Blog Posts for 2011
In just a couple of days, our Resolve team will close up shop and head to our respective homes and families for the holidays. But as we eagerly anticipate the celebration and rest to come, we’re mindful that the comfort and privilege we get to enjoy is not the norm for most.
For many families in central Africa, this time of year is filled with sorrow, as it marks the anniversary of two of the LRA’s most brutal attacks – now known as the Christmas Massacres. And with the LRA still at large, the holiday season serves as a fearful and almost paralyzing reminder that similar attacks could happen again.
In light of this sobering reality, last week Resolve launched our second nation-wide vigil, One Voice: Resolved to Remember – an invitation to advocates all over the world to join us, from wherever they are, between December 14th and 25th as we pause to remember those lost to LRA violence and pray for the loved ones they left behind.
To usher in the two-week vigil, our team gathered with a handful of friends and fellow advocates in front of the White House last week. Each of us picked the name of one person to honor from a list of those killed or abducted in Christmas Massacres and we collectively offered a prayer of peace, comfort, and justice for those caught in the middle of this crisis.
It was a powerful time of reflection for our team and we were deeply encouraged by the opportunity to come together with fellow advocates and honor lives lost to the LRA crisis – lives that the world so easily overlooks.
As you celebrate the holidays this week and next, we encourage you to participate in One Voice: Resolved to Remember – individually or with others — in whatever way is most meaningful to you. Let it be an act of resistance against the injustice of being allowed to forget these epic tragedies and against our world’s tendency to treat some as if their lives matter more than others.
Peace to you and yours. And Happy Holidays from the Resolve team.
* Photos courtesy of Wade McMullen
Last week, in a major victory for Resolve’s efforts during 2011, Congress passed two budget bills that made tens of millions of dollars in new funding available to help communities being affected by LRA violence.
The 2012 defense authorization bill — passed Thursday — included a provision allocating up to $35 million to help protect communities from LRA attacks. Meanwhile, the foreign aid bill — passed Monday — called for “up to $10 million” in additional funds to support early-warning mechanisms and programs to help rescue and rehabilitate LRA abductees. To put that in context, the amount of U.S. foreign aid channeled to help deal with the LRA crisis will more than double if the Obama Administration now acts on these directives from Congress.
Hundreds of Resolve supporters lobbied their members of Congress this year for increased funding to help stop LRA atrocities, beginning with the Start Something to Finish It (S2F) campaign launched this past April. In response, 52 Senators and Representatives signed a letter — led by our champion Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and John Boozman (R-AR) and Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) — calling for increased funding to help address LRA violence. And throughout the year, our Resolve team worked with advocates in key Congressional districts across the U.S., helping them engage directly with their elected leaders to keep the momentum going.
We’re thrilled about these significant new developments and we’ll be working hard in the coming year to ensure they translate into life-saving action on the ground. Here’s a first draft of our top-five wish-list for how President Obama should direct these funds to be used:
#1: Dramatically expand the construction of mobile phone towers and HF radio networks in LRA-affected areas of central Africa to help provide early warning systems to communities most in danger of attack;
#2: Strengthen FM radio coverage to broadcast programs calling for LRA fighters and abductees to escape and return home;
#3: Rehabilitate important roads to allow for humanitarian and civilian protection access to remote communities (especially the road from Source Yubu, South Sudan to Obo, Central African Republic);
#4: Provide regional militaries with helicopters so they can react quickly to information about LRA movements and imminent threats against civilians; and
#5: Support the African Union’s initiative to help governments in the region coordinate their efforts against the LRA.
This week’s developments show what a difference our efforts together made in 2011. These increased funds will translate into programs that protect families from LRA violence and save lives.
Here’s to even greater victories in 2012.
P.S. In addition to the four Congressional champions mentioned above, we also want to offer a special thanks to Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK) , Carl Levin (D-MI), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), as well as Representatives Adam Smith (D-WA09), Kay Granger (R-TX12), and Nita Lowey (D-NY12) for the leadership role they played in this victory. If you’re from one of their states or districts, take a moment to send them a thank-you via phone or email.
