From the Team Blog Posts
It would be easy to conclude that a war lasting 25 years is just unsolvable. But in this case, it’s just not true.
We know this because we’ve heard directly from communities that have been the targets of the violence perpetrated by Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Even they have not given up on peace. We know from them that a few absolutely “doable” things could make all the difference.
Peace, like war, is waged. And you are waging peace. For the past 25 days, you have spoken boldly to ask leaders in Congress to take the needed steps to help see an end to violence by the LRA. And you are being heard.
Your efforts to speak out – through local lobby meetings, emails, petition messages, phone calls and videos – are resulting in concrete commitments from Congressional leaders. More than 20 Members of Congress have already pledged to help protect the funds needed to implement the President’s LRA strategy, and more are coming on board every day. (more…)
If the S2F campaign were distilled into a comic book, there would be a team of four caped Congressional crusaders called “The Appropriators.” By day, they would wear suits and sit in meetings, but by night… Well, they actually do their marvels by day, while wearing suits and sitting in meetings. With pens as their instruments of power, these four lead the Congressional committees that develop our nation’s foreign aid budget. They are Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), along with Representatives Kay Granger (R-TX) and Nita Lowey (D-NY).
Though every member of Congress gets to have a say, these four make the final calls (for more detail on this, see the S2F game plan page). In the coming weeks, they will be writing the budget for next year. Unless they choose to set aside new funds to implement the White House strategy released in November, new efforts to bring LRA leader Joseph Kony to justice and see LRA atrocities finally ended cannot become reality.
To finish it. A few weeks back, we shared the news that your voices may be needed – in a big way – to ensure that Members of Congress follow through on their commitment to make available the resources needed to see an end to the violence committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Well, we were right, and you were fairly warned. Today, we’re announcing the launch of the Start Something to Finish It campaign to secure funds for efforts to stop this crisis. (more…)
In our quest to do whatever it takes to end the violence being perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), we’re often coming to you with requests to “hold-out” (like we did just a little more than one year ago), sign on (which you are welcome to do RIGHT NOW) and join meetings.
While we absolutely appreciate how you always step up to help us accomplish our goals and we promise to have more requests like those in the future, today we pause from our normal programming to ask a quick favor.
Will you help us do our work more effectively by taking a brief survey?
Whether you just learned of our work or you are a die-hard who creates your own t-shirt for each action we suggest, we’d like to learn more about who you are, and how you are connected to us. The survey will take just a couple minutes. (It’s easy and even has a few fun questions.)
Thank you for helping Resolve by taking this survey.
This past week, President Obama released his budget proposal for the coming year. It will now be considered, amended, and voted on by Congress. Remarkably (and we think for the first time ever), the President’s budget request includes a specific line item for our country’s efforts to end the ongoing atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
For Resolve and our partners, much of the past two years was dedicated to passing ground-breaking legislation that required President Obama to create the first White House strategy to stop violence perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and help affected communities rebuild. When the president released his strategy in November, it was an historic day for all of us. For the first time in a crisis that has spanned more than two decades, our country’s leader laid out a comprehensive plan to seek the arrest of top LRA commanders and improve the safety of the communities being targeted.
But now, it’s time to turn that sigh of relief into a deep breath – the kind you take before starting a marathon. Because we all worked way too hard to let that 30+ page document become a bureaucratic dust-gatherer. The true measure of our success will be how it is actually implemented, and whether it results in increased safety for people currently living in the midst of LRA violence. And that means we need to make sure President Obama turns his strategy into concrete action. We’ve got a plan… and it needs you.
Our first step in this process (and there will be more, soon to come!) is to provide regular evaluations of the president’s strategy and the steps his administration is taking to see it implemented. The first LRA Strategy Report Card – developed by Resolve in partnership with our friends at Invisible Children, Enough Project, and Citizens for Global Solutions – was released today. Check it out here.
