As my colleagues may know, I have spent much time in Africa, particularly in Uganda, talking with President Museveni.
The major issue that he and I discussed is the ongoing terrorist tragedy in his country. The Lord's Resistance Army, LRA, is a rebel paramilitary group formed in 1987 operating mainly in northern Uganda and southern Sudan. The group is engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan
Government in what is now one of Africa's longest-running conflicts.
It is led by a man named Joseph Kony who claims to be a spiritual medium and uses his influence to kidnap and murder thousands of innocent civilians, most of them children. Because of this twisted man and his army, the region has become one of the darkest spots of human atrocities worldwide.
Between 20,000 and 50,000 children have been kidnapped by the LRA for use as soldiers and sex slaves.
More than 1.6 million people have been forced to flee their homes, living in Internally Displaced People, IDP, camps. Every week 1,000 people die in the camps from the appalling conditions.
Though the Internally Displaced People camps were meant to provide security against the LRA attacks, they are now where most abductions take place.
It is estimated 40,000 children flee every night to bigger towns, seeking the safety in numbers, sleeping on street corners and in other public spaces. I recently saw a documentary on this titled ``Invisible Children.''
Up to 200,000 people have been killed in the violence, with many more dying from disease and malnutrition as a direct result of the conflict.
The conflict continues to retard Uganda's development efforts, costing the poor country's economy a cumulative total of at least $1.33 billion, which is equivalent to 3 percent of Uganda's GDP.
Last night, in his State of the Union address, President Bush declared we must, ``take the offensive by encouraging economic progress, and fighting disease, and spreading hope in hopeless lands.'' He is absolutely right. We can no longer allow these atrocities in Uganda to go unnoticed and unaddressed; we must become more involved.
To that end I am supporting a resolution, S. Res. 366.
Further, I will include for the RECORD a letter to Secretary of State Rice signed by 34 organizations. This letter urges high-level attention to the situation in northern Uganda.
I will also include the text of United Nations Security Council, UNSC, Resolution 1653 dated January 27, 2006. This resolution ``strongly condemns'' the activities of the Lord's Resistance Army. The Resolution also reiterates the Security Council's demand ``that all such armed groups lay down their arms and engage voluntarily and without any delay or preconditions in their disarmament and in their repatriation and resettlement.''
UNSC Resolution 1653 ``[r]equests the Secretary-General to make recommendations to the Council, as appropriate, on how best to support efforts by States in the region to put an end to the activities of illegal armed groups, and to recommend how United Nations agencies and missions--the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), MONUC and ONUB--can help, including through further support for the efforts of the governments concerned to ensure protection of, and humanitarian assistance to, civilians in need.''
These words are long overdue, and are only the beginning. Thus far the action of the United Nations has been woefully inadequate. Words are not nearly enough. We need more action from the UN. If the United Nations is to be useful for the peoples of the world, this sort of problem is its highest and best use.
As for the role of the United States, I suggest that Secretary Rice and Permanent Representative Bolton actively engage in drafting the aforementioned recommendations to the Security Council.
I also strongly suggest to President Bush and our administration that they examine every aspect of his executive authority to relieve this suffering, including the new authorities Congress provided under Section 1206 of Public Law 109-163, the train-and-equip legislation.
I believe these will be significant steps toward shedding light into the darkness that has cloaked the ongoing Ugandan tragedy, ending the conflict, and drawing the region into a positive future. I ask members for their support and thank the dozens of Senators who have joined me as cosponsors of this bipartisan resolution.
Let us pray for a cessation of the horrors and evils in Uganda and the Sudan.
I ask unanimous consent to print the above-referenced documents in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
January 30, 2006.
Re Crisis in Northern Uganda
Dr. CONDOLEEZZA RICE,
Secretary of State, Department of State,
DEAR SECRETARY RICE: We, the undersigned organizations call on the U.S. government to dedicate high-level attention to the situation in northern Uganda in order to help bring an end to the intractable conflict and catastrophic humanitarian conditions.
As you know, for the past 20 years, the people of northern Ugandan have endured a conflict involving the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the Government of Uganda. More than 1.7 million people--eighty percent of the population--are displaced and forced to live in squalid internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. These camps remain largely unprotected and vulnerable to LRA attacks and abductions. The LRA has kidnapped more than 30,000 children from their homes--holding them hostage as soldiers, sex slaves, and bondservants. An estimated 35,000 children commute nightly to sleep in town centers in order to avoid violence and abduction. Nonetheless, these children, known as ``night commuters'', remain vulnerable to exploitation and sexual and physical abuse.
This deplorable humanitarian and human rights situation is the result of an ongoing conflict that continues to be a cause of instability in southern Sudan and, now, the broader Great Lakes. Threats to regional security are growing: the LRA has expanded its area of operation deeper into southern Sudan and, for the first time, into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). LRA attacks against southern Sudanese civilians threaten implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), and recent LRA incursions into the DRC have heightened existing tensions between the Ugandan and Congolese governments. Within this context of increasing regional instability, multiple actors regrettably continue to provide covert support to the LRA.
