Tuesday, March 13 from 1-2pm ET / 10-11am PT
Amnesty International USA hosted a chat on the #Kony2012 campaign. In the span of just a few days, Invisible Children’s Kony Campaign generated an avalanche of attention on Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony. But Kony is but one fugitive from justice among many, operating in a region faced with systemic human rights challenges requiring effective and transformative action.
Awareness is an important first step. But we need to stop ALL the Konys of the world. How can we pool our efforts to stop those responsible for the world’s worst crimes? How can we make sure weapons don’t end up in the hands of other Konys? How can we work with local communities to ensure justice is served?
Chat live with our experts Adotei Akwei, Director of Government Relations and International Advocacy, and Scott Edwards, Director of the Tactical Response Unit on what you can do to stop all the Konys of the world.
Amnesty: For some background, check out Scott Edward's recent blog post "#Kony2012 and the Warping Logic of Atrocity" http://blog.amnestyusa.org/waronterror/kony2012-and-the-warping-logic-of-atrocity/
Amnesty: Hello everyone, welcome to the chat! Let me start by introducing myself, I'm Kyra with Amnesty and will be your moderator.
Amnesty: Our experts who will be answering your questions are Adotei Akwei, Director of Government Relations and International Advocacy, and Scott Edwards, Director of the Tactical Response Unit. .
Amnesty/Scott: Hi, all. A pleasure to be here with so many interested on this topic.
Amnesty/Adotei: Hi Everyone, My name is Adotei and I am the Managing Director for Gvernment Relations. .
Amnesty: We've already gotten a bunch of great questions from you! We'll try to get to as many as we can between 1-2pm. .
Amnesty: Keep submitting your questions above. We'll start with one about the Kony2012 campaign. .
Q: What is your opinion on the Invisible Children KONY2012 campaign?
A/Adotei: Hi TC.
A/Adotei: Hi TC Amnesty does not "support" or "not support" the Kony 2012 Campaign. We see the opportunity of increased public awareness due to the campaign to draw attention to specific actions that can help stop human rights abuses in the regime. Our chat will provide the opportunity to talk about our work in the region for the past few decades and how you can make a difference. Additionally, we believe that efforts to arrest Joseph Kony should be led by the governments of the countries in the region where the LRA operates, not by the US armed forces. Learn more: www.amnestyusa.org.
Q: Kony 2012 Campaign: If the campaign serves it's purpose and we can raise the gouvernment's awareness to this issue, what kind of measurements of the gouvernments do you think will be taken in order to stop Kony? And what other options then war do exist?
A/Adotei: Hi Larissa, If this campaign does what it should do, it should build pressure and the political will to strengthen the rule of law and accountability in countries like the DRCF, Uganda, the Central African Republic , Sudan and South Sudan to begin with. This will not only improve the chances of apprehending people like Kony, and sadly there are numerous others but it will be an important step in changing the behavior of people be it in armed groups or national security forces who commit human rights abuses and provide the justification for people to take up arms and become like the LRA.
Another issue is disarming, demobilizing and rehabilitating children who have already been conscripted. Their lives cannot and should just not tossed away. Too many of the governments in the region of Central Africa do not have strong programs to help these children rebuild their lives and become productive, healthy individuals. Those are some of the measure that governments there and here should be held accountable to.
Q: Hey there, I am curious about what kinds of ideas Amnest International has to establishing sustainable solutions to human rights violations? I find that if we just eliminate threats the underlying structural problems that countries face still exist and may produce other "Konys".
A/Scott: I think that is right, Jtansey. There are indeed structural problems--from security, to development issues and infrastructure, and state capacity. but one thing we do recognize as a clear and sustainable solution is a system of justice and rule of law to deal with abuses. Until there is accountability and justice for victims, we can't readily expect deterrence.
Q: Is there audio for this chat or just written comments?
A/Amnesty: There is no audio, all questions will be answered in this dialogue box.
Q: I'm concerned about sexual slavery, especially involving children. the campaign seems to focus mostly on children abducted into the LRA. i'd like to know more about this aspect and see more focus on that too.
A/Adotei: Hi Linda The issue of sexual slavery of children as well as women is extremely pressing. There are several ways that people can try to help and support people and children in the region: we can of course try to address the factors that drive conflicts and allow people with weapons to commit human rigthts abuses and this would mean ending the unregulated flow of small arms. The other is to build up institutions and systems that protect the rights of individuals including the most vulnerable like children. This campaign has highlighted the issue of child soldiers who also face sexual abuse . But we need to make that awareness broader to address children who are trafficked outside of conflict zones.
