Over the course of three days, 34 community leaders from northeast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and southeast Central African Republic (CAR) converged in Gulu town of northern Uganda to attend a cross-border community sensitization conference intended to familiarize the group with the origin of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and to draw strategies to end the war.
The Cross-Border Community Dialogue Conference drew together a total of 97 participants from communities in CAR, DRC and Uganda that have been affected by the LRA. The conference was also attended by local peace organizations, politicians, government officials, cultural leaders, church leaders and district technocrats. Jolly Okot, Invisible Children’s Regional Ambassador, was present as well for this consortium.
Participants were able to learn the history of the LRA conflict and visit Joseph Kony’s hometown of Odek and Lukodi, where an LRA massacre took place in 2004. Providing cross-border communities with this knowledge and understanding of the conflict is essential for effective community sensitization, itself an essential part of the defection process. Representatives from DRC and CAR were also able to raise the main issues they faced in their counter-LRA efforts. These included, most notably, high levels of poaching in the Garamba National Park, fear that US and Ugandan troops will withdraw and general displacement and panic experienced by the population in CAR and DRC, which is severely holding back community development.
One of the main conclusions reached at this community dialogue is the need to empower defection mechanisms at the micro-level and capitalize on the increasing number of interactions between individual civilians and the LRA. As such, community sensitization from local leaders should be encouraged. The use of rewards for valuable information and the need to keep expanding the HF network were also emphasized, as well as the necessity to identify those who are supporting the rebels.
To learn more about Invisible Children’s Protection programs, click [HERE].