Mr. GORDON of Tennessee. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on the bill, H.R. 5116, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act.
Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the bill and yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, the Senate bill under consideration today is a companion to H.R. 2478, legislation authored by the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern). I want to thank my good friend and colleague, Mr. McGovern, for championing the cause of the people of northern Uganda who have been victimized for over two decades by the Lord's Resistance Army, a group designated as a terrorist organization by the Secretary of State.
Mr. Speaker, it is almost impossible to describe the horrors that the Lord's Resistance Army, also known as the LRA, has perpetrated on the people of northern Uganda and, more recently, in several neighboring countries.
Joseph Kony, the LRA leader, has led a militia group responsible for the slaughter of thousands of people and the displacement of over 2 million others since it was formed in 1986.
The LRA is most notorious for abducting young children, an estimated 30,000, over the past two decades, and forcing them into armed service and sexual servitude. While claiming to represent the legitimate grievances of the Ocholi people of northern Uganda, Kony has exploited those grievances to justify what only can be described as madness in his pursuit of power.
The Ugandan war is now the longest running war in Africa, longer than the conflict in Sudan. During the course of this war, the LRA has been responsible for widespread human rights violations, including murder, abduction, mutilation, sexual enslavement of women and children, and forcing children to participate in killing of Ugandans, often family members and neighbors.
The LRA shows no mercy for the young. Boys are kidnapped and turned into soldiers. Girls are kidnapped and used as sex slaves. And to terrorize communities, the LRA often amputates limbs and disfigures bodies as so-called lessons learned for those willing to resist.
The Ugandan government and the LRA began peace negotiations in 2006, and signed an agreement in August of that year which provided for hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people to return home in safety. A final peace agreement was reached in 2008, but Kony refused to sign, and the LRA subsequently launched new attacks on civilians in eastern Congo.
Despite the LRA leader's refusal to sign the agreement, the Ugandan government has made a commitment to carry out reconstruction plans for northern Uganda, and to implement those mechanisms of the final peace agreement not conditioned on the compliance of the LRA.
Mr. Speaker, the United States Government is a friend to the people of northern Uganda, and it is in our interest to help rid Uganda and central Africa of the LRA. This bill authorizes the President to provide additional assistance to respond to the humanitarian needs of populations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, southern Sudan, and Central African Republic affected by LRA activity.
It further authorizes the President to support efforts by the people of northern Uganda and the government of Uganda to promote transitional justice and reconciliation on both local and national levels.
Mr. Speaker, it is important that we pass this legislation today to draw attention to the LRA's reign of terror and to demonstrate our support for the people of Uganda. Mr. Speaker, I urge all of my colleagues to support this bill.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I strongly support the policy objectives of Senate Bill 1067, the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.
For nearly 27 years, the Lord's Resistance Army, LRA, has been terrorizing civilians, leaving a trail of death and despondency in its wake. The LRA's leader is a soulless mass murderer who has perpetrated some of the most deplorable human rights atrocities known to man.
The LRA is a predatory guerrilla force. They mutilate, torture, rape, and murder with impunity. They have abducted tens of thousands of civilians, mostly children, to serve as soldiers or sex slaves. Abducted children are forced to the front lines. And those who manage to escape find it difficult, if not impossible, to return home after being forced to commit atrocities in front of their very own families.
While the LRA has withdrawn from northern Uganda and security conditions there have improved, it continues to wreak havoc on neighboring southern Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic.
Recent reports indicate that, rather than being weakened, the LRA today is stronger and strategically more sophisticated than it was just last year. The bill before us seeks to change that.
It requires the President to develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with the LRA. It offers political, economic, military, and intelligence support for viable multilateral efforts to protect civilians, to apprehend or eliminate top LRA commanders, and disarm and demobilize the remaining LRA fighters.
It then expresses the sense of Congress that the United States should support humanitarian efforts in LRA-affected areas, as well as programs to advance transitional justice in northern Uganda.
I appreciate the chairman's efforts to ensure that this language does not represent an earmark in funding which would conflict with Republican Members' commitment to the American taxpayer to exercise fiscal restraint and discipline.
I also appreciate that the bill conditions future assistance to the government of Uganda upon transparency and a substantial commitment of Uganda's own resources to support reconstruction efforts in the North.
Mr. Speaker, the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs has said that this conflict is ``characterized by a level of cruelty seldom seen, and few conflicts rival it for its sheer brutality.''
