Sometimes, people assume that force is the most effective way to end a war, but this is not necessarily the case. Recent reports from our counter-LRA partners have suggested that the most cost-effective and nonviolent way to end LRA violence is in fact to invest in helping its members to escape.
Of course, this is no easy feat. Even though many participants in the LRA have no desire to continue fighting, they are miles away from home and face the threat of severe punishment – even death – should they attempt to surrender. Furthermore, they have no idea if their families would be willing to accept them upon their return.
This is where Invisible Children’s “Come Home” messaging comes into play. In some cases all it takes are a few flyers, a well-timed radio broadcast, and some industrial-grade speakers all bearing a similar message: Come home.
Invisible Children partners with former LRA members and escapees to record specialized messages to those still in combat, imploring them to surrender, promising forgiveness, and providing instructions for returning home. These messages are then broadcast through radio stations, distributed on flyers, and relayed via helicopter speakers directly to LRA camps. Within the first day of helicopter broadcasting, four former LRA members successfully escaped in the Central African Republic, saying that they “heard the voice from the sky.”
These types of programs are huge contributors in our strategy to dismantle the LRA from within, providing more incentive to defect by assuring soldiers that they will be welcomed home with open arms. Invisible Children has dropped over 1 million defection fliers in four different languages, and our broadcasts cover 29,628 square miles. So far, these efforts have been incredibly effective. Since August, 90 people have returned home from the LRA. Approximately 15% of LRA forces across central Africa have defected since January 2012, and over 80% of those escapees cited ‘come home’ messaging as influential to their return.