The International Criminal Court: Justice versus Judgment

The International Criminal Court: Justice versus Judgment

by

Howard Adelman

If mercy is almost inherently unjust (see yesterday’s blog), an international system of justice may be inherently merciless. A system of justice brought to the treatment of genocidaires, murderers and abductors is fraught with even more paradoxes than the humanitarian dilemma. On 16 December 2003, Yoweri Museveni, president of Uganda, referred the issue of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Uganda became the first sovereign state to invoke Articles 13 (a) and 14 of the Rome Statute granting the ICC jurisdiction over domestic criminality.

On 13 October 2005, the ICC unveiled its first ever arrest warrants, though they were issued on 8 July. The delay was only a result of security preparations. Four leading LRA commanders, in addition to Joseph Kony, were indicted — Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen, and Raska Lukwiya. Today, only Kony remains at large and only Dominic Ongwen is under arrest in The Hague. One was killed in battle, one was captured by local militias and one, the peace negotiator, Victor Otti, was killed by Joseph Kony himself. All of them had been charged with a litany of war crimes and crimes against humanity dating only after mid-2002 since the ICC did not have jurisdiction before that date.

The United States Senate has not ratified the Rome Statute that President Bill Clinton signed in 2000. George W. Bush subsequently suspended the country’s signature. Barack Obama has never renewed the effort to sign the treaty. Instead, the United States has systematically sought and obtained bilateral immunity agreements with over 100 countries that American nationals would not be subject to prosecution outside U.S. borders. The U.S. also enjoys the protection of its status as a permanent member of the Security Council where it can veto any reference by the UNSC to the ICC. On the other hand, in 2008, Obama committed his administration to ensure justice for those who committed crimes against humanity and war crimes. Though Obama could accede to the Rome Statute in practice, that accession would have no possibility of being ratified by the Senate.

However, without even the Senate veto, there are at least four different reasons Obama will not sign the Rome statute:

  • The American Servicemembers’ Protection Act (ASPA 2002), which explicitly prohibits cooperation between the U.S. and the ICC, is still in force.
  • The Obama administration has no interest in resurrecting the issue of alleged American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and does not want to make Americans vulnerable to investigations by the ICC.
  • Given statements by high-level UN officials decrying American drone strikes that are part of Obama’s war on terror, and given those officials’ allegations that targeting civilian areas is illegal under international law and a war crime, the U.S. has no interest in placing these drone strikes under an international legal microscope.
  • The U.S. opposes an ICC investigation into Israeli actions during the Gaza War, for example, and opposes the Palestinian Authority requesting such an investigation.

Not only does exempting the U.S. from the jurisdiction of the ICC undermine the principle of universal applicability, it points out the inherent tension between the ostensible universal jurisdiction of the court and the authority of a sovereign state. America’s exemption from the Rome statute seriously impairs the principle of universal international jurisdiction of the ICC.

When the ICC issued the arrest warrants for the LRA-five for enslavement, rape, and inhumane acts, inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering, as well as twenty-one counts of war crimes, including cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, pillaging, rape, and the forced enlisting of children, it did so without reference to or under the authority of the United Nations Security Council, the premier international political body in the world. The ICC had positioned itself as a court of legal jurisdiction independent of the UNSC. Without taking away the right of the UNSC to refer cases to the ICC, this tension over the independence of the ICC from the UNSC was quickly and easily dissipated when the head of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, welcomed the indictments and hailed the initiative as sending “a powerful signal around the world that those responsible for such crimes will be held accountable for their actions.”

The second issue was trickier and was left unresolved. When Museveni referred the matter to the ICC, by that request for an indictment, was Museveni, at the same time, denying his own state, Uganda, legal jurisdiction over the LRA-five? When Dominic Ongwen was captured and handed over to the Ugandan army, Kampala initially wanted to try him. But others insisted that Uganda, by referring the case to the ICC, had already granted ICC primary jurisdiction. The conflict was resolved, but not the division over principles behind it, when Uganda voluntarily granted ICC jurisdiction on the basis that Ongwen was alleged to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in several countries (Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan as well as Uganda) and, therefore The Hague would be a better place to try him. But Uganda never acceded to the principle that the ICC jurisdiction trumped that of the sovereign state of Uganda.

Many analysts are concerned that the ICC may undermine national justice systems. They offer a very strict and narrow interpretation of the complementarity provisions of the Rome Statute, namely that, “no case is admissible where a country is willing and capable of conducting its own prosecution.” The strict provision offsets a third concern, the potential manipulation of the ICC for political ends. Did Yoweri Museveni refer the LRA indictments to the ICC for political rather than legal reasons? Was it an effort to mobilize the international community behind Uganda to enhance Uganda’s efforts to eliminate the threat of the LRA?

This issue arose over the reference of the LRA-five to the ICC even before the indictments were issued. From the very beginning, the question was raised whether the charges were laid on purely legal grounds or was the issue of the arrest warrants a political act in partnership with Uganda to use international law to induce the commanders of the LRA to surrender? Earlier, the reference by Museveni of the LRA issue to the ICC put pressure on the government of Sudan. Suddenly, after the reference to the ICC, Sudan acceded to Museveni’s request that Sudan end its support for the LRA and wind up the LRA bases in South Sudan. A March 2004 Protocol to permit the UPDF to attack LRA bases in southern Sudan was also agreed upon. This was precisely at the moment that LRA abuses had reached their peak. The ICC appeared as having been used for national political purposes.

The fourth dilemma of the ICC and the international community, complementary to the one immediately above, was the tension between peacemaking and meting out justice. Kony wanted immunity from the jurisdiction of the ICC for both himself and his commanders. Most of the population on the ground wanted peace even if it meant Kony and his colleagues got away with their murder and mayhem. The bulk of the population had been interned in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps for ten years and did not want to surrender the opportunity to return to their home villages. Two million people, ninety percent of the population of Uganda’s northern Acholi provinces, had abandoned their homes presumably in exchange for shelter and security. The camps were not only crowded and unsanitary, but they had not even provided the security supposedly guaranteed. Instead, they offered a more concentrated target for raids and abductions than the widely dispersed villages.

The other side of the argument was that the failure to offer amnesty undermined peace efforts. Rebel forces would be alienated when they could not access the protection offered by the Ugandan government’s Amnesty Act of 2000. The ICC indictments counteracted the incentive to defect from the LRA. The Amnesty Act had guaranteed blanket amnesty for all rebels of any rank who voluntarily surrendered. Ugandan minister Betty Bigombe, backed by the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, Norway, and the Catholic Church, used amnesty as a negotiating tool. Face-to-face meetings between senior government officials and LRA leaders in 2004 almost resulted in a peace agreement. The issuance if the ICC indictments put the nail in the coffin of those efforts.

