Friday, June 11, 2010

US Passes Legislation to End War in Uganda

On May 24th, President Obama signed the Lord's Resistant Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act into law. Senator Feingold, the leading proponent of the bill, described to President Obama at a Senatorial hearing how the US should develop a strategy for how to work "more actively with regional governments, the UN and others to bring a lasting end to this war." In addition, the bill would provide $40 million to "better support peace and reconciliation in Northern Uganda and help meet the humanitarian needs" of the people affected by the LRA's violence.

"The most neglected humanitarian crisis in the world"-Since 1987, Joseph Kony has been the scourge of Northern Uganda. At its peak, the Kony led Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has displaced over 2 million people (90% of the region's inhabitants) and abducted an estimated 66,000 children, subsequently forcing them to join the of the rebel army. Numerous military attempts have failed to stop the LRA. The most recently thwarted effort came in 2007, when forces from Uganda, southern Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo acted together in Operation Lightning Thunder. The mission was partially advised by US military personnel.

This bill is long overdue. Thousands of people are still living in the Internally Displaced Persons camps, living off of handouts from the UN and World Health Organization because they are too afraid to return to their homelands. The limited food supplied and overwhelming number of people living in the camps often limits people to just one meal per dat. An entire generation has grown up in the camps without ever seeing their homeland.

This bill has the potential to dramatically affect the livelihood of thousands of people in Northern Uganda. If defeated, the lives of people in Uganda, southern Sudan, and Congo would be freed from the LRA's tyranny. Reconstruction could finally take place and lives could be restored. The passage of this bill was largely spurred on by the efforts of youth groups across America. This is yet another example of how effective, passionate, and steadfast lobbying can make a difference in the world.

-Matthew Thwaites