This past week there was a press conference at the UN with six people who have unique perspectives on the LRA-affected region and the conflict.
Jan Egeland of Human Rights Watch and Michael Poffenberger of Resolve represented the nonprofit community. Father Benoit Kinalegu and Sister Angelique Namaika represented the currently-affected region. Finally, UN Special Representative to Central Africa Abou Moussa and AU Special Envoy on the LRA Francisco Madeira are the two people at the UN and AU who have the most influence on how money and resources are used to help stop the LRA.
Over and again panelists said that the mission to capture Joseph Kony and stop the LRA is lacking resources. That echoes the conclusion of the UN Secretary General’s report on the LRA, released earlier this month. “These troops lack almost everything. They lack boots, they lack uniforms, they lack food rations and sometimes they lack training. So there is a need for these things to be supplied,” said Madeira.
The U.S. advisers were discussed, as were regional efforts, but everyone agreed that this mission needs to be an international one. The African Union is supposed to fulfill its earlier promise to have 5,000 troops dedicated to stopping LRA violence by December 2012. Hopefully it won’t take that long.
Another topic was the need for civilian protection and long-term rehabilitation. Michael Poffenberger said that there are some techniques that have proven effective in local communities, and we need to support those. For example, Father Benoit’s early warning radio network in DR Congo that has been supported by Invisible Children these past two years. It is very effective, but it would be even more effective if it could expand to reach communities in the remotest corners of the region. That is the sort of solution that could be acted on right away if the resources were there.
Just before the press conference, Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey and Father Benoit delivered the pledges to special representatives Moussa and Madeira. Abou Moussa said, “Having over 3 million in support of what we are doing on a daily basis to put Kony out of reaching the population is a burden on us. We do appreciate this. While it’s a burden, it is also an encouragement for us to be able to do more.”
The day after the press conference, Ben Keesey and two young activists met with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Security Council, Susan Rice, to hand off 3.7 million pledge signatures. Ambassador Rice, in addition to representing the United States at the UN, is a member of President Obama’s cabinet.
She accepted the pledges and reiterated her commitment to helping the UN/AU strategy succeed. She told the young activists, “Never underestimate your power. You’re not old enough to vote in this country but you’ve already shown how much your voices can matter. You have changed the debate and you have raised awareness.”
During the press conference we were surprised and pleased to hearMadeira say, “we want to appreciate the work done by Invisible Children, which has been able to make the world know that there is a tyrant in Africa maiming, raping and destroying the lives of young Africans.”
Hear that? You have changed the debate and you let the world know.
This week the UN/AU is releasing its strategy for stopping LRA violence and Invisible Children will be working to hold them accountable to seeing that strategy through.