We have signed on to an Africa Faith & Justice Network petition to Congress and thought you might like to join us! It encourages members of Congress to take a closer look at a new bill that will provide critical development aid to northern Uganda. Most of it is very good, but there is a section that would allow the U.S. military to support an attack against the LRA - a potentially disastrous move for civilians in D.R. Congo.
AFRICOM and the U.S. military will not bring stability to Congo or Uganda. We must stay committed to a diplomatic approach that emphasizes peace and dialogue.
However, I am concerned about the implications of the statement of policy that suggests:
"eliminating the threat posed by the Lord's Resistance Army to civilians and regional stability through political, economic, military, and intelligence support for a comprehensive multilateral effort to protect civilians in affected areas, to apprehend or otherwise remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield, and to disarm and demobilize Lord's Resistance Army fighters." (sec. 3, lines 14-21)
I believe that any military action against the LRA should be the sole responsibility and decision of the governments of countries affected by LRA violence. The United States should not use its own military resources to support this effort. If a military attack is waged, there will likely be civilian casualties, no matter how strong the emphasis on civilian protection. Furthermore, many LRA are abducted child soldiers, a fact which should give further pause to a strike against Joseph Kony.
Operation "Lightning Thunder," a military attack conducted in December of 2008, proves that the region's militaries are unable to execute an effective plan despite U.S. government assistance. We have no reason to believe that this will be any different, or that the U.S. is justified in supporting an undemocratic regime's armed forces. There is no precedent for successful military action against the LRA. Instead, military action increases levels of instability, human rights violations, and civilian deaths.
Rather than proposing military action against the LRA, the United States should encourage a peaceful resolution to the conflict that avoids interventionism and enhances local efforts at promoting an end to the conflict. Reports from the ground indicate that local leaders and members of civil society in DRC, Sudan, and Uganda are calling for a new political process that emphasizes communication with LRA leaders. A diplomatic process that relies on civil society and local knowledge of the issues may produce more fruitful results.
Therefore, I urge you to:
1) Support a locally-led political process aimed at bringing peace to LRA affected areas.
2) Remove sections of the above-mentioned bill that would provide U.S. military assistance to strike against the LRA.
3) Ask the Congressional Research Service conduct a study on viable alternatives to military action as well as a report that evaluates the strategic interests of regional militaries in carrying out a strike within DRC.
4) Encourage the UN to commission a report on Kony's support network and use this information to deprive him of any assistance he receives.
5) Continue to fund reconstruction and development in northern Uganda and support a restorative justice approach to addressing the crimes committed during Uganda's 22-year war.