Q: Aren't there downsides to IC's use of data and pictures that are out of date, and fail to accurately depict the state of the conflict TODAY?
A/Scott: Hi, Joel: The ICC is a court like any other, with rules and processes for the submission of evidence. I should point out that the arrest warrants for the LRA aren't based on recent activities. As for what Kony, Otti, Odhiambo, Ongwen, and Lukwiya were charged for by the ICC: The prosecutor said that it had recorded at least 2,200 killings and 3,200 abductions between July 2002 and June 2004, in over 850 attacks. The LRA allegedly attacked and pillaged communities in Uganda and Southern Sudan, killing thousands of men, women, boys and girls from different communities, destroying villages and camps and abducting thousands of individuals, especially children. That’s just the 2 years of crimes leading to the arrest warrants. Of course, since then, the destruction to lives and livelihoods has grown.
Q: Does anyone actually know where Kony's whereabouts are today?
A/Scott: Hi, sunshine. I certainly don't know. The LRA became a regional problem in the mid-90’s after it started receiving support from the Sudanese government. Khartoum provided weapons and ammunition, military training, and bases in South Sudan to the LRA in return for LRA attacks against the SPLA and UPDF in Uganda. There were peace negotiations in 2008, but at the last minute Kony refused to sign, citing fears that he would be handed over to the ICC. In late 2008, the Ugandan army, (with support from the U.S.) launched Operation Lightning Thunder in the DRC, causing the LRA to scatter into smaller units around the region.
A/Scott: As to where the LRA Units are operational, I’ve crudely drawn this map. It is very rough (my hand isn’t steady with the mouse), but note that the LRA is not active in Uganda.
Q: What can be done on an individual level to combat the war criminals/Kony's of the world, and how can this translate into a collective effort that minimizes transaction costs and maximizes the amount of support people on the ground are actually receiving? This seems to be one of the main issues with IC. .
Amnesty: While we're waiting for an answer to most recent question, feel free to read Scott recent blog post on Kony2012 : blog.amnestyusa.org.
A/Scott: Hi, Eline--to combat the most egregious crimes, we have to take action where impunity reigns.The ICC can and should be an effective court to secure justice for the most egregious crimes. In order for that to happen, there must be investigations, however. Which requires countries to adopt the Rome statute, and support the work of the court in pursuing investigations. It requires the diplomatic support of countries on the security council, which can refer situations to the ICC, even if the state in question isn’t a party to Rome.
Russia and China—much in the way they responded initially to action on the UN Security Council to refer Darfur to the ICC—vetoed an ICC referral for horrific crimes in Syria.
We’re calling on the Russian government in particular to step up, which they’ve miserably failed to do as of yet. http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid=517378.
A/Scott: The ICC isn’t the only path to secure justice…it is where the path ends when no other actor will end impunity for the worst crimes.
Indeed, the state actors where the crimes occurred, or where the suspects are nationals of that state are the primarily obligated parties to secure justice. In many places, that isn’t politically easy, and it requires other governments to step up, and use their diplomatic influence to see justice. As a good example, our members are asking Sec. Clinton to pressure for investigations and prosecutions for egregious war crimes at the end of the 09 Sri Lankan conflict.
Q: It seems to me that if we are to urge the US to withold military aid to governments, we whould also urge the Obama Administration to withdraw US military advisers from Uganda.
A/Adotei: Under the Child Soldier Prevention Act, the Administration is supposed to freeze or withhold military assistance to countries that do not make credible efforts to address the issue of child soliders. The law does allow the US to grant waivers under certain conditions. AI supports the efforts to bring Kony to justice, we do not have a position on the deployment of Special forces. what we do oppose is "regular business as usual" military sales and exchanges, implictly condoning practices including recruting child soldiers.
Q: Is military intervention on humanitarian grounds the only real option in some failed states in sub-Saharan Africa?
A/Scott: Amnesty takes no position on military intervention, and whatever the case, there is no reason we would expect the answer to be unique to sub-Saharan Africa. There are obvious risks in the use of force, and often, civilians suffer as a result. Whether a military intervention, or operations by national government, those operations--even to execute an ICC arrest warrant--must be conducted with adherence to international humanitarian law. It is less a matter of "justification," and more an issue of how operations are conducted. AI has documented gross human rights abuses my security forces in the region, over and over.
