Today, history is being made. Congress is telling President Obama in no uncertain terms that his administration needs to do much more to end the threat to international peace and security represented by the LRA. The passage of this legislation takes us one step closer to that goal. Congress is playing an increasingly important oversight role in demanding more action from the Obama administration in ending deadly conflicts in Africa, and Congressmen McGovern and Royce and Senators Feingold and Brownback have been at the forefront of these efforts.
Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), one of the original co-sponsors of the bill, wrote this guest blog post, which originally appeared on the Enough Project's blog, Enough Said.
I am very pleased to report that the House of Representatives passed the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act (S. 1067/H.R. 2478) today, sending this important piece of legislation to President Obama's desk to be signed into law. This is a very significant day for U.S. policy in Africa.
For the first time the U.S. will be required to design and implement a comprehensive strategy with our multilateral and regional partners to address the violence of the LRA. This bill will help protect the victims of LRA violence in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, southern Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Importantly, this bill will help strengthen state presence and capacity in these regions to the benefit of vulnerable civilian populations who have long suffered at the hands of the LRA, and it will help advance the recovery of northern Uganda from decades of violence.
I want to recognize the work of my friend and colleague from California, Congressman Royce, who introduced H.R. 2478 with me one year ago. To mark the bill's passage today, Congressman Royce aptly said, "The LRA's objectives are threefold: kill, capture and resupply for its next pillage. There is no other reason for its being. The removal of Kony and his top leadership would decapitate this group. This legislation ensures U.S. leadership in making that happen. The day can't come soon enough."
In the Senate, Senators Russ Feingold and Sam Brownback sponsored the same bill, S. 1067, and have worked hard with their colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure its passage.
But perhaps most of all, I want to highlight the crucial impact of the scores of young activists to whom we really owe today's victory. A great deal has happened across the country to ensure that this bill is before the House chamber in scarcely one year. I want to especially thank the national networks, organizations, and grassroots activists of Invisible Children, Resolve Uganda, the Enough Project, and many other religious and human rights groups who have rallied in support of the people, and especially the children, of this region of Africa.
These Americans, thousands of them high school and college students, understood that the children and people northern Uganda, the DRC, southern Sudan and the CAR have no voice in Washington. So they were determined to become their voice. They realized that these African children and families were invisible to Washington policymakers, so they decided to make them visible.
They realized there is too much suffering, too much pain, too much destruction, too much killing in this region of Africa so many thousands of miles away - and that there was just too much silence here in Washington. So they built a grassroots and national movement of hope for peace, for justice, for reconciliation, for reconstruction, for the recovery of the human spirit. They believe that the people of northern Uganda - the children of Uganda, the DRC, southern Sudan and the CAR - have a right to protection and to have a voice in their own destiny.
The unresolved crisis with the Lord's Resistance Army is one of Africa's longest running and most gruesome insurgencies. It has morphed into a sadistic force, wreaking terror on the local populations, filling its ranks with abducted child soldiers and slaves.
Within the next 10 days, President Obama will sign this bill into law and set in motion the process to develop our comprehensive approach to the region. It is critically important that we build upon the momentum of today's victory on Capitol Hill and stay engaged with the Obama administration as the U.S. begins to generate concrete plans to operationalize the proactive strategy we've called for in this bill.
So congratulations to all the supporters who mobilized to get this bill passed. Now, let us turn our attention toward ensuring meaningful follow-through as our government works to help see this conflict to its end, protect vulnerable populations, and support and strengthen recovery efforts in northern Uganda and the region.
John Prendergast is Co-Founder of Enough, the anti-genocide project at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.