (R-PA10) this week. Sarah is a veteran with Resolve but several in the group had never lobbied before. In the picture above, the activists are showing Representative Marino a video of testimonies from communities currently affected by LRA violence, made by our friends at Discovery the Journey. According to Sarah, the Representative was deeply moved by what the activists shared and he even committed on the spot to cosponsor the resolution! Here are some more reflections from Sarah:
“Representative Marino was overwhelmingly supportive of the resolution and spoke about his recent trip to parts of Africa. He said that he tries to be a champion for children all across the world, citing his background as a prosecutor, and assured us that he would fight for this issue to remain in the attention of Congress……I was unbelievably surprised by the Congressman’s amazing response. He actually thanked us for working on this issue, while we were sitting in shock at his display of passion towards bringing Kony to justice. I still can’t believe it went so well, and all of my fellow participants were amazed by the experience. We’re ready for whatever comes next!”
College student Rachel Marie Asaro and the Invisible Children East Coast roadie team met with Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA15) today. The group did a fantastic job sharing their personal stories, updating the Congressman on current LRA activity, and urging him to take action by cosponsoring the Kony 2012 resolution. The Congressman enthusiastically agreed at the meeting to become a cosponsor and went on to say that as a member of the House subcommittee that helps decides the U.S. Foreign aid budget, he would do all he could to help ensure funding for life-saving programs in areas currently affected by LRA violence. That is a major victory, folks! Here are some thoughts from Rachel:
“The successful meeting with Representative Charlie Dent was a huge milestone for our journey to bring this conflict to an end and our lobby team couldn’t have been more happy to be a part of it! It was an amazing experience for both myself and the East Coast roadies. To be in the room when Representative Dent confirmed that he would be a cosponsor on the House resolution and work with his subcommittee to help address LRA violence made all our hard work worth it. We are confident, passionate, and persistent. I believe that as long as we continue, we will see an end to this war.
More stories to come — this is only the beginning! Inspired to contact your representatives? Click here for 3 things you can do right now.
Stop at nothing.