Blog Posts for 2010
- A recently leaked cable from the US embassy in Kampala in 2007 indicated that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni believed support from the government of Sudan was the reason the LRA had persisted for so long. “[Museveni] said that even if the Khartoum Government could not supply the LRA at previous levels, he believed it was in constant touch with the LRA and smuggling supplies,” said the cable.
- “The international community must renew its attention to this forgotten crisis here in Central Africa in the northeast of Congo. And the regional governments in Sudan, in Uganda, in Central African Republic and here in the DRC… must get together to combine their forces and find a solution for this horrendous problem of the LRA,” said Oxfam’s DR Congo director upon the release of a new report on addressing LRA violence signed by 19 NGOs, including Resolve.
- There was an LRA attack near the DR Congo town of Niangara on Friday, in which the rebels looted food.
- Local leaders and people in the region fear that the LRA might be used by the Sudanese government to sabotage the referendum on southern independence, just three weeks away, says a new report by the Small Arms Survey.
- Several people have been arrested in Uganda for defacing or tearing down posters of current President Yoweri Museveni, who is campaigning for re-election. Similar offenses against opposition parties’ media, however, have yet to result in arrest, and are in many cases even perpetrated by the army or other armed security personnel.
- Ugandan political opposition candidate Kizza Besigye warned of the possibility that the ruling NRM (National Resistance Movement) party would use vote rigging, bribery, or intimidation in February’s presidential elections.
- A statement released this week by a group of former high-ranking diplomats and UN officials—including Roméo Dallaire, former commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda, and Jan Egeland, former top UN humanitarian official—called on the international community to urgently act to improve regional information-sharing on the LRA, protect civilians from further violence, promote defections from the rebel group, and apprehend senior LRA commanders.
- In a statement this week, the UN Security Council condemned LRA attacks in the Central African Republic and called for countries in the region and relevant UN missions to enhance coordination and information-sharing on the LRA. They also expressed support for the agreements for greater regional cooperation on the LRA made at the African Union conference earlier this year.
- Senator Sam Brownback (R-KA) and Representative Donald Payne (D-NJ) this week urged the US government to exercise caution in dealing with the Sudanese government as the referendum approaches, and in particular not to remove Sudan from the State Sponsor of Terror List until they’d demonstrated substantial progress in distancing themselves from the LRA.
- The total number of people internally displaced due to LRA attacks in the Haut-Mbomou and Mbomou regions of CAR has risen to 26,000. There are also 6,000 refugees from DR Congo in these regions, straining the limited resources of local populations.
- “The LRA is a time bomb for the referendum,” warned Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussula of South Sudan, amid rising concerns about the LRA’s connections to the north Sudanese government as the referendum approaches. The security situation in South Sudan remains precarious, and many villages rely on poorly-equipped self-defense militias to stave off LRA attacks.
- A Ugandan opposition group, the Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC) coalition, says that the government is assisting the ruling NRM (National Resistance Movement) in recruiting and training a militia in advance of next year’s national elections.
- The International Rescue Committee reports that 98% of northern Ugandans displaced by the war with the LRA have returned home, and fewer than 6,000 northern Ugandans still live in displacement camps.
- Uganda’s Electoral Commission announced that they will not be issuing voter cards to newly-registered voters, despite the protests of opposition parties, who fear this could facilitate vote rigging in February’s presidential elections.
- At a campaign rally this week, Uganda’s current President Yoweri Museveni promised to reward self-defense militias and other veterans of the war with the LRA in northern Uganda.
- A cable from the US Ambassador to Uganda, Jerry Lanier, to the top US Africa official, Johnnie Carson, expressed grave concerns about Uganda’s lack of democratic governance, political repression, corruption, and human rights abuses, saying “Holding a credible and peaceful presidential election in February 2011 could restore Uganda’s image, while failing in that task could lead to domestic political violence and regional instability.”
- Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN7) made a statement expressing her commitment to the LRA issue and promising to read and respond to Obama’s newly-released LRA strategy.
- This month the US holds the rotating presidency for the UN Security Council, presenting the perfect opportunity for the US to follow-up on Obama’s recently-released strategy by taking leadership on the LRA issue. If you are 21 or younger, tell US ambassador the UN Susan Rice why you think ending LRA violence deserves more attention from world leaders.
- The north Sudanese army “accidentally” bombed an area in South Sudan near their shared border, and then launched an aerial attack on a nearby southern army base. Thousands of civilians are reportedly fleeing the area, fearing further attacks, as tensions rise in advance of the referendum on southern independence next month.
- Read our Q&A about the strategy, where I discuss the strengths, weaknesses, and implications of Obama’s recently-released strategy on the LRA, and talk about our next steps.
