03.12.12

Remarks Of Senator Patrick Leahy At An Event With Invisible Children At Champlain College

Remarks As Prepared For Delivery

I am very pleased to be part of this effort to highlight the atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army, and I congratulate the Champlain students who have taken the initiative to educate other students and the entire community. 

I also want to thank Mr.  Quinto for being here. 

As Mr. Quinto described from his own experience, the LRA has terrorized the people of northern Uganda, the Congo, and elsewhere in Central Africa, for more than 20 years.  

Thousands of people have been uprooted from their homes, children have been kidnapped and forced to kill and mutilate members of their own families. 

Over a decade ago I sent one of my staff to northern Uganda to meet with people who had been displaced and victimized by the LRA.  He visited some of the tens of thousands of children known as “nightwalkers” who walked every evening, for as much as two hours, from their rural villages to shelters in town where they were protected from abduction by the LRA.

For too long, this savage brutality received too little attention, as  had the need for additional efforts by the United States and others to bring the LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, to justice and to aid the victims.

I have been supporting programs to aid the LRA’s innocent victims for many years. 

The Leahy War Victims Fund has been used to provide artificial limbs and wheelchairs to the LRA’s victims.  And for years we have provided food, medicine, and shelter to traumatized families who have fled the LRA. 

But the “LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act,” which passed in 2010, was a real breakthrough. 

Last year, in my Appropriations subcommittee I included “up to $10 million” to begin implementing the law, and I plan to include additional funds this year. 

I also strongly support legislation, introduced by Representative Ed Royce of California, to offer rewards for information that leads to the capture of Kony and other LRA commanders.  We should pass it this year.

President Obama also deserves credit for developing a “Strategic Plan to Support the Disarmament of the LRA,” and deploying 100 U.S. military advisors to help capture Kony. 

He did that over the objections of some Members of Congress who felt it was not a priority – some of the same people who voted to spend billions of dollars to send hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to Iraq. 

So there is progress, and students like you have been pushing and pushing – writing letters, lobbying Congress, raising money, doing everything you can to bring more attention to Joseph Kony and his child victims, to stop the LRA. 

What we are seeing is another example of how young people who care enough can use the power of social media to help make a difference in the world.

Joseph Kony’s days are numbered, and it is thanks to people in Africa, in Vermont, and all around the world.  Crimes against humanity should be everyone’s concern, no matter where they occur. 

No one should be so naïve as to think that a 30 minute video, or even capturing Joseph Kony and disarming the LRA, will end the violence in central Africa.  It will not.  There are many factors that contributed to the LRA, the genocide in Rwanda, the mass rapes and killings in the Congo, and human rights violations by government forces in those countries.

But neither should we watch idly as these crimes occur, just because they are half a world away. 

We can all work to help victims of war rebuild their lives, we can all work to bring the perpetrators of atrocities to justice, we can all work to help make the world a better place.

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David Carle: 202-224-3693