On the eve of the Kony 2012 national "day of action," senators want you to know they haven't forgotten about the campaign to find Uganda's Joseph Kony.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., today introduced legislation to expand the existing Department of State Rewards Program for Kony.
"Information is a powerful tool and with these authorities, we can help bring brutal and dangerous fugitives to justice," Kerry said in a statement. "These kinds of programs promote tips and leads that lead to arrests and hobble the movement of international criminals. It sends a message to brutal thugs like Kony that their days are numbered and they can only hide out for so long."
The Kerry legislation would expand existing authority to allow the State Department to publicize and pay rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals engaged in transnational organized crime, or foreign nationals wanted by any international criminal tribunal for war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.
At a press conference Thursday Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a cosponsor of the legislation, expressed confidence that the Department of Defense is having some luck in narrowing down where Joseph Kony is hiding. He added that an expanded rewards program would offer an incentive to people to leave the Lord's Resistance Army and "provide critical, recent intelligence about their movements, their practices and Kony's whereabouts."
A group of senators, hoping to whip up a little Internet frenzy like the original Kony 12 campaign video did, came out with their own video today. The seven-minute video focuses on the Senate's efforts to support the removal of Joseph Kony and his top lieutenants in the Lord's Resistance Army from the battlefield in central Africa and is aimed at the young Americans who have become part of the Kony 2012 movement in the last month.
"The timing here is deliberate," said Coons. " It's an effort to communicate back to millions of people around the world to say that we, the United States Senate, hear you, we are listening, we are acting and we are hopeful that everyone that has been interested in and concerned about the issues raised by the Lord Resistance Army, Joseph Kony and the efforts to bring him to justice."
"We're going to do it," Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said, "We're going to bring it to a close. And it's now, everyone's talking about it, assuming we can do, we've got kids from all over America joining in and saying you've got to get this guy Joseph Kony, and we're going to do it."
Last month a group of 33 senators introduced a resolution condemning "the crimes against humanity" committed by Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The co-sponsors are now up to 43 Senators, they say.
The resolution calls for "supporting ongoing international efforts to remove Kony from the battlefield," and calls for the U.S. "to continue to enhance its mobility, intelligence and logistical support of regional forces now pursuing the LRA."
So far there has been no movement on the legislation in the Senate, although they hope that the resolution will make it onto the Senate floor for consideration sometime soon.
The senators also announced that the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs will hold a hearing on Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army on Tuesday, April 24 at 10:00.