From Congress Blog Posts
Yesterday, we were honored to join President Obama for the signing of a bill that authorizes rewards of up to $5 million for information that leads to the arrest of wanted war criminals, including LRA leader Joseph Kony. The measure provides an exciting new tool for efforts to end LRA atrocities in central Africa.
As a result of the legislation, anyone indicted by “international, hybrid, or mixed tribunals for genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity” are newly eligible targets of the U.S. “Rewards for Justice” program. Now that the bill has become law, the State Department is likely to announce a financial reward for information that leads to the arrest of Kony and his top deputies in the coming weeks.
An official statement issued by President Obama specifically names Kony as the first target for the new program and reaffirms U.S. commitment to help stop mass violence wherever it occurs. “This powerful new tool can be used to help bring to justice perpetrators of the worst crimes known to human kind. This includes individuals such as Joseph Kony and other leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army… We have made unmistakably clear that the United States is committed to seeing war criminals and other perpetrators of atrocities held accountable for their crimes,” he said.
Activists all across the country, mobilized for the “Kony 2012″ campaign, lobbied for the bill’s passage since it was first introduced in February of last year. Dozens of Members of Congress responded by sponsoring the bill and affirming its potential to help bring Kony to justice and stop LRA attacks.
A statement from Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), the bill’s original author and incoming Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, celebrated the bill’s passage. “This bill responds to the need to develop more tools to pursue the world’s worst. Target one is Joseph Kony, the murderous head of the LRA. U.S. military advisors working in Central Africa consider a reward offer on Kony as critical to their effort. This action bolsters the hunt.”
Senator John Kerry (D-MA), the former Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and President Obama’s nominee to become the next U.S. Secretary of State, introduced the Senate version of the bill. Other key champions included Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Chris Coons (D-DE), and John Boozman (R-AR), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA).
The Resolve was privileged to be represented at the bill’s signing. We will be working in the coming months to help see it implemented effectively, so stay tuned.
On Dec. 4th, the US Senate passed next year’s defense authorizations bill after adding a new provision urging sustained commitment for efforts to help end LRA atrocities. The amendment was introduced by Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Chris Coons (D-DE), who chairs the Africa Subcommittee. It passed unanimously. The full text is below.
Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed his support when the amendment went for a vote. According to the official Congressional record, Levin commended Senators Inhofe and Coons and added, “The determination to go after Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army is essential not just in terms of the values that we so dearly believe in, but also in terms of avoiding further slaughter that has been perpetrated by Kony.”
The amendment was added just a week after more than 700 activists from across the country met with their representatives in Congress as part of MOVE:DC, the culminating event of the KONY 2012 campaign.
A second provision in the final bill specifically authorizes new funds for surveillance tools that help locate LRA groups. We wrote about it when it was added in June. Before becoming law, this legislation must first be reconciled with a version passed earlier this year by the House of Representatives that did not include either of the two LRA-related provisions.
SEC. 1246. EFFORTS TO REMOVE JOSEPH KONY FROM POWER AND END ATROCITIES COMMITTED BY THE LORD’S RESISTANCE ARMY.
Consistent with the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009 (Public Law 111–172), it is the sense of the Senate that—
(1) the ongoing United States advise and assist operation to support the regional governments in Africa in their ongoing efforts to apprehend or remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield and end atrocities perpetuated by his Lord’s Resistance Army should continue;
(2) using amounts authorized to be appropriated by section 301 and specified in the funding table in section 4301 for Operation and Maintenance, Defense-wide for ‘‘Additional ISR Support to Operation Observant Compass’’, the Secretary of Defense should provide increased intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to support the ongoing efforts of United States Special Operations Forces to advise and assist regional partners as they conduct operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa;
(3) United States and regional African forces should increase their operational coordination; and
(4) the regional governments should recommit themselves to the operations sanctioned by the African Union Peace and Security Council resolution.
This week, 78 Members of Congress from both political parties sent a letter to President Obama calling for a more effective diplomatic strategy to accompany other ongoing US and regional efforts to end LRA atrocities. The letter was issued as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton embarked on a seven-nation trip to Africa that includes a stop in Uganda.
Spurred to action by phone calls and letters from activists in support of the KONY 2012 campaign, the Members of Congress first welcomed current US engagement in the region, including the President’s deployment of military advisers to help track down LRA commanders and protect civilians, but said further steps are needed.
“What is sorely lacking, however, is robust regional coordination… We remain concerned that lack of cross-border cooperation between the countries affected by the LRA is jeopardizing the ability of the US advisers to achieve their mission,” they wrote.
As Resolve has reported, the failure of regional governments to cooperate in addressing the LRA’s cross-border movements is undermining efforts to protect civilians from the group’s violence. This breakdown has contributed to a serious escalation of LRA attacks on vulnerable communities over the first six months of 2012. Yet proactive engagement from President Obama to address this shortcoming has been absent.
