Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Dear Obama" responds to calls for help from LRA victims

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is a notorious armed Ugandan rebel group that continues to terrorize civilians in Northern Uganda, Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The LRA is reportedly responsible for unspeakable violations committed against civilians in central African region. These atrocities include mass rape, mutilations, mass killings, torture, kidnappings and the recruitment of child soldiers. The infamous leader of the rebel group - Joseph Kony - is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity. For decades, right groups have demanded tougher action against the LRA. Finally, the Obama administration has responded to calls for help and taken noticeable steps to protect LRA victims.

In 2010, Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch urged President Obama to "get tough on human rights" and argued in favor of the "humanitarian use of force" against the LRA .

Human Rights Watch launched an aggressive campaign to inspire action against the LRA . The organization produced a compelling video titled "Dear Obama" - in which victims of LRA abuse, including men, women, girls and boys, make direct appeals to President Obama - literally begging for help.

The video was nominated for the 2011 Webby Awards.

To many skeptics, this was a long shot.

However, "dear Obama" responded to loud calls echoed by Human Rights Watch. He ordered the deployment of about 100 U.S. military personnel with "appropriate combat equipment" to Uganda to work together with forces in the region to remove Joseph Kony and his commanders from the region. According to a letter from President Obama to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, U.S forces will provide "information, advise and assistance" to regional partners. They "will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self defense."

According to Human Rights Watch, Obama signed a bill on 24 May 2010 that committed the U.S. to help arrest Joseph Kony and protect civilians in the region. More than 200 civilians have been killed and 3000 abducted during LRA operations since 2008.

Obama's decision to deploy forces to Uganda to help stop atrocities committed by the LRA has attracted blind criticism from opponents of his administration, some of whom have arguably never heard about the LRA prior to the president's bold move in the interest of human rights. According to Rush Limbaugh, a conservative American radio talk show host, Obama has sent troops to "wipe out Christians" in Africa. This is a laughable case of misinformation. The talk show host clearly failed do his homework on the subject.

On the other hand, rights advocates who are well-informed about atrocities committed by the LRA and understand the concept of "responsibility to protect", welcome Obama's decision to join efforts to bring Joseph Kony and his cronies to justice.

N.B: See photo of one victim of LRA brutality above. In February 2002, he was kidnapped, deformed and amputated by Kony's men. His ears, lips, nose and hands were chopped off. [Source]. Thousands more have suffered atrocities of varying proportions committed by the LRA .

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