On Tuesday, we joined our friends at Enough Project in posting about how the Obama Administration — as part of its efforts to implement the President’s LRA strategy released in November — should be working to ensure that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) does not regain the backing of the government of Sudan in Khartoum. In the past, Khartoum’s provision of arms and material support for the rebel group fueled the LRA’s abductions and atrocities. Specifically, we argued that Sudan should not be removed from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list — a move President Obama in considering as a reward for Sudan’s good behavior during South Sudan’s referendum on independence — until it is certified that the Khartoum government is not providing material support or safe haven to the LRA.
Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), one of our champions in Congress, picked up the topic yesterday during a hearing in which he questioned a senior official on President Obama’s Sudan team. Watch the video (beginning at minute 2) or read below for the response:
The man himself may no longer be with us, but today and forever his words remain urgently relevant:
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’
May we continue to examine and call out the ways our world falls short of the dream. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Last week President Obama became the first world leader to issue a comprehensive strategy to address the LRA’s reign of terror across central Africa. It was a major step forward for efforts to achieve a lasting end to LRA atrocities, which include the murder and abduction of tens of thousands of people over the past two decades. And of course, it wouldn’t have happened without the tens of thousands of people who helped pass the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act back in May, which required President Obama to develop the strategy.
In the past week we’ve had a chance to take a deep breath, read the strategy (as many of you have also), and try to make sense of its significance and how it influences our work. So here goes. If you have additional questions, you can post them in the comments and we’ll respond.
First, as you may have noticed, the President’s strategy is less a detailed plan of action, and more a comprehensive framework to guide the future of United States action in the region. It lays out a clear vision that people in central Africa should be “free from the threat of LRA violence and have the freedom to pursue their livelihoods,” and four strategic goals which – in concert with each other – can achieve that vision: protection of vulnerable civilians, apprehension of Joseph Kony and other top LRA commanders, promotion of escape and reintegration of LRA abductees and fighters, and provision of relief and recovery assistance to families disrupted by the violence.
However, much remains to be determined in how it will actually play out on the ground. We put together the following Q&A to help you understand the concrete role the strategy release plays in the process toward peace, and how it will shape our efforts moving forward.
1. What is the significance of this strategy?
We have reached a critical turning point in a long struggle. In simple terms, the U.S. president producing a strategy says to the world, “this matters.” That’s huge. Protecting people from the kinds of horrific atrocities the LRA perpetrates is now a stated goal of our leaders and they have a plan of action to help make it happen that we can hold them to. This wasn’t the case for more than two decades, or in many previous situations of mass violence (think Rwanda). The strategy is no perfect solution, but it is a major step forward.
2. Right, that’s cool. But what does this actually do to help see LRA violence stopped?
Well, in the President’s own words, the strategy “provides an overarching, comprehensive strategic direction over several years to enhance these efforts and to increase the likelihood of success in mitigating and eliminating the threat posed by the LRA.”
That’s a fancy way of saying that the strategy is not a detailed plan of action, but an analysis of the problem and a framework for action that will guide increased United States engagement moving forward. Most details of what will actually change remain to be determined (and all of us will play a big role in determining them, but we’ll get to that in a moment). The strategy also rightly acknowledges that the United States is only one actor, and success also depends on leadership from regional governments, international bodies like the U.N., and the people affected by the crisis.
3. Ok, so it’s a framework and its impact will gradually be felt. Does anything change tomorrow?
The strategy includes a section called “Priority Actions.” This section spells out the most immediate priorities for implementation. Some are already in motion. Those priorities include building telecommunications infrastructure so that extremely remote communities have a way to tell the world when they are being attacked, assisting regional militaries and humanitarian agencies with mobility so they can respond more quickly, and strengthening efforts to rescue LRA abductees and help them escape.
4. I’m eating this up. Give me more substance on the strategy’s strengths and weaknesses!
Well, since you asked… We think the strategy’s strongest point is the way it acknowledges that an effective approach must include both military components (to help protect civilians and bring LRA commanders to justice) and non-military components (to help protect civilians, encourage the defection of LRA fighters, build communications infrastructure, and provide emergency assistance). It’s not an “either-or,” but a “both-and,” maximizing prospects for success. We also liked that it took a long-term view, reducing the chances of the strategy becoming irrelevant if dynamics on the ground change slightly. Finally, we were encouraged that the strategy acknowledges the importance of political will from regional leaders and other partners in this effort. This is not “go it alone” problem-solving. Not even close.