- In our latest update from the ground, Sister Giovanna, a nun working with displaced populations in Nzara, South Sudan, she shares the stories of two people she’s met who’ve been affected by the violence.
- A prominent Kenyan human rights activist is set to be tried for last summer’s terrorist bombings in Kampala, which “raises serious concerns that this prosecution is really an effort to muzzle a well-known critic of government abuses in the fight against terrorism in East Africa,” according to Human Rights Watch.
- The Ugandan government must put special attention and resources towards the needs of northern Uganda bridging the development gap between the north and the south and supporting recovery and rehabilitation efforts, writes the advocacy director of the Justice and Reconciliation Project, a northern Ugandan NGO.
- A Ugandan opposition political party released a statement sharply criticizing the government’s record on postconflict recovery and development in the north, and called for an independent commission to handle postconflict recovery, as well as truth and reconciliation programs.
- Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Scott Garret (R-NJ5) all issued statements in response to the President’s LRA plan. “I urge the White House to move swiftly from the planning stage to the implementation stage… I’ll be closely monitoring the administration’s progress to ensure it makes good on the promises it outlined in its strategic plan,” said Garret.
- This week at a House Armed Services hearing on terrorism and violence in DR Congo, witnesses called for a robust implementation of the LRA strategy, backed by adequate resources and political will, as a critical step in ensuring the protection of Congolese civilians and regional stability.
- The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, has invited young people to share with her their opinions on what issues related to peace and security need to be on the UN Security Council’s agenda when the US presides over its meeting on December 21. Send her your responses and help bump ending the LRA crisis up on the priority list for world leaders.
Following the Resolve office’s vigil in front of the White House last week, Resolve has continued to receive emails, photos, videos, and stories from people across the United States — and even internationally — who have stopped to remember and honor the lives lost in the LRA Christmas Massacres and to pray for peace.
From the Invisible Children office in San Diego, CA to Kinshasa, DR Congo, to Brisbane, Australia, hundreds of committed individuals have come together in One Voice: Resolved to Remember, a vigil for the voices silenced by the LRA Christmas Massacres.
Like us, these individuals believe that the inherent dignity and worth of each life lost should be recognized and must be, if we have any chance of rightly addressing the unacceptable injustices that took these lives and that have allowed the violence of the LRA to continue.
We’ve compiled a collection of some of the photos and stories from the vigils all over the world. And, to see a map of all of the vigils taking place across the globe or for more information on One Voice: Resolve to Remember, visit: www.theresolve.org/join-the-vigil.
President Obama’s strategy to help stop violence perpetrated by the LRA provides a broad blueprint for action. For that blueprint to become a legitimate path to peace, the administration must take immediate steps to put it into action. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be partnering with our friends at the Enough Project to outline six steps the Administration should take to kick-start implementation of the strategy. Ultimately, the success of the strategy will be judged by whether it actually keeps people in central Africa safe from LRA attacks, but by taking these six steps President Obama can demonstrate he’s serious about achieving that goal.
Item One: Make the LRA a priority at the UN Security Council
The first arena for President Obama to implement the strategy is the United Nations Security Council. The Council should play a key role in forging an international consensus on how to address LRA violence, but in recent years has neglected the issue. This month, the United States holds the presidency of the UN Security Council, giving US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice the chance to put the LRA on the Council’s agenda.
There are several matters Ambassador Rice should push for this month and into 2011. The first is to ensure that UN peacekeepers in Congo and Sudan dedicate adequate resources and troops to areas under attack by LRA rebels. More peacekeepers are especially needed in Congo, where LRA commanders oversaw brutal massacres in December 2008 and 2009.
One encouraging sign from the Security Council came last week when they released a statement on the Central Africa Republic. The Council welcomed greater commitments from the governments in the region and called for “the countries of the region and the relevant United Nations missions to continue to enhance coordination and information-sharing regarding the threat posed by the LRA.”
This is a welcome start, but there is much more work to do at the Council during the coming year. The Council should examine ways the international community can effectively protect civilians and apprehend LRA commanders in Central African Republic. There are no peacekeepers in LRA-affected areas of CAR, and recent reports indicate that the Ugandan army is slowly withdrawing troops deployed there. These troops provided at least some protection to civilians. The Security Council should also initiate additional investigations about links between the LRA and the Sudanese government, and request the UN Secretary-General write a report about the influence of LRA violence in the region.
The US presidency of the Security Council is a perfectly timed opportunity for President Obama and Ambassador Rice to demonstrate it is serious in seeking to implement President Obama’s LRA strategy. Let’s hope they don’t miss this chance.
