The Cable

State Department offers $5 million for Kony

Following Uganda's announcement that it is suspending its hunt for Joseph Kony, the State Department said Wednesday that it is putting a $5 million bounty on the notorious Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader.

The Ugandan military halted its search for Kony this week after rebels took over the government of the Central African Republic, where Kony is believed to be hiding. The State Department held a special press briefing Wednesday to announce the expansion of its War Crime Rewards Program to include Kony, LRA leaders Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen, and the leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Sylvestre Mudacumura.

"We act today so that there can be justice for the innocent men, women, and children who have been subjected to mass murder, to rape, to amputation, enslavement, and other atrocities," said Ambassador at Large Stephen Rapp, head of the State Department's Office of Global Criminal Justice.

The program, which was started in 1998, had been focused on bringing to justice those indicted by the three international tribunals that were created for the former Yugoslavia, for Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. Over the past two years alone, State has paid out more than $5 million to 14 different recipients, Rapp said

But as those cases neared completion, State sought authority to go after any indicted international war criminals. The department succeeded in getting new legislation passed, sponsored by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and then Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) last year.

"To that end, the expanded program now targets the alleged perpetrators of the worst atrocities, some of whom have evaded justice for more than a decade," Rapp said. "The LRA is one of the world's most brutal armed groups and has survived for over 20 years by abducting women and children and forcing them to serve as porters, sex slaves, and fighters."

Don Yamamoto, the acting assistant secretary of state for African affairs, acknowledged that the U.S. forces assisting the Ugandan military in their hunt for Kony are also suspending their activities, but he promised the United States would continue the search using other means.

"The United States remains very committed to the counter-LRA program, along with our partners. And of course, right now is -- even though we've taken a pause because of the developments in Bangui and how the situation there is unfolding -- is remain committed," he said. "And we're going to use all facilities and all technology at our hands to try to find and locate Kony and his group."

Kerry wrote about the ongoing hunt for Kony and other LRA leaders in a Wednesday op-ed in the Huffington Post.

"I refuse to accept a world where those responsible for crimes of this magnitude live in impunity. We will keep working to hold them accountable and deliver justice to all the people they have hurt. Nowhere will thugs and war criminals who terrorize children be safe -- not for long anyways," he said. "And starting today, their lives on the run -- always looking over their shoulder -- include an even greater prize on their head."

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, said in a Wednesday statement that he hoped the search for Kony would be resumed soon. 

"Joseph Kony and his commanders in the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) are war criminals whose heinous acts have wreaked havoc across Central Africa for the last 25 years. It is important that they are brought to justice for unconscionable crimes against humanity, even as the political situation in the Central African Republic has destabilized," he said.  "In expanding its Rewards for Justice program today to include a $5 million reward for the apprehension of Kony and other LRA leaders, the United States has reasserted its commitment to bringing their reign of terror in the region to an end."

STUART PRICE/AFP/Getty Images

The Cable

Kerry adds Mideast leg to Asia trip

Secretary of State John Kerry's pivot to Asia will be preceded by his third stop in the Middle East, with a newly announced visit to Turkey, Israel, and the West Bank.

Kerry has already traveled to the region twice, once in February by himself, and once in March with President Barack Obama that included stops in Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. Kerry was already planning to go next week to Japan, South Korea, and China, following a stop in London for the G-8 foreign ministers' meeting. Now he is adding a new set of stops, the State Department announced Wednesday.

"The secretary will depart this weekend. His first stop will now be in Istanbul, where he will consult with senior Turkish leaders on a variety of subjects, including the situation in Syria," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Kerry will go to Jerusalem on April 8 and Ramallah April 9, she said. In Jerusalem he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and in Ramallah he will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Nuland did not say whom Kerry will meet in Turkey. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Turkey the week after Kerry.

Following his Mideast detour, Kerry will continue on with his previously planned schedule, stopping in Seoul April 12, Bejing April 13, and Tokyo April 14.

Why Turkey? Following the Israel-Turkey phone call that took place during Obama's visit last month, during which Netanyahu apologized for the deaths that resulted from the Israeli boarding of a Gaza-bound Turkish ship in 2010, the administration wants to make sure the fragile Israel-Turkey warming of relations continues apace.

"So by going to Istanbul first to see Turkish officials and then going on to Israel, the secretary will also have an opportunity to spur both sides to continue to take steps to deepen their normalization and to work well together," Nuland said. "We need to now see further steps on both sides."

Nuland tamped down expectations that there would be any publicly visible progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process coming out of Kerry's trip.

"I would not expect the secretary to be putting down a plan," she said. "As you know, the secretary had a chance to have a meeting directly after the [last] visit with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and with President Abbas. It's now been a couple of weeks. They've had some time to reflect on the visit, et cetera. So this is a chance for the secretary to go back and to listen again and to hear what they think is possible."

"I think you've figured out by now that Secretary Kerry very much believes in personal diplomacy. He believes in sitting with leaders and listening to them. So that's what he will be doing again this time," she said.