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Active 2013-Present

“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.

Our response

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.

Statistics

4 Community Defection Committees

17,970 people reached through mobile cinema

3 countries with Safe Reporting Sites

Watch ‘They Came At Night’

By using the power of story, Mobile Cinema has already proven to be an incredibly successful sensitization and informational tool, conveying to communities that defection, reintegration and forgiveness are the most promising way to peacefully end the war.

Learn More

After nearly a year of collaborative research by Invisible Children and Discover the Journey (DTJ), the two organizations worked with local partners in DR Congo and CAR to form CDCs, either in strategically located communities that have experienced LRA violence or in communities already identified as Safe Reporting Sites (SRS). The members of the CDC are nominated and elected by their own communities in groups of 8-12, and the elected members then appoint a CDC president. The specific responsibilities of CDCs will vary depending on their respective country, region, and village, but the ultimate function of all CDCs is to organize, implement, and encourage community sensitization and locally-led defection efforts.

These community elected CDC members participate in an intensive workshop led by Invisible Children’s local partners during which they are trained on how to safely encourage and accept LRA defectors who might approach anyone in their community. These committee members are walked through the protocol detailing how to handle returnees, from the first encounter all the way to handing the defector over to the appropriate authorities. They also serve their communities as the primary source of information on LRA activity.

Safe Reporting Sites

CDCs form part of a network of Safe Reporting Sites (SRS) throughout LRA-affected areas. SRS are locations where LRA escapees can safely surrender without fear of reprisal. LRA members learn about these secure locations through fliers, radio broadcasts, and speakers mounted on helicopters. This messaging assures LRA fighters that they will be peacefully accepted at designated safe reporting sites. Once defectors surrender at an SRS, community members use Invisible Children’s communication equipment to arrange for the escapee to return home. Safe transport is facilitated by counter-LRA forces, who have supported the development of the project.

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