House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member, Congressman Adam Smith, recently concluded an official trip to Uganda to assess international efforts to root out Joseph Kony and the Lords Resistant Army (LRA), a destructive and ruthless rebel group responsible for widespread human rights abuses in the region.
"I applaud the Ugandans for their efforts to bring Joseph Kony and the LRA to justice and I am encouraged by the progress being made by the international coalition that is committed to restoring peace and stability in the region," said Ranking Member Adam Smith. "Kony and the LRA have killed thousands, and destroyed the lives of thousands more and the efforts to advise, train and assist local forces have helped our partners in Central Africa make real progress in ridding themselves of this murderous group. While the LRA is just one part of a larger problem in the region, eliminating it would prove to be a powerful step in the right direction for Uganda, and the entire region."
The Lords Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, an internationally wanted terrorist, originated in Uganda in the 1980s with the goal of overthrowing the Ugandan government, but has since expanded its deadly reach to a number of African countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. The LRA has committed widespread human rights violations, including torture, slavery, rape, the abduction of civilians, the use of child soldiers, and other brutal abuses, resulting in a severe humanitarian crisis.
Eliminating the LRA would be a positive step in the right direction and would allow our work with the Ugandan people to grow and serve as a template to reduce ungoverned areas and promote stability, security and prosperity in the region. In particular, the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan continue to be victimized by the LRA and similar groups that rape, kill, pillage and displace people from their homes. The LRA is one piece of a larger problem in central Africa, and success in Uganda could provide a model to support similar efforts throughout the region.
To address this problem, in the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, Ranking Member Adam Smith authored a provision that requires the President to improve strategic planning and more effectively integrate efforts to deny safe havens to terrorist organizations and strengthen at-risk states as they seek to confront challenges posed by al-Qaeda and its violent extremist affiliates (Section 1032, pg. 275).
Additionally, in October of last year President Obama sent a small number of U.S. troops to Central Africa tasked with assisting in removing Joseph Kony and other senior leaders of the LRA from the battlefield. Ranking Member Smith's trip was designed to assess the progress made in this effort, and meet with local leaders, stakeholders and citizens to gain a stronger understand of the situation on the ground.
As co-chair of the effective foreign assistance caucus, part of Smith's trip also focused on USAID and development projects. For example, Smith visited with the Northern Uganda Development of Enhanced Local Governance, Infrastructure, and Livelihoods (NUDEIL) program and CARE's Village Savings and Loan Program.
The two day trip to Uganda included meetings with the President, Yoweri Museveni, U.S. AFRICOM Commander General Ham, U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Jerry Lanier, and other senior U.S. and international officials. The trip also included stops at development project sites, health centers, meetings with business and university leaders and local civic and political leaders.