Blog Posts for 2010
- The government of South Sudan reportedly allocated $2 million to provide civilian self-defense militias with arms, communications equipment, and training to help them protect their communities from LRA attacks.
- A spokesperson from the Darfur rebel group the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) reported that LRA rebels are in Kanja and Radoom in South Darfur, and urged regional governments and the international community to put pressure on Khartoum to withdraw the LRA from the region.
- The Ugandan political opposition group the IPC (Inter-Party Cooperation) was evicted from their Kampala campaign office after government security operatives allegedly threatened the landlord with “dire consequences” if he continued to rent to them. “That is how the NRM government works. They try to make the life of those who do not agree with their policies as hard as possible,” said an IPC spokesperson.
- Two Ugandan soldiers were found guilty of killing a civilian in 2003 in Gulu, when they were in northern Uganda to protect civilians from LRA attacks, and were sentenced to 45 years in prison.
- Human rights groups have called for the Ugandan government to quickly release a Kenyan human rights activist who is being held in Uganda on terrorism charges or provide details of the charges. The lawyer was providing legal support to the suspects charged in connection with the July bombings in Kampala. His organization, the Muslim Human Rights Forum, has challenged and publicly criticized the transfer from Kenya to Uganda of several Kenyan suspects in the bombings .
- In an international report on education released this week, Uganda scored the lowest of any East African country, demonstrating high dropout rates and low quality of education in the country.
- Secretary of State Hilary Clinton met with Ugandan President Museveni last week, and expressed the US’s commitment to work with Uganda to help bring an end to LRA atrocities. “We will continue to work with the Ugandans as they try to eliminate the scourge of the LRA, and we will certainly continue to provide them support and assistance,” said Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson.
- President Obama made a statement on Sudan to world leaders at a UN last week. In it, he highlighted the importance of South Sudan’s January referendum on independence, saying that it must proceed in a smooth, transparent, and timely fashion, and that its outcome must be respected.
- The Darfuri rebel group the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) claimed that they had captured 3 LRA fighters after an attack last week on their bases in Southern Darfur. They allege that the captive LRA confirmed the group is receiving support from the Sudanese national army, which could threaten peace negotiations and a fragile ceasefire between the Darfuri rebels and Sudanese government.
- Human Rights Watch released a video this week about their work documenting abuses in DR Congo by the LRA and other groups. It includes interviews with Anneke van Woudenberg, who researched the LRA’s Christmas Massacres in northeastern Congo.
- A group of 2,000 war widows in northern Uganda have formed an association to lobby the government for assistance with economic recovery initiatives as they return to their villages. “We have been neglected by our leaders yet we have orphans to look after. We appeal to the government [for assistance],” said one.
- Last week, current President Yoweri Museveni was elected as the candidate for the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party for next year’s national election. The primary elections for both the NRM and the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) were marred by electoral irregularities, including allegations of fraud, vote rigging, and violence at the polls.
- A series of articles written by local journalists in the wake of the International Criminal Court review conference held in Kampala earlier this year was recently published in a report. The articles examine different aspects of international justice as seen through the eyes of the people that the Court was set up to serve.
- South Sudanese President Salva Kiir visited the US this week for talks on the upcoming Sudanese referendum. At a speech in DC, he said that “a hidden hand” was behind the LRA attacks in Sudan, and warned, “This is something that if it is not combated and to be crushed once and for all, there will be no stability in that area.”
- The Obama Administration recently announced a package of incentives including debt relief, reduced sanctions, and restored diplomatic relations with Sudan if the supports the outcome of the referendum on Southern independence and resolves the conflict in Darfur. In recent months, the US has expanded diplomatic resources and staff to focus on Sudan.
- Last week, two bishops from northern Uganda visited the US to discuss the implementation of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. They decried LRA violence across the region, and urged the international community not to give up hope for a negotiated solution to the conflict.
- A rebel group in South Darfur, Sudan, said it was attacked by a group of LRA fighters and claimed that the rebels were ordered to do so by the Sudanese government in Khartoum. Though details of the incident have yet to be confirmed, the report fuels concerns that the central government in Khartoum is supporting the Ugandan rebels to fight as a proxy army in South Sudan and Darfur.
- The President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, alleged this week that the northern government in Khartoum is providing logistical support to the LRA. South Sudan’s vice president said that he worries LRA activity in the country may affect the upcoming 2011 referendum.