Q: What is the most effective action I can take right now, on my own, to have an impact on reducing the LRA's power, stopping the Kony's of the world, and generally helping communitites in Africa rebuild their infrastructure to support the health and well being of individuals (especially children)?
Amnesty: Great question Catherine. We have a new action up now on child soldiers. While the United States is supporting efforts to apprehend Joseph Kony, it must also ensure that other armed groups and governments in the region cease recruiting child soldiers and help rehabilitate the children who are already soldiers: takeaction.amnestyusa.org.
Q: As Roger Cohen has put it in an OpEd in today's NYTimes raising awareness is key, and the means, using "New Media" surely helps. We need to keep finding new ways to "shine the light". Our movement, grassroots, aligns well with such tactics, so we need to do a better job of this.
Amnesty: Great point SteveByTheBay
Amnesty: How is support afforded to Kony? Can't something be done to remove that support and simply take the wind out of his actions? Not saying that his apprehension is not also paramount.
A/Scott: Just a quick note on child soldiering: According to Amnesty’s research, child soldiers are actively involved in conflict in government forces or non-state armed groups in 19 countries since 2004. The problem is most critical in Africa where children as young as nine have been involved in armed conflicts. Children are, however, used as soldiers in all regions of the world and in almost every country where there is armed conflict.
A/Adotei: That is the big question mark. Kony is the tip of a much larger problem While he must face justice as an indiviual, eliminating himn ignores all of the factors that created him and allowed the LRA to survive for so long. These include regulating small arms - we need a bullet proof ATT, strengthening the rule of law in these countries - thaty means pushing government to behavie properly and bringing high profile crimainlas like Kony to justice to set the example that this kind of behaviouor is not permissalbe. Removing Kony will only make space for the next person.
Q: I am struck by the amount of attention that this video has raised, when the LRA has been operating in Uganda and neighboring countries for nearly three decades. Do you see any negative impact that this video has on resolving the conflict, specifically making the awareness about the issue trendy and then people losing interest before real action is taken?
A/Scott: As mentioned, Kony broke off negotiations in 2008 for fear of being turned over to the ICC. One could surmise that the attention would reaffirm that perception of his. But at the end, he ultimately must face trial at the Hauge. As for moving from "trendy" to yesterday's news, there is no shortage of work to be done in securing justice for the gravest of crimes. What we much each do is capture this energy, and agitate for impact. There are many Kony's, and the first step to securing justice is a commitment to engage, and not in a passive way.
Q: I apologize for my ignorance, but what is the ATT?
Amnesty: The ATT = Arms Trade Treaty. Learn more: http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/military-police-and-arms/arms-trade
Q: I see the online amnesty action is directed at President Obama. Should American citizens be contacting their other elected officials? Are they in a position to help increase diplomatic pressure?
A/Adotei: In addition to asking the President to fully enforce the Child Soldier Prevention Act , we can ask our elected officials to do a couple of things, first they should be calling on the administration to fight for a "Bullet Proof Arms Trade Treaty, to govern the trade in small arms and ammunition. This treaty will be adopted in July at the UN and right now no one seems to care that it does not have strong human rights criteria to guide whether a sale or transfer should go forward. Worse some people are trying to portray this treaty as taking away US gun rights which it will not touch. Second Congress has to be made aware that US assistance can play an important in building the rule of law and respect for human rights. These are the fundamentals that the US his historically been willing to support and must do so again.
Amnesty: As a follow up, learn more about child soldiers on our site: http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/children-s-rights/child-soldiers
Q: I notice you had talked about apprehending Kony. How could this be done without resulting in the deaths of many of the LRA's child soldiers?
A/Scott: Indeed, we are very concerned about the risk forcibly recruited children (many of whom are no longer children face). This concern is two fold: first, the Ugandan forces and other govnt forces have been responsible for abuses *toward* LRA members. All operations--even with the lofty goal of securing justice--must be conducted in accordance with international law. Under that law, a child cannot be considered an legitimate target. Secondly-children who've been forcibly recruited, as well as women and girls who've been kidnapped, need services to address trauma. The damage of the LRA extends even further than the thousands killed, and hundreds of thousands displaced. The lives of the survivors must be rebuilt. That must be a local endeavor, supported by the international community.