Bigombe loudly complained that the ICC had rushed getting out the indictments and had not given the peace channel enough time, scuttling her efforts. Even more seriously, the ICC charges, and the refusal of the ICC to set them aside, deprived future negotiators of an essential tool in negotiating peace. Archbishop Odama of the Gulu Catholic Archdiocese concurred. “This is a blow to the peace process…Confidence-building has been moving well, but now the LRA will look at whoever gets in contact with them as an agent of the ICC.” Peter Onega, chair of the Uganda Amnesty Commission, insisted that amnesty still applied to all other rebels not named in the indictment. But even then, there would be two countervailing forces. Rebels who tried to defect, or suspected of wanting to defect, would be killed by the senior commanders. Furthermore, ICC commanders below the top could not be sure they would not be indicted if they did defect. For both reasons, the ICC arrest warrants undermined peace efforts and, in particular, the role that amnesty could play.

This was not a new issue. At the time of the drafting of the Rome Statute, the Harvard Human Rights Journal (V. 19) adumbrated the problem. The journal raised the issue whether offers of amnesty should be complemented by suspension of indictments. Even more, it was argued that prosecutions would prolong conflicts since they would narrow the number of options available to the peace negotiators. Broader more exible measures in cases of mass atrocities might be more appropriate. On the other hand, there were fears that genocidaire leaders and those responsible for war crimes would escape punishment.

There was no resolution to the conundrum. Article 53(1)(c) was deliberately vague leaving it up to the ICC prosecutor, not the political and military negotiators, to decide “taking into account the gravity of the crime and interests of the victim” and balancing those factors against the interest in justice. The 1948 Genocide Convention and the 1949 Geneva Conventions had the same problem. They resolved the issue in the same way by creating a binding obligation to prosecute egregious crimes such as genocide, but taking into consideration the context of international armed conflict. It did so by an even vaguer phrasing, both with respect to the responsibility of the ICC, the extent of its reach, and the applicability and timing of its actions.

This discretional provision for jurisdiction from one perspective, seemed to provide wiggle room for political negotiators while keeping the principle of justice for perpetrators intact. After all, since Museveni referred the issue of indictments to the ICC, a number of former rebels and a high-ranking LRA brigadier did surrender under the Amnesty Act of 2000. In fact, it was argued, the fear of being indicted pushed those fighters to surrender while amnesty was still available.

Even though Kony had been pushed into a corner by the end of 2008, even though the peace negotiations between long-term the LRA and the African Union Forces had come a long way, the ICC believed that the cause of justice could not be sacrificed for the immediate gain of a promise of peace. Besides, almost no one trusted Kony to keep the peace. After all, he even had his chief peace negotiator and deputy killed for becoming too susceptible to the entreaties of the peace negotiators.

There were two other major tensions resulting from the ICC charges against Kony and his cronies. On the one hand, there were the charges of victor’s justice. On the other hand, there were the complementary accusations that the meting out of justice was unjust, for Museveni had himself been guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity or, the very least, widely alleged to have committed such crimes. Why had a warrant of arrest not been issued against Yoweri Museveni? At the same time as the actions of the ICC were widely lauded, many organizations criticized the ICC for its failure to take broader action against human rights violations perpetrated by the government in Kampala.

In the effort to decimate the LRA, the Ugandan army, the UPDF (United People’s Defense Forces), “bombed and burned down villages, thus fueling the displacement of the Acholi.” Further, the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative and the Refugee Law Project documented numerous accounts of rapes and sexual attacks against women by UPDF soldiers and of killing civilians found outside IDP camps. In effect, Uganda was accused of setting up forced internment camps in the guise of “protection camps” or “protected villages.” These “protected villages,” which often lacked food, clean water, sanitation, and medicines, were safeguarded by local militias or the Ugandan national army. Nevertheless, the inhabitants remained easy targets. They continued to be maimed, raped, murdered, and abducted by the LRA—and reportedly mistreated by un-disciplined UPDF soldiers as well.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, defended his decision not to lay any charges against individuals in the Museveni government and only charge LRA top commanders by insisting that, “[w]e analyzed the gravity of all crimes in Northern Uganda committed by the LRA and Ugandan forces. Crimes committed by the LRA were much more numerous and of much higher gravity. . .We therefore started with an investigation of the LRA.” It was the number of crimes and the gravity of the crimes not the fact that some crimes were committed by the Ugandan government that determined that only the LRA leaders were indicted. However, the appearance of one-sided justice undercut the credibility of the ICC in the eyes of Acholi leaders and the Acholi community.

Finally, there was a debate over the nature of justice itself. Critics of the ICC, especially those favouring traditional Ugandan community modes of meting out justice, stressed restorative justice that emphasized the primacy to healing and reconciliation, the restoration of the unity of the community rather than the punishment of any one individual. Odama, and other Acholi religious and political leaders, argued in favour of traditional justice, a process based on public confessions of guilt, cleansing rituals, and the eventual acceptance of LRA members back into communities. This was parallel to the way the vast number of those charged with crimes in the Rwanda genocide were dealt with in the gacaca process.

How are the interests of victims served by either process? Perhaps by neither. After all, reconciliation is generally not rooted in justice systems at all, but in narratives of the women and spiritual and evangelical religious practices. The process of ICC justice, however, was rooted in detachment and universal abstract principles both divorced from everyday practices, especially a belief in the importance of invisible forces in fostering a healing process. Enchantment was necessary to offset disenchantment. How else could relationships be restored except by concepts such as Christian forgiveness and the metaphysics of redemption? But is the abstract principle of “natural” law and “human’ rights any less invisible and magical?

At the same time, Acholi “traditional” justice is inconsistent in its practices and both violent or humiliating. The fact is that any system of justice is infused with politics and tensions. In traditional justice, there are tensions between elders and religious leaders, between the older leadership and the young. Thus, the tensions between modern international justice and traditional justice systems are but a manifestation of the reality that reasonable judgment must be exercised in mediating the multi-dimensional conflicts on all levels between justice and politics, between state and international jurisdiction, between purity of principle and the messiness of any application. In the end, there is no avoidance of the need for reasonable judgment.

