Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe told The Daily Caller that he is “hoping and praying” that 2012 is the year the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) — the Uganda militia run by strongman Joseph Kony — will be eradicated.
“There have been a lot of close opportunities that never quite saw fruition,” the senator told TheDC. “I think we should make this commitment that this year should be the year we get him.”
Inhofe’s comments came on the heels of the “Kony 2012” viral campaign launch by the Invisible Children advocacy group.
Inhofe told TheDC about his earliest encounter with Kony during his first visit to Africa in 1996…
“He was operating out of Gulu in Northern Uganda, so we went to see for ourselves,” Inhofe recounted. “That’s when I first saw these kids who had their lips cut off — and their ears cut off and mutilated — by Joseph Kony.”
Sixteen years and 124 African visits later, Inhofe and other elected officials have worked to directly involve the United States in the war against Kony. Legislators finally made headway two years ago.
In 2009, California Republican Rep. Ed Royce and Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern sponsored the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. It attracted 271 cosponsors and passed easily.
The bill outlined a plan to strengthen efforts to protect civilians, identify diplomatic routes to eliminate LRA threats, and build an interagency framework to coordinate diplomatic, economic, intelligence and military elements of United States policies aimed at Uganda.
“It was the most widely co-sponsored legislation that spoke of Africa in U.S. history,” said Michael Poffenberger, the executive director of Resolve Uganda, a non-profit working directly with political leaders to end the LRA crisis.
Rep. Royce explained that the U.S. has contributed military units to train Ugandan forces, who could then be involved in intelligence gathering, communications and logistics.
To complement these efforts, Royce introduced legislation that would provide cash rewards from the State Department Rewards Program to individuals who provide information that helps curb international organized crime and human rights abuses.
Royce expects this adjustment to bring the end of Kony’s dominance even more quickly.
Ambassador Stephen Rapp, head of the Office of Global Criminal Justice, approved, adding that it would “add a critical element” to what is needed to capture Kony.
Anneke Van Woudenberg is a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, added that “with the renewed efforts by the U.S. government, I do think there is a chance to capture Kony and to take action to help the victims and affected communities.”
Woudenberg , who works in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — another country savaged by Kony’s LRA forces, wrote that the militia “are weaker than they have been in many years and this is an opportunity to end this problem once-and-for-all.”
With memories of Kony’s atrocities guiding him, Inhofe anticipates justice for Uganda’s children every day.
“We were in Eastern Congo very close to him three years ago,” Inhofe sighed. “Then he escaped … and he left a path of blood behind him, killing hundreds of little kids en route.”