The Members of Congress called for the President to convene a discussion with leaders from each of the LRA-affected countries.”To alter this dynamic, we urge you to work with the African Union and United Nations to convene a meeting with the heads of state of LRA-affected countries at the upcoming UN General Assembly,” the letter said. Resolve joined partner groups in issuing the same call last week.
The letter was led by Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Ed Royce (R-CA), who issued a statement upon its release. Notably, the letter was also signed by a number of influential leaders in Congress, including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman (D-CA), the top Democrat on the Committee, Chris Smith (R-NJ), the Chair of the Africa Subcommittee, and Adam Smith (D-WA), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
As we’ve mentioned previously, disagreements amongst the governments in LRA-affected areas are impeding efforts to arrest Kony and other senior LRA commanders and end the group’s violent attacks. Now, a bipartisan group of Members of Congress are urging President Obama to join leaders from the United Nations and African Union in weighing in personally to help defuse tensions.
A letter drafted by Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Ed Royce (R-CA) — now circulating amongst Congressional offices for further endorsements — calls for President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to meet with Presidents from each of the LRA-affected countries during the upcoming United Nations General Assembly, when each of the leaders will be gathered at the U.N. this September. Several dozen Members of Congress have reportedly already signed the letter.
The text of the letter welcomes steps taken by the Obama Administration so far, including the deployment of military advisers to the region. But it expresses concern that a “lack of cross-border cooperation between the countries affected by the LRA is jeopardizing the ability of the U.S. advisers to achieve their mission.”
Specifically, it notes that “the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to deny the Ugandan military, the primary partner of U.S. advisers, access to Congolese territory where LRA violence is most acute,” and that “Allegations that Joseph Kony has crossed from the Central African Republic to South Darfur remain unsubstantiated, but contribute to escalating tension between Sudan and South Sudan.”
This is precisely the kind of political leadership that Resolve has urged, and is needed to see Kony arrested and LRA atrocities ended. Activists should get in touch with their Representative in Congress to build further support for the letter. We’ll have instructions for how to do so postedsoon.
Last week, while Resolve was busy hosting the delegation in Washington, DC, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was busy passing the Kony 2012 Resolution. The legislation that was introduced by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) had 47 cosponsors when it passed through committee, thanks to your diligent letters, phone calls and lobby meetings. This is a huge step forward. We really appreciate Senators Coons and Inhofe’s leadership on this issue.
The resolution aims to do the following:
• Support the efforts of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and other regional governments, as well as the African Union and United Nations, to end the threat posed by the LRA;
• Support continued efforts by the United States to strengthen the capabilities of regional military forces deployed to protect civilians and pursue commanders of the LRA; as well as to enhance cooperation and cross-border efforts to increase civilian protection and provide assistance to populations affected by the LRA;
• Call on the U.S. to utilize existing funds for ongoing programs to enhance mobility, intelligence, and logistical capabilities for local partner forces engaged in efforts to remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield;
• Call on the U.S. to prioritize civilian protection and to utilize existing funds for ongoing programs aiming to protect civilians by expanding physical access and telecommunications infrastructure to aid the flow of information, supporting programs that encourage LRA combatant defections, rehabilitating children and youth affected by the war and reconnecting them with their families;
• Call on the President to keep Congress fully informed of U.S. efforts and to work closely with Congress to identify and address critical gaps in efforts to counter the LRA.
This passage mirrored last week’s passage by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. We are making excellent headway. Thanks to everyone who called or met with their members of Congres. We are seeing the fruits of your labor. Now that the resolution has passed through the committee stage in both houses, the bills await a vote by the full House and the full Senate.
Thanks again. We’ll keep you updated.
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.
Thursday, a key committee in the House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for increased action by the Obama Administration to stop LRA atrocities. H.Res 583, known as the “KONY 2012 Resolution” and drafted with Resolve’s support in the wake of the KONY 2012 campaign, was passed unanimously in the committee. It now awaits a full vote in the House of Representatives.
H.Res 583 demonstrates that Congress remains far ahead of the President in seeking action to address the LRA crisis. The text of the resolution welcomes the deployment of U.S. military advisers to help protect civilians and bring top LRA commanders to justice, and calls for additional measures to ensure the effort can succeed.
Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), the original sponsor, shared his excitement with our team. “The Foreign Affairs Committee’s approval of this measure is a great step forward for human rights. The LRA resolution sends a strong message that the United States remains determined to end the LRA’s reign of terror.”
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who chairs the Committee on Foreign Affairs that passed the resolution, acknowledged the important role of activist voices. “I want to especially thank all of the young student activists in my District and throughout the country for their continued and tireless efforts to raise awareness about Kony’s atrocities… H.Res. 583 echoes current law and continues the momentum ignited by so many young people across the country and I am pleased to support this resolution.”
Since March, when the resolution was introduced, thousands of activists across the country have sent e-mails, made phone calls, and attended meetings with their elected representatives to show support for the resolution. As a result, it has accumulated 70 bipartisan cosponsors.
Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA), who introduced the resolution alongside Representative McGovern, expressed confidence the effort would succeed.
“The LRA continues its reign of terror in central Africa – abducting, killing and mutilating. It is long past time that Joseph Kony and his commanders be stopped once and for all… Months ago, many did not know the name Joseph Kony – now millions do. A large spotlight has been cast on his evil. He will be found. He will get justice,” Royce said.
Representative Howard Berman, the top Democrat on the Committee, emphasized the need for U.S. efforts to end LRA atrocities to adopt a comprehensive approach. “This resolution underscores our support for U.S. and international efforts to stop the LRA and bring Joseph Kony to justice. It also emphasizes the importance of regional cooperation, local capacity building, civilian protection, and recovery programs, which will be necessary even after Kony and his allies are removed from the battlefield.”
A companion resolution, S.Res.402, awaits action in the Senate as well.
Last week, a key Senate committee authorized significant new funding for efforts that help pinpoint locations of LRA fighters attacking civilians in central Africa. The move represents yet another way that leaders in Congress are working to end LRA atrocities, spurred to action by the KONY 2012 campaign.
According to a press release from Senator Carl Levin, the Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act authorizes up to $50 million “to enhance and expand intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support to Operation Observant Compass – [the U.S.'] ongoing operation to support central African forces conducting operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army.”
LRA groups are currently operating in remote and largely inaccessible areas of Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan. Governments in the region lack the tools to track LRA movements and anticipate where they may attack. As we wrote to President Obama in the KONY 2012 campaign manifesto, expanding surveillance efforts are a critical way the U.S. can help protect people from LRA violence and apprehend Joseph Kony and other LRA commanders.
For security reasons, the specific ways that the U.S. uses such funds are not made public, so it is not possible to know exactly how these funds would be implemented. In Resolve’s latest policy report, “Peace Can Be: President Obama’s Chance to Help End LRA Violence in 2012,” my teammate Paul reported that the U.S. is currently flying airplanes with advanced sensing technology over areas of central Africa where the LRA is operating. Information gathered from these surveillance efforts is channeled to regional forces working to protect civilians and pursue the LRA. It is also shared with civilians themselves to help prepare for the risk of an attack.
The Senate Armed Services Committee is chaired by Senators Levin (D-MI) and McCain (R-AZ). We applaud their leadership, as well as the support of Senator Inhofe (R-OK), who is a member of the Committee and a longtime champion for an end to LRA atrocities.
It’s important to note that there are still a few steps before the funding can be implemented. This $50 million authorization needs to make it into the final version of the bill, and be passed by both the House and Senate. Then we need to make sure that this funding is included in the 2013 Defense Budget. In the coming weeks, we’ll be working hard to make sure this happens, but we’re thrilled that the Senate Armed Services Committee has taken this first major step.
This week Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) visited Uganda to assess how U.S. and regional efforts to counter LRA violence were coming along. His stop in Uganda was part of a broader trip the Senator is making through East Africa.
Senator Coons, pictured above with Jacob Acaye and Jolly Okot of Invisible Children, is the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on African Affairs, making his visit all the more significant. A trip to the region like this is a good example of how Congress can help keep the Administration accountable for progress in addressing the LRA and to assess what kinds of additional resources and support the U.S. advisors need to succeed in their mission.
While in Uganda this week, the Senator made a point of meeting with some of the key players in the efforts to capture Joseph Kony and disarm the LRA, including General Carter Ham (head of AFRICOM) and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. He also met with commanders in the Ugandan army and the U.S. advisers in the region.
“I was encouraged to hear from commanders on the ground in Uganda about progress that’s being made in the U.S. mission to advise and assist regional militaries in the hunt for Joseph Kony,” Senator Coons said. “Kony represents the worst of mankind, and he and his lieutenants must be held accountable for the war crimes they have committed in Central Africa.”
During his visit he admired the great strides northern Uganda has made in the years since the LRA left the country. He noted that Gulu has a “brighter future ahead.”
We appreciate all that the Senator is doing to support international efforts to bring this conflict to an end so that hopefully LRA-affected communities in Central African Republic, DR Congo, and South Sudan will one day soon also see a brighter future ahead.
Senator Coons continues to be a committed and vocal champion in Congress on this issue and we are tremendously grateful for his leadership. Here’s a brief rundown of some of his contributions to the cause so far, including introducing the Kony 2012 Senate Resolution, which condemns Kony’s atrocities and calls for continued U.S. efforts to help stop LRA violence.
On a personal note, I’d also like to commend Senator Coons for his tech savvy — not something I tend to associate with many members of Congress. This video response to the KONY 2012 campaign from a group of Senators (spear-headed by Coons) and the upkeep of his YouTube channel are impressive enough, and today I found out he even has a Flickr account. What next?
P.S. If you’re from Delaware, we encourage you to take a minute to post a message on the Senator’s Facebook wall or give his office a call to thank him for his leadership on the LRA issue. I mean, who doesn’t like a little positive feedback?
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.