Voices from the Ground Blog Posts
- Prioritize civilian protection, especially during military attacks against the LRA;
- Call for a regional and very representative conference on the real motivations of the LRA;
- Take on the command Regional Task Force’s coordination;
- Demand effective and proportional commitment from affected countries;
- Urge other African countries to join the task force;
- Foster positive military cooperation among affected countries.
- Pay attention and be effectively involved in the LRA issue;
- Mobilize sufficient funds for humanitarian assistance;
- Expand humanitarian coverage in the neediest areas;
- Mobilize funds and essential material support in favor of the African Union in its regional strategy roll out;
- Support specialized international organizations in fact-finding on the LRA supply chain;
- Intensify DDRRR so to encourage defections from the LRA.
- Favor their population’s interests and well-being;
- Ensure civilian’s protection;
- As sovereign states, commit to the resolution of the LRA crisis in their respective countries;
- Subscribe to regional cooperation at diplomatic, political, and military levels;
- Allocate a consistent budget to address the LRA crisis;
- Involve the local communities in the search for solutions to the LRA crisis.
- Fulfill their role of people’s representative at various levels;
- Be the voice of their suffering communities;
- Advocate for the protection and the wellbeing of their people;
- Monitor and evaluate the actions agreed upon to the LRA crisis.
- Persistent prayers for peace restoration;
- Involvement in peaceful conflict resolution;
- To unite, rise up their voice, and join hands for protection of life and property;
- Readiness to welcome and forgive LRA defectors and victims;
- In solidarity, extend assistance to the victims.
- Ensure sufficient media coverage on the LRA issue;
- Monitor government’s commitment to the LRA eradication;
- Contribute to the debates on the real motives behind the LRA’s regional expansion.
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.
On September 28th, 2012, religious leaders from Congo, Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan met as part of the Regional Interfaith Network of Religious Leaders for Peace (Le Réseau Régional et Interconfessionnel des Leaders Religieux pour la Paix, RRILRP) and released a statement expressing their concerns and recommendations for seeing an end to the LRA conflict. They call for increased protection of civilians and humanitarian assistance, especially in the most isolated areas of CAR. We’ve included a translation of their recommendations below and attached their full statement here (translation included).
This past July, we were honored to bring Fr. Benoit Kinalegu and Sr. Angelique Namaika from Dungu, DRC to meetings wit policymakers all around the world. Our own work benefits from the dedication of many religious leaders in LRA-affected areas, who often help facilitate our research in LRA-affected areas and provide advice that is incorporated into our advocacy work.
1. To the African Union:
2. To the International Community:
3. To the Governments of affected countries:
4. To the elected Leaders:
5. To local communities:
6. To the media:
*Photo courtesy of gurtong.net. Acholi religious leaders addressing the media.
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
In June we had the privilege of hosting Father Benoit Kinalegu and Sister Angelique Namaika, two Congolese civil society leaders who have been heroes in the effort against the LRA, as they travelled to the US and Europe to advocate on behalf of their communities. We first learned of Fr. Benoit’s work as far back as September of 2008, when he raised the alarm on the first attacks the LRA carried out in the Congo while peace negotiations with LRA leaders continued.This week, we were thrilled to hear that our partners at Human Rights Watch will be awarding Father Benoit the 2012 Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism.
The Alison Des Forge Award acknowledges those who have dedicated their lives to ending human rights abuses and atrocities. Father Benoit is being acknowledged for his work on the Early Warning Radio Network and his work urging the international community to take action to bring an end to LRA violence. The other award recipient, Salah Marghani, is an activist and lawyer working to expose human rights abuses in Libya.
Father Benoit is a true hero and we are honored to call him a friend. His work has led the way in protecting civilians in LRA-affected areas and his life and dedication to peace inspire and challenge us all as activists.
Congratulations, Father Benoit!
In recent months the M23 rebellion has severely destabilized eastern Congo, displacing 260,000 people in North Kivu province and raising doubts about whether Congolese troops can maintain control of key towns such as Goma. In an attempt to stem the advance of the M23 rebels, Congolese officials decided two weeks ago to redeploy the US-trained 391st Congolese battalion from LRA-affected areas of northern Congo to North Kivu. Congolese military positions along the major roads between Aba, Dungu, and Duru–roads that have been one of the main targets of LRA attacks over the past two years–are reportedly being abandoned.
The decision has sparked an outcry among civil society leaders in Dungu, northern Congo, who fear dire consequences if these troops, who in many cases are the only thing standing between civilians and the LRA, are removed. “The authorities are trying to nurture ambitions to destabilize the region again,” said the president of a civil society group, urging the government to reverse its decision.
