LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009
On May 24, 2010 President Barack Obama signed the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, legislation aimed at stopping Joseph Kony and helping the countless children whose lives are at risk as long as he roams free. After a year of hard work from thousands of activists and champions within Congress, this landmark legislation stands as the most significant action ever taken by our leaders to end this crisis.
Record-breaking level of Congressional support
Following introduction in May 2009 by Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA), Representative Ed Royce (R-CA) and Representative Brad Miller (D-NC), the bill gained an average of 20 cosponsors a month until passage the next year. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate on March 11th, 2010 with 65 Senators as cosponsors, then passed unanimously in the House of Representatives on May 13th, 2010 with 202 Representatives as cosponsors. These 267 Members of Congress helped bring to the President's desk the most widely cosponsored bill Africa-related piece of legislation in the last 37 years, or as far back as electronic records document.
Overwhelming citizen advocacy efforts leads to public signing ceremony by President Obama
Three individual campaigns helped bring the legislation to the President's desk, including How It Ends, the Hometown Skakedown, and Dr. Coburn: Please Say Yes. Thousands of activists across the country held hundreds of lobby meetings, participated in nationwide call-in days, and wrote letters to their members of Congress. Due to this overwhelming public support for the measure, the President held a public signing ceremony for the legislation, and released the first statement by any administration outlining our government's commitment to ending the threat of the Lord's Resistance Army.
The law's purpose
For over twenty years the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has terrorized communities in central Africa, attacking civilians and abducting tens of thousands of children in four countries. The bipartisan LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act seeks to help stop the immediate violence and end one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts by:
Stopping the LRA, by mandating President Obama to devise an interagency strategy to prevent LRA violence, which should include a multilateral plan to apprehend top LRA leaders, encourage defections of rebel commanders, demobilize child soldiers, and protect civilians from rebel attacks; and
Investing in sustainable peace, by targeting US assistance to recovery and reconciliation efforts in northern Uganda, which are essential to rebuilding and healing war-affected communities and preventing future conflicts.
1. Stopping the LRA: Apprehending top LRA commanders key to ending one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts
On December 25th, 2008, LRA forces massacred over 200 Congolese civilians, deliberately targeting families gathered to celebrate the Christmas holiday. These attacks are consistent with a pattern of LRA violence that has plagued central Africa for over twenty years, fueled by the rebel group’s abduction of nearly 30,000 children who have been forced to become soldiers, porters and sexual slaves. Since September 2008, the LRA has killed over 1,500 people and abducted over 450 children, and is now destabilizing eastern DR Congo, southern Sudan, and the Central African Republic.
Stopping LRA attacks requires a comprehensive, multilateral approach that includes improved protection of civilians and efforts to encourage defections of LRA commanders, as well as lower-level members. However, permanently preventing LRA violence hinges on successful efforts to apprehend LRA leader Joseph Kony, should he continue to refuse a peace agreement to end the conflict. Kony has transformed from a local rebel leader in northern Uganda into a regional warlord, backed by the Sudanese government in Khartoum until 2005. He is the linchpin to the LRA’s survival and the biggest obstacle to ending the violence, having recently rejected a peace agreement with the Ugandan government and instead opted to continue his campaign of violence against civilians.
The US is uniquely positioned to help stop LRA atrocities, especially by leading efforts to secure the critical first step in ending the insurgency - arresting Joseph Kony and other top LRA commanders. However, previous efforts to apprehend Kony, including a failed US-supported regional military operation against the LRA last year, have lacked sufficient engagement and investment from US leaders. With more robust diplomatic leadership, the US can spearhead a multilateral strategy to see Kony arrested that has a strong possibility of success and that includes measures to adequately protect civilians and abducted children from harm.
To this end, the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act:
Mandates President Obama to devise an interagency strategy within 180 days to prevent further LRA violence, which should include a multilateral plan to apprehend top LRA leaders, encourage defections of rebel commanders, demobilize child soldiers, and protect civilians from rebel attacks; and
Calls for the US to dedicate $10 million in emergency support for communities in the DR Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic most affected by recent LRA attacks.
2. Investing in sustainable peace: A window of opportunity for northern Uganda
Apprehending rebel leaders and demobilizing child soldiers can end the immediate LRA violence, but the keys to sustainable peace in northern Uganda, where the conflict originated, lie in recovery and reconciliation for war-affected communities. Failure to reverse the consequences of two decades of war and forced displacement threatens to deepen long-standing divisions between the North and South of Uganda and between northerners and the central government. However, lack of political will among senior Ugandan officials and insufficient engagement by the international community have prevented genuine implementation of key economic recovery programs and transitional justice initiatives. Despite experiencing over two years free of LRA violence, northern Uganda has yet to benefit from a significant peace dividend.
The US has a fleeting window of opportunity to help jumpstart recovery and reconciliation processes for war-affected communities. Targeted increases in funding, especially for transitional justice initiatives, can help heal divisions left by decades of conflict and overcome Uganda’s legacy of divisive politics that gave rise to the LRA and threatens to spark future violence if unaddressed. Equally important, improved US engagement with the Ugandan government can ensure funds dedicated to recovery efforts are implemented transparently and through sustainable partnerships with local government and civil society.
To this end, the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act:
Calls for the US to dedicate $10 million for each of the next three years to support underfunded reconciliation and transitional justice initiatives in Uganda;
Recommends Congress increase funding for reconstruction assistance to northern Uganda in future fiscal years, provided that the Ugandan government takes steps to effectively implement economic recovery plans; and
Requires the Obama Administration to report on the effectiveness of US assistance to northern Uganda and work with international partners and the Ugandan government to strengthen accountability mechanisms to ensure the transparent and timely use of funds."
Text of the Law: [Download PDF]