MAY 25. 2010: Obama Endorses Anti-Kony Legislation

Obama Endorses Anti-Kony Legislation
SOURCE: The New Vision

By Barbara Among and Agencies

Kampala — US President Barack Obama on Monday signed a law aimed at helping Uganda and its neighbours fight Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.

According to a White House press statement, Obama called the LRA rebels "an affront to human dignity that must be stopped".

"The legislation crystallises the commitment of the US to help bring an end to the brutality and destruction that have been a hallmark of the LRA across several countries for two decades," he said in a statement.

The law requires the Obama administration to develop a comprehensive strategy with regional governments for dealing with the rebels, including steps to protect the civilian population, provide humanitarian assistance, apprehend the LRA leaders and disarm its followers within six months.

The legislation was introduced by US senators Russ Feingold and Sam Brownback and supported by the Republicans and Democrats, as well as humanitarian and human rights groups.

The LRA is considered a global terrorist group by the US, which has been providing logistical support to the Ugandan army.

The Government yesterday welcomed the move and implored the US to implement the law as soon as possible to stop the ongoing killings by the rebels in the Central African Republic (CAR) and the DR Congo.

"We hope the US puts it (the law) into practice by providing intelligence services, equipment and logistics," said international affairs minister, Okello Oryem.

The Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009 is designed to provide humanitarian aid to Uganda and neighbouring states to support regional efforts to end the conflict and bring LRA leaders to justice.

The law states that for over two decades, the rebels used brutal tactics in northern Uganda, including mutilating, abducting and rape. It adds that the LRA have abducted about 66,000 people.

LRA leader Joseph Kony and two of his deputies, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen, are wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Representatives of the Government of Uganda and the LRA began peace negotiations in 2006, mediated by the Government of Southern Sudan.

But the talks failed when Kony refused to turn up for the signing of the final peace agreement in May 2008.

His forces have since launched attacks in the DR Congo and CAR.

In December 2008, the Ugandan army and those of the DR Congo and Southern Sudan launched a joint operation against the rebels.

However, the armies failed to apprehend Kony, and his forces retaliated with a series of new attacks, killing about 900 people in two months.

The US military's African command, Africom, continues to give communication, logistical and intelligence support to the UPDF in its pursuit of the rebels.