Even so, it remains one of the most overlooked humanitarian and human rights crises in the world today. The fact that we are even debating this topic today is largely due to the tireless efforts of young advocates throughout the United States, including in my own congressional district, who have passionately taken up the cause of those whose lives have been destroyed by the LRA. I urge my colleagues to join them in supporting the objectives of this important bill.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, it is now my pleasure to yield 4 minutes to the gentleman from Massachusetts, the vice chairman of the Rules Committee, Mr. McGovern.
Mr. McGOVERN. I thank the gentleman from New York for yielding me the time.
Mr. Speaker, this is a very important day for U.S. policy in Africa. Just about 1 year ago, on May 19, my friend and colleague from California and the champion of human rights, Congressman Ed Royce, and I introduced H.R. 2478, the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Recovery Act. In the Senate, Senators Russ Feingold and Sam Brownback sponsored the same bill, S. 1067, which is the bill before us for consideration today. Today, H.R. 2478 has 200 bipartisan
When the House passes S. 1067 today, it will be sent directly to the President's desk for his signature, and for the first time the U.S. will be required to design and implement a comprehensive strategy with our multilateral and regional partners to address the violence of the LRA; protect the victims of LRA violence in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, southern [Page: H3412]
Sudan, and the Central African Republic; strengthen state presence and capacity in
these regions to the benefit of the vulnerable civilian populations; and advance the recovery of northern Uganda from decades of violence.
Mr. Speaker, a great deal has happened across the country to ensure that this bill is before the House Chamber today in scarcely 1 year. I want to especially recognize and thank the national networks, organizations, and grassroots activists of Invisible Children, Resolve Uganda, the ENOUGH! Project, and many other religious and human rights groups who have rallied in support of the people and especially the children of this region of Africa.
These Americans, thousands of them high school and college students, understood that the children and people of northern Uganda, the DRC, the southern Sudan, and the CAR have no voice in Washington.
So they were determined to become their voice. They realized that these African children and families were invisible to Washington policymakers. So they decided to make them visible. They realized there is too much suffering, too much pain, too much destruction, too much killing in this region of Africa, so many thousands of miles away, and that there was just too much silence here in Washington. So they built a grassroots national movement of hope for peace, for justice, for reconciliation,
for reconstruction, for the recovery of the human spirit. They believe that the people of northern Uganda, the children of Uganda, the DRC, Southern Sudan, and the CAR, have a right to protection and to have a voice in their own destiny.
So today is a good day, a very good day, Mr. Speaker, because today these hundreds of thousands of voices have brought this bill to the House floor today for final passage. The unresolved crisis with the Lord's Resistance Army is one of Africa's longest running and most gruesome militia-driven conflicts. It has morphed into a sadistic force, wreaking terror on the local populations, filling its ranks with abducted child soldiers and slaves.
Now, at this critical juncture in the conflict's history and when the terror once focused in northern Uganda is spreading throughout the region and surrounding countries, we must ensure that the United States commits to a proactive strategy to help see this conflict to its end, protect vulnerable populations, and support and strengthen recovery efforts in northern Uganda and the region.
I thank the many Americans, especially the young people, who have supported this bill. I urge my colleagues to vote in support of final passage of S. 1067. I thank the gentleman from New York, again, for his leadership.
Human Rights, Humanitarian, and Faith-Based Groups Back Landmark U.S. Legislation To Help Protect Civilians From the Lord's Resistance Army
Washington, DC, 21 May 2009.--The introduction of legislation in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives earlier this week to commit the United States to comprehensive efforts to help civilians threatened by one of the world's longest-running and brutal insurgencies is a crucial step forward for U.S. policy in the region, a coalition of twenty-two human rights, humanitarian, and faith-based groups said today.
If passed, the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act would require the Obama Administration to develop a regional strategy to protect civilians in central Africa from attacks by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and enforce the rule of law and ensure full humanitarian access in LRA-affected areas. The Act additionally commits the United States to increase support to economic recovery and transitional justice efforts in Uganda. The coalition of supporting organizations
includes groups in Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and Uganda, where communities are currently threatened by the LRA.
``We continue to live in fear of LRA attacks and of our children being abducted,'' said Father Benoit Kinalegu of the Dungu/Doruma Justice and Peace Commission in DR Congo. ``We are praying for help and protection and hope U.S. lawmakers will hear our cries.''
Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), Brad Miller (D-NC), and Ed Royce (R-CA) introduced the bill. It affirms the need for U.S. leadership to help bring an end to atrocities by the Lord's Resistance Army and to advance long-term recovery in the region.
``The LRA has long posed a terrible threat to civilians,'' said Georgette Gagnon, Africa Director at Human Rights Watch. `` This bill will help the U.S. government support for comprehensive multilateral efforts to protect civilians in LRA-affected areas and to apprehend or otherwise remove the group's leader, Joseph Kony, and his top commanders from the battlefield.''
