From the Team 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.
This is the third of three top stories we’re sharing from 2012. They were chosen by our team as demonstrations of our impact and shared as a token of our thanks. You can find the first post here and the second post here.
On December 14, 2009, a band of just a few dozen LRA fighters entered a small village in the Makombo area of Democratic Republic of Congo. They proceeded from house to house, killing or abducting anyone they encountered. Over the next four days, they repeated this tactic in at least nine additional villages, killing 321 people and abducting more than 250.
The Congolese government failed to protect their people from these attacks, which came to be known as the “Makombo Massacres.” But the reality is that the government doesn’t have the troops or capabilities needed to always do so, especially in the remote areas where the LRA operates. So what else could have saved those 321 people?
As it turns out, there is a simple solution, and The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative has been working to see it implemented. If the communities attacked could have communicated with each other, they could have been provided advance warning of the LRA’s presence in the area and taken measures to escape the attacks.
My teammate Paul first identified the need to expand early warning communications networks in his 2010 report, “From Promise to Peace.” After two years of sustained lobbying, the US Congress allocated $10 million for this purpose in the 2012 budget. Then, in October of this year, the US announced the launch of a new project to develop mobile phone and radio communications systems in LRA-affected areas, using the funds allocated by Congress.
With advance warning, many of the 321 people killed in the “Makombo Massacres” could have been saved. And this new program, made possible by The Resolve’s work, could prevent it from happening again.
We are committed to keep going until Kony’s forces no longer threaten people in central Africa. This week, we’re looking for just 20 people to sign up as The Resolve Cosponsors, committing as little as $20/month to protect our mission.
Today is the final day of the pledge drive. Click here to help us out by becoming one of those 20 people today!
*photo credit: Invisible Children
This is the second of three top stories we’re sharing from 2012, chosen by our team as demonstrations of our impact and shared as a token of our thanks. You can find the first post here.
The first time we ever heard from him, Fr. Benoit Kinalegu had an urgent message to share. On September 18, 2008, he wrote to sound an alarm over a wave of deadly LRA attacks against communities surrounding his town of Dungu in the remote northeastern area of Democratic Republic of Congo. Six communities had been simultaneously targeted by Kony’s forces the day before. In one village, Fr. Benoit said, the LRA marched 50 schoolchildren from their classroom straight into the bush.
A few days later, when we reached him by phone, he shared one request: that we help “make sure the world is informed about these atrocities.”
Afterward, we helped relay messages from Fr. Benoit and others on to the policymakers deciding how to respond to the LRA’s attacks in Congo. But his words were always more powerful than ours, and this year, we wanted Fr. Benoit to share his experiences directly. So in June of 2012, Fr. Benoit and Sr. Angelique Namaika, also from Congo, made the long journey to Washington.
Our team hosted them to meetings with government officials, many of whom were newly seized of the issue in the aftermath of the Kony 2012 film and looking for a way to help. In a testimony before the U.S. Congress, in regards to LRA atrocities, Fr. Benoit said that “the international community, and the government of the United States have taken note… But I am here to tell you personally that the situation on the ground remains dire for communities. The attacks continue and the LRA remains a serious threat, leaving in its wake hundreds of thousands of people displaced and deeply traumatized.” The following week, Members of Congress wrote to President Obama demanding increased funds be dedicated to help protect civilians vulnerable to LRA attacks.
After Washington, we hosted them to brief the United Nations Security Council in New York. Sr. Angelique shocked the delegates into silence by showing them images of her community members who were maimed in LRA attacks, disputing claims made by her government that the LRA was no longer a threat. In a unanimous statement the following week, the Security Council called for “an immediate end to all attacks by the LRA, particularly those on civilians.”
This year, many voices clamored with opinions about Joseph Kony and the LRA. The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative worked to make sure the right voices were heard, and polices were advanced that can actually help end LRA atrocities for good.
This work has to be sustained. Kony’s forces were still able to carry out 266 attacks that we recorded against civilians in 2012, and they must be stopped.
This week, we’re looking for just 20 people to sign up as The Resolve Cosponsors, committing as little as $20/month to protect our mission. Click here to help us out by becoming one of those 20 people today.
This week we are sharing three top stories from 2012, chosen by our team as demonstrations of our impact and shared as a token of our thanks.
Our first is a story that stands above the rest as a sign of hope for our work. Contributions from The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative supporters enabled us to advance U.S. actions that helped a wave of LRA fighters and abductees escape from the group in 2012 — maybe even as many as the previous three years combined.
With adequate resources, there are tools we’ve long advocated for that can overcome the fear that Kony and his senior commanders use to prevent LRA fighters and abductees from trying to escape. Way back in 2010, we argued successfully that expanding use of these tools should be a central aim of President Obama’s LRA strategy, which was then being drafted.