Amnesty: Poll: Quick Poll: Who do you think has the best chance to put an end to the recruitment of child soldiers? International treaties or bodies like the International Criminal Court
legislation like the proposed Arms Trade Treaty designed to limit the transfer of weapons to people likely to commit human rights abuses public awareness campaigns like Kony2012 (etc) working with local communities (education) .
Q: What do you see as the main flaws to the KONY 2012 campaign? What is your view on "slacktivism"?
A/Scott: "Slacktivism" is the minimizing term for the way many people--not just slackers--engage on various issues. I'm sympathetic. There is so much information out there, and so many causes on can engage on, it makes sense that the process of becoming deeply engaged on a particular human rights issue or a particular region of the world is daunting. But devoting one's time to a particular HR issue, and truly agitating for change, is rewarding. And having access to the wealth of information AI provides has allowed me to shed my slacker roots.
Q: You make good point about the need to support the governments in the region solving these problems. Is there a good source for following what the African Union is doing in the region?
A/Adotei: The AU has a website and it has representatives to the UN who are based in New York and to the US ,who are here in Washington. The AU is central to addressing issues ike Kony, child soliders chlld trafficking in Africa and the issue of small arms. We can and must do what we can to encourage and support credible efforts from the AU while also pushing member states, who are the actually the working parts, to do their job and address these issues. For that the ambassadors of these countries should be communicated with, regularly.
A/Adotei: By the way, hi Christine!
Q: I have has a privillaged to work with former Child soldiers in northern Uganda and southern Sudan. The main problem I have faced is ingnorace. The same way we over came HIV AIDS, the same we can help these. Victims of LRA. I wish we could see more educational programmes to help with the rehabilitation
Amnesty: Great point Paul. Education is key.
Amnesty: Quick note: We're have a ton of questions to get through so we're trying to post questions we're seeing a lot of.
Q: What do you think the implications of the militarization of the area are--is sending US troops to train the Ugandan army the best solution? Would the the flood of arms into the area cause more harm, since the Ugandan army is also known for human rights violations? Kony is a criminal but Museveni and the Ugandan army are also criminals and I wish Invisible Children would highlight that it's not just about catching Kony...Do you feel that the Kony 2012 Campaign offers too simplistic a solution for the complex issues at hand? I personally am concerned about the fact that giving arms and training to the Ugandan government could also cause backlash (like what happened in 2009 with Operation Lightning Thunder)? How can we support sustainable peace?
Amnesty: Very complex question Ann Mai! Scott is working on answering this one.
A/Scott: One of the criticisms of the Kony2012 campaign has been that it is too simplistic. And, of course, I would offer that relying on the reporting from an org like AI that has the resources to develop the policy proscriptions to address that complexity is so important. The ATT action, the action targeting the USG to stop military support for states that recruit children, and pressuring the Congoloese to reform the justice sector are just a few examples of how multiple asks feed into each other to address that complexity.
Q: Has AI done any cooperative work with IC in the past? As an organization devoted to stopping the recruitment of child soldiers, one would think that Amnesty would be right by Invisible Children's side. And in either case, does Amnesty have a stance when it comes to the (pretty controversial) criticism that IC has been receiving as of late?
A/Adotei: AIUSA has been working on child soldiers and on Uganda for over 20 years. The Chlld Soldier coalition here in the US has dozens of members whom we interact with directly and indirectly.
Q: The poll is fluctuating but it seems that consistently most folks agree that working with local communities (education) is the best way to end recruitment of child soldiers. Community reconciliation can mean many things but what individuals or groups in Ugandan are already doing work like this in a positive manner with accordance with international law?
Amnesty: Yes Derwin, we agree working with local communities is crucial. I'll let Scott and Adotei follow up.
A/Scott: Hi, Derwin...there are indeed many groups operating in Uganda on rehabilitation. AI supports those local efforts, and seeks to ensure they have the right environment to do their work (eg, no govnt interference, unjust laws, etc). Part of that support, however, means we don't name those local groups--it is their agency, and we don't want to complicate their work by using their names, while at the same time we call out the government for it's wrongdoings. there is risk there. But the World Bank and other IGO's have tons of data on that service provision, yes in Uganda specificvally. .
Q: The US could recognize the International Criminal Court, that would help
Amnesty: Good point MacGredor Eddy. We're pushing them to: www.amnestyusa.org.
Q: You keep mentioning the Trauma that these have been and are being inflicted on the children that are forced to be soldiers, and how feasible is it to expect the barley stable states of Central Africa to handle the socioeconomic trauma that has been done, but individual physiological trauma that is most likely rampant amongst the children soilders?
