“We can drop a million fliers, but if there’s no one on the ground to receive LRA when they try to defect, we’re missing opportunities”. -Sean Poole, Counter-LRA Programs Manager.
What’s the need
Two key factors that prevent LRA combatants from surrendering include the fear of being killed or imprisoned upon their return home and uncertainty about community acceptance. When LRA combatants escape their group, they often try to defect to civilians who are on roads or farmland just outside their communities. Previously, there was no established protocol detailing what these civilians should do in such a situation, and because of this they would often flee the scene, leaving the LRA to return to the bush.
Invisible Children is now working with those communities that are closest to the conflict to establish Community Defection Committees, or CDCs, throughout central Africa. By facilitating locally-led community workshops, Invisible Children is ensuring that communities in LRA-affected regions of central Africa are empowered to be central players in the regional effort to peacefully dismantle the LRA from within.
An essential element of this program is community sensitization, which prepares and motivates individuals and the community to help accept LRA defectors into their village and connect them with the right actors to help get them home. In isolated regions where information about the LRA is limited, civilians can be entirely unaware that the LRA is largely comprised of captives who were abducted as children and are looking for opportunities to escape. Because these communities have experienced some level of LRA violence, proper sensitization programs help bridge the gap between fear and forgiveness.
The central tool Invisible Children employs for community sensitization is an innovative approach called Mobile Cinema. Invisible Children, in partnership with Discover the Journey, developed a film specifically for LRA-affected communities that details the life of a child who is abducted by the LRA and the difficult process he must go through to defect. After the film, the community is encouraged to discuss what they witnessed on the screen and the implications the narrative has for their own encounters with LRA defectors.