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.
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.