- A special feature in Time Magazine published last week documents the LRA’s continuing brutal attacks in South Sudan. Click here to watch a moving video interviewing Moses, a 15-year old former child soldier, and Sister Giovanna, a nun working with displaced populations in Nzara, South Sudan (who I had the privilege of meeting earlier this year on my research trip to the region).
- One year after police brutally suppressed riots which swept through Uganda’s capital Kampala, Human Rights Watch reports that the government has yet to try any security forces for the alleged misuse of force that left at least 40 people dead.
- Since the riots last September, and especially since the terrorist bombings in Kampala this July, the Ugandan government has grown increasingly repressive of media freedoms and political dissent, shutting down several radio stations, passing a law permitting phone tapping, and violently suppressing election-related demonstrations. Opposition leaders worry that this will curtail prospects for free and fair elections next year.
- The primary elections last week for the ruling NRM party in Uganda were marred by violence at the polls, intimidation, and allegations of fraud, leading to the arrest of nearly 20 people and the postponement of a number of local polls, and further fueling worries about next year’s national elections.
- Uganda’s War Crimes Court began proceedings on its first case, charging former LRA commander Thomas Kwoyelo with 12 counts of war crimes including killing and hostage-taking in northern Uganda throughout the past two decades.
- At an international religious conference held in Uganda last week, a group of Sudanese bishops condemned recent LRA attacks in the south of the country and reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to peace and reconciliation.
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a longtime voice for peace and reconciliation in Africa and around our world, retired from public life today.
I once had the privilege of meeting Archbishop Tutu after hearing him speak on my college campus. Few interactions, especially so brief, have ever left such an impression.
More than recounting the story of how South Africa overcame apartheid or commenting on the sorry state of world affairs — both of which he also did — his words extended an invitation to those assembled to eschew the politics of cynicism and never give up hope in the capacity for people to see and do good. That unshakeable faith was at the root of his lifelong public witness.
A friend recently related another profound experience with Tutu. After visiting a camp for displaced Darfuris and hearing story after story of immense trauma and suffering from camp residents, my friend asked Tutu how one could cope or respond adequately. To her astonishment, he immediately grabbed her hands and began to dance with a determined joy.
I’m still wrestling with that one.
Thank you, Archbishop Tutu.
This week, we launched an exciting new campaign, From Promise to Peace, focused on making sure that President Obama’s LRA Strategy, due in just 50 days, includes the major investment of new resources and leadership needed to achieve peace. Over 1000 people have already pledged to read and respond to Obama’s LRA strategy when it comes out in November, including Rep. Jerry Moran of Kansas! Join them here, and lend your voice to help make sure Obama’s strategy has what it takes to help bring lasting peace to the region!
We also published a report, From Promise to Peace: A Blueprint for President Obama’s LRA Strategy, our own outline of what the strategy should look like, which details specific steps the Administration should take to make the strategy comprehensive and effective. The report is based on months of field research we conducted earlier this year in LRA-affected communities in DR Congo, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Uganda.
And now for this week’s news:
The Good: Representative Jerry Moran (R-KS1) committed to read and respond to Obama’s LRA strategy, saying “While the passage of this legislation was a significant accomplishment, our work will not be done until Joseph Kony and the LRA no longer threaten people across central Africa. Bringing this conflict to an end is the right thing to do. I eagerly await the President’s plan.”
The Bad: A report by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton states that the Ugandan government has done little to create an independent Electoral Commission to monitor next year’s national elections, and that the state continues to use its power to suppress opposition political leaders and journalists.
The Ugly: A new UN report accuses Ugandan troops of war crimes and crimes against humanity during its military intervention in DR Congo in the late 1990s.
Northern Uganda and the 2011 Ugandan National Elections
Since President Obama signed the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act into law on May 24, his Africa team has been hard at work developing a strategy to guide the U.S. in helping to put a stop to LRA atrocities. With just 52 days remaining until the strategy is due, we’re waiting for its release with the hope that it is truly capable of achieving an end to the conflict.
To shed further light on the current situation and the specific steps the Administration should adopt for a comprehensive and effective strategy, today we published our own outline for what the strategy should look like, “From Promise to Peace: A Blueprint for President Obama’s LRA Strategy.” The report is based on firsthand interviews I did earlier this year with people affected by the LRA in Congo, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Uganda, as well as consultations we’ve done with a broad range of regional and international experts, policymakers, and civil society leaders.
