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Public Statements


Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ISAKSON. Mr. President, I rise to speak to the Senate, but in a broader sense to the American people and, in particular, to the young people of America. An Internet posting went viral a few weeks ago, by a group called Invisible Children about Joseph Koni in Uganda, the Central African Republic, Congo, and the South Sudan.

As a member of the Africa Subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee and one who travels to Africa quite frequently, I have just returned from a trip to meet, in part, with our special forces and U.S. advisers who have been deployed in those countries to help assist in the search for Joseph Koni.

I wish to share with the Senate the information about what America is doing, what Joseph Koni has done, and how important our commitment is to Central Africa and to see to it that this evil man is brought to justice. Joseph Koni is under indictment by the International Criminal Court today, but for 26 years he has roamed Central Africa with his Lord's Resistance Army, killing, raping, and maiming the African people. By some estimates, Joseph Koni has abducted 66,000 children into his army and young women as sex slaves. He has displaced over 2 million Africans into camps, and they have had to be displaced because their villages were destroyed and their families disrupted. He has killed untold tens of thousands of people. He is by any stretch of the imagination an evil person. Invisible Children's posting, which went viral on the Internet, has caught the attention of America's youth, because they see the damage that has been done to the youth of Africa, and they want to know what America is doing.

I am proud to include in my remarks what America is doing, and has been doing even before the posting went viral on the Internet and most people didn't know who Joseph Koni was. Our President deployed 100 special advisers to the Central African Republic, in the Sudan and Uganda, about 2 months before this posting went viral. I met with them in a private, secured briefing, a lot of which I cannot talk about but a lot of which I can.

Because of U.S. technology, U.S. resources, and the commitment of these individuals, we are assisting to a much higher level in the intelligence that we are gaining on Joseph Koni. A lot of people think Koni is in Uganda. He isn't there and hasn't been there for 5 or 6 years. He is somewhere near the Central African Republic, where it is extremely easy to hide. We thought Vietnam had jungles. You haven't seen foliage until you've seen the Central African Republic, the Sudan, and the Congo. There is no electricity, no roads, no paths, and no listening devices. Intelligence is all human intelligence. We are fortunate to have great intelligence operatives over there and great resources there, and we are gaining more and more information.

I commend our forces also in what they have done in an amnesty program. They dropped leaflets in villages that are known to house some of Koni's workers and cronies. They drop leaflets that offer amnesty for anybody who leaves Koni, comes back to their village, and gives information to our forces, the Ugandan Army, and the African Union Army as to where Joseph Koni might be. We are getting closer all the time. We are not there yet, but thanks to the assistance of our foreign-deployed individuals, the commitment of our country, the commitment of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and the new country of South Sudan, we are going to close that noose and stay until the job is finished, because Joseph Koni needs to be brought to justice. He is an evil man who has killed and raped far too many people and maimed far too many people, and Africa is too good a friend of the United States for us not to offer the necessary assistance.

My message to the American people and our youth is we are doing our job. Joseph Koni hasn't been caught, but we are in pursuit. I commend Senator Kerry, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee; Senator Coons, chairman of the Africa Subcommittee; and Senator Lugar and myself have joined together to support legislation that will be introduced in the Senate to include Joseph Koni, or information leading to the arrest and conviction of Joseph Koni, in our rewards program that we offer mostly now for terrorist capture. That will be an incentive for more information to be brought forward so that the noose will grow tighter.

It is time for Joseph Koni to be brought to justice, and the United States is making every effort to assist in that process in Central Africa.

My other reason for going to Central Africa is equally important. I was accompanied by members of CARE. CARE is a tremendous nongovernmental organization that delivers humanitarian aid, assistance, education, knowledge, and technical assistance to countries around the world and, in particular, in the nation of Africa. It was the second time I traveled with CARE; the first time was 10 years ago to Ethiopia, where I saw CARE's outreach in terms of basic education and improvement and enhancement of educating young Muslim women.

On this trip, I got to see what they are doing firsthand in the city of Gulu on the border with the Congo and Northern Uganda--an area that 5 or 6 years ago, because of Joseph Koni, had been destroyed, people were displaced, everybody was in hunger, and there was a lot of violence. It is now a beautiful village. Granted, it is not a village such as you and I might know, Mr. President--thatched huts with thatched roofs, mud huts with thatched roofs, small enclaves of African citizens eking out an existence in a very difficult part of the world.

Because of what they are doing in their project, known as the village savings and loan, they are bringing about microeconomics in Africa, and they are empowering women. The village savings and loan program is a very simple program that teaches basic economics and capitalism to these villages. Groups form together, they are given a strongbox, literally like the ones that used to be on the stagecoach in the old ``Lone Ranger'' days. In that box, each of the women will make contributions of the money that they have into the strongbox, and they get a passbook savings account just like the occupant of the chair and I used to get when we were in elementary school a long time ago. Then they make loans out of that money they save to other people in the village to start businesses, whether it is making beads, using the shea tree to make shea butter, or doing boutique cloth, or whatever it may be. As those industries develop, those cottage industries develop, the money they make goes back into the savings and loan to be reinvested in other plans.

We met a young lady who was making beads, and I bought about 12 strands. My wife and grandkids love them. She makes beads for a German distributor in Europe. It is unbelievable what you can see being developed because of what CARE is doing. They are empowering African women and families and are bringing about the principles of economics that you and I enjoy and appreciate, and they are uplifting people who need that with empowerment, so they can be sufficient on their own, so they can rise up economically and educationally.

I also visited with the CDC folks delivering PEPFAR and health care and better awareness and better testing to identify those with AIDS, to get our retrovirals distributed to those mothers who are pregnant, so their babies can be born without AIDS and live a happy life. One of our great challenges now in Africa--it used to be that the challenge was what we did with all the children who died because they were born to a mother with AIDS. Now we see what we can do to keep them through their life because they live a normal and happy life. And their mother, although infected with AIDS, because of the U.S. technology and retrovirals, and the CDC is providing them with a lifetime of drugs and an opportunity to live as normal and productive a life as possible.

It was great to go with CARE and to see U.S. tax dollars deployed and helping uplift the nation, uplift the people, help solve the greatest scourge on the continent, which is AIDS and its spread, and help people to be able to reinvest in themselves. CARE is a great nongovernmental entity that happens to be housed in Georgia, which is helping all over the continent of Africa, and they are empowering women and African citizens, and they are making their plight in life better, and they are reducing the amount of Federal assistance we will provide in the years to come because they will be more productive, which is the payback you want to see from foreign assistance dollars when they are invested.

As far as Joseph Koni is concerned, America knows he is a bad man, that he is indicted by the International Criminal Court, and America is making the investment of intelligence and manpower to assist the Central African Republic, Uganda, the Congo, and the South Sudan to pursue him until he is captured. He needs to be brought to justice for the evil and terror he has contributed to the continent of Africa.

I was proud to go and see America's investment of our best, our men and women in harm's way in Africa who are looking for him and providing the assistance necessary to bring him to justice.

With that said, I yield the floor.


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