This weekend, Republican presidential candidates will take the stage for another debate, this one focused on foreign policy. Amidst issues such as the rebuilding of Libya and Iraq, a nuclear Iran and continued involvement in Afghanistan, another important issue, our involvement in Uganda, should be a topic of record for all candidates.
Despite the misgivings of some conservatives, the effort is vital to the regional security of Africa and has been supported by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress. Moreover, stopping Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army will restore peace to the people of Uganda who have already suffered decades of unspeakable terror at his hands.
My wife and I first got involved in the story of the LRA and Joseph Kony six years ago, after an old high school friend helped make a documentary called “Invisible Children.” The film followed three travelers and their experiences in dealing with Ugandan women and children, some as young as eight years old, who were kidnapped and tortured in the remote Ugandan “bush,” before being used as soldiers in the ongoing efforts of the LRA, an occult-based terrorist force that has been responsible for gruesome violence in Uganda and more recently Southern Sudan and Congo. So rampant were the kidnappings in outlying villages that children were forced to walk miles into larger settlements to avoid the dreaded raids that would take them away from their homes and into “the bush.”
Thanks to the involvement of Invisible Children, an international organization formed on the heels of the film, and other organizations that have mobilized to end the night raids, the situation has improved in Uganda.
This nation, long beset by internal strife, is beginning to tap its natural resources, drive commerce and move forward as a cultural and economic leader in the region. However, the presence of Kony lingers over progress being made.
This sort of internal instability presents economic problems for potential investors in the area, as well as a burgeoning humanitarian issue, with some estimated 300,000 displaced persons across CAR, DRC and South Sudan due to the LRA.
Unless Joseph Kony and the terrorists of the LRA are rooted out and brought to justice, Uganda, and the larger African region, will be unable to fully participate in the global economy, continuing a cycle of poverty and violence that has perpetuated for decades.
Another concern being raised by some on the right is the manner in which President Obama executed the order to send the military advisory force. Republican candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Republican presidential candidate Arizona Senator John McCain both expressed concern that the president had circumvented Congress with his effort.
Yet only last year, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009 – legislation supported by a huge bipartisan majority that provided “political, economic, military and intelligence support for viable multilateral efforts to protect civilians from the LRA…” so the President’s actions were within the framework of the legislation. Moreover, conservatives like Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe have vocally supported efforts to snuff out the rebel army; it was largely due to Inhofe’s leadership that the bill passed with 64 co-sponsors – the greatest number for an African- related bill in the history of the Senate. In an era where Washington can hardly agree on anything without a partisan standoff, a bill with this much support is a rare opportunity for both sides to do the right thing.
To be certain, there are many causes in the coming election year where conservatives will rightly be at odds with the current Administration. Health care, job killing taxes and the strangulation of government regulation present worthy fights on behalf of less government and more freedom. However, as conservatives espouse the preservation of life and freedom as our central principles, we should support the efforts to finally end the terrorist regime of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army.
This Saturday, we will hear GOP aspirants throw out the Reagan doctrine of “peace through strength” and there is no question that the children of Uganda and children of the United States will both benefit from having the region rid of Joseph Kony and his Army once and for all.
Joe Brettell is a former Capitol Hill Press Secretary and currently a GOP consultant.
Joe Brettell is a former Capitol Hill Communications Director and currently a strategist with FleishmanHillard Public Affairs. Follow him on Twitter@joebrettell.