The day before the Kony 2012 movement's global day of action, U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) released a new video on the Senate's efforts to support the removal of Joseph Kony and his top lieutenants in the Lord's Resistance Army from the battlefield in central Africa. Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), is also featured in the video, which is aimed at the millions of young Americans who have become part of the Kony 2012 movement in the last month.The seven-and-a-half-minute video, titled "Pursuing Joseph Kony: A Message from the United States Senate" went live on YouTube Thursday and will be pushed out through senators' digital channels, including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, email, and their websites.
It can be found on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amckcO7kUjU
(Broadcast-quality MP4 video can be downloaded for the next 24 hours here: http://bit.ly/JNMa8k)
"The level of engagement we've seen from Americans -- especially young Americans -- because of the Kony 2012 movement has been truly extraordinary," Senator Coons said. "We had two goals in mind for this video: reiterating the Senate's deep bipartisan support for stopping Joseph Kony, and embracing and encouraging this once-in-a-generation interest in a humanitarian cause abroad. Because so many Americans first learned about Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army online, and because that's where people are talking to each other about it, we wanted to engage with interested Americans there, too." Senator Coons is chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.
"Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army have burned a path of destruction through Uganda and its neighbors in central Africa for the last 25 years," Senator Coons said. "Joseph Kony represents the worst of mankind, and he and his commanders must be held accountable for their crimes against humanity. This is an issue that has strong bipartisan support in the Senate -- and has had such support for years -- and we want to be sure Americans know that."
"It is time for Joseph Kony to be brought to justice, and the United States is making every effort to assist in that process, which I witnessed firsthand when I traveled to Uganda two weeks ago," Senator Isakson said. "Our message today to the American people and our youth is that the Senate takes this issue very seriously, and we are committed to see to it that this evil man, who has killed, raped and maimed innocent people, is stopped for good." Senator Isakson is ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs
"Over the past few months, I've been inspired by the outpouring of engagement by millions of young people around the world, including my own 14-year-old daughter, who have joined together to say, "this man must be brought to justice,'" Senator Landrieu said. That's why we're here today, to say to the young people in America and around the world: We hear you. The United States government must make the capture of Joseph Kony and the rehabilitation of the abductees a top priority -- it's time for the LRA's reign of terror to end and for a new era of peace to dawn."
"Seven years ago, while in Uganda, I saw the atrocities of Joseph Kony and the LRA firsthand," Senator Inhofe said. "Since then, I have been working to get action on this issue in the Senate and to make this a priority of the U.S. government. Stabilization and fighting terrorism on the continent of Africa is without a doubt in the national security interest of our nation. Thanks in large part to the activity and involvement of the thousands of young Americans across this country, we have been able to make major strides in bringing Kony and the LRA to and end." Senator Inhofe is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with over 120 country visits to Africa in a 15-year period, and is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"No one in the Senate is thinking harder about how to bring Kony to justice more than Chris Coons," Senator Kerry said. He's done a remarkable job as Subcommittee Chairman, and he's done it in a terrific bi-partisan way alongside Johnny Isakson. This is a big issue. Kony and the LRA have been an all too familiar nightmare to the people of Central Africa for decades, first in Uganda and then on to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan. As Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, I shepherded legislation through to passage to better support regional governments working to remove Joseph Kony from the battlefield, and I've recently introduced new legislation to expand the rewards for justice programs to include mass murderers like Kony. The grassroots energy we've seen from young people on this issue has been overwhelming, and we need to keep up that activism to help the people of Central Africa end these atrocities."
