Invisible Children urges Congressional action

A group of students from the Geneseo chapter of Invisible Children met with Congressman Christopher Lee's regional director to urge support for the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.

The bill attempts to respond to the terrorization of communities in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo by the LRA. According to lobbyist group Resolve Uganda, the LRA has been attacking civilians and abducting tens of thousands of children throughout central Africa for over 20 years.

The bill has two initiatives. The first is to stop the violent attacks of the LRA by apprehending top LRA leaders including Joseph Kony, who holds no political power but claims to have spiritual powers and has perpetrated the activities of the LRA for years. The second part of the bill calls for the United States to assist with recovery efforts in northern Uganda, which has been most affected by the ongoing conflict.

On Christmas Day in 2008, LRA forces attacked and killed over 200 Congolese civilians, drawing outrage. The LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act was introduced on May 19, 2009 and passed by Unanimous Consent in the Senate on March 10 of this year. The fate of the bill now rests in the House of Representatives, where Lee will have a vote.

Invisible Children is a non-profit organization that was created following the release of the documentary Invisible Children, which examines the abduction and enlistment of children by the LRA. The Geneseo chapter of the organization was founded a year and a half ago.

Senior Brendan Murphy, a member of Invisible Children, said he wrote a letter to Lee's office shortly after the bill passed in the Senate. Assisted by the resources of Amnesty International, members of Invisible Children drafted an estimated 40 letters to the office encouraging Lee to co-sponsor the legislation.

According to Lee's regional director Paul Cole, the Geneseo chapter of Invisible Children has been the first to approach Lee regarding this bill. Ten members of the club visited with Cole on Tuesday to explain the bill and their support of it. According to Murphy, Cole expressed concern that the wording of the bill may be too vague and that control over the situation in Uganda is more directly influenced by the U.S. State Department than by Congress. Murphy said that while it seemed unlikely that Lee will co-sponsor the bill, they still hope he casts a "yes" vote when the bill comes to the floor.

"We're going to see if other organizations - like Invisible Children on other campuses - will join us in supporting the bill," said senior Katelyn Palumbo, another member of Invisible Children. "Even though the conflict is in Africa, we want Congressman Lee to know that this is such a personal issue to many people here [in his district]."

"I think a lot of positive support for the bill will help get [Lee] to vote 'yes,'" Murphy said.