On Wednesday morning, the Obama administration officially announced that it will be offering up to $5 million in rewards for information leading to the capture of top LRA commanders Joseph Kony, Okot Odhiambo, and Dominic Ongwen. The reward comes with the expansion of the U.S. State Department’s War Crimes Rewards Program – an expansion that was mandated by the passage of the Rewards for Justice expansion bill (S. 2318) earlier this year.
This couldn’t have happened without your help.
Invisible Children first called for the passage of the Rewards for Justice (RfJ) expansion bill during the KONY 2012 campaign last spring. With the help of our partners at The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative, supporters from around the country held local lobby meetings with their members of Congress, urging them to cosponsor the bipartisan legislation, which was first introduced in the House by Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA) and later in the Senate by then Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry (D-MA), and by Senator John Boozman (R-AR).
In addition to local lobby meetings, Invisible Children launched a nationwide calling campaign and a letter-writing effort to help push the bill through Congress. Hundreds of you called your members of Congress and thousands of you wrote letters, which our Citizen Team hand-delivered to Congressional offices.
Our efforts finally culminated with the LOBBY:DC event on November 16th, 2012. More than 800 activists – decked out in KONY 2012 shirts and lobby cardigans – descended on Washington and participated in roughly 300 lobby meetings over the course of six hours. These activists called on their elected officials to support the passage of the Rewards for Justice expansion bill and to continue to support the efforts of the U.S. advisors in central Africa. Needlesss to say, Capitol Hill took notice.
Fast forward two months. Late into the night on January 1st – with just minutes left before Congress closed for the year and amongst all the chaos of the looming fiscal cliff crisis, Congress officially passed the the RfJ expansion bill. On January 15, 2013, President Obama signed the legislation into law, and Invisible Children’s CEO was there to watch it happen firsthand.
That brings us back to this week. Wednesday’s announcement of the new $5 million reward to help bring Kony to justice is a reassuring sign of the Obama administration’s commitment to help bring a permanent end to LRA violence. The implementation of the War Crimes Reward program brings us one step closer to peace and security for communities in central Africa.
In a statement published by the Huffington Post, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on the effectiveness of the program:
“Can it work? You bet it can. Two weeks ago, one of the most notorious and brutal rebels in the DRC voluntarily surrendered to our Embassy in Rwanda shortly after being named to the War Crimes Reward Programs list. Now Bosco Ntaganda is charged by the International Criminal Court with war crimes and crimes against humanity. I would have been announcing a reward for him today, but instead, he is sitting in a cell at The Hague. He realized it was better to face justice under the law than live on the run as a wanted man any longer.”
While this is an important development, this new tactic will only be effective as part of a sustained, comprehensive effort to end LRA violence. We must continue to remind the United States and the African Union of the importance of staying committed to apprehending Joseph Kony and the LRA. The most important thing you can do right now is tweet the @_AfricanUnion and encourage them to remain committed to continuing counter-LRA operations.
For more details on the War Crimes Rewards program, visit here.