"I read a report in 1997 by Human Rights Watch about the abduction of children by a heavily armed Ugandan rebel group called the Lord's Resistance Army," Senator Leahy said. "I began doing what I could to share that report with other Senators. Later I sent a top aide to northern Uganda to meet with people who had been displaced and victimized by the LRA. He visited some of the tens of thousands of children -- they were known as "nightwalkers." What a chilling term that was to hear -- "nightwalkers." It describes young children who walked every evening, for as much as two hours, from their rural villages to shelters in town where they were protected from abduction by the LRA. A program I started that is now called the Leahy War Victims Fund has been used to provide artificial limbs and wheelchairs to the LRA's victims, and for years we have provided food, medicine, and shelter to traumatized families who have fled the LRA. There has been progress, and what we are now seeing is unprecedented attention to the horrors of these atrocities, because of students and citizens in Africa and across America, who have taken the time to watch and learn and share information about Kony and about the high toll taken by the violence in Central Africa. Crimes against humanity should be everyone's concern, no matter where they occur. We can all work to help victims of war rebuild their lives, we can all work to bring the perpetrators of atrocities to justice, and we can all work to help make the world a better place." Senator Leahy is chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.
Forty-three senators have cosponsored S.Res.402, a resolution in the Senate introduced last month condemning Kony and declaring support for U.S. efforts to advise regional forces on Kony's capture. At a press conference in the Capitol Thursday to unveil the video, the senators invited Americans to become "citizen co-sponsors" of the resolution by adding their names online at www.coons.senate.gov/cosponsor. Americans who have cosponsored the resolution before its passage will have their names entered into the Congressional Record.
Senator Coons also announced Thursday that the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs will hold a hearing on Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army on Tuesday, April 24 at 10:00.
The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has forcibly recruited thousands of children to be used as soldiers and sex slaves, abducting an estimated 66,000 children in Uganda alone. Under increasing pressure inside Uganda and from the international community, Kony ordered the LRA in 2005 and 2006 to withdraw from Uganda and to move west into the border region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and what would become South Sudan. Since September 2008, the LRA is estimated to have killed more than 2,400 people, abducting more than 3,400, and displacing upwards of 460,000 innocent civilians in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In May 2010, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, which made it U.S. policy to:
Work with regional governments toward a lasting resolution to the conflict in affected areas by providing political, economic, military, and intelligence support for viable multilateral efforts to protect civilians from the LRA;
Remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield; and
Demobilize the remaining Lord's Resistance Army fighters, among other provisions.
On October 14, 2011, the President notified Congress that he had authorized approximately 100 combat-equipped U.S. forces to deploy to central Africa to provide assistance to regional forces that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony and senior LRA commanders from the battlefield.
For more on Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army, go to: http://coons.senate.gov/kony
Coons: In the last month, tens of millions of young Americans have stepped up to take on a humanitarian crisis on the other side of the world. The attention has been unparalleled. The level of interest is unprecedented and it hasn't gone unnoticed. I'm US Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and I'm the chair of the African Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that meets here in this room on Capitol Hill. In hearings held here Senators have for many years tackled issues of justice, war, peace and America's role in the world. And in particular, how to tackle the ongoing crimes against humanity committed by the Lord's Resistance Army and their leader, Joseph Kony. It's work that a broad coalition of Senators and Congressman have worked on for many years. Important work that continues today. Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army have wreaked havoc in Uganda and its Central African neighbors for more than 25 years.
Isakson: He is now thought to be somewhere in the Central African Republic, possible the South Sudan, maybe the Congo, but the area is tightening and he has been separated somewhat from his soldiers which is a good sign.
Coons: For millions of Americans, the Kony 2012 Campaign was the first they'd heard of the LRA's terrible crimes. But many in Washington had been trying for years to get the world to notice and to act.
Leahy: I saw a report way back in 1997 by Human Rights Watch. It talked about the abduction of children by a heavily armed Ugandan rebel group called the Lord's Resistance Army.
Inhofe: I was working in Uganda when I found out than up north in the area called Gulu, this guy named Joseph Kony had been, for about 20 years, mutilating kids.
Landrieu: I remember knowing about it specifically in 2004 when I, in fact, traveled to Uganda for the expressed purpose of looking into the terrible orphan situation and also seeing what I could do about the LRA running rampant at the time through that country.
Inhofe: What he did, he'd go out into the villages and he'd kidnap and he'd abduct children. Turn the girls into prostitutes, and we're talking about 12, 13 year old kids, and then make soldiers out of the boys. And once the kids learned how to kill people they had to go back to their villages and kill their parents and all their siblings and if they didn't do that they cut their lips off and they cut their noses off.