Victimization by the Merciful

Victimization by the Merciful

by

Howard Adelman

The hardest challenge by far for any international humanitarian aid organization is the responsibility for treating those whom the NGO wants to help as agents in their own right with feelings and thoughts. They – the abductees in this case – not the humanitarians, have been the main determinants of their own survival. In the horrors perpetrated on the abducted children by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the victims have not just been abducted and abused and enslaved; they have not just been forcibly removed from their family and friends. And they have not just been indoctrinated into becoming part of a killing machine. They are survivors. And they had to negotiate and devise ways to survive.

For there is an unbridgeable contradiction between the need of an international humanitarian aid organization in order to raise funds for their cause, the necessity, on the one hand, to portray themselves as the indispensable and sine qua non without whom the victims could not survive and escape from their victimization, and the need to portray those they are helping simply as hapless victims. Yet those abductees have done for themselves far more than any outside agency can bring to the task, for it is they who have survived. It is they who had to scheme and plan and calculate how to get through each day. The NGOs must realize and recognize the relatively minor added value an aid organization brings to the situation. But if that organization does not portray itself as indispensable, as the sine qua non without which the victims will remain hapless and helpless, why would anyone donate funds to the organization?

Look first at the situation the young boys and girls found themselves in as soon as they were abducted. They were suddenly cast into a totally alien environment. Instead of the security of home, instead of the support of family and friends, they have been thrust among total strangers. If they were abducted with another friend or family member, which most are, they must almost immediately learn to hide that fact just when they most need the support of another. For if they do not immediately learn to hide and disguise the fact that they know another, if they do not quickly master the art of dissembling and misrepresenting what they really know, they pose the greatest danger to both themselves and their friends and relatives.

If they reveal that another abductee is a close friend or family member, if they do not almost immediately learn to hide their relationships, if they slip and the abductors realize that another member of the abducted group is a close friend or family member, then they will have to learn the hardest way of all the first lesson that the abductors must and do teach the abductees – that they are all alone, that they are totally dependent on the LRA for their survival. At the same time, they must retain the sense that they must rely on themselves for survival. Further, if they fail to learn that lesson, if they reveal what must remain hidden at precisely the time when the abductees most need another for support, then, at best, they will be separated and find themselves further alone, or else one of the two will be killed, or, worst of all, they will be “asked” to murder the other as the first act in their initiation in the new laws of the jungle.

Further, if they have already been raised and taught that the jungle is an alien place haunted by malevolent spirits, if they have already been acculturated into the magic and superstitious beliefs about this alien and threatening environment, then the task is all the harder and their fears are much greater. So the abductor has the task of isolating and alienating the abductee from his or her home environment. The abductee is then most in need of security of home and hearth. It is the first and most formidable challenge facing an abductee to negotiate this most fundamental and most difficult initial hurdle.

Assuming these very young boys and girls learn that lesson – and they have to learn it in order to survive – they then have to quickly master the “rules” of their new rulers and masters. And those rules are best absorbed if they are totally incorporated into one’s mind and heart. And the first and foremost rule is that they must be heartless, heartless in their treatment of others and, most importantly, heartless in their treatment of themselves. They must first betray the very essence of their being as a human. Yet if they surrender their essential humanity, they are totally lost and simply become one of the walking dead. They must learn to be schizophrenics.

They must retain their ability to master and manipulate a situation which will, at one and the same time, allow them to survive and, on the other hand, allow them to survive as humans. It is an absolutely impossible task. One comes only at the expense of the other. But if the expenditure is too great, then they are lost. So how do they learn to successfully manage and manipulate the situation in which they find themselves? This is a challenge thrown at those almost least equipped to overcome the difficulties – young teenagers and children below ten.

Look at the tasks that face them. They cannot have a mentor who openly teaches them the tricks of the trade. They must pick up those lessons by osmosis and acute observation. Where just hours and days before, they were primarily taken care of by others, they suddenly must fend for themselves. They must acquire the necessary skills to survive in a polity not committed to their survival and in a natural environment that they have been taught is filled with malevolent spirits. They must learn to interpret the everyday, not as friendly and supportive, but as alien, which they have already been taught. For those religious precepts are the only basic framework which they have inherited, to become masters of their own situation lest that new situation overwhelms them and drowns out their spirits.

All this must be accomplished within an environment of constraint and fear. Which beliefs are reinforced by what is happening to them? Which beliefs – such as beliefs in helping another – must be discarded, or, at the very least, repressed, in order to survive? So they must develop the outlook and the skills using whatever inherited resources at hand to control whatever small degree of freedom of action they can possibly squeeze out of a situation. And they can only do so by driving their most deep-seated beliefs even deeper into the underground of their own souls. They must develop not only the tools of survival, but the tools of hidden resistance as well. They must learn the most fundamental lesson of all, the one that the abductors are most determined to exorcise, that they are the masters of their own souls, that they are not passive victims but are agents of their own destiny.

But it is much worse. They are forced to become complicit in committing atrocities. Not only atrocities against a purported enemy, not only atrocities against their fellow abductees, but atrocities against their very sense of what it is to be a decent human being. The challenge of survival has been compounded by an almost impossible task in a situation in which they have been deprived of the most basic security and the emotional and intellectual supports to meet such a challenge.

Then imagine their escape. Imagine their return. Imagine the task they have of both learning to forget and re-learning who they once were and are no longer. And imagine facing that task in a context in which those dedicated to helping you, by the very nature of the support those agencies need to muster, also view you as a hapless victim rather than the agent of your own survival. Now in this most benevolent environment, the skills of deception and disguise acquired in the jungle are reinforced rather than discarded.

However, in this case, they are not just victims. They have been perpetrators. Not one can escape that label. They must deal with their own shame and guilt without full acceptance of that fact by those trying to help them. For, at the same time as humanitarian NGOs are pressured by their own circumstances to portray those they are dedicated to helping as victims in need of help and not agents who have demonstrated an extraordinary capacity to survive, the former abductees must be complicit in reinforcing an image of themselves as innocent victims and not agents of the most atrocious crimes.

So they are doubly deprived of agency – as agents of their own survival and as agents complicit in denying the survival of others. In the choice of whether to kill or be killed, they were forced to choose to be killers in order to be agents who survive. To the extent an NGO recognizes and publicizes this latter essential phenomenon, to that extent do those agencies undermine their own efforts in fundraising. After all, who wants to give money to support those guilty of heinous crimes? The very act of charity then will almost certainly induce an initial feeling that, in doing so, one is complicit in the crime itself.