For more than twenty years, northern Ugandans were caught in a war between the Ugandan military and the rebel group. The violence killed thousands of civilians and displaced nearly two million people. Kony and his top commanders sustain their ranks by abducting civilians, including children, to use as soldiers and sexual slaves. Though the rebel group ended attacks in northern Uganda in 2006, it moved its bases to the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo and has committed acts of violence
against civilians in Congo, Sudan, and the Central African Republic. In December 2008, Sudan, Uganda and Congo began a joint military offensive, ``Operation Lightening Thunder,'' against the rebel group, with backing from the United States. As a result, the Lord's Resistance Army has dispersed into multiple smaller groups and has brutally murdered more than 1,000 civilians and abducted over 400 people, mostly children.
``Given the catalytic involvement of the U.S. military in Operation Lightning Thunder--and the horrific aftermath of this operation--the U.S. government now has a responsibility to help end the threat posed by Joseph Kony once and for all,'' said John Prendergast, Co-Founder of the Enough Project. ``One man should not be allowed to terrorize millions of people in four Central African countries. The bill is a crucial first step in galvanizing immediate and effective U.S. action.''
The legislation also aims to help secure a lasting peace in Uganda by supporting measures to assist war-affected communities in northern Uganda and to help resolve longstanding divisions between communities in Uganda's north and south. It authorizes increased funding for recovery efforts in northern Uganda, with a particular focus on supporting transitional justice and reconciliation. It also calls on the Ugandan government to reinvigorate its commitment to a transparent and accountable reconstruction
process in war-affected areas.
``Smart investment in long-term recovery is essential if the people of northern Uganda are to live with peace and dignity,'' said Annalise Romoser, Lutheran World Relief Associate Director for Advocacy. ``Transitional justice initiatives and the development of basic infrastructure such as food and water systems are crucial elements to lasting peace and reconciliation in Uganda. Such investment from the United States will support the inspiring efforts of northern Ugandans to return home and rebuild
after decades of war and displacement.''
With questions, please contact:
Michael Poffenberger, Resolve Uganda: 202.548.2517 / email@example.com; Eileen White Read, Enough Project: 202.741.6376 / firstname.lastname@example.org; and Maria Burnett, Human Rights Watch: 917.379.1696 / email@example.com.
Supporting organizations include:
Human Rights Watch, Enough Project, Resolve Uganda, International Rescue Committee, Invisible Children, Refugees International, AVSI, Global Action for Children, Lutheran World Relief, United States Fund for UNICEF, Women's Refugee Commission.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Genocide Intervention Network, Refugee Law Project, Uganda, Gulu NGO Forum, Uganda, Dungu/Doruma Justice and Peace Commission, Democratic Republic of Congo Azande Community World-wide Organisation, UK-South Sudan, Mbomu Charitable Organization, Sudan; Ibba Charitable Organization, South Sudan, Azande Women Organization, South Sudan, Hope Sudan Organization, South Sudan, Eso Development Organization, South Sudan.
Added after 21 May 2009: Nabanga Development Agency, South Sudan, Comboni Missionary Sisters, South Sudan.
Mr. MILLER of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I also rise in support of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009. As other Members have already said, for more than 20 years, the LRA has terrorized the Great Lakes region of Africa and continues to commit atrocities and abduct children across areas of northern Uganda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central African Republic, often targeting schools and churches. If the LRA ever sought to right some supposed wrong,
if there was ever a grievance or cause that motivated the LRA, that has all long since been forgotten. The LRA's atrocities are barbarism for barbarism's own sake.
The United Nations estimates that 90 percent of the LRA's combatants are abducted children, often as young as 10. When the horrific conflict finally ends, those children must somehow return to civilized society after learning as children to kill innocent human beings without hesitation or remorse. Since the brutal Christmas Day massacres of 2008 in the Congo, the LRA has killed more than 1,000 people, abducted almost 2,000 others, and forced more than 300,000 others to flee their homes in vulnerable
The LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act would support multilateral efforts to bring stability and peace to northern Uganda and to protect civilians from the Lord's Resistance Army. This legislation authorizes humanitarian funding for communities across central Africa victimized by the LRA and assistance to help with recovery and reconciliation efforts in northern Uganda. This bill will help end permanently the LRA's campaign of brutality and terror and help families rebuild their
Please join me in supporting this legislation.
