The Incident: On February 9th two men were hunting just north of the town of Mboki in southeastern CAR when they were approached by a group of four LRA including one man, two women, and a six-year-old child. The LRA handed the hunters a letter, written in Luo (the language spoken by Acholi in northern Uganda), and expressed their desire to leave the LRA. The hunters took the message to the Invisible Children sponsored Community Defection Committee (CDC) in Mboki who then relayed the letter to the UPDF (Ugandan military). The UPDF then went to receive the four individuals who waited just outside of Mboki town. The LRA escapees were then transported to the UPDF base in Obo, CAR where they are being cared for; Invisible Children was able to provide them with clothing and other supplies (pictured).
The Details: The male defector was twenty-five, the women were twenty-four and twenty-two; all were Ugandan and had reportedly been in captivity for twelve years suggesting that the six-year-old boy was in fact born somewhere in the jungle of central Africa.
Invisible Children staff in Obo immediately followed up with the escapees who said that they were encouraged to leave their LRA group, which consisted of ten individuals, after hearing ‘come home’ messages broadcasted on helicopter speakers during the past month. They also reported that while the helicopter broadcasts were their first encounter with defection messaging, the remaining members of the group they had been a part of are interested in leaving the LRA as well. Invisible Children staff and our partners are working to find out more about this group including how to best target them with defection messaging in order to encourage and facilitate their surrender.
Further information: The twenty-five year old Ugandan male reported that while he could not verify it, he believes senior LRA commander, Okot Odhiambo to be dead; he has no first hand information, but had simply heard it through communication within the LRA. While this certainly does not confirm Odhiambo’s fate, it becomes more plausible with this additional corroboration.
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We are thankful for the safe escape of these four individuals, and that one more male Ugandan—the core of the LRA’s fighting force—has been peacefully removed from the battlefield. As always, we’ll keep you posted as we learn more about these individuals, the group they were a part of, and further information on the unconfirmed death of Odhiambo.