Landrieu: It is beyond comprehension that this single man, with a relatively small group of followers, has been able to just run havoc through this part of the world.
Feingold: Well, I've heard of a lot of tragedies all over the world and in many places in Africa, Eastern Congo and Sudan and of course Darfur, but this was one of the worst in terms of brutality.
Coons: In 2009, frustrated by the lack of progress being made by regional forces, Senator Feingold introduced S.1067, The Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. A bill to make it the policy of the United States to work with governments in the region to stop the LRA and help Central Africa to recover.
Feingold: We have to remember this isn't just about invading or military action, especially by the United States. It has to do with diplomatic efforts, it has to do with intelligence, and it has to do with restoring the lives and the situation of the people in the area affected. Especially in Northern Uganda.
Leahy: Senator's Feingold's bill, the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, which passed on 2010, was a real breakthrough.
Feingold: In a time when there's so much gridlock and partisanship this is an issue that we had bipartisan support. It passed relatively easy. It was signed by President Obama.
Coons: Senator Feingold's bill laid the groundwork for President Obama's decision last fall to send a hundred US military advisors to Central Africa to help armed forces from Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic to hunt down Joseph Kony and the LRA.
Isakson: On my trip to Uganda two weeks ago I meet with some of the special advisors that are United States personnel in Uganda, advising the Central African Republic, the Sudan and Uganda. They're adding a great bit of ability to the troops over there and a great bit of intelligence.
Kerry: We are currently working with the Defense Department, the State Department, other agencies to try to figure out what we can do and how we can be more effective. And we're going to continue to work with the State Department and others in an effort to provide the focus on this issue.
Isakson: It may take time. You have to understand that the area that he is thought to be is a densely vegetative foliage. It's very hard, there are no roads, no telephone poles. There are no lights at night. He's separated himself from a lot of his followers so tracking him is difficult.
Inhofe: They're getting very, very close. Hopefully this will be the year.
Coons: President Obama, Congress, and our US soldiers in the field aren't the only Americans determined to stop the LRA. The Kony 2012 campaign has inspired millions of young people to get involved in a humanitarian cause for the first time.
Leahy: Things that I heard about in 1997, finally the rest of the world is hearing about it. And they're hearing about them because of students and citizens in Africa and across America who have taken the time to watch and learn and share information about Kony.
Isakson: I'm proud of our young people in American who are so compassionate about the African children and the African people and I'm proud to be a part of a United States Senate that's seeing to it that we go after him and try and make sure that he's brought to justice.
Coons: Last month we introduced a resolution in the Senate, S Res 402. In it we condemned Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army for their horrific crimes against humanity.
Leahy: We can all work to help victims at war rebuild their lives. We can all work to bring the perpetrators of atrocities to justice. And with it all worked out make the world a better place.
Coons: We can stop Joseph Kony and the LRA. We just need to keep at it and we need to keep working together.
Inhofe: There are so many people who are joining together now that he is literally on the run.
Kerry: I believe that we can stop Joseph Kony if we focus on it intently and we are in the Foreign Relations Committee increasingly gonna up our level of that focus. We're gonna provide visibility to this issue. We're going to try to push countries and push our own government into recognizing that we have to commit more.
Isakson: It's only a matter of time.
Coons: Stopping Kony and the LRA is a mission that has deep bipartisan support. In the Senate, in the House of Representatives, and in Washington. Our challenge now is sustaining that support. That's where you come in.
Kerry: There's no country on the face of the planet that allows people as much freedom of choice and as much opportunity to go and make a difference.
Coons: Please, stay informed. Be engaged. Help make sure that we finish the job, that we find Joseph Kony, that we remove him from the battlefield, that we bring him to justice and that we commit to the ongoing work of healing the communities. The young people, the families, who've been hurt by the crimes of this terrible man and his horrific group. And remember, there's so much more that we can and should do in Africa and around the world to promote American values. We welcome your voice, we're listening to your concerns, and we look forward to working together.