So the former abductees must, of necessity, rely on the very same tools of deception and misrepresentation that they were taught in the jungle. They must, in the case of female abductees, now become complicit in portraying themselves as rape victims and sex slaves in the hands of their abductors rather than as active explorers of the world of sex, never mind as porters, cooks, and even enthusiastic participants in attacks, abductions and slaughters. They must participate in the construction of an identity so essential to the agency dedicated to helping them. Once complicit in murder, it is far easier to be complicit in reinforcing the basic lie necessary to the very essence of humanitarian aid, the lie of their pure victimhood.

Once relatively powerless as abductees, they must again be portrayed as powerless by their ostensible saviours. Once subject to the imperious barking commands of their overlords, they now must submit to the soothing care of those who would bring them help rather than fill them with fear. But it is care accepted at great cost – they must be cast in a movie once again of themselves as merely victims and, thus, be doubly victimized as they seek survival, not in an atmosphere of extreme repression and oppression, but in an atmosphere of loving care. Having been indoctrinated to spit on pity for others as well as for themselves, they must now repress that deep and hard-won lesson.

Having returned from a moral order that was harsh, brutal and usually short, they have come back to a context in which they are similarly subjected to the whims and fantasies, not now of their tormentors, but to the bleeding hearts who offer them help and assistance. And they must hide the fact now that they have acquired at a very deep level a disdain for sympathy and empathy. It is hardly the best environment conducive to facing the depth and extent of their own spiritual contamination. Once again, the rules of the game, however well-intentioned and benign this time, are being set by others. And this is almost more difficult, for, at the very least, the bad guys were clearly identifiable previously. Now, to survive as an agent responsible for one’s own being and destiny, one must again master the art of becoming internal strangers, but this time in an atmosphere where one’s masters have come to the situation, not with whips and guns, but with a helping and supposedly loving hand, but a hand resistant to grasping the horror that has penetrated your own soul.

Finally, in defining the Acholi conflict as a humanitarian rather than a political crisis, international human rights and humanitarian organizations undercut and help hide the reality that behind the moral conflict there is a deeper political one, one between the Acholi and the Ugandan government in Kampala. And these humanitarian agencies are in league with that government. Thus, their ostensible friends are cast into the camp of enemies. Instead of facing a command structure simply of evil, they now have to face one in which good lies in bed with evil. The alien other has a much stronger hand than the simple evil of a Joseph Cony. It is even more difficult to resist and survive as an individual responsible for oneself in such an ostensibly benevolent atmosphere.

Is it any surprise that re-integration is so difficult for abductees?

Tomorrow: Justice Without Mercy: The Paradox of the International Criminal Court

XII: Samantha Power and the Diminution of the LRA

XII: Samantha Power and the Diminution of the LRA

by

Howard Adelman

Invisible Children (IC) undertook dangerous work in Uganda in making its films to publicize the atrocities of Joseph Kony. I am fully aware of how dangerous work in northern Uganda can be without the explicit or, at least, implicit backing of the Ugandan government. One of my students was murdered in northern Uganda, likely related to his research; the Andrew Forbes Resource Centre at the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University was named in his honour. Nevertheless, hundreds of NGOs and overseas volunteers work out of Gulu 275 km north of Kampala and 100 km south of the South Sudan border. It is a town of about 147,000 and it is the largest urban area in Acholi.

IC’s regional office is located in Gulu. IC is in the process of transferring its on-the-ground activities to its local NGO partner in Uganda. IC is and has been involved in early warning protection and detection programs in CAR, but I was unable to find out if there was any connection with IGAD’s FEWER (Forum for Early Warning and Early Response) program – the early warning system of the countries in the Horn of Africa. In conjunction with OCHA’s 2015 South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan, FEWER issued its report on the South Sudan Crisis. There is no apparent evidence of IC input, yet the South Sudan civil war crisis is immensely greater than the crisis of abducted children and displacement of 95% of the Acholi population between 1996 and 2006 in northern Uganda.

The humanitarian crisis in South Sudan is of a far greater order of magnitude than the Ugandan northern crisis at its peak. This year, the estimated number of IDPs in South Sudan is estimated to be almost 2 million. Over a quarter million have fled the area and become refugees. The death toll from the inter-ethnic violence is enormous and almost 6 million suffer from different degrees of food insecurity. Nevertheless, due in part to the efforts of IC, the conflict with Kony’s LRA has received far more publicity in its waning years than the immensely more critical South Sudan crisis. Proportionality has not been a virtue in attending to the sensationalist horrific practices of the LRA.

When one watches IC films (possibly to be reviewed separately) or reads its literature, it seems to have connections with certain government agencies and NGOs, but not with others. Further, it ranks of boosterism. “Our protection and detection programs using the Early Warning Radio network, fliers, radio messaging and community sensitization have played a critical role in weakening the LRA fighting force alongside the pressure exerted upon the African Union supported by US forces.”

That is quite a boast. Not only has IC played a big role in saving lives, but “a critical role in weakening the LRA.” Try to find out what that role was, quite aside from its valuation as “critical.” Try even to find an independent evaluation of lives saved. Compare IC to Save the Children, the ninety-year-old NGO operating in 120 countries, including Uganda, where Save the Children ran survival and protection projects. Save the Children always explains its mission, mandate and the way it works in the six programs it has operated in Uganda, including child protection as a major one. In that latter area, it has a very broad approach in contrast to the narrow laser-like focus on simply protection from Joseph Kony of IC. Further, though Save the Children literature declares, “We save children’s lives. We fight for their rights. We help them fulfill their potential,” the quantitative and qualitative assessment of its success are evaluated by independent consultants. I could find no such process for IC. Save the Children never seems to declare that its role has been “critical” in saving lives. In the Save the Children literature, there are no self-inserted adjectives and adverbs.

“Critical” is an equivocal word. It is used both with respect to subjective assessments as well as to the status of the objective world. With respect to intellectual assessments, it is even more ambiguous. On the one hand, it means a negative evaluation, or, at the very least, an analysis that makes clear certain inadequacies. But it also refers to judgments about what is both good and bad in something, and evokes a sense of balance and fairness in analysis, rather than merely a negative or even biased evaluation. There is a parallel equivocation with respect to the use of the term in describing the objective world. On one hand, such as in the expression “a critical juncture,” the reference is to a significant turning point. On the other hand, as IC used the term, it wasn’t the juncture that was critical, but the self-appraisal of its own role evaluated as significant, and perhaps even indispensable, but with neither IC’s own data provided anywhere or that of independent assessors to verify that result.