With the launch of the LRA Crisis Tracker this fall, Resolve and Invisible Children have been able to significantly increase the amount of information of LRA attacks available to the international community. As our teams worked on the Crisis Tracker over the last year, we focused heavily on making this data both relevant and actionable.
Achieving that aim has involved the development a series of monthly and quarterly analytical reports that trace trends in LRA movement and provide a summary of levels of violence over particular time periods. These LRA Crisis Tracker Security Briefs are designed to serve as helpful resources for NGO partners, United Nation’s staff, policymakers and local community leaders, seeking to effectively address LRA violence.
Previous months’ reports, along with a sign up form to receive reports by email, can be found here.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who is currently making a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, said — on camera — that he supports the deployment of troops to stop the Lord’s Resistance Army.
If a front runner for the GOP nomination is on board with the deployment, it bodes well for the future. Romney’s statement follows a wide range of bipartisan leaders who expressed support for Obama’s recent decision to send U.S. advisers to help regional governments address LRA atrocities.
He was talking to The Des Moines Register in the context of an hour-long interview. Around 58:00, he is answering a question about Jihadism and the U.S. military. He says he would be very cautious about deploying large numbers of American troops and putting them in harm’s way. Rather, he favors sending small numbers of advisers to aid national militaries when we are working to achieve common goals. He mentioned Obama’s deployment of 100 troops as a prime example. At 1:00:07 he says:
“The President, for instance, something I agree with, he sent men and women to central Africa, to go in and help battle the Lord’s Resistance Army. Now that’s not exactly the same as Jihadism, but it’s still a virulent and malevolent force. I support that. I support the idea of a very small number of people who can have a very significant impact to prevent something which can be very much opposed to the interests of America as well as the interests of the civilized world.”
This statement is just one more piece of evidence that stopping the LRA is a bipartisan issue. This is huge. Governor Romney, thank you!
Check out the video of Mitt Romney’s comments on the deployment of the advisers here. (Skip to about 58 min 15 sec)
This past year, we worked together as never before to bend the ears of our leaders and turn our country’s attention to the task of ending the violence being perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army. With one voice, thousands of us lobbied, wrote, shared, and gave of ourselves on behalf of peace.
But today, as our year draws to an end – amidst all the final exams and holiday shopping – we invite you to simply stop for a moment, and to remember.
From December 14th – 24th, the Resolve team will unite with supporters across the country for our second One Voice: Resolved to Remember nationwide vigil. We commemorate those who have lost their lives in this violent conflict, particularly during the LRA’s Christmas Massacres.
On December 24th, 2008 and December 14, 2009, the LRA launched two of the most brutal attacks 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, trapping worshipers inside. They killed and abducted hundreds, including many children.
As we continue to work hard to ensure that atrocities like these never happen again, we also believe it’s importance to stop and remember — to honor and uphold the memories of each life lost in these attacks as a simple act of resistance against our world’s tendency to forget. And we celebrate all those in central Africa and around the world who continue to struggle for peace.
On December 14, you can join our team across from the White House in Washington, D.C. at 7:30pm, or hold your own vigil — from right where you are — at any point between December 14 and 24. (Check out the video above of vigils held across the country last year.)
Whether in DC or around your family’s kitchen table, we hope you’ll join us at some point to stop and remember.
P.S. For more information about the D.C. vigil tomorrow night, email email@example.com
We’ve been focusing all week (Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs) on what we’ve accomplished together this fall and the important role that Resolve has played in these exciting developments. And we’ve been talking vaguely about this “future” where we’ll be pressuring our leaders to follow through on their promises and calling on our supporters to demonstrate that justice is worth the investment.
Today, we want to give you a glimpse into what’s coming this spring. Unfortunately, we can’t tell you the details of the main attraction yet, but we can tell you that we’re working with some of our favorite partners — and that it is going to be h-u-g-e. Huge.
