Over the summer, defections and releases from the LRA skyrocketed. Almost 100 men, women and children returned home – the most we’ve seen since we expanded our central Africa programs in 2008.
The “why” behind those incredible numbers? Successful defection messaging, according to a recent article from Army Times. And we have to agree.
Defection messaging, or encouraging LRA members to come home, is a huge part of our approach to ending LRA violence in central Africa. We do this by dropping biodegradable defection fliers from the sky and hand-distributing them in LRA-affected areas; we also broadcast “Come Home” FM radio messages on stations that LRA members are known to listen to. These messages have been proven effective, with 89% of LRA returnees citing them as influential in their decision to escape.
We accomplish these incredibly effective defection programs with some collaboration with partner organizations and the military efforts of US advisory troops and African Union forces. We also consistently launch advocacy campaigns to keep US advisors committed to the mission, because we have so much respect for the work they’re doing in central Africa.
“Staff Sgt. Myles McCadney, 7th Military Information Support Operations Battalion (Airborne), highlighted results from psychological operations in Uganda.” (Photo by: Mike Morones)
Defections from Joseph Kony’s Army spiked in the summer of 2014, in large part due to U.S. messaging from the air and across the radio waves.
Soldiers with 7th Military Information Support Battalion (Airborne) have traveled to Uganda to breed resistance within Kony’s ranks. His Lord’s Resistance Army has been sourced through the abduction and indoctrination of thousands of children.
Staff Sgt. Myles McCadney, a member of 7th MISB (A), who deployed to Africa from December 2013 to May 2014, spoke to AUSA attendees during a Warrior’s Corner session on Monday afternoon. McCadney provided an inside and candid look at the challenges US troops face in fighting the elusive warlord.
McCadney outlined how U.S. troops, working together with African nations, have successfully launched an extensive media campaign and convinced a number of Kony’s soldiers to defect.
Troops use radio frequencies to encourage defections and gain support of the civilian populations. Aerial loudspeakers have been a key tool, and so has a mobile cinema display that tells the story of a child’s abduction and his eventual decision to defect. When radio or aerial messaging is impossible, thousands of leaflets are dropped from above or nailed on trees on trails known to be populated by Kony’s Army.
In just the second half of 2014 alone, missions included:
■ 14 leaflet drops
■ 515,000 leaflets disseminated
■ 20 messages via radio
■ 19 aerial loudspeaker operations
Since January 2012, there have been more than 240 confirmed defections of Kony’s Army. More than 80 of those occurred in July through September.
A big reason for the spike was the successful defection of Sam Opio, a senior rebel commander who was influenced by the U.S.-supported messaging efforts.
African troops are a big part of the mission, and McCadney said the U.S. mission is to “advise, assist and accompany.”
The staff sergeant said he personally led efforts to develop a radio station that would be heard by Kony’s Amy. The radio messages attempt to convince Kony’s troops that they will be accepted with open arms if they choose to leave the warlord’s Army.
It’s not an easy sell. Many of Kony’s troops, due to their indoctrination, believe Kony has supernatural powers. McCadney compared their loyalty to Stockholm Syndrome. Kony also threatens that anyone caught defecting will face torture and death.