Much of Invisible Children’s work throughout east and central Africa focuses on the safe return home of those held captive by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). But before escapees are transferred to rehabilitation centers and begin reintegration back into their communities, they participate in a series of interviews with members of the military.
Three recent returnees assisted the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) and United States military forces working in the region to locate and retrieve a large piece of ammunition earlier this year. The weapon (pictured below) was buried in 2003 when the LRA was still fighting in northern Uganda, according to the ex-combatants who revealed its location.
Three recent returnees – Obur Nyeko Okuti, Alex Opoka and Ojara Bosco – received monetary awards during a small ceremony held at the UPDF barracks in Gulu, where Invisible Children Uganda’s main office is based, on January 30. They were rewarded through a program sponsored by the United States Department of Defense for sharing verifiable information that helped with military intelligence.
The Reward for Information Program, used in conflict and post-conflict zones across the world, is in place in northern Uganda to encourage citizens and returnees to reveal information that will lead to the capture of high value targets like Joseph Kony, knowledge about current LRA movements, locations of weapons caches and anything else that can help in ending the conflict once and for all.
“They have provided a lot of good, beneficial information not only for the UPDF but also for [the US military] to enable us to continue fighting against the LRA and to help the LRA come safely out of the bush,” Major José Reyes explained.
While northern Uganda has experienced a period of relative peace and stability since LRA activities moved in central Africa, the decades of fighting have left scars on the region, including hidden weapons. The UPDF continues to recover weapons used during the conflict. The hope that monetary rewards will serve as one way to encourage more returnees to share “actionable” and “accurate” information to assist military forces.
Invisible Children Uganda (ICU) joined the returnees, United States’ and Ugandan military forces and representatives from the media at the event. ICU plans to share this story and use photographs of the men receiving their rewards on defection fliers that will be distributed in areas where the LRA is expected to still operate. There are also hopes to feature the returnees’ voices as part of “Come Home” radio broadcasts.
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