Establishing a secure environment requires urgent leadership from the U.S. Government to put in place a comprehensive regional approach that addresses LRA cross-border movements and prioritizes a resolution to the conflict, while simultaneously ensuring civilian protection, humanitarian access, and the reintegration of former combatants. To reduce civilian suffering, help consolidate peace in Sudan, and prevent further destabilization of the region, our organizations recommend the following actions:
United Nations Security Council Action
The continued presence of the Lord's Resistance Army in southern Sudan and its recent expansion into the DRC underscores the urgency for United Nations Security Council (UNSC) engagement. Under Secretary-General Jan Egeland's December 19, 2005 briefing on the humanitarian situation and the passage of UNSC Res. 1653 are welcome first steps towards engaging the Security Council on this issue, but greater action is required. We urge the US to take a leadership role at the United Nations to place northern Uganda on the UNSC agenda. The February 2006 US presidency of the UNSC would be an opportune time to galvanize action on this important issue. Specifically, the UN should do the following:
Continued encouragement and support for a regional solution to disarming groups within eastern DRC, Uganda, and southern Sudan. With the UNMIS mandate up for renewal in March, the United States should call on all relevant actors to accelerate the deployment of UNMIS and ensure that threats to civilians and disruption of humanitarian aid addresses the destabilizing presence of the LRA. Continued consideration should be given to the recommendations of the regional Tripartite Commission on Disarming groups in eastern DRC.
Appoint a Special UN Envoy for Northern Uganda who will work collaboratively with all local, regional, and international stakeholders to help mediate between all parties to end the conflict.
Create a panel of experts to investigate and monitor the activities of the LRA, as well as the networks supporting the LRA, and its impact on regional peace and security.
Call on all parties to declare an immediate ceasefire; encourage greater international diplomatic and financial support for on-going mediation efforts, while ensuring a coordinated response to LRA activity in the area.
Call on the government of Uganda, in accordance with its national IDP policy, to adopt a security strategy that focuses on protection rather than confrontation, prioritizes civilian and aid convoy protection, and holds protection personnel accountable for crimes they commit.
Direct U.S. Support for Mediation
After 20 years of conflict, military victory is unlikely. Recent overtures made by the LRA leadership to negotiate are promising and greater international political pressure on all parties is needed to explore a peaceful solution. Approximately ninety percent of the LRA is comprised of children; further military aggression against the LRA only serves to inflict more violence upon these
children. Former Ugandan Government Minister Betty Bigombe's mediation efforts deserve greater U.S. support. Accordingly, we strongly recommend that the State Department appoint a senior level advisor to coordinate efforts within the U.S. government, among the donors, and ensure that greater resources and material support are available for Bigombe as a negotiation strategy is developed.
Protection for Civilians and Humanitarian Workers
Efforts to protect civilians have languished and high-level involvement by the international community is needed. Eighty percent of the population is displaced and primarily dependent on limited international food assistance and services. The delegation of civilian protection and humanitarian worker security to local defense units (LDUs) both hinders humanitarian access and leaves IDPs vulnerable to LRA attacks. For example, at times LDU personnel have been inebriated while escorting humanitarian agencies, or sometimes have refused to provide escort unless provided with food. This gap in protection significantly hinders relief efforts and the population's ability to access employment, basic healthcare and education. Through US leadership, donor governments must work with the Ugandan government to devise a security strategy that prioritizes civilian protection instead of confrontational operations. This strategy must expand the area of protection around IDP camps to allow for greater civilian movement, so that the displaced can gain access to basic services and income generating opportunities.
Disarmament, Demobilization & Reintegration (DDR) Enhancement
In coordination with the government of Uganda, donors must develop and enact a comprehensive plan to draw LRA fighters out of this conflict and back into the community. Donors must provide adequate funding for DDR, including support for communities and children abducted by the LRA.
To conclude, we firmly believe that high-level engagement and sustained leadership by the United States will help bring an end to this conflict, which traps millions of children and families in despair and threatens ongoing peaceful transitions in Sudan and the DRC. We look forward to hearing from you about the Administration's plans to address this conflict.
Africa Action, Africa Faith and Justice Network, Africare, Air Serv International, American Refugee Committee, CARE USA, Christian Children's Fund, Comboni Missionaries, Concern Worldwide US, Credo International, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Washington Office, Franciscans International, Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers), Gulu Walk International, Human Rights Watch, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, University of San Diego, Lutheran WorId Relief, MAP International, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Mercy Corps, Missionary Oblates, The NAME Campaign, National Association of Evangelicals, National Jesuit Conference, Oxfam America, Refugees International, Save the Children, Today's Urban Renewal Network, Uganda Cpnflict Action Network, US Catholic Mission Association, Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, World Vision.