The 391st battalion of the Congolese military has played an important role in protecting civilians since being deployed in northern Congo in mid-2011. They have also behaved better than other Congolese troops deployed in LRA-affected areas, who often commit abuses against the very civilians they are tasked with protecting. Congolese civil society delegates Father Benoit and Sister Angelique, who recently travelled to Washington, DC to brief US officials on the LRA crisis, both voiced support for US efforts to train the 391st battalion in its efforts against the LRA during their trip.
The withdrawal of the 391st battalion comes at a time when LRA violence against Congolese civilians is sharply escalating. After reportedly committing 71 attacks against civilians and abducting 77 people in Congo in the latter half of 2011, LRA forces reportedly committed 155 attacks and abducted 222 people in Congo in the first half of 2012. LRA attacks this year have been concentrated in Haut Uele district, particularly along the road from Dungu towards Aba, from which troops from the 391st are being pulled. Though Congolese policymakers have difficult decisions to make about where to deploy their troops given the threat posed by M23 and LRA rebels, leaving Congolese communities more vulnerable to LRA attacks than they already are should not be an option.
This weekend, two delegates from the Democratic Republic of Congo arrived in Washington, D.C., to kick off a three-week advocacy trip that will conclude with policy meetings in Europe. Father Benoit Kinalegu and Sister Angelique Namaika will be speaking on behalf of communities currently affected by LRA violence.
Resolve is pleased to facilitate their time in the United States. The delegates have a full schedule: on Tuesday, June 19 the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission is hosting a hearing on the “Continuing Human Rights Crisis in LRA-Affected Regions.” Father Benoit will appear on one of the panels together with Resolve’s Michael Poffenberger and The Enough Project’s John Prendergast.
On Wednesday, both delegates and Resolve’s Paul Ronan will speak on a panel hosted by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars entitled “Countering the Lord’s Resistance Army: A Civilian View from the Field.”
The following week, the delegates head to New York City for meetings at the United Nations when the Security Council will be convening. But more about that later.
Father Benoit and Sister Angelique continue to do remarkable work in LRA-affected areas of DR Congo, leading their communities’ efforts in civilian protection and rehabilitation. They can speak to the region’s needs with insight and experience. We are thrilled that they are here to tell our leaders, face-to-face, about the ongoing threat and we hope that their testimonies will strengthen the resolve of U.S. policymakers to provide new resources for the protection of civilians and the disarming of the LRA.
Again, we are so pleased to have the delegates here. Take a moment to read their full bios and check back for more blogs about their time in the United States and Europe.
Father Benoit Kinalegu
Father Benoit Kinalegu is a Congolese priest and the President of the Dungu-Doruma Diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace (CDJP). Based in the town of Dungu in Haut-Uele district, Democratic Republic of Congo, Father Kinalegu and the CDJP have played a leading role in documenting LRA rebel violence, mobilizing local civil society voices in both Congo and the broader LRA-affected region, and influencing the responses of the Congolese government and international community to the crisis.
The CDJP has produced its own first-hand accounts of human rights abuses committed by the LRA and has contributed directly to research by international human rights organizations. In addition, Father Kinalegu and the CDJP have helped mobilize local civil society groups from other LRA-affected countries to participate in regional peace-building activities. These efforts have allowed civil society leaders to share experiences of LRA violence, engage in cross-border dialogue on local community responses, and make recommendations to regional and international policymakers on how to end the conflict.
Sister Angelique Namaika
Sister Angelique runs Dynamic Women for Peace (DWP), in Dungu, Democratic Republic of Congo. Since 2008, she has been helping young girls recover from the trauma of being abducted by the LRA. DWP promotes reintegration and reconciliation by encouraging communities to welcome the return of escapees. It also provides a wide range of vocational training programs and income-generation activities to promote their economic and social reintegration. Sister Angelique also oversees a micro-credit program that helps graduates of the vocational training courses start small businessesand runs basic literacy classes in the Lingala, the local language. .
Sister Angelique has been a prominent voice advocating for victims of LRA violence in DR Congo and across the region. She has worked in coalition with UNHCR and others and has been profiled on the UNHCR website.
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.
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.
People from all across the United States – and indeed, around the world – have weighed in with their views on the Kony 2012 phenomenon and the historic attention Joseph Kony has received over the last 10 days. However, despite the more than 90 million views of the Kony 2012 film online, the dozens of articles and interviews by mainstream news outlets, and the hundreds of blogs that have been written on the subject, there remains a critically important aspect of this story that has been left untold by the mainstream: perspectives from those who currently living in the midst of LRA violence.