The report outlines an extensive set of recommendations for President Obama’s strategy, as well as firsthand reporting on LRA violence and its impact on communities in the region. You can download the entire report here, which includes a cliffnotes version in the Executive Summary and Recommendations.
Here’s the jist of it: President Obama should use the groundswell of momentum generated by grassroots activists and Congress to dedicate unprecedented political will and resources to forging a multilateral strategy that addresses the impacts of ongoing LRA violence, while preventing further atrocities against innocent civilians.
The devil, of course, is in the details. To be comprehensive, the strategy must include greater efforts to mitigate the effects of LRA atrocities by better protecting civilians, encouraging the escape and return home of members of the LRA, and providing increased humanitarian assistance to communities across central Africa disrupted by the violence.
However, for Obama’s strategy to have a chance at permanently stopping LRA atrocities, it also must have a decisive impact on the conflict. LRA atrocities won’t stop until Joseph Kony and senior LRA commanders are no longer ordering new campaigns of violence against civilians, and with the prospects for a negotiated solution remote, President Obama must lead renewed regional and international efforts to apprehend Kony and his senior commanders.
The challenge has never been more urgent. Since late 2008, the LRA has embarked on one of the most devastating waves of violence in its history, killing more than 2,000 people, abducting over 2,500, and displacing upwards of 380,000 in remote areas across central Africa. Not a week goes by without reports of further attacks on communities—civilians brutally murdered, children abducted, families uprooted, and an entire region destabilized. Yet the international community remains largely silent.
Communities being targeted by the LRA have urged their governments and the international community to take greater responsibility for ending the threat of LRA violence. But, as one South Sudanese schoolteacher told me earlier this year, thus far “it looks as if Kony is defeating the world.”
With the help of this strategy, it’s up to the U.S. and the international community to prove him wrong.
Last year, the efforts of tens of thousands of people and hundreds of Members of Congress secured the passage of a bill that requires President Obama and his team to develop a comprehensive strategy to help see an end to LRA atrocities.
But as the President’s team develops their plan, a major question remains unanswered: will the President’s promise translate into a strategy that includes the major new investment of resources and leadership needed to actually achieve peace?
One thing we do know is that our silence would make the answer much more likely to be ‘no,’ and communities across central Africa will continue to face abductions and brutal attacks. But when our voices unify to call for justice, they have the power to rightly shake things up in DC.
When he signed the bill into law, the President promised to “renew our commitments and strengthen our capabilities to protect and assist civilians caught in the LRA’s wake, to receive those that surrender, and to support efforts to bring the LRA leadership to justice.”
The President’s strategy is now due in just 52 days, and its contents will impact the future for hundreds of thousands of people whose children, homes, and communities are being targeted by the LRA.
That’s why we launched From Promise to Peace. This campaign aims to raise the bar for the President, and to make sure his own words translate into the leadership needed to permanently end LRA atrocities and abductions. While 52 days is not long, there is much we can still do to accomplish this goal.
Then, sign up for a local lobby meeting to convince your Member of Congress to do the same. Unless our representatives in Congress speak out, they reinforce the message that addressing the gross injustices being faced by families and children across central Africa is not a worthy priority.
That message has helped perpetuate this crisis for more than two decades, and our voices can help change it.
We’ve changed our name: Resolve Uganda is now Resolve, and we have a new website to boot. As a weekly roundup reader, you know that there has been a geographic shift in the front lines of the LRA war from northern Uganda to remote areas of northeastern DR Congo, southeast Central African Republic, and South Sudan, where the LRA continues to commit atrocities and abduct children. We’re still the same organization you know and love, but our mission has expanded to work on behalf of peace for all areas affected by this crisis. More here.
On to this week’s news:
The Good: With very little information coming out about LRA atrocities in remote areas of DR Congo, we are very grateful for the work of our partners at Human Rights Watch and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, who released a compelling series of photo essays and articles this week documenting stories from impacted communities.
The Bad: The governor of South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State has said that populations affected by LRA attacks there are in need of increased humanitarian assistance, and called on local leaders and the international community to renew efforts advocating for peace and an end to LRA atrocities.
