A key U.S. senator voiced his support for Kony 2012, the online video which portrays atrocities committed by a Ugandan warlord and has become a celebrity-fueled viral Internet cause.
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy visited Champlain College in his home state of Vermont Monday, to praise the role of students there in the Kony 2012 movement, which seeks the capture of Joseph Kony, a brutal warlord who has forced young boys to serve in his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and young girls into sexual servitude.
The under-30-minute video, produced by the nonprofit organization Invisible Children, reportedly has been watched by more than 70 million people. Celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey and Justin Bieber, have been pushing attention to Kony 2012 in recent days.
“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,” says Leahy, who long has focused on human-rights issues.
Kony’s LRA has terrorized the people of northern Uganda, the Congo, and elsewhere in Central Africa, for more than 20 years, Leahy notes. Thousands of people have been uprooted from their homes, children have been kidnapped and forced to kill and mutilate members of their own families, he adds.
“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,” the senator, who chairs a Senate subcommittee which controls spending of the State Department foreign operations. “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,” Leahy adds.
U.S. Government Already After Kony
While Kony 2012 is the first introduction many around the world may have had to the thuggish Kony, he is no stranger to the U.S. government, according to Leahy.
Congress approved the the “LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act,” in 2010, which Leahy calls “a real breakthrough.” Leahy adds that his Senate subcommittee 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,” Leahy says.
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, Leahy says.
“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,” he says. “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.”
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.