Kony 2012 Updates
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.
Guess who is reporting on the LRA today? Just about every major paper and news outlet.
The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, Newsweek, and CNN, among others, all have stories about the efforts of U.S. military advisers to find and capture LRA commanders, including Joseph Kony. The surge in attention on this issue sparked by the Kony 2012 campaign has sent traditional media outlets scrambling to get information about a story that often gets ignored.
The common theme in these articles, not surprisingly, is the difficulty of the mission. With the LRA operating in a densely forested region the size of California, regional militaries and the American advisors don’t have an easy job in finding and tracking the LRA. But despite the challenges, the mission remains a cornerstone of President Obama’s comprehensive strategy to respond to the LRA conflict. Stopping LRA violence is a key first step in allowing displaced families to return to their land and helping communities targeted by the LRA to heal.
Theses articles also mention that Kony and some LRA fighters are believed to be moving between Central African Republic, where the Ugandan military and US advisers can operate, and Sudan’s Darfur region, where they don’t have access. Kony’s possible presence in Darfur highlights the need for US officials to also step up their game on non-military responses to the conflict. Particularly important in the coming months is diplomatic engagement with the Sudanese government in Khartoum to ensure Kony is not given safe haven to rebuild the LRA’s fighting capacity.
* Photo credit: Washington Post
Yesterday, we told you about many of the actions Congress has taken to respond to the Kony 2012 campaign. This week, among the LRA-focused activity on Capitol Hill was an official hearing on Joseph Kony and the LRA before the Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs, chaired by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) who has been major champion on this issue.
Administration officials from the State Department, USAID, and the Department of Defense briefed Senators on the progress of US efforts to help stop LRA violence, bring top LRA commanders to justice, and support the recovery of affected communities. In addition, Invisible Children’s Regional Ambassador, Jolly Okot, and former LRA-abductee — and Kony 2012 film star — Jacob Acaye bravely shared, in detail, about how LRA violence has affected them personally and why they are committed to advocate for those in DR Congo, South Sudan, and Central African Republic who are currently suffering from LRA violence. You can watch the entire hearing, including Jolly and Jacob’s powerful testimonies, here.
In the mean time, we also want you to know about a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the LRA and other sources of instability in Africa that will be occurring tomorrow, Wednesday, at 10am. What makes this hearing extra special is that you get to participate, right from your own home.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee allows regular folks like you and me to post questions online that we would like to see asked — and answered — at the hearing. The committee will read through all of the questions and seek answers to as many as possible from the testifying witnesses.
Do you have any LRA-related questions for the Obama Administration? Submit them here.
The witnesses testifying at the hearing tomorrow will include:
Donald Y. Yamamoto, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of African Affairs;
Daniel Benjamin, Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the U.S. Department of State; and
Amanda J. Dory, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense.
Tomorrow’s hearing is a great opportunity to have your questions answered by some of President Obama’s top aides working on the LRA issue — and it’s a chance to show Congress and the Obama Administration that activists like you are serious about this issue and you are paying attention to what our leaders are doing about it.
Here are some questions you might consider asking:
1. What is the Obama Administration doing to help make sure that the regional governments in LRA-affected areas are working together to help apprehend Joseph Kony and stop LRA violence?
2. What is the U.S. government doing to help support the protection of civilians in LRA-affected areas at the same time that it is helping to apprehend top LRA commanders?
3. What is the U.S. doing to help ensure that Joseph Kony is not able to find a safe haven in areas like Darfur?
Those are just some example questions for you, but you may have a few of your own. Take a moment today to submit your questions here and make sure check in with us later this week for an update on how the hearing went — and if your questions got answered.
There was a flurry of activity in Washington D.C. last week as Congressional leaders continued to respond to the Kony 2012 campaign.
- Six senators, led by champion Senator Coons, released an online video highlighting Congressional efforts to address the LRA.
- The Senate and the House held briefings last Thursday with civil society leaders from northern Uganda.
- Both the Senate and House Foreign Affairs Committees scheduled official hearings on the LRA for this week.
- Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, went on record with the Huffington Post in support of the campaign.
- And the Senate introduced its own version of the Rewards for Justice program, a bill that would allow the U.S. to offer a reward for information leading to Kony’s arrest.
All of this comes on top of Resolutions in both the House and Senate, introduced a few weeks ago, that call for renewed U.S. efforts to address this issue. Those resolutions already have 108 co-sponsors, and the list of new co-sponsors keeps growing.
Take a deep breath to process this strong response from Congress. Then take a moment to watch the video released by Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
With all of this attention, there can be little doubt that the Kony 2012 campaign has succeeded in grabbing the attention of U.S. policy makers. Congress acts when the American public demands it. And the flurry of activity over the past few weeks proves it. Stay tuned for how we turn that attention into real successes for LRA affected communities.