The two most effective tools that we highlighted are leaflets that can be dropped by air or tied to trees in areas of suspected LRA movement and FM radio broadcasts. Both mediums often feature messages from previous LRA escapees or family members of LRA fighters, encouraging those who remain in the bush to defy Kony and come home. In areas as remote as the parts of central Africa where the LRA operates it takes significant resources to make these tools work, so we also worked with activists and Members of Congress to secure increased resources for them in the U.S. budget.
Those efforts are now paying off as programs to help LRA fighters and abductees to escape from the group are being expanded rapidly. In one example of their impact, The Resolve’s researcher Paul Ronan interviewed a Ugandan man in October who had been abducted by the LRA in 1996 at age 17, near the town of Gulu in Uganda. Even though he had spent almost half his life being forced to fight for Kony, he gained courage to escape after picking up a leaflet featuring a message from Caesar Achellam, an LRA commander who was captured by Ugandan forces in May.
New leadership from the U.S. is now helping these efforts go one step further. After recognizing that LRA commanders can prevent their abductees from hearing radio messages or picking up fliers, U.S. military advisors deployed to the region last year found a way to send messages that no one can stop. Using industrial speakers mounted to the bottom of helicopters, they are broadcasting “come home” messages directly to the LRA in overhead flights. Our work in 2012 helped convinced President Obama to extend the deployment of those advisors so these efforts can continue.
The work we do often takes much longer than we wish, but the results can be game-changing. Though it is difficult to monitor, the reports we received indicate that 41 LRA fighters defected in 2012, which is more than we recorded in the previous three years combined. Many others abducted more recently by the LRA — but not yet promoted as fighters — have also been aided in escaping.
These are the kinds of results that have to be sustained. Kony’s forces were still able to carry out 266 attacks against civilians that we recorded in 2012. They must be stopped for good, and The Resolve’s research and advocacy programs are helping make that happen.
This week, we’re looking for just 20 people to sign up as The Resolve Cosponsors, committing as little as $20/month to protect our mission. Click here to help us out by becoming one of those 20 people today.
To peace in 2013–
*photo credits: Invisible Children
Today, we joined ten other organizations in jointly releasing a new report revealing that the United Nations has failed to make meaningful progress in implementing its strategy to address LRA atrocities in the six months since it was released. You can read the full report here.
In Getting Back on Track: Implementing the UN Regional Strategy on the LRA, we hold the UN strategy against its own standards and show that progress has been slow to nonexistent in most areas. Key measures that should have been implemented by now — such as expanded communications infrastructure in LRA-affected areas, agreement among all actors for how to treat LRA abductees who escape, and cooperation among regional governments in the African Union’s regional military mission — have not been reached.
When we first wrote about the UN strategy, we applauded its content but noted many of these same challenges to seeing it implemented. The report highlights inadequate donor funds, absent cooperation from the governments of Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, and weak leadership from the UN Secretary General as some of the key impediments to progress thus far.
Because the LRA is committing attacks in an area that spans several countries, leadership from the UN remains crucial to a coordinated and effective response to the crisis. The UN Security Council will meet to discuss the LRA and the progress made so far in implementing the UN strategy on December 18, providing a key opportunity for the US representative on the Council to press for improvements.
Invisible Children and The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative recently released the 2012 LRA Crisis Tracker Quarter 3 Security Brief (you can see the French version here). The brief analyzes LRA activity from July-September 2012. Check out some highlights from the brief below:
-There was a 42% drop in reported LRA attacks from Quarter 2 to Quater 3 2012. This drop mirrors a similar reduction in attacks from Q2-Q3 in 2010 and 2011.
-Most senior LRA commanders are thought to be operating out of southeastern and northeastern Central African Republic, as well as the disputed Kafia Kingi enclave on the border of Sudan and South Sudan that is currently controlled by Sudan.
-The majority of reported LRA attacks in Q3 occurred in Democratic Republic of Congo, clustered in Haut-Uele district. However, the most severe attack occurred north of Bangassou, CAR in early September. In that attack LRA forces abducted an estimated 49 civilians and killed 2 other civilians during the abduction. All of those abducted either escaped or were later released, and several escapees reported the LRA combatants raped many of the abducted women and girls, including an eight-year-old girl.
-There was an average of 0.18 people killed per LRA attacks in Q3 2012, continuing a trend observed over the past year of severely reduced killings by the LRA. The trend was particularly pronounced in Congo during Q3 2012, where LRA forces killed only 1 civilian in 39 attacks there.
For more information on the sourcing and methodology of the report, see pages 7-8 of the brief, or the LRA Crisis Tracker Codebook and Methodology v. 1.6. As always, shoot us an email (email@example.com) with any questions or suggestions for future reports.