But let’s move on to what we’re actually allowed to talk about.
First off, this spring the LRA Crisis Tracker will be getting a pretty sweet upgrade. In Phase 2, our capable crisis-mapping team will work with Invisible Children to communicate timely information on LRA activity —but this time we’re exploring how we can make it work in both directions. In addition to gathering information from communities on the ground, we want the Crisis Tracker to be a tool for getting information back into the hands of those most in danger of LRA attack — keeping them up to date on the LRA’s most recent movements. The goal is to prevent violence, not just respond to it. This has always been part of the plan for the Crisis Tracker, but with the help of our Cosponsors, we could have the capability to make it a reality this spring.
Secondly, we’re putting the pedal to the metal to get funding for President Obama’s LRA strategy. We’re in the final stages of hopefully securing $2 million in next year’s national budget that would go toward civilian protection efforts (radio towers, early warning networks, etc) and the rescue and rehabilitation of LRA child soldiers. We’ll be honest. Despite the dire need for these programs — and the relatively small amount we’ve been pushing for — getting this $2 million has been a real challenge. But next year, we are aiming to secure an additional $10 million for these same life-saving programs that are desperately needed on the ground. Ambitious? Yes. But we know it is worth all the time and effort that we’ll need to invest in achieving it. Like we’ve said over and over again this week, inaction carries a much higher cost.
We have big dreams for the spring. Now you know two of them — and you have our word that the one we can’t talk about yet will knock your socks off.
To get all this done, we need to expand our team of Cosponsors. Will you help us do that? Your donation of $20/month – just $5/week – gives us the ability to make big dreams come to fruition and ultimately see an end to LRA violence. We still hope to have 75 new Cosponsors by the end of the week. We are 59 Cosponsors away from that goal. Help us out?
Thanks for joining us this week. Together, let’s make these plans and dreams next year’s realities.
Yesterday, I participated in a discussion on U.S. policy toward the LRA as a respondent to a keynote address delivered by the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson. Carson’s address was the highest-level State Department commentary on the LRA crisis since Obama took office, and – I think – the most substantive public commentary from a U.S. official on the crisis, ever. So we wanted to share a few highlights.
Much of Assistant Secretary Carson’s address – which is well worth the full read here – was focused on the implications of President Obama’s decision to dispatch U.S. military advisers to help central African governments stop LRA atrocities. But it also went beyond the advisers.
Carson structured his comments on the current U.S. strategy around four “lessons of history” about how to end LRA atrocities that emerged as Obama Administration officials developed the LRA strategy issued by the White House last November. These “lessons learned” showed an evolution of U.S. thinking relative to previous years, towards a more nuanced and comprehensive approach.
One of the lessons focused on the centrality of civilian protection in any military operations, which was notable given the US’ and Uganda’s failure to prevent LRA reprisal attacks following the launch of Operation Lightning Thunder in December of 2008. Additionally, while Carson underscored the importance of equipping militaries in the region to improve their capacity to protect civilians and track down LRA leaders, he also argued that there was no “military-only solution” and in favor of strengthened efforts to help LRA fighters and abductees defect from the group.
Of course, we also have to appreciate that Carson gave a shout-out to the “hundreds of thousands of Americans, especially young Americans, [who] have mobilized and expressed concern for the communities in central Africa placed under siege by the Lord’s Resistance Army.”
Resolve’s message in response was simple. The deployment of advisers is a significant step forward, and should be recognized as an unprecedented move to help protect people from the LRA’s brutal atrocities. However, we must ultimately measure U.S. efforts against progress on the ground, which has stalled in the past two years. Furthermore, the deployment must be complemented with other steps if it is to succeed in permanently stopping LRA violence.
