A viral video exposing the horrors wrought by Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has triggered an avalanche of attention, bringing awareness to tens of millions of people in just a week's time. Now Amnesty needs your help to transform unprecedented public awareness into meaningful action.
(March 12, 2012) -- A viral video exposing the horrors wrought by Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has triggered an avalanche of attention, bringing awareness to tens of millions of people in just a week's time. Now Amnesty needs your help to transform unprecedented public awareness into meaningful action.
For more than two decades, Amnesty International has documented the abuses committed by the Lord's Resistance Army and their horrific impact on the lives of countless civilians in Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan.
The LRA's crimes are atrocious -- mutilation, abduction, torture, rape, sexual slavery, pillaging, the conscription of children under the age of 15, and intentionally directing attacks against civilians.
The International Criminal Court indicted Kony and four other LRA leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2005. But despite persistent calls for his arrest from Amnesty and other human rights groups, Kony and other LRA indictees have remained at large for nearly seven years.
But Kony is just the tip of the iceberg in a region that has for decades been fraught with conflict and impunity. In the countries in which the LRA has operated since it was flushed out of Uganda -- the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan -- both government forces and other armed groups like the LRA have been responsible for decades of violence and abuses against civilians, including the abduction and forced recruitment of child soldiers, with little to no accountability. Further, the unregulated trade in small weapons and ammunition has ensured that guns and bullets are easy to obtain.
Last week, the Obama administration congratulated the organization behind the viral internet campaign targeted at Kony and reasserted its commitment to end the threat posed by the Lord's Resistance Army in Central Africa. (1)
But the White House must also pressure governments in the region by withholding military aid until they can demonstrate that they are taking concrete action to stop recruiting child soldiers, to demobilize or release children who are already part of government forces, and to bring those who recruit child soldiers to justice. Action is particularly crucial in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where children have died while carrying ammunition and supplies through the jungle for government forces. (2)
From Cradle to War
Worldwide, hundreds of thousands of children are recruited into government armed forces, paramilitaries, civil militia and a variety of other armed groups.
Under international law, the participation of children under 18 in armed conflict is generally prohibited, and the recruitment and use of children under 15 is a war crime. Yet worldwide, hundreds of thousands of children are recruited into government armed forces, paramilitaries, civil militia and a variety of other armed groups. Often they are abducted at school, on the streets or at home. Others enlist "voluntarily", usually because they see few alternatives.
Such children are robbed of their childhood and exposed to terrible dangers and to psychological and physical suffering. They are placed in combat situations, used as spies, messengers, porters, servants or to lay or clear landmines. Girls in particular are at risk of rape and sexual abuse.
I am writing to urge you to take a strong stand against the use of child soldiers by fully complying with the Child Soldier Prevention Act. With so much of the world's attention on Joseph Kony, I was shocked to learn that Kony's case represents just the tip of the iceberg in a region, and that children are being forcibly recruited and used in armed conflict by other armed groups as well as governments.
I believe that effective pressure should be brought to bear on any and all armed groups and governments throughout the Great Lakes region of Africa who continue to recruit or abduct children. I also strong support programs to help child soldiers demobilize, begin their rehabilitation and regain a semblance of normal life.
I commend the U.S. Government for assisting efforts to apprehend Joseph Kony. I urge you to also send a strong message other armed groups and governments in the region so that they understand that the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict will not be tolerated. To that end, I ask that you please comply with the Child Soldier Prevention Act by prohibiting military assistance to the DRC until the government meets specific benchmarks. These benchmarks should include:
1) demonstrating that it no longer recruits child soldiers;
2) showing concrete progress in demobilizing or releasing children from existing forces; and
3) engaging in credible efforts to render persons suspected of recruiting child soldiers to justice.
Call on President Obama to enforce legislation aimed at ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers today.
In solidarity, Adotei Akwei Director of Government Relations and International Advocacy Amnesty International USA P.S. Join me tomorrow from 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. Eastern for a live discussion about the Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and find out how you can help end abuses committed by armed groups and governments in Central Africa.