Mr. ROYCE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this legislation to end the atrocities of Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, and I am an original cosponsor of the House version of this legislation. From my view, with the passage of this bill, which now goes to the President's desk, we now are in a situation where I think Kony's removal won't guarantee peace, but it certainly will make it possible in the region. I would also just add that the fact that this legislation has made it this far is
really a tribute to a group of young people, young professionals who have come up here on their own time and gone to the universities around this country to organize in order to make people aware of the plight of these children in Africa. I really thank them for that work.
Mr. Speaker, Joseph Kony is perhaps the most wanted man in Africa. He is an indicted war criminal. He is a designated terrorist. Many Americans don't know his name but the children of Uganda and Central East Africa certainly do. He is a very sadistic figure. He has a charismatic appeal to some. He heads a group called the Lord's Resistance Army, and under his two decades of tyrannical leadership that group has conscripted some 30,000 children into this killing squad. I can tell you as the former
chairman of the Africa Subcommittee, if you talk to parents in Uganda or the Congo or South Sudan or the Central African Republic, the fear they have is the fear inspired by what he has been able to do.
Human rights groups report that this LRA remains powerful. It has still the ability to kill and to capture children. It may be even accelerating its program of fear and mind control over children. I'm reminded of the words of a recent researcher who interviewed a boy who escaped from the group. He reported that he was forced to kill eight other children who disobeyed Kony's rules in a 5-week time span. Those victims were surrounded in a circle. Children were forced to take turns bashing them
with a bat in a ``collective kill.'' That's eight times in 5 weeks.
The LRA's objective remains the same as it's been for a couple generations now: kill, capture, and resupply for its next pillage. There is no other reason for its being. Most experts agree that the removal of Kony and his top leadership would decapitate this group. Kony has long fought the government of Uganda. He has had the support of the Islamist government in Sudan for that war, which wanted to hit back at Uganda's leader for his support of Christians and animists in southern Sudan. Former
LRA commanders report that Khartoum, Sudan, has provided ``ammunition'' and provides ``intelligence training'' for Kony's group. More recently, there have been credible reports of the LRA gaining sanctuary in Darfur. A referendum on Southern Sudan is looming next year. Unless the LRA is permanently dealt with now, you can bet that Khartoum will put this killing squad back to use again next year in Southern Sudan.
Mr. Speaker, this civil war, originally contained within Uganda's borders, is now a regional crisis in four countries. This bipartisan legislation aims to spur the administration into devising a strategy to remove Joseph Kony and remove his top commanders from the battlefield. Some targeted assistance from the U.S. could make a world of difference.
Mr. ROYCE. I thank the gentlelady.
The world's problems can seem overwhelming at times. It is fashionable to blame conflict in Africa on poverty and other environmental factors. But sometimes just getting rid of one person does make a big difference. History is [Page: H3414]
full of captivating leaders with bad ideas who do great damage. It's a lesson I learned as chairman of the Africa Subcommittee, when Liberian president Charles Taylor ran a gangster regime in West Africa that brought havoc to neighboring
Sierra Leone, where he pioneered this idea of using child soldiers and using amputations and using the techniques that Joseph Kony does now. After the hard-fought removal of Charles Taylor, and after his imprisonment, that region is peaceful.
Mr. Speaker, it isn't an exaggeration to say that the fate of hundreds of thousands of people--certainly of 30,000 children--rests in the hands of a few men. Kony's removal won't guarantee peace, but it will make it possible.
I urge the passage of this legislation.
Mrs. DAVIS of California. Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons that we have this worthy legislation before us--and it certainly is that--is due to a group of young people who have dedicated their voices and energy to getting the heart-wrenching situation in Uganda the attention it demands. The Invisible Children Organization, which has its headquarters in my district, has brought the awful acts of the Lord's Resistance Army to light.
The group has galvanized an entire generation of young people here to care about children halfway around the world. Their activism has painted for many people in our country the grim, intense reality that is faced by so many Ugandans, especially the children abducted by the LRA and forced to become child soldiers. The volunteers have traveled to our cities, our schools, our businesses, probably even to many of our offices here in Washington to show their films and speak out against Joseph Kony
and his army's brutality.
These young members of the Invisible Children Organization know that no child should live in fear of being abducted, mutilated or killed. With that belief, they have helped make the children of Uganda visible to us. And now with this legislation, we have the chance to truly join in this cause. This bill will require the President to devise an interagency strategy to address this crisis and heighten our country's level of support for stopping the LRA.
Last August, I had the privilege of speaking with members of the Invisible Children Organization who had come to San Diego for their training as what they called them, ``roadies.'' I cannot do justice to their passion, their commitment, and their dedication to do what is right. Their energy absolutely ignites the room. Mr. Speaker, we cannot let them down, and more importantly, we cannot let down the suffering children this legislation will help.