We particularly highlighted the need for additional U.S. leadership in four key areas to accomplish the following:
• Help regional governments cooperate and stay focused on protecting civilians and ending LRA atrocities, as collaboration is faltering and the Congolese government is actively downplaying LRA attacks on civilians;
• Overcome the challenges posed by the remoteness of areas being targeted by the LRA by investing $10-20 million in civilian infrastructure such as roads, telecommunications, and FM radio in 2012 (an amount that is dwarfed by ongoing security-focused spending);
• Equip the regional military operations with the tools necessary for success, especially mobility support – such as helicopters – and enhanced intelligence capabilities to detect LRA movements and the locations of top commanders; and
• Keep the advisers deployed until the LRA is no longer able to perpetrate atrocities against civilians, a goal that goes beyond just apprehending Joseph Kony.
We’re grateful to our hosts at the U.S. Institute of Peace for inviting us to participate, Assistant Secretary Carson for his address, and to Ambassador Mark Bellamy of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, the other respondent on the panel.
Photo courtesy of Adam Bearne
We’ve told you many times before that your voice matters and that there are powerful people in Washington listening to what you have to say. It’s the truth. But don’t just take our word for it; we’ve got proof.
Congressman Jim McGovern spoke to students at Auburn High School in Massachusetts a couple of weeks ago. And of all the things he could talk about, he used Resolve’s story as an example of what young people can accomplish when they work hard towards a worthy purpose. He told the story of Resolve’s founding and the successes that our supporters have been a part of ever since.
“Just two years ago,” McGovern said, “there was too much silence in Washington, D.C., but now that’s changed because of the national movement created by Invisible Children, Resolve and a handful of other groups.”
Rep. McGovern first joined our efforts in 2008 after our Director of Advocacy, Paul Ronan, met with one of his senior staffers, Cindy Buhl, a tireless advocate for human rights. Rep. McGovern has since become one of our bravest Congressional Champions on the LRA issue, in large part because he’s seen how important ending this injustice is to young Americans. In his speech he said, “When I, as a congressman, meet young people who are so committed and serious about an issue, I have to say ‘yes.’ I have to say, ‘How can I help you?’”
We’re honored that Rep. McGovern and his team believe in our work, and we’re grateful to have them as allies in Congress. There’s no way we would have gotten as far as we have without them. Case in point: Rep. McGovern was one of the two original House sponsors of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. Thanks to leadership like his in Congress and the relentless efforts of hundreds of thousands of activists, that historic legislation passed with flying colors and paved the way for so much of the progress we’ve seen this year.
What would have happened if Paul hadn’t first met with Cindy in Rep. McGovern’s office about the LRA, or if Michael hadn’t scheduled meetings with his colleagues to get a foundation of support in Congress? What if Lisa hadn’t organized the voices of thousands of you, our supporters from across the country, to communicate how important this issue is to all of us? Every component of the Resolve team’s work relies on the other members of the team, and on the dedication of our activists and our champions in Congress.
We’ve made huge strides in advancing US engagement to help stop LRA violence, and the trusting relationships we’ve built with members of Congress and the Administration has played a part in that. As a Resolve Cosponsor your donation of $20/month – just $5/week — enables us to continue partnering with leaders in Washington like Congressman McGovern until our mission is accomplished.
We’ve been saying all week that we want our leaders to see ending LRA violence as worth the investment. And now we’re asking the same of you. Would you consider becoming a Cosponsor today?
It’s true: Michael might be more comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans, but a suit is an essential part of his job. As Resolve’s Executive Director, he uses his self-taught know-how about the inner workings of Washington to make sure that our policy goals and campaigns are relevant, strategic, and effective.
A significant portion of Michael’s work entails direct advocacy. That means he helps deliver the analysis from Paul’s field research in LRA-affected communities, as well as the voices of our supporters across the U.S., to the proper people in Congress and the White House. It’s demanding work that can often go unnoticed because it usually takes place behind the scenes.
If you’ve ever wondered what direct advocacy looks like, today we’re pulling back the curtain to give you an idea.
