We did it.
After dozens of activists held out for 262 hours outside the Oklahoma City office of Senator Tom Coburn, a compromise was reached today that -- barring any holds placed by other Senators -- should allow the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act to pass the full Senate later this week.
The Oklahoma Hold Out gained enormous local press coverage, putting pressure on Senator Coburn's staff to negotiate a solution to the legislative impasse. Starting with just 30 committed young people, it grew to over 70 and continued to gain momentum. After seeing the Hold Out on the news, several middle-aged Oklahomans -- who were previously unaware of the LRA's atrocities -- even decided on the spot to bring their sleeping bags downtown and join.
Senator Coburn had blocked the bill's passage due to funding authorizations of $40 million intended to help communities victimized by LRA violence. The compromise language reached uses slightly different wording in calling for the funding and added an emphasis making clear that the allocation should come from the existing foreign aid budget instead of adding to it.
Now, focus will turn to the House of Representatives, where the bill will soon be considered by the Foreign Affairs committee before being voted on by the full chamber.
Mark Nehrenz, the Oklahoman who coordinated the Hold Out, was overcome with emotion in response to news of the victory:
"First, I want to join with a chorus of Oklahomans in thanking Senator Coburn for listening to our voices and hearing our cries for the children of Uganda and central Africa. Over the the last eleven days and nights, I have stood beside, slept beside, and frozen beside amazingly committed individuals from this state and all over this country. It has been painful and cold, but worth every last second.
"I have never been prouder to say I am from this state. The support we have received from everyday people and students in downtown Oklahoma City moves me to tears. I want to thank each and every person who was a part of this stand in some way. We all did this together. What has happened here has been a monumental achievement towards peace and justice in central Africa, and for each of us it has been a life-changing affirmation of the power of our voices.
"We have seen the strength in engagement and dialogue as opposed to an 'us vs. them' battle. We believe that our actions speak louder than our words, and as we have turned from 'the kids sleeping in the street' to 'our friends outside', we have seen the world start to change.
"We hope this bill is the beginning of the end of Africa's longest running war, but this stand has been the beginning of something else: A new kind of activism and engagement, rooted in passion, respect, dignity and dialogue. We believe in building relationships in order to change hearts and minds.
"As a movement, we found our voices this week, and we will not be silent. We are here to stay."