Yesterday, The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act (S.1067, HR 2478), a bill that AFJN and its members have been watching closely, passed the House of Representatives and is on its way to President Obama’s desk. Within 180 days of that time, President Obama will be required to report to Congress on a strategy for tackling the problem of the LRA and its leader, Joseph Kony, who is now operating in CAR, Sudan, and the DRC.
AFJN and a number of Africa advocacy organizations in Washington have numerous concerns, particularly about the likelyhood of a renewed military operation in the region, which has historically come at the expense of civilians.
Read the reaction of the progressive African advocacy community below:
Contact: Michael Stulman, Africa Action
Contact: Mary Stata, Mennonite Central Committee
Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act (H.R. 2478). The Senate passed the bill in March. Emira Woods from the Institute for Policy Studies stated “This bill addresses many of the broader development and justice challenges faced by northern Ugandans. However, in addition to offering funding for desperately needed long-term reconstruction and transitional justice mechanisms, the bill also opens the door for renewed military action in the region.”
Despite the legislation’s admirable language about a multilateral, interagency approach against the LRA, it is apparent that, in practice, the military far outweighs diplomacy and development in U.S. foreign policy today. “Given their budgetary and political superiority to State and USAID, AFRICOM will likely take the lead in developing and executing this strategy,” says Daniel Volman, Director of the Africa Security Research Project.
The Lord’s Resistance Army has terrorized and kidnapped innocent civilians for the past 23 years. Originally hailing from Northern Uganda, the rebel group now operates in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central Africa Republic, and Southern Sudan. “We are not mitigating the severity of the LRA’s crimes or actions,” says Gerald LeMelle, Executive Director of Africa Action. “However, military strategies have failed in the past to stop the LRA and they will fail again.”
Past military operations such as Operation Iron Fist (2002) and Operation Lightning Thunder (2008/2009) have proved unsuccessful in apprehending Joseph Kony and top LRA commanders. Further, these operations resulted in backlash attacks on civilians and the displacement of thousands. Mary Stata from Mennonite Central Committee noted “The actions of the United States must prioritize a non-violent approach to demobilizing, disarming, and reintegrating the LRA fighters.”
Civilian agencies must lead the development and implementation of this inter-agency strategy to disarm and demobilize the LRA, rather than Africom. It is critical for the Obama Administration to ensure that the United States’ actions promote sustainable peace and development in the region, rather than further entrench conflict dynamics.
Africa Faith & Justice Network
Foreign Policy in Focus
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office