Critical when applied to my work is either taken as a negative in my approach or, as I believe it to be, and as others have depicted it, as an attempt to be fair in my assessments showing both negative and positive elements in what I am examining. I would not claim, nor do I believe others would declare, that these series of blogs are important turning points in evaluating the world around me, let alone that they make a significant difference, and certainly not an indispensable one. My sense of IC is that it lacks a self-critical sensibility and does not employ an independent one. Further, their own evaluation of their work hypes its significance and even perhaps its indispensability.

There happens to be some objective data available based on surveys of former abductees who returned to Acholi. Though the rest either remained in captivity, died from disease or were killed in battle or by the LRA, it is estimated that 79% of male abductees and 92% of female abductees did return. Of those, the key factors were:

Escape             80%

Freed by LRA   15%

Rescued.             5%

The interviews with returnees indicated that they escaped when they were left unattended, or during the chaos of battle or during an ambush. The IC propaganda was not mentioned. Perhaps that was because the question was not asked. That may have been the case. Nevertheless, in narratives of returnees collected by anthropologists, the broadcasts or leaflets of IC are not mentioned. Perhaps the returnees spoke about the role and even significance of the broadcasts or the literature distributed, but the recorders did not think they were significant. The fact that such a reference was not even mentioned indicates that, at the very least, if IC efforts were mentioned, the reference did not make a strong impression on the interviewer, significant in itself since reference to the impact of media on an escape would be important and make a strong impression on an interviewer.

Did IC play any role let alone a significant or indispensable one in the rescue? Only the armed forces are given credit for rescues. Now all this may be academic nitpicking. But to make a claim, and to make it in a superlative form, not only without independent evidence, but in the face of contrary evidence, suggests that the value of IC was not in their effect on saving lives in Uganda and elsewhere, but in publicizing the plight of the abductees back in America. That may have been valuable enough, though its exact value also requires critical attention. IC’s literature is written in the tone of advertisements for itself when it boasts that the organization brought “life-saving work” to the threat of Joseph Kony.

What about the two other domestic parts of its program — helping to create a grassroots public pressure movement in the USA and influencing public policy with its complementary lobbying? The evidence for success in these two areas seems to be very strong. IC mastered the use of contemporary media to communicate a single message clearly and broadly, even if that message was criticized for casting the situation as simply a humanitarian one, at the expense of understanding the background politics, and of painting the situation as a moral war of good (the American grassroots and the interventionist role of the American government) versus evil (Kony and the LRA). When, as mentioned yesterday, there has been a recent shift abandoning grassroots organizing leaving only political lobbying in its mission after 2014, this suggests that in its own self-evaluation, lobbying was seen as far more important than organizing awareness and creating a grassroots public pressure movement, the very virtue that Samantha Power was so laudatory in praising IC.

What about its role in advocacy? The connection with the American government preceded the inauguration of Barack Obama as president. On 10 August 2007, Ben Keesey, CEO of IC, met with American ambassador, Steven Browning, and his officials in Kampala “to describe their efforts to provide to their audiences timely information on conditions in northern Uganda.” Innocent enough, except when the information is used both by the CIA and Ugandan intelligence services.

It is entirely a different matter when information provided by an NGO is used to repress non-violent dissent by the Acholi people in northern Uganda against the Museveni regime and when dissent is equated with armed rebellion and even with Kony’s criminal and morally repugnant behaviour. In a memo dated 11 June 2009, Kathleen FitzGibbon, the political affairs officer in the U.S. embassy in Kampala, wrote, “The Ugandan Government is investigating the latest attempt by Acholi Diaspora to mobilize support for a new rebellion in northern Uganda. The arrest of low level participants continues while the Government decides its next steps, which may include a public outing of Acholi Diaspora spoilers” exposed by an IC tip (my italics) “regarding the location of Patrick Komakec,” an LRA abductee branded by the Ugandan government as a former LRA child soldier who was reported by IC as being in Gulu, northern Uganda.

It is not as if the danger of abductions had passed at the time FitzGibbon wrote her memo. As the campaign geared up to finally eliminate the LRA, children continued to be abducted. In the same month that memo was written, on 24 June 2009, a security team from Uganda and the SPLA were reported as searching for six youths from Agoro and Madi-Opei in the Kitgum district of South Sudan. It was believed that they had been abducted from a market near Teretenya.

Patrick Komakec, whose presence in Uganda had been revealed either deliberately or inadvertently by IC, was not charged with abduction, but “was wanted by the security services for impersonating LRA leaders to extort money from government officials, NGOs, and Acholi leaders.” Assuming even that the charges were valid and not trumped up to silence a part of the political opposition, what business was it of IC, an American-based international NGO, to inform or provide information even on a fraudster. The alleged fraud had nothing to do with protecting and saving children. More significantly, any very preliminary knowledge of the Museveni regime, should have alerted IC that the charges against Komakec could have been made simply to silence a political opponent.

Based on names revealed by Komakec, presumably under torture, the Ugandan intelligence services conducted a sweep to arrest “suspects.” Most of them absolutely swore their innocence. Patrick Komakec and his associates were accused of trying to form a new version of the LRA, although the actual charges laid were for fraud not for treason. The Ugandan government also attempted to link this so-called new rebel group with Bishop John Baptist Odama, a highly respected Acholi religious leader who had always protested against military efforts by either side to resolve differences between Kampala and the north.

I do not know whether Jackie Komakec in Toronto is related to Patrick or how the various esteemed Komakecs originally from Uganda and now in the diaspora are related, but if Jackie is any indication, she has been a participant in a very different worldwide grassroots anti-Kony group that hold the Gulu Walk every year, but from the turnout I saw in Toronto, and the films they have posted on the internet about their efforts (for example, Gulu Walk in Toronto in 2009 or the one in Berlin in 2010), they have nowhere near the mastery of the media nor, correspondingly, the domestic impact in raising awareness, of IC.

What is the substance of IC’s advocacy? TIC is clearly on the side of military action by both the United States and Uganda. A 25 February 2009 memo from Ambassador Steven Browning noted that, “Invisible Children, a U.S.-based non-governmental organization, is planning pro-OLT [Operation Lightning Thunder] events under the theme ‘Kony Must Be Stopped. Rescue Our Children’,” suggesting a far more intimate relationship between IC, the Ugandan government and the U.S. government and the use of IC publicity to advertise the military program favourably.