But we also have some bones to pick with the strategy. They all relate somehow to the Ugandan military, which is currently taking the lead in regional efforts to pursue the LRA but has also been historically ineffective and complicit in some rights abuses. First, since the LRA is no longer operating within Uganda, the strategy acknowledges that the Ugandan military may eventually pull back, which would leave a security vacuum since the militaries of other affected countries are even less effective. Even recognizing the risks of relying on the Ugandans, the strategy doesn’t commit to building up alternatives (such as training for other forces, or increased deployments of peacekeepers).
Second, the strategy does not commit to finding more viable alternatives to the Ugandans if they continue to fail in their pursuit of Kony and other top commanders (such as better trained and better equipped specialized forces or new peacekeeping forces). Some alternatives may have been considered that are still classified, but we obviously don’t know. And third, the strategy doesn’t provide enough detail on how the U.S. will ensure its support to the Ugandan military is used for the right purposes or how it will ensure that the military behaves in the run-up to Uganda’s upcoming elections. We will be seeking clarification on each of these points in the coming weeks.
5. What will determine how robustly the strategy is implemented in the long-term?
Great question. The biggest factor: us. We made sure the law that required this strategy passed Congress. Similarly, all of us are a key “x-factor” in determining how effectively this strategy translates into impact on the ground. As we know, gaining and sustaining the attention of our leaders to such a faraway problem is enormously challenging, and that reality won’t change overnight with one new document from anyone, including the President. So our persistence is the key.
Our continued advocacy will be particularly crucial to squeezing money from Congress to implement the strategy. The President’s team can only do as much as they have money from Congress to do. Additionally, we’d like President Obama to task a senior diplomat and full-time team to work on the issue, as the traditional bureaucracy is not effective at addressing such a cross-border crisis (especially in the face of other pressing priorities in the region such as Sudan’s upcoming independence referendum and violence in Congo’s Kivus region).
There are other areas that would help with implementing the strategy. We’ll all work together in the new year to advocate for those and continue to work to get this crisis the attention it deserves.
6. So, now we’ve passed a law and secured the first-ever United States strategy to address the crisis (BAM!). What next?
Well, before rushing headlong into our next phase, we will soon be announcing a way that we can all simply pause for a moment in the Christmas and holiday season to honor lives lost and disrupted in this tragedy. But then, come 2011, we’ll get to work full force ensuring the strategy becomes an plan of ACTION and results in concrete benefits for the communities enduring this horrific violence. We don’t intend to stop until there is an end to this, Africa’s longest-running war. We hope you’ll be with us.
- Michael & Paul
After 180 days in development preceded by more than one year of committed activism, President Obama provided Congress with his strategy to help stop the violence perpetrated by the LRA and rebuild affected communities.
The completed strategy, including a letter from President Obama to the members of Congress who passed the bill, is 36 pages long and features several ideas for how the Obama administration might help end Africa’s longest-running war that were also included in Resolve’s policy report, From Promise to Peace.
In the strategy’s cover letter, President Obama referenced the significant involvement of numerous agencies in the creation and implementation of the strategy and said, “My administration looks forward to working closely with the Congress on this important issue.”
President Obama’s team has done an admirable job in formulating a strategy and demonstrating commitment to address the LRA scourge, but the challenge now is to turn this piece of paper into improvements on the ground. Solid first steps the president should take would include a significant boost in resources in his FY 2012 budget request to address this crisis and the designation of a senior State Department official to oversee the strategy’s implementation.
Our analysis is forthcoming. For now, you can download it here, check it out yourself, and celebrate being part of a truly historic accomplishment.
Get to know it well, because very soon it will be up to us to hold President Obama accountable to its effective implementation.
PS – More than 6,000 of you pledged to read the strategy. We would love to see your faces and your follow-through, so take a few seconds to post a photo of yourself reading the strategy on our Facebook wall.