The Ugly: The town of Ngilima in northeastern DR Congo has suffered frequent LRA attacks despite the presence of UN peacekeepers and Congolese troops in the town. A local civil society leader said, “This is what I want to tell President Obama: Come help the Congolese people. This can’t go on. We are dying day after day… We’ve had enough.”
Northern Uganda and the 2011 Ugandan National Elections
On Monday, several of us here at Resolve attended a speech by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, who is currently in the U.S. to discuss the upcoming South Sudanese referendum on independence and to attend meetings at this week’s U.N. General Assembly.
The referendum, which is slated to take place in January as a final step in implementing Sudan’s 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, is closely intertwined with the LRA. Levels of LRA violence against Sudanese communities will be one key determinant of whether or not the referendum proceeds smoothly. Additionally, most observers expect that the South will vote to break away from the North; if they are able to do so peacefully, the LRA could lose one of its bases of operations.
However, if there is renewed war between North and South Sudan, the northern government in Khartoum would have an incentive to resume its history of supplying the LRA and using them as a proxy militia in the South. Such a development would give Joseph Kony a new lease on life and likely lead to dramatic escalation of LRA atrocities. Already, there is increasing evidence of contact between the LRA and Khartoum government. Kiir himself expressed concern about the “hidden hand” supplying the LRA.
President Kiir also warned that, although he hopes the referendum next January goes smoothly, there is likely to be large-scale violence if the South’s rights to self-determination are infringed. A renewal of the broader war between the North and South would be disastrous for the region. The last full-scale war, which stretched from the 1980’s to 2005, led to the deaths of at least 2 million people.
The U.S. is stepping up diplomatic efforts as the referendum approaches, and we’ll be paying close attention to how they choose to address the LRA as one component of their broader Sudan strategy. In the meantime, you can check out the important advocacy work being done on this issue by our partners at Genocide Intervention Network, Save Darfur, and the Enough Project.
The Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting has recently released The Lord’s Resistance Army: The Hunt for Africa’s Most Wanted, a special project documenting the LRA’s devastating effects on local communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The project, made possible through funding by our partners at Human Rights Watch, includes a series of blog posts and corresponding photo essays by Joe Bavier and Marcus Beasdale as they traveled by motorcycle throughout northeastern DRC.
The project includes reports of UN peacekeeping forces’ failures in defending local population centers, a dramatic photo essay on abandoned homes in the Bas-Uele province, and a cry for help to President Obama from a local civil society leader in Dungu. Throughout the project there are a number of basic threads that reaffirm our existing analysis of the crisis: UN peacekeepers are not fulfilling their mandate to protect local civilians, the Congolese government is turning a blind-eye to the violence, and a contingent of the Congolese people are looking to the Obama Administration for the kind of leadership needed to see an end to LRA atrocities.
Make sure to check out the entire series.
(photo credit: Marcus Beasdale)
Today, we re-launched.
“Resolve Uganda” – our organization advocating for an end to the campaign of abductions and atrocities being waged by leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army across central Africa – is now simply “Resolve.” And we have a new website to boot.
The most immediate reason for the switch is one of simple geography. In the time since we founded this organization, the LRA has been pushed out of Uganda. The child abductions and brutal atrocities that were once limited to Uganda’s own borders continue, but are now unfolding in remote border areas of Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central African Republic.
People in these newly affected areas of Africa are facing unimaginable horrors at the hands of the LRA. And their communities are even further from the international radar than the northern Uganda of today. Just this week, religious leaders from affected areas came together to advocate for more attention to their plight, and Sudanese Bishop Edward Hiiboro shared his conviction that “[Our people] have been forgotten by our own government, forgotten by the international community and this means the LRA think they can do anything they like.”
While our commitment to seeing this crisis ended was born through personal experience in northern Uganda, it extends to wherever such senseless crimes occur without a deserving response from the rest of the world. Our voices are needed to draw the world’s attention to what’s taking place as much as ever. As a result, our mission is now expanding to help all areas affected by this crisis.
However, beyond this obvious geographic change in the nature of this crisis, there is also a deeper justification for our re-launch. It’s about the big picture. It is our answer to that question that always lingers: If we know our leaders can play a much more decisive role in seeing this crisis ended, why aren’t they?
One thing we know is that it is not because of disagreements over policy. By and large, when we meet with Members of Congress or advisers to President Obama, they agree with us on the basics of what is needed to finally see this crisis ended.