Even without these leaked government memos, IC, as indicated, has not been without its critics. The criticisms have been made by Ugandan journalists who have long followed and certainly criticized the exploits of Joseph Kory and the LRA. Rosebell Kagumire was prominent among them. So was Dr. Beatrice Odongkara Mpora and Angelo Izama. To summarize the criticisms, they include:

  • Oversimplification
  • Distortions about Africa and its dependency on the West
  • The war misrepresented in terms of the forces of good versus evil
  • Over-personalization when the conflict was also about both resources and representation
  • The exploits of the LRA and Kony were not ignored before the media intervention of IC
  • Kony has been driven out of Uganda for the last nine years
  • IC seems naïve about the complex inter-ethnic history of Uganda, particularly the rivalry between the Luo (Acholi) and Baganda or Chwezi rulers toppled by the Acholi
  • IC advocacy of military intervention for ostensibly humanitarian reasons, seems either naive or willfully blind to American neo-colonial interests in the oil and mineral wealth of the DRC, South Sudan, and the strategic importance to the US of northern Uganda
  • Northern Ugandans have not been in IDP camps for nine years
  • Outsiders have played a very minor role in the rescue of children; IC, in particular, was not necessary to get the US military role to continue or to bring Kony before the ICC
  • The claim that, “due to increased awareness and global efforts to stop the group, the entire fighting force of the LRA has been reduced from approximately 1,000 at the end of the Juba peace talks in 2008 to an estimated 200 fighters in 2014” is a patent misrepresentation of the factors and forces that have decimated the LRA
  • IC’s attitude is patronizing
  • The process, as in Arab Spring, magnifies the role of social media considerably, especially by congratulating itself for starting a social revolution, and diminishes the far more important work on the ground by locals
  • Defeating Kony does not end the underlying problem
  • Policy shifts both in Africa and America have had little to do with IC
  • The general story of a helpless Africa without American support is a gross lie
  • The real current domestic problem is reconciliation
  • The real current inter-state problem is pacification of the region, not simply the elimination of Joseph Kony and the LRA

That is a long list of criticisms. Rebuttals can be provided to many. For example, IC was not the only organization that believed the LRA situation required a huge spotlight on it. In the same year that the three founders of IC first went to Africa, Jan Egeland (then the United Nations’ Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs), after visiting northern Uganda for only two days in November 2003, described the conflict between the LRA and the Ugandan government as the “biggest forgotten, neglected humanitarian emergency in the world.”

Overall, the IC has adopted the format of a Western with a focus on one bad guy as the source of evil. In that sense, the strategy of the right in America differs little from the strategy of the American left. Further, when Stop Kony came out, Kony and the LRA were already near their end. Critics called for a Stop Museveni campaign. Raising the awareness of college students about Joseph Kony has not only not been a sufficient cause in the depreciation of Kony, it has not even been a necessary factor according to Andrew Harding, the BBC Africa correspondent.

Mobilizing more, galvanizing more, getting more people to pay attention and to participate, in fact, played only an infinitesimally small role in the destruction of Joseph Kony and the LRA. Further, perpetuating the belief that online activism can change the course of international politics is not only naïve, but terribly misleading, especially when it suggests that the LRA has recruited 30,000 abducted children when this is the estimated total of abductees over almost 30 years. (See Michael Wilson’s critique in Foreign Policy.) The Council on Foreign Relations also accused IC of both exaggeration and manipulation. Michael Diebert, author of Democratic Republic of Congo: Between Hope and Despair, echoed these criticisms and chastised IC for its silence on the human rights abuses of the Uganda and South Sudan governments.

IC has also been criticized for a less than stellar reputation on Charity Navigation, an independent assessor of charities. However, an examination of the financial report of IC indicates that IC operates well within the norms of charities undertaking similar types of activism, whether with respect to the percentage of expenditures on administration, accountability and transparency criteria. In the latter areas, IC deservedly received a 100% approval rating.

While I acknowledge IC’s role in raising awareness, I am also critical of its narrow focus much as American Sniper only saw Iraq through Kyle’s rifle scope. This links up right wing and left wing activism in their narrow-minded moral frameworks, their personification of politics and their polarizing issues into the forces of good against the forces of evil. Most significantly, as indicated above, IC was accused of providing an intelligence tip to Uganda’s security service leading to the arrest of regime opponents. As distinct from its initial criticisms of the Ugandan government for inaction, IC has cooperated with Uganda and South Sudan in its film-making and awareness campaigns. The U.S. has been aware of Museveni’s efforts to link opponents of the regime with the LRA and thereby demonize them. Most significantly, IC may now be effectively acting as a propaganda arm of the Uganda government. Jolly Okot, who runs IC’s Gulu office, seems to have been an apologist for the OLT military campaign of the Ugandan government. Most interesting, IC has been unavailable to comment on such criticisms.

IC is certainly not the only NGO that inflates its own importance. IC is certainly not the only NGO that ignores politics in the emphasis on its humanitarian work, but IC seems to do so by going to the opposite extreme of providing an advertisement program for the Museveni government policies in dealing with the north. IC is also not the only NGO to inadvertently provide information to an oppressive government. I believe that IC has been led by sincere, well-intentioned and highly committed individuals who have sacrificed a great deal. But I have become convinced over the years that, as the cliché goes, the road to hell has often been paved with good intentions. Surely, the harm an organization causes must be weighed against its benefits.

What has been Samantha Power’s responsibility for all of this? She too has exhibited a similar level of naiveté, a similar level of lack of self-critique, a similar level of over-estimating the importance of grassroots movements. This is not simply guilt by association. This is guilt by reflection and identification. To make this explicit, I will examine two specific issues of double violation and suffering, the victimization of former abductees by organizations such as IC when IC takes the credit for the abductee’s salvation; former abductees deserve most of the credit. IC has also provided unstinting support for the International Criminal Court when the ICC, too, in its single-minded pursuit of justice, has been guilty of being complicit in victimization.

Next: Victimizing Acholi Abductees by NGOs and the ICC

XI: Samantha Power, Invisible Children and Joseph Kony

XI: Samantha Power, Invisible Children and Joseph Kony

by

Howard Adelman

There is one area where there has been real progress in reducing atrocities – the changing status of the marauding, plundering, abducting and murderous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) led by Joseph Kony. Defections of personnel from the LRA are way up; the number of atrocities is way down. A week ago (14.01.2015), the last of Joseph Kony’s lieutenants alive, 34-year-old Dominic Ongwen, originally a 10-year old LRA abductee, was handed over to Ugandan troops in the Central African Republic. He is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, and, since his capture, he has been transferred to the ICC.