On October 7th, our friends at Invisible Children announced their intent to bring thousands of activists to Washington, DC on November 17th for MOVE:DC, the next chapter in the KONY 2012 campaign where representatives from LRA-affected governments will join leaders from the US and others to join in a conversation about what is needed to see an end to LRA atrocities. In the meantime, we will ask them to commit to follow through.
We’ll be working behind the scenes to make MOVE:DC a success, and we encourage everyone to join. But a crucial piece of the follow through that’s still needed is leadership from Congress. That’s why – the day before MOVE:DC – we are helping organize LOBBY:DC, and you should join.
This less-advertised initiative will allow participants to meet directly with their elected leaders in Congress to advocate on behalf of those most affected by LRA violence, and we expect big results. Past lobbying efforts have heralded some of our most important achievements, including passage of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act and millions in new funds to help keep people safer from LRA attacks.
The KONY 2012 campaign has resulted in some big commitments from world leaders. So far, both President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney have expressed their support, and with promises from the African Union, United Nations, and European Union to see this conflict to an end, there is reason for hope. These commitments could lead to urgent measures to help arrest Joseph Kony and improve protection of vulnerable civilians.
By engaging our leaders in person, we can help make sure they now follow through. See you in a few weeks in DC.
Earlier this month, I visited South Sudan’s Western Bahr el-Ghazal State (WBeG) for the first time. Though it receives little attention, the LRA has been active in this state since at least 2010, and my visit aimed to dig up more information on what is happening and what can be done to protect people there from LRA violence. Starting off in the state capital, Wau, I drove north to Raga, the last major town before reaching Sudan’s South Darfur region further to the north.
Later this week, I’ll write more about LRA activity in the region. For this first post, I want focus on the broader dynamics affecting the security situation, as communities in WBeG are facing issues that go beyond the threat posed by LRA attacks and that are important to understand.
Unlike in the neighboring South Sudan state of Western Equatoria, where people fear the LRA more than any other security threats, people in WBeG are primarily concerned about the ongoing tensions between Sudan and South Sudan. Many still remember invasions and bombings carried out by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) during the civil war here, which officially ended in 2005 with the partition of Sudan and South Sudan into two countries. If continued tensions along the border between the two countries escalate into open violence, people in WBeG could be among the first to suffer.
Much of the tension in this area is centered around an area called the Kafia Kingi enclave (in light red). Kafia Kingi is on the border between South Sudan and Sudan, is rich in mineral resources, and is claimed by both countries. Using borders drawn by British colonial authorities in 1956, South Sudan claims Kafia Kingi as part of WBeG. However, the enclave has been governed by Sudan as part of the state of South Darfur since 1960, and the SAF currently has bases in several enclave towns, including Kafia Kingi, Dafak, and Hofrat en Nahas. The past year has seen frequent clashes between the two governments’ forces in the area, including SAF bombings in WBeG and a brief occupation of parts of the enclave by South Sudanese forces in May 2012. This tension has been heightened by reports that South Sudan has allowed rebel groups from Darfur, who oppose the Sudan government, to periodically establish a presence in WBeG.
Even if ongoing border tensions do not lead to full-scale war, their impact on daily life is still felt. Last year, the Sudanese government closed the major border crossings to South Sudan, slowing the flow of goods to towns like Raga and Wau that have historically relied on goods coming from Sudan. Fuel and household goods now arrive via Uganda and Kenya, a longer route that has contributed to an increase in the price of goods and fuel. Border closures have also slowed cross-border movements of people, many of whom historically cross the border for livelihood opportunities or to visit family.
On September 27, the Sudanese and South Sudanese governments signed a series of agreements and protocols that dealt with movements of people along the border. Following the signing, Sudan immediately announced plans to reopen border crossings between the two countries. The agreements offer a sliver of hope that security along the border region will improve and allow people and goods to move freely and safely. However, the agreements leave many border issues unresolved and it remains to be seen whether senior officials in both governments will actually implement them, as they have already faced sharp criticism from some leaders from border communities in South Sudan as well as hard-liners in the Sudan government.
In the past two to three years, Joseph Kony and other leaders of the LRA have exploited these tensions and moved some of their fighters into and through this area. More on that later this week.
This past week Conciliation Resources helped bring together civil society leaders comprising the Regional Civil Society Task Force, which includes members from four LRA-affected countries, to a meeting in Bangui, CAR. The task force released nine resolutions and recommendations focusing on the disarmament of the LRA, rehabilitation of those affected, and reconciliation for the region. Our friend Sister Angelique Namaika, who you might remember from her visit to DC in June as she testified on the LRA to members of Congress, was present in the group. We’ve listed their resolutions below – all of which we fully support:
1.To continue a collective pursuit to engage policymakers in the respective countries and advocate for peaceful strategies for resolving the conflict.
