Between December 2020 and April 2021, at least 65 people escaped from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and sought refuge in and around Zemio, Central African Republic (CAR). Fortunately, Invisible Children training, provided through the USAID-funded Community Resilience in Central Africa (CRCA) Activity helped prepare the community in Zemio to help.
The Role of Local Communities in Helping LRA Escapees
Local communities like Zemio are essential to helping LRA returnees reunite with their families, and transition back into normal life. People often escape from LRA captivity in remote areas where Invisible Children and other international organizations can’t be immediately available to help. LRA escapees are especially vulnerable to violence, abduction, and recruitment into other armed groups. So it is important to provide support as quickly as possible.
This is where local communities can help. With training and resources, Central African communities are best equipped to assist LRA escapees immediately. With their participation, Invisible Children is able to safely reunite LRA escapees with their families.
Increasing Acceptance of LRA Escapees
The communities who first recieve LRA escapees are often victims of LRA violence as well. This can make people less willing to help escapees, who aren’t always recognized as victims of LRA violence. To address this, Invisible Children uses the Mobile Cinema film, They Came At Night. The film sheds light on the experiences of former LRA captives and sparks dialogue about how communities can help reunite escapees with their families.
The film also helps increase the acceptance of former LRA captives who live in the community. During guided dialogue sessions following the film, communities discuss the issues they face and develop their own solutions. During these dialogues, former captives are able to speak about their experiences during and following captivity. This often leads to more understanding and greater community support for former captives.
Training and Equipping Communities to Help LRA Escapees
Invisible Children also provides practical training and resources to help local communities support LRA escapees. We provide local Peace Committees with tools and training for how to contact Invisible Children when an escapee arrives in their community. We also train them on how to locate and contact the family members of escapees so that they can reconnect and begin the process of returning home.
Invisible Children also trains Peace Committees and volunteer host families on the basics of mental health and trauma awareness. When a former captive escapes, the local Peace Committee arranges for them to stay with a host family. Invisible Children provides food, clothing, and other necessities to the returnee and their host family. If needed, we also arrange for medical and psychological care with help from the local Peace Committee and host families.
Success in Zemio
Thanks to Invisible Children-provided training and resources, the community in Zemio was well equipped to respond during the recent surge in LRA escapees coming to their community.
The President of the Zemio Peace Committee celebrated this preparedness, stating:
“Thanks to the USAID-funded CRCA Activity, the Peace Committee has completed the family tracing and other trainings, which allows my community to better receive LRA survivors and victims in comparison to communities who have not received such training. Prior to the training, we did clearly understand our role in the family reunification process.”
Thanks to training provided by Invisible Children, local communities are part of bringing former LRA captives home safely.
Your support will help us bring even more LRA survivors home to their families.
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.