It is still unclear whether Ongwen defected to U.S. Special Forces troops working in collaboration with Ugandan army units or was captured by Mounir Ahmat, commander of the Central African Republic’s (CAR) mostly Muslim Seleka rebel group. The latter claimed they had captured Ongwen near the eastern town of Sam Ouandja when he was trying to escape and Mounir claimed the $5 million U.S. reward on offer since 2013. The U.S. forces said that Ongwen defected. Uganda, which initially wanted to try him, under pressure, agreed to transfer him to the ICC that had issued his arrest warrant in 2005. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni conceded that the LRA had also committed atrocities in neighbouring countries and, therefore, Ongwen should face international justice.

Last year, Okot Odhiambo, then LRA’s second in command, was killed in CAR by African Union forces near the town of Djema, On 12 May 2012, Caesar Achellam was captured by the Ugandan military in the CAR. In 2011, “Brigadier” Bok Abudema was killed by the Ugandan army. Vincent Otti was killed on Kony’s orders in November 2007 for wanting to sign the peace deal offered by the Ugandan government and that he, Otti, had personally negotiated. In August 2006, the first of Kony’s lieutenants to be taken out was killed by the Ugandan army just before Kony signed a Cessation of Hostilities agreement that initiated two years of peace talks. After the collapse of the peace negotiations, the LRA left Uganda and never returned.

As background, the north and south of Uganda have been at odds throughout the colonial period with a de facto peace imposed by the British by allowing the Acholi in the north to predominate in the army and the Buganda in the south to become predominant in the civil service and the professions. Between Idi Amin’s assumption of rule in 1971, when he and his West-Nilers overthrew the democratic government made almost impotent by north-south divisions, until he himself was overthrown in 1979, 300,000 Ugandans had been slaughtered by his regime. However, the 1979 intervention by Tanzanian troops backing former Prime Minister Milton Obote in partnership with General Tito Okello leading an army of purged Acholi ex-soldiers, the Uganda National Liberation Front/Army (UNLF/A), proved to be even more murderous than Idi Amin. Frustrated by the lack of peace and reconciliation, in July 1985 Okello led a revolt that overthrew Obote only to be overthrown in turn six months later by Yoweri Museveni’s combination of Bugandans and Rwandan Tutsis.

Now, neither the government nor the army had a significant presence of Acholi after a short period in which they had dominated both. Disaffected Acholi soldiers returned north and became engaged in a struggle with tribal elders who viewed the soldiers as “contaminated’ by the spirits of their dead enemies. Modernity vied with traditionalism only to yield to the leadership of a charismatic Joan of Arc, Alice Auma (Lakwena), a spiritualist claiming to have been possessed by a dead Italian general. Alice rallied both ex-soldiers and elders behind the reconstituted Holy Spirit Mobile Forces (HSMF), or Holy Spirit Movement (HSM), that initially had considerable success against Museveni’s Ugandan National Resistance Army. The HSM with its new-found discipline and messianic fervour (the resurrection of Jesus Christ had been promised), in spite of its initial victories, was decisively defeated in November 1987 after coming within 50 km of Kampala.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, taking advantage of both the defeat of Alice Lakwena whose spirit he claimed to have inherited, and the availability of disaffected former soldiers who refused to accede to the peace agreement between northern insurgents and the new Ugandan army, Joesph Kony initiated his so-called rebellion. He was aided and abetted by the continuing alienation of northern Uganda from the Yoweri Museveni regime. The LRA (originally the United Holy Salvation Army/Uganda Christian Army/Movement) under Joseph Kony emerged as a dangerous extremist Christian cult that kidnapped children and sent fear throughout the Acholi people who populated the north of Uganda. Supported initially by the Sudanese government in Khartoum, which then viewed Museveni as an upstart who aided the rebellious south Sudanese, the LRA’s ostensible purpose was the overthrow of Museveni. However, the primary victims of its campaign of pillaging, rape and abductions were the Acholi people. The latter were caught between the LRA, which they learned to fear, and the Museveni regime, which they loathed.

Though the LRA was both a spiritualist and an evangelical Christian organization as well as a personality cult, with the support of Sudan it also developed a strong political agenda, but its methods of intimidation and maiming, mutilations and abductions soon alienated Kony from the local Acholi population and eventually Khartoum. After failed peace talks that began in 1994 and a resumption of the war, in 2002, Museveni decided to bring the LRA reign of terror in the north to an end by launching a full-scale military action to hunt Kony down. He had obtained the agreement of the Sudanese government to allow Ugandan troops to invade southern Sudan in Operation Iron Fist. However, Kony counterattacked against IDP camps and escaped the pincer efforts of the government. Mediation in 2004 by both the Carter Centre in Atlanta and Pope John Paul II failed. Subsequently, Joseph Kony was made an international pariah, having been accused of crimes against humanity by the ICC. In 2005, the U.S. placed Joseph Kony on a list of most wanted terrorists. By 2006, UNICEF estimated that in the previous 15 years, the LRA had abducted 25,000 children (many became kadogo – child soldiers) and others estimated numbers as high as 60,000 including porters, sex slaves, etc. 95% of the Acholi population was living in over 200 IDP camps in the north of Uganda in February of that year, in part to protect them and in part to deprive Kony of a support base. Initially, a UN special forces operation to capture Kony failed abysmally at a cost of 8 Guatemalan commandos.

Peace talks began in 2006 and lasted until the end of 2008. As with previous efforts, they also ended in failure, according to Kony, because he and his lieutenants were not promised amnesty from the charges laid by the ICC. Operation Lightning Thunder (OLT) was then launched by Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), CAR and Sudan. The U.S. supplied intelligence and logistical support. Kony escaped. Led by Dominic Ongwen, the LRA attacked villages in DRC on 24 December 2008, killing 865 civilians and abducting 160 more over the next several weeks. Just before the next Christmas in 2009, the LRA launched attacks in the northeast of DRC in the Makombo region, killing 321 and abducting 250. Human Rights Watch broke the news three months later.

Since then, however, as described in the third paragraph above, the whole of the command structure of the LRA has been eliminated. The only leader of the LRA left is Joseph Kony himself, the former Catholic altar boy, athlete (he played football) and reputedly brilliant dancer. He survives with an estimated 200 followers hiding in northeastern CAR. He is being hunted down by four African armies supported by 100 U.S. special forces troops, Navy Seals, who were featured in the movie American Sniper, reviewed last week. As I will try to make clear, this is not the only overlap between the Kony story and that of Chris Kyle, the top American sniper in American military history. However, unlike Iraq, the U.S. special forces in CAR only provide logistical, medical, training and intelligence support. In March 2014, the mission obtained four V-22 Ospreys and the total force authorized was expanded to 300, though evidently only 150 have been deployed.