Voices from communities in regions of DR Congo, South Sudan, and Central African Republic where the LRA continues to kill, abduct, and displace thousands of innocent civilians are notably absent from the public conversation. While frustrating, this is no surprise. As Resolve has noted on many occasions, Kony chooses to prey on communities in the most remote and marginalized areas of central Africa, where news of LRA atrocities rarely reach the outside world. These areas lack basic communication infrastructure and technology.
For the past six years, many religious and civil society leaders in these communities have been calling for assistance from their own governments and from the international community to help protect civilians targeted by the LRA and apprehend Joseph Kony and his top commanders. Their input formed the basis of the policy recommendations for the KONY 2012 campaign. It would be tragic if – in a moment of such incredible attention to their plight – views from affected communities continue to go unheard.
Our team is working now to gather comments from religious and human rights leaders in these communities, but in the meantime, below is a compilation of a few of the testimonies from these leaders over the past few years.
“Let Us Be Free: A plea for relief from the violence of the LRA” produced by Discovery the Journey
- Letter from Father Abbé Benoit Kinalegu of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission in Dungu, DRC, in response to the Kony 2012 film and campaign
- Perspectives from religious and civil society leaders in South Sudan on the LRA and the Kony 2012 campaign, gather by Resolve’s Director of Advocacy
As you saw in the first video, a woman from an LRA-affected area of South Sudan emphasizes, “We want people who will talk on our behalf,” — people who will share these stories with the rest of the world. You can help spread her story, and those of many others, by doing two things right now:
1. Tweet this blog and post it on Facebook so that the voices of currently affected communities are included in the public conversation about Joseph Kony and the LRA. Here’s a sample message:
Amplify the voices of people currently experiencing #LRA violence in central Africa http://bit.ly/wbaBRy @weareresolved #KONY2012
2. Sign up to lead a Kony 2012 local lobby meeting and share these stories with your members of Congress in person.
We’ve made Kony famous. Now let’s do what we can to help bring his atrocities to an end.
Yesterday I visited the geographic heart of LRA violence in central Africa, a small town called Ezo where the borders of South Sudan, Central African Republic, and Congo all converge. Every weekend, people from all three countries gather at a border market there to trade goods, catch up with distant family and friends, and exchange information on LRA activity.
My visit there was immensely encouraging, as local leaders told me how the LRA has not attacked the area in over six months, allowing thousands of people displaced by the LRA to return to their farms. This was a far cry from my first visit here in 2010, where people were still traumatized by a recent attack in which LRA forces occupied the center of town for an entire night, knocking down doors, looting goods, and abducting women gathered to sing and worship in the local church.
But below the surface, people in Ezo are still frightened. They know LRA attacks are extremely unpredictable, and the recent resurgence of LRA raids just across the border in Congo has heightened fear that their communities will be targeted next. One farmer’s comment summed up what I heard time and time again when I asked people when they will feel truly safe: “We will know we are free when Kony is captured.” A simplistic answer perhaps, but it speaks to a broader truth that cannot be ignored: As long as Kony and the LRA are allowed to run free, hundreds of thousands of people in the region will go to sleep each night afraid for their future.
Amazingly, several community leaders in Ezo had heard of the Kony 2012 campaign. All were overwhelmingly happy to know there was renewed attention on the need to stop Kony and senior LRA commanders from committing attacks. (I’d urge any critic of the Kony 2012 campaign who dares say the LRA is no longer a threat to spend a few nights in rural Ezo). One religious leader who had seen the video even said it would encourage ideas on how local leaders could advocate with government officials to get them to do more to address the conflict.
Much has been written in recent weeks about the reactions to the campaign by people in Uganda, which is immensely important given the history of the conflict and the fragility of current transitional justice processes there. But it’s equally important that commenters get the opinion of the people who are living – right now – under the shadow of LRA violence. And so far, their voices have been largely absent from the conversation (though not from the broader debate about how to stop the LRA).
Of course, even the farmers who told me that they need proof of Kony’s demise to feel safe know that merely arresting one man is not the silver bullet for their problems. Families in Ezo will struggle for years to rejuvenate abandoned farms, assist people traumatized by LRA violence, and heal community bonds ripped apart by war and displacement. They will do so mostly with their own sweat, patience, prayer, and tears. We, as the international community, can only hope to play a supporting role to their efforts.
But even as we reaffirm that our role is in the supporting case, we won’t shy away from our belief that stopping Kony is a necessary step towards lasting peace, and that the US is uniquely positioned to help accomplish this as part of the President’s comprehensive strategy to protect and assist LRA-affected communities. And make no mistake – this is a belief informed by hundreds of conversations we’ve had over the past three years with people currently under threat of LRA violence. These conversations have inspired, haunted, and driven us, and will continue to do so until Joseph Kony and the LRA no longer threaten the lives of innocent civilians.