Active 2010-Present

For decades, Joseph Kony has ruled his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) through fear and lies, convincing members that they can never return home because their own families and communities won’t accept them. However, many LRA fighters are unwilling combatants who were abducted at a young age and forced to fight. Today, they remain in the LRA, many of them hundreds of kilometers from their homes, out of fear. LRA fighters fear their commanders, the response of local communities, security forces, and even their own families.

Our Response

Beyond the work that we do to help vulnerable communities in central Africa protect their families from violence, we are also actively working to peacefully dismantle the LRA from within. We construct and repair FM radio towers and partner with local radio operators in affected areas as well as in northern Uganda, to record and broadcast ‘come home’ messages directly to the LRA. These messages give detailed instructions and the assurance of forgiveness and acceptance upon defection to encourage those still held captive by the LRA to peacefully surrender.

Encouraging and facilitating the peaceful surrender of LRA combatants is one of the most effective ways to reduce threats to communities in LRA-affected areas of central Africa and weaken the LRA’s operational capabilities. International actors, including the militaries tracking the LRA, are highly supportive of and contribute to “come home” messaging with the ultimate goal of peacefully removing the LRA as a threat to communities.

As part of our Community Resilience Committees Program, we also facilitate workshops in LRA-affected communities which help prepare and motivate individuals and the community to help accept LRA defectors into their village and connect them with the right actors to help get them home. Communities who take part in these trainings become part of a network of Safe Reporting Sites (SRS) where LRA escapees can safely surrender without fear of reprisal.

Statistics

10 partner stations

4,320 Hours of Come Home Messages Broadcast since 2013

29,628 square miles covered by Invisible Children broadcasts

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Many higher-ranking LRA combatants, who are almost exclusively Acholi from northern Uganda (where the LRA conflict began), have access to radios, and radio programming remains their only link to Uganda. For this reason, Invisible Children partners with local radio stations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan to develop programming and to build the infrastructure of FM radios in the region. The goal is for ‘come home’ messaging to reach deep into the bush, encouraging individuals or entire groups to surrender and escape the LRA.

Our defection team meets with recent LRA returnees to record ‘come home’ messages which are then broadcasted via Invisible Children sponsored radios across central Africa. These recordings are first-hand accounts of how former LRA members escaped captivity and were safely reintegrated back into their communities, emboldening those still in the bush to do the same. We also ask the family members of active LRA fighters to record personal, individualized messages that call combatants out by name, reassuring them that they are forgiven, and are wanted back home. This program has had significant success, as many defectors cited defection messaging as influential in their escape.

In addition to nine FM radio stations, we also work with two shortwave stations – UBC Shortwave in Kampala, Uganda, and Mega FM in Gulu, Uganda. These higher-frequency stations (similar to AM radio in the U.S. except with a longer range) are able to reach every inch of the LRA-affected region. Another advantage of these stations is that the majority of their programming is in Acholi, the native language of many combatants.

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