Another 400,000 civilians have fled the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
President Obama: Rapid Action Needed on Central Africa Violence
(Washington, DC, November 25, 2010) – President Barack Obama should move swiftly to implement a strategy released on November 24, 2010, to stop atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and help affected communities rebuild, a coalition of seven human rights groups said today. The rebel group has carried out one of the world’s longest-running and most brutal insurgencies.
“President Obama’s team has done an admirable job in formulating a strategy and demonstrating commitment to address the LRA scourge, but the challenge now is to turn this piece of paper into improvements on the ground,” said Paul Ronan, director of advocacy at Resolve. “The president should seek a significant boost in resources in his FY 2012 budget request to address this crisis and then designate a senior State Department official to oversee the strategy’s implementation.”
LRA violence has plagued central Africa for more than two decades, and is on the increase. During the last two years, the LRA has killed at least 2,300 people and abducted over 3,000 more, including many children. Another 400,000 civilians have fled the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), southern Sudan, and Central African Republic. Over that period of time, the LRA has killed and abducted more civilians than any other armed group in the DRC. In 2010 alone, LRA rebels have committed more than 240 deadly attacks.
“Halting the LRA threat to civilians and catching its leaders who are wanted for war crimes is achievable with political will and the right resources,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The LRA has no popular or state support and is only able to replenish its ranks by snatching children from their villages.”
The Obama administration strategy outlines four primary goals for US engagement with the crisis, including stopping LRA leaders, protecting civilians from LRA attacks, encouraging escape and defection from the LRA, and providing humanitarian assistance to affected communities. It emphasizes an interagency approach and coordination with multilateral and regional partners, and raises the possibility of designating additional personnel within the administration to carry out the strategy.
The hallmark of LRA attacks is extreme brutality, targeting the most vulnerable villages. Even small-scale attacks have sent waves of terror throughout communities, causing serious suffering and mass displacement and traumatizing people for years to come. President Obama’s LRA strategy rightly recognizes the need to increase humanitarian assistance to people affected by the LRA, the groups said.
“The LRA attacks are a huge threat to civilians and to regional peace and stability,” said Monica Serrano, executive director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. “The international response has been woefully inadequate. The new US strategy is a chance to bring countries together to end the LRA’s brutal reign, putting the protection of civilians at the heart of the effort.”
The LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act was the most widely supported, Africa-specific legislation in recent US Congressional history. The law was cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 65 Senators and 201 Representatives, representing 49 states. Tens of thousands of Americans, including many young people, mobilized to support the legislation.
“Thanks to unprecedented grassroots mobilization and bipartisan Congressional leadership, president Obama has a clear mandate to help bring a long overdue end to this crisis. Now there is an urgent need to move quickly on implementing the strategy and ending the LRA’s threat to civilians,” said David Sullivan, research director, Enough Project.