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Sen. Chris Coons

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In Pursuit of Joseph Kony

Posted: 03/ 8/2012 3:10 pm

Fifty million people around the globe have turned their attention to Uganda this week thanks to the tremendous power of social media and the nature of cause célèbres. Together they have catapulted a video about the vicious crimes against humanity committed by Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) to the front of our consciousness.  I applaud the leadership and initiative of Resolve, Enough and Invisible Children, the groups that have led the grassroots campaign against Kony and the LRA.

As chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, I share their goal of ending Joseph Kony's influence on this earth and protecting innocent civilians. I feel passionately that the more people who are watching central Africa, the more likely it will be that we come together as an international community to save lives in the face of conflict and mass atrocities.

As we work toward this shared goal, it is essential to be clear about certain facts that may have been blurred these last few days. Joseph Kony's unconscionable crimes against humanity are not in doubt. Under his leadership, the LRA murdered and kidnapped tens of thousands of people and advanced the use of rape as a weapon of war.  Over two decades, they forced thousands of children to become child soldiers, displaced even more people from their homes and destabilized an entire region.

That's why President Obama's decisive action to bring Kony and his top lieutenants to justice is such a critical part of the story.

The Obama Administration has taken steps to "remove Kony from the battlefield," and it has done so in the right way. In 2010, Congress passed and the President signed legislation authored by former Senator Russ Feingold to express support for increased U.S. efforts to help mitigate and eliminate the threat posed by the LRA.  With this authorization, President Obama deployed 100 American military advisors to central Africa to train and assist regional militaries in their pursuit of Kony. The Administration, with the strong support of Congress, has also taken steps to increase civilian protection, support the desertion of LRA combatants, and provide assistance to populations affected by the LRA.

By taking action, President Obama rejected the political convenience of sitting idly by and doing nothing to protect innocent civilians from ongoing crimes against humanity.  Many of us remember that Rush Limbaugh, in his headlong haste to criticize the President's decision in October, defended the LRA and complained that President Obama was targeting Christians in Africa. Luckily, Limbaugh's dangerous lie was quickly countered by those on both sides of the political aisle, including Senator Jim Inhofe, a conservative Republican from Oklahoma.

There is a bipartisan consensus in Congress that Joseph Kony must be captured and held to account for his crimes against humanity.  As my colleague, Senator John McCain, said last fall, "the LRA is one of the most atrocious and barbaric organizations in history." 

Kony's evil has destroyed tens of thousands of lives, but he and what remain of his forces are now on the run. Our priority is now on apprehending Kony, bringing him to justice, and working with our regional partners to build a better, safer future for all of central Africa.  

President Obama and Congress have taken decisive action against the LRA. The will to bring Kony to justice remains unshakable at the highest levels of the U.S. government, and it supersedes partisan divides. So let's harness the power of the massive groundswell of interest created online this week and use it to do the right thing: support the Obama Administration's decision to deploy military advisors and do everything in our power to ensure their mission succeeds.

 

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