In December of 2009, Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) carried out a series of attacks on remote communities in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) known as the Makombo Massacre. Over the course of four days, the LRA travelled along a road, going from town to town, killing more than 300 people, and abducting 250 more.
At the time, those communities, with no access to phone networks or other communication tools, had no means of warning one another of danger or any way to call for help. Because they were so isolated, communities weren’t prepared to stop the violence as it was happening. Despite the incredible scale and brutality of the violence, much of the international community did not learn of the massacre until March 2010—three months later.
Nearly a decade later, communities in northeastern DRC and across the border in eastern Central African Republic (CAR) are still incredibly isolated and vulnerable to armed groups like the LRA. But, today, thanks to tools like a locally-operated early warning system and Invisible Children’s Crisis Tracker conflict mapping and analysis tool, communities have significantly more access to information that can help them save lives. Not only that, the crimes committed against them can no longer go unnoticed by the rest of the world.
In 2010, following news of the Mokombo Massacre, Invisible Children began working with a Congolese priest named Father Benoit Kinalegu to expand a network of high-frequency radios that enables some of the most remote communities in central Africa to share vital security information with one another. Today, thanks to funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of State, this early warning system now connects over 100 communities across CAR and DRC whose safety is threatened by the LRA as well as other armed groups active in the region.
Also thanks to USAID and State Department funding, our Crisis Tracker data mapping and analysis experts collect and analyze information shared through the early warning system. We then provide near-real-time information and regular analysis to local organizations and international humanitarian actors so that more effective measures can be taken to protect vulnerable communities. We also share our analysis with media outlets to ensure that crimes committed against some of our world’s most vulnerable communities do not go unnoticed.
In May of this year, the French news outlet RFI, published a series of articles on LRA violence in CAR, LRA abductions in DRC, and the challenges that LRA returnees continue to face. RFI journalist, Charlotte Cossett was able to use information shared through the early warning system as well as analysis from our Crisis Tracker team to help elevate the stories of many who continue to be impacted by the LRA.
In 2019, the LRA no longer has the capacity to carry out large-scale atrocities like those committed during the Makombo Massacre. This is thanks, in large part to thousands of people around the world who, upon learning of the LRA’s crimes, spoke up and demanded justice for people half a world away. Thanks to this advocacy and to international media attention, world leaders took proactive steps to support communities facing LRA violence and bring LRA captives and child soldiers home. But it all would not have been possible without the leadership, creativity, and determination of Central African heroes, like Father Benoit and so many more, whose ideas have become solutions to share information and save countless lives.
Today, these local visionaries continue to innovate, push past boundaries, and lead the way toward a safer Central Africa where people and their environment thrive together. With continued funding from USAID and the State Department, we’re investing in these local leaders through support to community organizations and local peace committees. Learn more about the work of local communities and how they’re creating a brighter future here.
You can stand alongside Central African peacebuilders and help support their work by giving to Invisible Children today. Your donation helps fund dynamic programs, guided by the ideas of Central African community leaders, that grow and adapt as challenges and local communities do.
Programs described in this blog are made possible with the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this post are the sole responsibility of Invisible Children and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.