Last weekend, the family of former LRA fighter, Peter Kidega, welcomed him home after more than 14 years held captive by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). We couldn’t be happier for Peter and his family.

NTVUganda Footage of Peter Kidega landing in Gulu, Uganda on Jan 27, 2017.

What’s Peter’s story?

In 2003, Peter was abducted by a group of LRA from his home in Northern Uganda, along with his brother and father. After his abduction, Peter was forced to fight with the LRA as a soldier and, as one of the few remaining Ugandan fighters, Peter became a key member of the LRA group that traveled with Joseph Kony himself.

In October of last year, Peter bravely took advantage of an opportunity to escape LRA captivity near a remote town in northeastern Central African Republic. Today, after a harrowing journey to freedom, he is home with his mother and the rest of his family.

Why is Peter’s escape so significant?

First and foremost, Peter’s homecoming means that he is finally free from LRA captivity and reunited with his family. After 14 years as an LRA soldier, constantly on the run, surrounded by violence and struggling to survive, he is now safe. Today, he has the opportunity to heal from the trauma he has experienced and to finish his education, and his family no longer has to wonder where he is or whether he’s still alive.

Beyond that, Peter was one of fewer than 100 male Ugandan fighters within the LRA, a critical element of the group’s fighting force and command structure. Every time a male Ugandan fighter, like Peter, escapes from the LRA, it is a significant blow to the group’s ability to carry out violence against families and children in central Africa.

Additionally, the duration of Peter’s captivity in the LRA and his close proximity to Joseph Kony mean that he can provide valuable information about the LRA and its notorious leader, which could help efforts to apprehend Kony, encourage more defections, and protect communities from future LRA attacks.

[Learn more about how recent escape’s like Peter’s are undermining Kony’s leadership here.]

What are we doing now to help others like Peter?

As we celebrate Peter’s freedom, and as he begins to recover and rebuild his life, we’re not skipping a beat in our work to stop the LRA, bring others like Peter home, and make families in central Africa safer.

Radio Zereda

We know that safe returns like Peter’s can help encourage others still in the LRA to lay down their weapons and come home, too. With that in mind, our team has already recorded “Come Home” messages from Peter and others who have escaped. We then work with central African FM radio partners to broadcast these messages in areas of known LRA activity. Today, the voices of LRA returnees like Peter are calling out to the friends and fellow abductees they left behind in the LRA, letting them know that they, too, can make it home safely.

‘Come Home’ messages like these have helped bring home hundreds of LRA captives and continue to be one of our greatest opportunities to fully dismantle the LRA and reunite families torn apart by violence. We won’t stop until every last member of the LRA has returned safely home and communities in central Africa are safe from the LRA and other armed groups.

None of our work is possible without your support.