But those steps aren’t taken and policies not implemented. And the only reason we have found – our answer to that perpetual question – is that the LRA’s atrocities do not directly threaten anyone with the power to stop them.
The LRA is targeting communities that are marginalized even within their own countries in Africa. People in these communities have little money in their pockets and no oil under their feet. In fact, they barely have roads that can be used by journalists or advocates who want to document and tell the story of what’s going on. As a result, the levers that can create change simply aren’t being put in motion as they should be.
This reality is no accident of history or geography; it is the intentional survival strategy for Joseph Kony and the leaders of the LRA. These communities are targets for the LRA precisely because their suffering is the most unlikely to provoke a significant response from the rest of the world. One might even say that Kony’s strategy wagers that not enough of us will care, that we can’t convince our leaders to respond. He’s betting on our apathy.
That’s why our voices are so critical to correcting this imbalance and moving our leaders to action. And it’s the second reason for our name change – the verb became more of a noun. Our resolve is needed to prove that wager wrong.
And, in fact, it already is. By voting with our feet, our voices, and our sacrifices of time, talent, and treasure, fellow citizens – and leaders – are becoming converts to the cause. As this past year showed us, that’s how we rightly shake things up and balance the imbalances of our world. That’s how we put lasting peace within reach and help the communities enduring this crisis as they deserve, regardless of where they happen to live.
Moving forward, we will be working to build on this progress. We passed legislation mandating the first-ever comprehensive U.S. strategy to end LRA atrocities, but now we have to make sure that strategy is one that works.
We don’t intend to stop until we succeed, and we look forward to your resolve joining ours for the journey ahead.
It’s been a busy week for us here at Resolve Uganda as we prepare to launch a new campaign focused on getting the Administration to implement the provisions of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, passed in May. President Obama has just 70 days left to produce a comprehensive strategy to help protect civilians from LRA violence across central Africa. This mandate is even more urgent in light of a series of brutal attacks in South Sudan last weekend, continuing concerns about the Sudanese government’s links to the LRA in advance of next year’s referendum in the South, and concerns about political repression in the run-up to Uganda’s own national elections next year. So let’s get right on to this week’s news:
The Good: On Tuesday, the government of South Sudan launched a program to end the use of child soldiers in its army, and promised that the 900 minors in the army’s ranks would be demobilized by this November.
The Bad: The UN reports that newly displaced refugees in DR Congo from the Central African Republic are in a “precarious” humanitarian situation. “Unfortunately, owing to logistical challenges in gaining access to refugees along the border, it is feared that some may be beyond the [UN refugee] agency’s reach,” said a UN official.
The Ugly: The LRA killed at least 8 people in a series of attacks on villages in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State last weekend. All of those killed were civilians, and one of the attacks even targeted villagers who had gathered for the funeral of another victim of LRA violence.
Northern Uganda and the 2011 Ugandan National Elections
On May 24, 2010 President Obama signed the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act into law and issued a public statement promising to “help bring an end to the brutality and destruction that have been a hallmark of the LRA across several countries for two decades, and to pursue a future of greater security and hope for the people of central Africa.” As required by the bill, the President’s team is now developing the first-ever comprehensive United States strategy to address the crisis.
After two decades of international neglect toward this crisis, this historic step was taken as a direct result of the mobilization of tens of thousands of American activists. We have given our leaders a clear mandate to take serious action to finally help end the campaign of violence and mass abductions being waged by the LRA.
But this battle is not over. A huge question now looms: will the President use this mandate to pursue a strategy that is strong enough to actually achieve peace?
Doing so would require the President and his team to dedicate a level of diplomatic and material resources that are unprecedented toward this crisis, and many U.S. policymakers still don’t think stopping LRA atrocities deserves such attention. They would prefer that the U.S. make “band-aid” contributions that improve the situation but don’t bring Joseph Kony and LRA leaders to justice or see the crisis permanently ended. If activists are quiet now, those voices could win out.
It was committed activism that created this moment of opportunity. Now, it is needed again to make sure President Obama follows through on his promise with a plan capable of achieving peace.
The due date set by Congress for the President’s strategy is November 20. That’s a short 63 days away.
Next week, we will be launching our next campaign to mobilize American citizens and Members of Congress to send the clear message that the President’s strategy must be strong enough to bring a permanent end to LRA atrocities.
Are you ready?