A/Scott: While the next question is being answered, I just want to note that tomorrow has the potential to be a momentous day for the ICC and international justice. The LRA indictments were the first for the court, but tomorrow concludes the court’s first trial. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, was indicted for abducting, conscripting, and using children under the age of 15 in armed hostilities in his role as the alleged leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots . The ICC will make its decision on the charges against Lubanga tomorrow, and the completion of the ICC’s first trial is a landmark moment in the history of the Court.
A/Adotei: These are not easy choices but we have to realize thaty rebuilding form conlfict is much harder if adeqate resources are not directed toeards rebuilding the lives of former combatants as productive citizen.
Q: Is a State like the US, whitch didn't even notify the convention on the rights of the child or the Rome Statute of the ICC, the right one to seek justice in front of the ICC for these crimes? Shouldnt the US focus on ratifying these themselves before acusing others for these crimes/treatments?
A/Scott: All states are obligated to secure justice for crimes against humanity, regardless of their position on the ICC. As an aside, AI calls on all states to ratify the Rome treaty. But what's more, ICC ratification isn't enough. Indeed, som state play host to fugitives from the ICC. We’ve seen this a lot with al-Bashir—indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Darfur—who visited China, Egypt, Qatar, Chad, post-Gadhafi Libya, Nigeria, and elsewhere.
Q: Would it be possible to get direct links to all of these actions addressing structural issues and the AI reports in a single location? Perhaps also information on the relationship of these actions to Kony? This would be helpful for organizing events and sending activist information out to groups.
Amnesty: Here are some links to background docs and actions:
Scott's blog: blog.amnestyusa.org
Amnesty Statement on Kony2012: http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/news-item/efforts-to-arrest-joseph-kony-must-respect-human-rights
End the use of child soldiers action: http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid=517367
Historical Amnesty reports on Kony/LRA: http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports
Info on ICC: http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/international-justice/international-criminal-court
Q: How do we as activists work to ensure that our efforts empower people in situations of human rights violations, rather than simply treating them as helpless victims?
A/Adotei: This is a challenge which all NGOs and indviduals working on issues in other countries We can first highlight and support the actions and efforts from groups and indviduals on the ground. We should also do our best not to commercialize the issue and the activity that is being requested.
Amnesty: Thank you so much for all your questions! We've had an overwhelming response to this chat (which is a good thing!).
Amnesty: Sorry if we haven't had time to respond to your question. We have time for two more questions...
Amnesty: This question came in via Twitter: How can we bring about justice for Kony, other than the ICC?
A/Scott: The ICC is the place where Kony and other indictees must have their day in court. But "Justice" in the broadest sense, includes more than accountability. Efforts to arrest even persons suspected of the worst possible crimes, such as Joseph Kony, must respect human rights, including the right to fair trial and the right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The Ugandan government and international community must ensure that measures are taken to address the suffering of victims of human rights abuses by the LRA, including providing medical and psychological care to victims of sexual violence and reintegrating child soldiers back into their communities and making education and vocational training available to them. Accountability for Kony, and the other fugitives from the ICC, must occurs at the Hauge. But justice for these crimes will require a lot more work than simply arrest and surrender.
Q: If guns are being sold to countries with boy soldiers, has there ever been evidence that guns sold to the countries are being transferred to unscrupulous leaders (Kony, rebel groups) Any smoking gun trails?
A/Scott: At the moment bananas and fossils are regulated more the small arms. So we do not even know where things are being sold, by whom and to whom. What we do know is the 60% of the abuses that amnesty tracks incilve small arms. If we do not get our government to step uo and insist that the Arms Trade Treatry must cover ammo and have strong human rights criteria things will be business as usual and people like Kony will be able to survive and create mayheim in mutiple countries. Learn more by visiting th AIUSA website and and fight for a Bullet Proof ATT
Amnesty:: I can't believe it's 2:00 already! Thank you again for everyone who joined, what a great discussion. We'll post a transcript of this chat here.
Amnesty: Feel free to continue the discussion over on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/amnestyusa
A/Scott: There were a lot of questions here we didnt get to. and a lot of answers that needed more nuance. But since this clerarly isnt the slackervism crowd, I know we can continue this discussion on our blog, in coffee shops or bookstores, and--when the time comes--in the streets. Thanks so much all...
A/Scott: also, follow me @sxedwards
Amnesty: Also follow Adotei! @AAkwei