The gears of the international community are turning after the launch of the Kony 2012 campaign. On the heels of bipartisan U.S. Congressional resolutions about the LRA, the African Union (AU) separately announced two weeks ago that it would be launching a regional initiative and forming a 5,000 person military force to fight the LRA. The AU plans have been in the works for months and there are still a lot of details to be worked out, but the announcement is a welcome sign that the AU is bringing renewed energy and attention to the LRA crisis. Abou Moussa, the UN envoy for the region, sounded a note of urgency while announcing the plan, saying that “the most important thing is that no matter how little the LRA may be, it still constitutes a danger … they continue to attack and create havoc.”
Regional cooperation is essential to capturing Kony and ending the havoc that the LRA produces (see our recent report that explains why), so the AU initiative is a step in the right direction. Right now, Ugandan troops that are pursuing LRA leaders don’t have permission to cross into the Democratic Republic of Congo, thereby creating a potential safe-haven for LRA leadership in the DRC. And some fear that the LRA might also find refuge in the Darfur region of Sudan. The AU efforts will hopefully improve regional cooperation, and make ending Kony’s reign of terror something that governments cooperate on, not squabble over. To boost the AU’s efforts, the Obama Administration should strongly support the work of AU LRA envoy Francisco Madeira, who is leading diplomatic efforts to defrost tensions between regional governments.
As for the troops, at least part of the force will be made-up of Ugandan, Congolese, Central African, and South Sudanese troops who are already deployed in LRA-affected areas. The AU military force will have a headquarterns in Yambio, South Sudan and a political office in Central African Republic.
Some might wonder: Is the Kony 2012 campaign the reason this is happening? In short, not entirely: these plans have been in the works for months. But it seems clear that the Kony 2012 campaign certainly added urgency to the launch of the AU initiative. Indeed, Moussa said international interest in Kony had been “useful, very important”.
If the AU efforts result in increased regional cooperation, we believe they could significantly hasten the day that LRA violence finally ends and Joseph Kony is brought to justice. We will keep you updated as more information about this AU initiative becomes available. Stay tuned.
*Photo credit: Reuters
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.
In the last 3 weeks, tens of millions of people around the world have become aware of Joseph Kony’s crimes against humanity and the need to bring him to justice.
We’ve been encouraging you to channel your demands for justice to Washington and we’re already seeing results. Last week, a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives introduced the Kony 2012 resolution into Congress and as of today, it already has 44 cosponsors in the House and 38 in the Senate. This is remarkable — a true sign that your voices are powerful — but we still have a long way to go.
83 members of Congress have signed onto the resolution, but that means 452 still haven’t. At least one of those 452 probably represents you. Make it your mission to get all three of your members of Congress (your two Senators and your Representative) to cosponsor the Kony 2012 resolution. Here’s how you can do that:
Step 1: Take 30 seconds to EMAIL your members of Congress.
Step 2: Take one minute to CALL your members of Congress.
Step 3: Sign up to MEET with your member of Congress in your home town.
Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3 until you achieve the desired results.
**Note: Here’s a list of ever member of Congress who has already cosponsored the resolution. If any of your representatives are on this list, make sure to call their office and thank them.
Our Resolve team constantly receives stories of young people who have convinced their policymakers to take action that can help end LRA violence. Here’s just one:
Last week, a group of 10 Resolve and Invisible Children activists in Agoura Hills, CA (pictured above) held a short, 20-minute lobby meeting with Rep. Henry Waxman (CA-30). They shared why addressing the LRA crisis was so important to them and asked the Congressman to join them in committing to help bring Joseph Kony to justice and end LRA violence. Just a few days later, Congressman Waxman cosponsored the Kony 2012 resolution. The activists, most of whom had never attended a lobby meeting before, are now excited to schedule meetings with their two California Senators.
A story like this can be your story, too. You have the ability move things in Washington and help see LRA violence ended once and for all — if you choose to use your voice. Here’s your chance.
This story was just too great to keep to ourselves.
In the past two weeks, we’ve received a flood of sign-ups from young people across the United States — and beyond — eager to meet with their policy-makers to urge them to help bring Joseph Kony to justice and end LRA violence. It’s been exciting and encouraging for us to hear from so many young people ready and willing to engage politically on this issue because they are serious about pursuing an end to LRA violence.
This morning, we received a lobby meeting sign-up from a 21-year-old citizen of Tunisia — the nation credited with catalyzing the Arab Spring. Under “lobbying experience,” he submitted the following information:
“We managed to kick out our previous president.”
Needless to say, we are humbled — and pretty darn pumped — by the advocates we get to work with.
Sign up to lead a lobby meeting today. You’ll be in good company.
** Credit: AP/Christophe Ena