2.Engage our Governments and Parliaments to be more present in LRA affected areas that are isolated and far from the capitals with negligible services, security and communication infrastructure.
3.In light of the LRA’s known record of reprisals, we call for no offensive operations against the LRA without effective measures taken to protect civilians.
4.Call for response to the needs of the affected communities in terms of humanitarian support, psychosocial services and income generating activities.
5.Commit fully to our moral obligation to save lives of many innocent children abducted against their will, and do what it takes to facilitate their safe return and reintegration in their respective communities.
6.Call on national government and internationals to support community centers that can contribute to psycho-social healing of returnees and affected communities particularly women and young people.
7.Impress on our respective governments to put in place the necessary legislation to grand Amnesty to the defectors and promote reconciliation.
8.Recognize the intertwined nature between the Mbororo and the LRA conflict and contribute to addressing this issue peacefully on a regional scale.
9.Undertake activities in our respective countries and regionally to:
a.) Collect pertinent information relating to the LRA conflict, document, disseminate and archive for posterity
b.) Reach out to the LRA in order to encourage their safe return into the communities
c.) Reach out in solidarity to the affected communities
d.) Contribute to the issue of protection of civilians in a holistic way. Ensure that it becomes central to response strategies
e.) Continue advocacy efforts at local, national, regional and international levels
*photo courtesy of Sarah Bradford, Conciliation Resources
Yesterday we posted a blog analyzing the New York Times piece on the increase of elephant poaching in central Africa, particularly allegations that both the LRA and the Ugandan military are involved in the illegal trade of elephant tusks. Today we discuss how these allegations relate to a larger challenge facing international policymakers: improving mechanisms to investigate where LRA groups are located and how they sustain themselves.
In order to develop effective counter- LRA strategies, policymakers need such basic information as where LRA groups are located and if they benefit from external support or trade to help sustain themselves. However, despite the UN Security Council’s approval of a joint UN/AU LRA strategy in June, little is being done to investigate substantial developments in LRA activity and movements. This extends beyond the lack of investigation into whether LRA groups are poaching for ivory. Substantial reports have circulated in the media and in diplomatic circles for months that senior LRA commanders, including Joseph Kony, are hiding in South Darfur, but US, UN, and AU officials have been unable to publicly confirm or deny the allegations.
The lack of clarity on the allegations of Kony being in Darfur– which the reports of the LRA’s involvement in the ivory trade could help corroborate – is increasingly making the current US and UN/AU counter-LRA strategies seem out of touch with reality. These strategies, though encompassing a broad range of civilian and military initiatives, rely heavily on the hopes that the Ugandan military can succeed in capturing or killing senior LRA commanders, including Kony. However, tension between Uganda and Sudan precludes Ugandan troop deployments in South Darfur, meaning that if Kony is in Darfur he will remain out of their reach.
However, because Kony’s alleged presence in Darfur is uncertain, attention remains focused on Ugandan military operations (which are currently limited mostly to CAR) and little diplomatic capital is spent engaging Sudan on how to ensure Kony is not given safe haven in its territory.
Last month we saw a small step forward in this regard when the UN Security Council – led by the US, the UK, and others – insisted on including language in UNAMID’s mandate encouraging it to collect information on LRA activity in Darfur, despite strong objections from Sudan and China. Though the language should make UNAMID more proactive in monitoring reported LRA activity in Darfur, in reality it has little capacity to do so. International diplomats have reportedly raised the issue with Sudanese officials, but not at a sufficiently high level: Sudanese officials have yet to agree to discuss the allegations with the lead UN and AU officials on the LRA, Special Representative for Central Africa Abou Moussa and AU Special Envoy on the LRA Francisco Madeira.
More senior US, UN, and AU officials should complement the efforts of Moussa and Madeira, and push Khartoum to allow a joint UN/AU team full access to South Darfur and the Kafia Kingi enclave to investigate reports of LRA activity there, including whether LRA groups are participating in the illegal ivory trade. UNAMID should participate, as should personnel from the AU’s new LRA Joint Operations Center in Yambio, South Sudan.
Similarly, more must be done to investigate allegations of the Ugandan military’s involvement in illegal elephant poaching. US advisers working with Ugandan forces can play a key investigative role, as can the UN-led Joint Intelligence Operations Center (JIOC) cell in Dungu, Congo. If these allegations are confirmed, any perpetrators must be held accountable and the Ugandan government should be required to provide some form of compensation to the park and the Congolese government. Further investigations are also needed to examine if this incident is part of a broader pattern of natural resource exploitation by the Ugandan government in LRA-affected areas (allegations that we’ve examined in previous reports). If so, the US should reevaluate its support to Ugandan forces pursuing the LRA and consider taking stronger measures to discourage such behavior.