WISCONSINREPORT.COM (03/11/2010) - After months of delay, the U.S. Senate has unanimously passed bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Sam Brownback (R-KS) and James Inhofe (R-OK). The Lords Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act requires the Obama administration to develop a new multifaceted strategy to help confront the regional crisis and continuing atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), one of Africa’s longest-running rebel groups.
Over more than two decades, under the leadership of Joseph Kony, the LRA has kidnapped more than 66,000 children and forced them to fight as child soldiers, wreaking havoc in northern Uganda and southern Sudan, and more recently, northeastern Congo and Central African Republic.
The Feingold-Brownback-Inhofe legislation, the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, requires the United States to work with multilateral partners to develop a viable path to disarm the LRA, while ensuring the protection of civilians. The legislation is cosponsored by 60 other senators.
“When I traveled to northern Uganda, I saw the effects of the LRA’s brutality in the faces of the Ugandan people living in displacement camps,” said Feingold, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.
"The passage of this bill sends a message that the United States will no longer stand by and watch the Lord’s Resistance Army terrorize innocent civilians across central Africa, kidnap thousands of children and force them to become child soldiers," Feingold continued.
"This legislation also sends a clear signal that the United States is committed to working with regional stakeholders to change the conditions that have allowed this war to persist for so long,” Senator Feingold pointed out.
Senator Brownback said , “The United States and the international community must work to establish lasting peace in Northern Uganda and to bring Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army to justice. When I was in Uganda in 2004, I learned firsthand about the atrocities against civilians committed by the LRA."
"The legislation passed by the Senate calls for the development and execution of a strategy to disarm the LRA while protecting civilians. I am thankful that my Senate colleagues passed this important piece of legislation, and look forward to the bill being signed into law," Senator Brownback added.”
Senator Inhofe said, "I am pleased that we were finally able to find a way forward for this legislation, because quite frankly, it is just too important to hold up. Today’s Senate passage of this bill is a victory for the countless lives destroyed at the hands of Joseph Kony."
"Having visited the continent of Africa more than any other Senator, I have witnessed the destruction caused by the LRA and I am certain that any delay on our part in addressing this crisis only adds to the number of children and families devastated by Kony’s group," Senator Inhofe said.
"I am thankful that the Senate has agreed that the time for action is now," Inhofe said.
"In addition to providing a Congressional directive to the State Department to provide humanitarian aid for the children and families affected by the brutality of the LRA, this legislation also directs President Obama to coordinate Executive Branch action to eliminate the root of the problem by apprehending Joseph Kony,” Senator Inhofe said.
The bipartisan Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act calls for an additional $10 million in humanitarian assistance for those areas outside of Uganda now directly affected by the LRA’s brutality.
Last year alone, the UN reports that the LRA has killed more than 1,500 people, abducted over 1,800, and displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Central African Republic, Congo and southern Sudan.
The legislation also authorizes U.S. assistance for transitional justice and reconciliation to encourage and help the Ugandan government to address the grievances and regional divisions that the LRA exploited for nearly two decades.