Senate Obstructionist Endangering Africans

While the nation was fixated on the heartless antics of Sen. Jim Bunning, the Kentucky Republican who until yesterday held up a bill extending unemployment benefits to tens of thousands of Americans, another Republican is holding up a different bill that could save lives in Africa.

At UN Dispatch, Mark Goldberg reports on Tom Coburn’s block of a bill that would disarm the Lord’s Resistance Army, which has waged a brutal campaign of terror, rape, brutality, and mutilation in Northern Uganda and elsewhere in Africa, including in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. The LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act would authorize “$40 million to post-conflict recovery efforts in Northern Uganda and directs President Obama to come up with a peace and recovery plan for war-ravaged Northern Uganda,” writes Goldberg. “Though the bill does not actually appropriate any money (that can only happen through the budget process) Coburn objects, in principle, to new funding unless it is offset elsewhere in the budget. Coburn, therefore, has placed a hold on the bill.”

The LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, is a former faith healer who claims to be a prophet and believes he speaks directly with God. The LRA, Goldberg told me, “are a roving bandits that at one point ostensibly wanted to create a state based on the Ten Commandments.” Kony and four associates are wanted by the International Criminal Court on multiple counts of crimes against humanity, enslavement, sexual enslavement, rape, inhumane acts of inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering, war crimes, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, pillaging, inducing rape, and forced enlisting of children. The LRA is thought to have kidnapped more than 60,000 children and forced them to become soldiers.

In his post, Goldberg presents horrifying photographs from the African Youth Information Network, showing how the LRA’s brutal campaign of terror has left people scarred, disfigured, and mutilated.

Although the LRA’s brutality in Northern Uganda has subsided, Goldberg writes, it “is still wreaking havoc in neighboring regions. Two weeks ago, the LRA sacked a town in south west Central African Republic and kidnapped 40 people (including, presumably, many children).” 

Coburn is big on touting his Christianity, and was part of the C Street group (a.k.a. “church“) that tried to help fellow Senator John Ensign out of a jam when he was caught in an affair with his aide’s wife — by paying her off. He’s worried in the past that lesbianism was so rampant in his home state of Oklahoma that girls can’t go to the bathroom alone at school, has called for the death penalty for abortion providers, and has suggested blacks have a genetic predisposition to a shorter life expectancy. Not exactly the Senate’s most enlightened figure, to be sure, but looking the other way while a war criminal massacres and brutalizes innocent civilians and forcibly conscripts children puts an entirely new face on his “Christian” virtues.

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