Many people who are currently in the LRA were abducted as children and based on information from members who have escaped, are constantly expressing a strong desire to leave. There are three major obstacles for LRA defectors who want to escape: 1) Fear of being killed during their escape or by the community when they escape, 2) uncertainty of what awaits them at home and 3) the process of escape – where do they go and how do they get there?
Working with partners and local communities in the region, Invisible Children is helping LRA combatants overcome these fears and safely surrender. Electing to be a part of the Safe Reporting Site (SRS) project, communities that the LRA has victimized over the past three years are now allowing LRA defectors to surrender in their town. This project communicates safe locations for the LRA to escape, places where a security force is present, and where the community has consented to allowing the LRA to surrender there.
We are currently establishing Safe Reporting Sites across Central African Republic and South Sudan and recently had our first success. Five individuals, some of them teenagers (pictured below), escaped into Mboki, the first established Safe Reporting Site, after multiple years in the LRA and cited defection flier messaging as one of their main pieces of encouragement. They had come across a new white flier that had the photo of a former LRA combatant who had escaped only weeks before. They walked out on November 28th and are no longer living a life captive by the LRA.
Invisible Children is continuing to work with partners and communities to establish Safe Reporting Sites where the LRA can safely surrender. Recent efforts have proved extremely effective and we’ve seen off the charts defection numbers. It’s bringing us one step closer to the end of the LRA.