APRIL 29, 2010: Historic LRA/Uganda Legislation Takes Crucial Step Forward in US House of Representatives

Historic LRA/Uganda Legislation Takes Crucial Step Forward in US House of Representatives
SOURCE: Resolve Uganda

Washington, DC — Yesterday, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs voted unanimously to approve the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, making the legislation eligible to be voted on by the full United States House of Representatives. If approved by the full House, where it has the support of 187 bipartisan cosponsors, the legislation will be sent to President Obama’s desk.

“The committee’s vote is a ringing endorsement of this legislation and reflects unprecedented consensus in Congress that President Obama should be taking much stronger steps to stop LRA attacks against innocent civilians and children in central Africa,” said Michael Poffenberger, Executive Director of the Washington-based advocacy organization Resolve Uganda.

The bill seeks to help end one Africa’s longest-running conflicts by requiring the Obama Administration to develop a multilateral strategy to help permanently stop LRA violence and generate increased American assistance to address the needs of displaced persons, former child soldiers, and other civilians affected by the conflict. An identical version of the legislation passed the US Senate in March 2010 with 65 cosponsors.

“I’m very pleased that this important, bipartisan legislation will be moving to the House floor,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), an original cosponsor of the bill, said. “It is crucial that the United States commit to a proactive strategy to help bring this conflict to an end and to strengthen humanitarian assistance.”

"LRA leader Joseph Kony is driving this crisis.  Ensuring United States leadership in ending his reign of terror is the goal of this legislation, and the many Americans who have backed it.  Kony must be stopped," declared Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), a former Africa subcommittee chairman and an original cosponsor of the legislation.

“Congressional leadership towards a resolution to this conflict could not come at a more urgent time,” Poffenberger said. “LRA violence is now destabilizing three countries, and poses a grave threat to the fragile peace deal between North and South Sudan. In the past year, LRA rebels have abducted hundreds of children in Congo, and more in South Sudan and Central African Republic. The failure of the international community to respond effectively to these atrocities is an outrage.”

The House Committee vote comes on the heels of massive US grassroots mobilization efforts aimed at generating Congressional support for increased action on the crisis from the Obama Administration. Nearly 2000 US citizens came to Washington, DC in June 2009 and hundreds more have participated in home district lobbying campaigns this year to lobby for the bill’s passage.

"Congress is on its way to giving President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a clear mandate to take more effective steps to help permanently end this conflict. What’s needed now is momentum within the Administration towards addressing LRA violence in a comprehensive manner, including by developing adequate mechanisms to protect civilians and abductees and facilitate the defection of LRA fighters," said John Prendergast, Co-founder of the Enough Project.

"To permanently stop LRA attacks though, a viable strategy should include a multilateral, targeted effort to apprehend Kony and top LRA leaders,” added Prendergast.

The US legislation would also commit the United States to increase support to transitional justice efforts in Uganda, and press the Ugandan government to prioritize recovery of war-affected areas and progress on national reconciliation initiatives.