Can Samantha Power (SP) and/or Barack Obama claim any credit? After all, when SP was Obama’s adviser on reducing atrocities, in May 2010, President Obama signed the “Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Recovery Act” that authorized the deployment of U.S. troops to the region. Obama said to the Invisible Children (IC), an activist group launched to bring attention to LRA atrocities and in attendance when the bill was signed, “We have seen your reporting, your websites, your blogs, and your video postcards—you have made the plight of the children visible to us all.” Obama gave IC enormous credit. Samantha Power had been an active promoter and backer of IC.

The first American military units arrived in October 2011. There is evidence that suggests that SP deserves some and perhaps considerable credit. After all, she has over the years been the main spokesperson arguing that NGOs who engage in activism and pressure their government are the main, if not the exclusive determinants, of foreign policy. This theme was echoed both in what she said and who she addressed in her first speech after she was named UN ambassador.

On 10 August 2013, SP addressed the Fourth Estate Leadership Summit in Los Angeles sponsored by Invisible Children (IC), the anti-Kony activist group credited by Obama. IC was started in 2004 by Bobby Bailey, Laren Poole and Jason Russell. Since then, IC has campaigned to stop the LRA warlord, Joseph Kony. Convinced (erroneously) that the world was unaware of the havoc of the LRA and Joseph Kony, they produced their first film, Invisible Children: Rough Cut. SP said, “Invisible Children doesn’t just lobby policymakers to go after the LRA, it designs fliers that tell LRA fighters how they might defect, and it distributes them – more than 400,000 so far – into LRA-affected areas in DRC and the Central African Republic…It has also built six locally-run FM radio stations in areas of high LRA activity. These stations now reach an audience covering more than 29,000 square miles.” For example, Radio Zereda (Zereda means peace in Zande) in Obo, broadcasts advice and information on UN camps and appeals by former abductees, such as Emmanuel Daba, to help those trying to flee the LRA.

If defections are way up and IC has had a significant responsibility for that result, and if SP has been a major champion of IC, then surely she deserves considerable credit for the diminution of the LRA threat. For IC’s effects went further. After all, the activism operates on two fronts – in the education of politicians in Washington and in the information spread in the field to undermine Joseph Kony. Further, there is a double effect in America for the media campaign in Africa reverberates back on the politics and policies in Washington.

In 2012, IC produced a video, Stop Kony, that went viral with more than 5 million views. It became the number one topic on Twitter, multiplied many times over by Facebook references. IC made a follow-up film, Beyond Kony, emphasizing post-conflict reconstruction. Yet, although the LRA was on its last legs, the objectives of IC remained, not only to publicize the evils about LRA, but also to pressure the U.S. government “To intervene militarily in Central Africa.” At the end of 2014, when IC announced that it was ending the bulk of its mass mobilization programs, it remained committed to the priority of political advocacy in America and its on-the-ground programs in Africa. When the poster child for grass roots political pressure, as both the necessary and sufficient cause of policy change, throws grass roots organizing out the window, the delusionary belief in its efficaciousness should be thrown out with it.

IC started making films about Joseph Kony and the abductees back in 2004. High school students in Massachusetts sent one of the films to their Senator. He and his colleagues then wrote a law directed at the LRA and modelled on the rewards offered for narco-traffickers. President Obama signed that anti-LRA bill in 2010 that created a rewards program to bring Kony and his thugs to justice. That Senator from Massachusetts was John Kerry who is now the Secretary of State. Based on that law, the State Department offered rewards of up to $5 million that lead to the arrest of LRA leaders.

In addition to its first 2004 film and famous 2012 film, Stop Kony, IC has produced many other films such as: Innocent: The Story of a Night (2005); Groce: The Story of a Child Mother (2006); and The Story of an Orphan (2006). Further, IC has won numerous awards over the years for its films:

  • 2007 Progressive Source Awards for best fundraising podcast
  • 2008 Human Security Award
  • 2008 People’s Voice Webby Award
  • 2008 American Advertisement Federation award
  • 2008 Summit Creative Award for its School for Schools and its Display Me websites
  • 2009 Interactive Media Award for The Rescue website
  • 2009 nominated for the Think Social Award
  • 2010 and 2011 Stay Classy Award for Most Effective Awareness
  • 2011 LRA Crisis Tracker for MediaPost Creative Media Filmography Award
  • 2013 Digital Campaign of the Year Award for Interactive Media

In an open letter IC sent to SP after she became ambassador to the UN concerning Joseph Kony, the following appeal was made:

Joseph Kony has been committing war crimes and crimes against humanity for nearly 30 years. And this month marks the nine year anniversary of his indictment by the International Criminal Court. But Kony still remains at large and the fact that he has, quite literally, gotten away with mass murder for this long is completely unacceptable. We know you agree.

We also know that for the last few years, Kony has regularly received safe haven in the Sudanese-controlled region of Kafia Kingi, but this area is largely out of the reach of African Union and U.S. forces that are pursuing him.

Most importantly, we know that you are among the few people who can do something about it. Ambassador Power, you, along with nine other U.S. and world leaders, have the unique power to help end Kony’s impunity and finally stop decades of LRA violence. We’re asking you to publicly reaffirm your commitment to bringing Kony to justice and stopping LRA violence.

More specifically, your commitment to stopping LRA violence must include the following actions during the upcoming U.S. Security Council Briefing on the LRA crisis:

Ask the new UN special envoy on the LRA, Mr. Abdoulaye Bathily, direct questions about what the UN is doing to prevent Kony from a) enjoying safe haven in the Sudanese-controlled Kafia Kingi enclave and b) poaching elephants in D.R. Congo.

–Ensure that the UN Security Council’s statement on the LRA in response to the briefing highlights deep concern about Kony’s safe haven and elephant poaching by the LRA, and clearly directs the UN to do more to address these issues.

Thank you for all that you’ve already done to help end LRA violence and arrest Joseph Kony. We’re so grateful for your committed leadership on this issue. With these additional actions, you can help us make sure the 10-year anniversary of Joseph Kony’s ICC indictment is a celebration of justice — not only for Kony, but also for the millions that have been affected by his crimes.

The letter clearly acknowledges SP’s past influence on and efforts on behalf of the campaign of IC to capture Joseph Kony and beseeches her to do more now that she is the American ambassador to the UN. SP clearly comes across as the go-to person in the Obama administration with respect to Joseph Kony, even though John Kerry, the Secretary of State, authored the bill that created the reward program for capturing Kony and his lieutenants. To what extent can SP claim and be awarded credit for the decline in the LRA?

Tomorrow: Samantha Power and the Diminution of the LRA