On Tuesday afternoon, a 262-hour demonstration in front of Senator Tom
Coburn's office in Oklahoma City officially ended. It ended because
Senator Tom Coburn agreed to release his hold on the LRA Disarmament
and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.
Together with Resolve Uganda, we at Invisible Children have been
advocating for the passage of this bill that will require President
Obama to make a plan for apprehending rebel leader Joseph Kony and
appropriate 40 million dollars from the State Department's existing
budget to the rehabilitation of war-torn Northern Uganda. With 217
co-sponsors in the Senate and the House, this bill is widely
supported. Up until Tuesday, only one man stood in the way.
Resolve Uganda spearheaded this Oklahoma Holdout, and for 11 days
straight a group that fluctuated from 20-75 people slept outside in
the Oklahoma winter to encourage Senator Coburn to take another look
at the bill and ultimately release his hold.
People from all over the United States drove or flew to Oklahoma City
to be a part of the demonstration. Through freezing nights and rainy
days, supporters of the bill stuck it out. Those who couldn't be there
in person donated money for food and sleeping bags. Other long
distance supporters called Senator Coburn's office once a day
expressing solidarity with the people sitting outside of his office.
I am proud of everyone who showed up from around the country in
support of this bill. I have heard numerous reports of how kind and
respectful the demonstrators were. Instead of shouting, jumping, and
bullying people into hearing their message, the demonstrators stood
respectfully with their signs and greeted people on their way to work.
We believe that self-described Dr. No responded (eventually) to our
request for a meeting because we approached him purposefully but
respectfully. And not simply with bleeding heart idealism, but with
intelligent compromise and policy understanding. I don't think that
the citizens of Oklahoma City will forget us anytime soon.
In the end, all 262 hours proved worth it. On Tuesday afternoon,
Resolve Uganda and Senator Coburn agreed on a compromise. Now that
Senator Coburn has released his hold on the bill, and yesterday
evening the bill passed the Senate. Just hours after the hold was
lifted. It will now go to the House where it already has wide
What this proves to us is the tangibility of idealism. Young people
are sensitive to the moral fabric of civic engagement, and willing to
sacrifice comfort in a way forgotten by the establishment. This
demonstration proved that this commitment produces actual results.
From supporting the drafting of an unprecedented humanitarian bill to
seeing it through to passing the senate, this adventure confirms the
desires of a youth movement: to be seen as an effective voice of
change. Next stop, congress. And then, the White House. Once the bill
is in effect, it is up to us to make sure Obama does what he has been
called to do: apprehend one of the world's worst war criminals.
And to our critics, this is not the United States meddling where it
has no business. This is not another Iraq. As the only remaining
super power, I believe we have a moral duty to provide assistance to
the most marginalized and invisible of vulnerable people groups, and
only when simple assistance is proven to produce immediate results.
The child soldiers in Joseph Kony's rebel army are the clearest
example of this.
It is moving to see the juggernaut of Washington respond to us. It is
worthy of hope.
All photos by Rachel Renee