We can help them realize we are paying attention during this opportune moment. Our friends at Oxfam have designed a campaign to remind the UN Security Council of the Northern Congolese’ fear that the massacres of the past two Christmas seasons will be repeated. You are invited to join their campaign.
We were encouraged that Ambassador Rice invited people 21 and younger to submit questions for the UNSC. More than 900 youth from 90 countries – including some Resolve supporters – submitted questions. We just learned that a video submitted by Gloria Ramazani of DRC will be webcast from 10-12pm EST during the December 21st meeting.
Earlier this week, my colleagues and I gathered with a group of advocates in front of the White House in a vigil to honor the victims of the LRA’s December massacres of 2008 and 2009. Over the course of the next few weeks, people are coming together at more than 50 vigils around the world, from Oklahoma City to San Diego to DR Congo, with the aim of honoring the lives of those lost to LRA violence and renewing our resolve for peace. As the year draws to a close, we look back at the enormous strides we have made in making this crisis more of a priority for our leaders, as well as looking ahead to the work we need to do in the coming year to see concrete improvements in the lives of people directly affected by the conflict. We at Resolve wish you a happy and peaceful holiday season, and look forward to working with you in the new year.
The Good: A group of leaders from the Great Lakes region, as well as a group of eminent former international diplomats, called this week for the arrest of LRA leaders.
The Bad: The LRA is now the most deadly militia in DR Congo, says a new report. The rebel group has killed almost 2,000 people there in the last two years alone.
The Ugly: UN peacekeepers in Congo warned this week that the LRA may try to repeat the 2008 and 2009 December massacres this year.
Northern Uganda and the 2011 Ugandan National Elections
The Resolve team gathered with a handful of local activists in front of the White House on Tuesday to usher in the One Voice: Resolved to Remember campaign. We were humbled by the people who came to join us – in the freezing cold – for our vigil to remember the lives lost in the LRA Christmas massacres. It was a powerful time of honoring those who lost their lives and the memories of all who have been affected by LRA violence.
Each of us picked the name of one person from a list of those killed or abducted. For many of us, the process of connecting with one name and the life it represented was a sobering reminder of the reality people in these communities continue to face.
Several of us shared our personal stories of why we were there. We will be posting some of these thoughts in the days ahead. In the meantime, this video gives a sense of our experience on Tuesday.
And, if you’d like to see photos from other vigils across the world, please visit our Facebook wall.
We invite you to join us in remembering by having your own vigil – individually or in a group. Find out more.
Tuesday, December 14th, will mark the anniversary of the beginning of the 2009 Makombo massacres, in which LRA rebels under the command of Dominic Ongwen killed more than 320 people in remote villages in northeast Congo. It will also mark the launch of Operation Lightning Thunder, the failed 2008 offensive against LRA bases in DR Congo that sparked a massive reprisal by LRA rebels against civilians that Christmas. In remembrance of these tragic events, Resolve is uniting with supporters across the country beginning Tuesday in One Voice: Resolved to Remember, a nationwide vigil to commemorate those who lost their lives in these massacres. Wherever you are, we hope you have a chance to join us in the hope that this history is not forgotten and is never repeated.
The Good: UN peacekeepers in DR Congo launched an operation to increase their presence in sensitive areas of northern Congo in an attempt to prevent a potential repeat of the LRA’s December massacres in 2008 and 2009.
The Bad: LRA attacks in eastern Central African Republic (CAR) have spread since last summer, and the threat of future violence has kept many from tending their fields, says a recent UN report.
The Ugly: The LRA reportedly launched an attack in Dungu territory on Sunday, abducting a 10-year-old student from school, looting food, and causing panic among the local and displaced populations.
Northern Uganda and the 2011 Ugandan National Elections
This is an invitation to stop.
2010 is coming to a close, and in the midst of final exams and holiday shopping and office parties, we’re inviting you to stop. And to remember.
On December 14th, Resolve will unite with supporters across the country in One Voice: Resolved to Remember, a nationwide vigil to commemorate those who lost their lives in the LRA’s Christmas Massacres.
Together, we’ve accomplished a lot in 2010 and there is certainly reason to celebrate. But the promises of our leaders have not yet translated into real peace for families in central Africa, a reality that is particularly apparent during the Christmas season.
On December 24th, 2008 and December 14, 2009, the LRA launched two of the most brutal massacres in its history, targeting remote Congolese communities left vulnerable as they celebrated Christmas. Joseph Kony and his top LRA commanders ordered their soldiers to seek out churches conducting Christmas services and burn them down, trapping worshipers inside. They killed and abducted hundreds, including many children.
For the families and communities targeted in these attacks, the Christmas season brings a reminder of the unspeakable violence in years past. And it arrives with the fear that similar violence may take loved ones again.