In this video Michael explains how Resolve responded quickly and strategically within DC in the wake of President Obama’s October-14 announcement that he would be sending 100 advisers to central Africa to support efforts to stop the LRA. As soon as that happened, we needed to make sure that members of Congress had all the facts in front of them and could make informed opinions about the President’s decision, particularly leading up to the first-ever Congressional hearing on the LRA, which would focus on the deployment of these advisers.
Our direct lobbying efforts had a positive impact on the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) hearing and thankfully, there ended up being no major signs of opposition to Obama’s decision. But, now, we need our leaders to do more than simply not oppose action to stop the LRA. We need proactive leadership in Congress on this issue if we are going to see the kind of game-changing action needed to end this crisis. And time is not on our side.
When our Cosponsors commit to donate $20 every month — just $5 each week — Michael is able to personally reach out to Members of Congress and the Administration, cultivating allies in Washington who can stand with us in our efforts to end LRA violence. This is perhaps the crux of our work: Paul’s field research suddenly becomes much more valuable when we can delivered to the right people in leadership, and our grassroots efforts carry more leverage when we can bring the concerns of activists directly before the eyes and ears of policymakers.
Please consider becoming a Cosponsor today and help us continue our direct advocacy efforts. Our goal is to have 75 new Cosponsors by the end of this week. We still need 68 more to reach our goal. Help us get there!
P.S. Speaking of direct advocacy, today at 2pm EST, Michael will be on a panel with Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State on African Affairs, to discuss US efforts to combat the LRA. This is a huge opportunity to hear directly from senior officials in the Obama Administration about their plans to help end LRA violence and for Michael to represent the concerns, questions, and desires of those committed to see this conflict ended. If you live in DC, RSVP and come watch in person. Everyone else, watch the livestream!
Exciting news from our office: Tomorrow, my teammate Michael will join one of President Obama’s top Africa policy officials to debate U.S. policy toward the LRA crisis. The event will be held at 2pm at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) here in Washington, D.C. and streamed live online.
The forum provides an incredible opportunity for Resolve to discuss the President’s decision to send 100 U.S. military advisers to the region, and to outline what our leaders should do next to help end LRA atrocities and advance lasting peace for communities in the region.
USIP has invited our advocates to tweet in their questions to the panelists. If you have a question you’d like to submit to tomorrow’s panelists, tweet your question @USIP and make sure to include the tag #USIPCA before the event starts. Click here to see the details and RSVP to attend in person. If you can’t make it to the event in person, watch the webcast live, right here:
And of course — it being Supporter Week and all — we have to thank our generous Cosponsors for their continued support, without which we couldn’t be doing this.
PS: Here’s the full announcement from USIP:
December 7, 2011, 2:00pm-3:30pm EST
U.S. Institute of Peace
2301 Constitution Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20037 | Directions
The United States is actively working with partners in Central Africa to end the horrific atrocities and senseless violence of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Consistent with the bipartisan legislation passed by Congress in 2010, the U.S. is pursuing a strategy that seeks to incorporate the lessons of history and take a comprehensive, multifaceted approach. With U.S. support, regional governments have made significant gains in combating the LRA over recent years. Ultimate success, however, will depend on a number of critical factors.
Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson will describe ongoing U.S. efforts to support regional partners in mitigating and eliminating the threat posed by the LRA, including the recent decision to deploy U.S. military advisers to work with regional militaries. He will also discuss new opportunities and continuing challenges for this regional effort.
This event will feature the following speakers:
Johnnie Carson, Featured Speaker
Assistant Secretary of State, U.S. Bureau for African Affairs
Ambassador William M. Bellamy
Director, Africa Center for Strategic Studies
Co-founder & Executive Director, Resolve
Ambassador George E. Moose, Welcoming Remarks
Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, U.S. Institute of Peace
Raymond Gilpin, Moderator
Director, Sustainable Economies, U.S. Institute of Peace