Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), joined by 73 members of Congress, sent a letter to President Obama urging him to remain committed to defeating Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
Chairman Royce said: "Kony's removal will help bring relief to a region where this terrorist and war criminal has long-operated without restraint. I applaud Rep. McGovern, my colleagues, and the young people who have mobilized across this country to continue to highlight this conflict. The passage of the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act put in place an effective strategy to remove the LRA threat. Mr. President, the U.S. must continue pressing this effort until the LRA is defeated once and for all; there can be no let up."
Rep. McGovern said: "Now is not the time to retreat from the effort to rid the world of the LRA. The Obama Administration is to be commended for their work in implementing the strategy outlined in the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. That work must continue until the job is done and the innocent people of the region are free from LRA terror. I'm pleased to join with Chairman Royce and with dozens of our bipartisan colleagues on behalf of this important issue."
The text of the letter follows:
August 7, 2013
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We appreciate your Administration's continued efforts to implement the strategy to defeat the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) as outlined in the bipartisan Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act (P.L. 111-172). We believe it is important that the United States remain committed to working with regional forces to protect civilians until the LRA is defeated once and for all.
As you know, the LRA is led by Joseph Kony, a U.S. designated global terrorist and wanted war criminal. Earlier this year, the State Department, through the Rewards for Justice Program, issued a reward for information leading to his arrest, transfer, or conviction. His rebel group has terrorized civilians for nearly three decades, accounting for the deaths of at least 100,000 people and the displacement of more than 400,000, while undermining broader regional stability.
The presence of U.S. advisors as well as U.S. logistical and intelligence capabilities has led to an improved security environment in the region. With this essential U.S. support, local security forces have captured two senior LRA commanders. In addition, nearly 15 percent of the LRA's fighting force has defected. Interviews with recent defectors suggest the group's morale is at an all time low and that many more fighters are considering defecting. As a result, attacks on civilians by the LRA are steadily declining.
Vigorous diplomacy -- chiefly from the newly appointed Special Envoy for the African Great Lakes Region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo Russell Feingold -- will be critical. However, the continued presence of U.S. Special Forces deployed in the field to advise and assist regional African forces is essential to finishing the job. Simply put, there is no substitute for the expertise of U.S. Special Forces.
Ultimately, within the limits of available resources, the scale and duration of the U.S. advisor deployment and counter-LRA mission should be measured against progress in dismantling the LRA's command structure, permanently degrading its capacity to continue regenerating through integration of abductees, and improving protection of civilians from LRA attacks.
In this respect, we urge you to sustain the current U.S. advise and assist counter-LRA mission.
We believe that with U.S. support, local governments can defeat the LRA, a goal which reflects our commitment to work to end atrocities wherever they occur.