To honor and uphold the memories of each life lost in these massacres is a simple act of resistance against our world’s tendency to forget. And as we look ahead to 2011 and the challenge of implementing President Obama’s strategy, we invite you to join us in One Voice: Resolved to Remember, a vigil to commemorate these massacres, affirm the value of each life lost, and renew our shared commitment to preventing them from happening again this year or in the future.
On December 14, you can join us across from the White House in Washington, D.C., or hold your own vigil — from right where you are — at any point between December 14 and 24. Whether in DC or around your family’s kitchen table, we hope you’ll accept our invitation to stop and remember.
It’s here! The moment we’ve all been waiting for: the release of the President’s strategy to help stop LRA violence and rebuild affected communities! Last week, Obama became the first US President in this war’s 24-year history to develop a comprehensive plan to address the violence. We’re thrilled that the US has demonstrated this leadership, saying to the world that this matters, and making a strong commitment to peace in the region.
We celebrate this historic accomplishment, which would never have been possible without the hard work of committed activists like you. At the same time, there’s still much work to be done. We need to make sure our government follows through and provides the necessary investments of financial resources and political will to implement the strategy effectively. Stay tuned on how you can help make this happen. And thank you for all you’ve done to get us this far.
The Good: Last week, President Obama issued a comprehensive strategy to address the LRA’s reign of terror across central Africa.
The Bad: We’re concerned about the strategy’s reliance on the Ugandan military, whose competing international priorities and spotty human rights record could hamper its effectiveness.
The Ugly: The UN Security Council reported that the LRA is in south Darfur and has made contact with the Sudanese national army. They also said the LRA was responsible for an attack on the Darfuri rebel group the LJM (Liberation and Justice Movement) earlier this year.
Northern Uganda and the 2011 Ugandan National Elections
We were thankful for the all the Members of Congress who pledged to read President Obama’s strategy to help stop LRA violence. We were encouraged by statements from several of them.
Representative Scott Garrett (R-NJ) read the strategy and released a statement to the press urging President Obama to move forward in swiftly implementing the strategy. Check out his statement:
WASHINGTON, DC – In compliance with section 4 of H.R. 2478, the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, the Obama administration last week released its strategic plan to guide future U.S. support in central Africa to mitigate and eliminate the threat to civilians and regional stability posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Entitled, “Strategy to Support the Disarmament of the Lord’s Resistance Army,” the Obama administration’s strategy outlines four objectives to support regional and multilateral efforts: 1.) Stopping LRA leaders, 2.) Protecting civilians from LRA attacks, 3.) Encouraging escape and defection from the LRA, 4.) Providing humanitarian assistance to affected communities.
Having reviewed the Obama administration’s strategic plan, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) today issued the following statement:
“Now that the Obama administration has taken the time to formulate a plan of action to address the ongoing atrocities in central Africa, I urge the White House to move swiftly from the planning stage to the implementation stage. Over the course of the next few months, the Obama administration will need to meet a series of key benchmarks to demonstrate to Congress and the world that it is serious about its strategy to dismantle the LRA. I’ll be closely monitoring the administration’s progress to ensure it makes good on the promises it outlined in its strategic plan.”
Garrett was an original cosponsor of, H.R. 2478, the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, which was the most widely supported Africa-specific legislation in recent U.S. history.
Thanks again, Representative Garrett.
Are you 21 or younger? Ambassador Susan Rice and the United Nations Security Council wants to hear from you.
Starting today and continuing through December 14, Ambassador Susan Rice, President Obama’s representative to the United Nations, invites people 21 years and younger to share their opinions about what issues related to peace and security need to be on the UN Security Council’s December 21 meeting agenda.
This is great timing. President Obama’s strategy to stop LRA atrocities was released on November 24 and includes a promise to work more with regional and international leaders to end this conflict. The UN Security Council, where world leaders gather to discuss urgent conflicts and crises, provides Ambassador Rice with a great chance to talk about the LRA. Even better, the United States is presiding over the UN Security Council this month, so Ambassador Rice gets to set the agenda. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the need to stop LRA violence appeared on the agenda?
If you are 21 or younger you can help make that happen. Just post your video or written entry about why Ambassador Rice should discuss the LRA in response to the question:
“What is the most vital challenge to international peace and security facing your generation? Tell the UN Security Council what issue you believe deserves more attention, and explain why it is important.”
Your written response can’t exceed 250 words and videos must be less than one minute long.
ATTN: Voices of a New Generation
U.S. Mission to the UN, PPD
799 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
Learn more about the event here.
And, if you participate in the event and mention the LRA in your entry, please PLEASE share your entry with us.
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