Students and activists seeking to force a US Senator to drop his opposition to a landmark Bill on the Lord’s Resistance Army have begun a hunger strike. The activists are seeking a meeting with Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn who is singularly blocking the passage of the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Bill.
The law, which would compel the Obama administration to engage more directly in efforts to apprehend or kill Joseph Kony, has so far reportedly, received record support from US lawmakers. It has however received scanty attention in Uganda and little to no public support by Ugandan government officials. Under a rule known as the “unanimous consent” a Bill can pass into law in America without a vote, if not a single Senator opposes it.
This is where the activists have clashed with Mr Coburn. Unless the Senator changes his position, the law will likely never pass because the other route would be to have the full American Senate vote on it which campaigners say is unlikely. According to reports, several activists have camped outside the Senator’s office in Oklahoma City under wintry conditions and vowed not to go home until he has withdrawn his opposition to the Bill.
Thousands have already signed an online petition to the Senator. Technology-suave campaigners have encouraged supporters of the LRA Bill to phone the senators office directly to get the lawmaker’s attention.
A campaign launched online (coburnsayyes.com) also includes Facebook and Twitter sites that mobilise support amongst largely young Americans. One Tweeter post reads “Sign up for Mercy. Fast on behalf of the LRA child soldiers and traumatised children” while another says “Nothing to lose - When human beings rise on behalf of other human beings, progress takes place.”
The proposed LRA Bill, largely owing to mobilisation by its supporters, is holding a record for the biggest number of co-sponsors in the Senate for “Africa-focused legislation in the last 35 years”.
Senator Coburn has opposed the Bill because it authorises the spending of Shs8 billion ($40 million) to help northern Uganda. The Senator has a policy on reducing the US government budget and so opposes any Bill that authorises new expenditure.