We are in the midst of one of the biggest events in the history of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) over 30 year campaign of violence.
In April, two LRA splinter groups in eastern CAR entered into demobilization negotiations with authorities. Both groups began handing over some of their weapons as a first step toward the full disarmament of their groups. This means that up to 250 children, women, and men in these groups could be coming out of the LRA very soon. This would be the largest LRA demobilization since Invisible Children was founded. And it is in large part thanks to the bravery of local community groups, trained by Invisible Children, that have led to this moment.
July 7, 2022 Update: 142 Women and Children in LRA Camps Registered by Invisible Children Staff
As negotiations continue, Invisible Children staff are working to register women and children who could soon be released from captivity. So far, we’ve registered and collected basic information about 37 women and 105 children currently held by groups currently in demobilization negotiations. The information we collect will help us prepare Welcome Kits and safe foster homes for each returnee so that we can provide for their needs as soon as they are released from captivity.
However, testimony from recent escapees indicates that more combattants, women, and children from these groups are deeper in the bush, waiting to fully engage in demobilization activities until negotiations have proceeded further.
We continue to support the efforts of local partners and authorities to negotiate the release of women and children and the demobilization of LRA fighters. Learn how you can help here.
What’s the backstory?
Two LRA splinter groups have been operating along the border between the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), led by commanders named Achaye Doctor and Owila. Both commanders were formerly loyal to LRA leader Joseph Kony, but have broken away from his command and have been acting independently for several years.
In early 2021, local communities began engaging these LRA splinter groups in an effort to reduce attacks on local communities. Community leaders initiated trust building measures such as allowing children from Achaye Doctor’s LRA group to attend local schools and allowing LRA members access to local markets.
In February of this year, a coalition of actors began formal demobilization negotiations with LRA leadership from both splinter groups. Invisible Children-supported Peace Committees were critical in spearheading these grassroots efforts. As the conversations progressed, the Invisible Children team in CAR began working in partnership with the demobilization delegation, including local authorities and other security actors to encourage these two splinter groups to peacefully surrender. In mid-April, representatives from both LRA groups turned over their weapons and promised to demobilize in separate ceremonies in eastern CAR.
What’s happening now?
Negotiations are trending positively, but there’s still a long way to go.
While Achaye and other LRA combatants surrendered their weapons, the groups are still well-armed and staying at their camps. They are conditioning their full demobilization on several things that will require challenging negotiations dealing with issues surrounding repatriation, LRA’s desire to resettle with their “wives” and “families”, and fear of prosecution.
What does this mean for peace in central Africa?
The disarmament and demobilization of the Achaye and Owila LRA factions would drastically improve security for communities in CAR and DRC that have been plagued by LRA violence for the past 15 years. It would allow hundreds of men, women, and children who had been abducted by the armed group to be reunited with their families.
How can you help?
First, it is because of supporters like you that we have been able to expand our Peace Committee Development program across central Africa including to those communities that engaged Achaye and Owila’s LRA groups. You enabled the trainings and resourcing that helped lead to this moment. Thank you.
But we can’t slow down now. We need your help to bring the children, women, and men in these LRA groups and others home.
There are three key activities Invisible Children is urgently working on right now:
+ We are supporting Invisible Children-trained Peace Committees through negotiations with the LRA groups.
+ Invisible Children staff in CAR are working in the two LRA camps to registering women and children to prepare for their release.
+ We are preparing for the needs of up to 250 LRA escapees including safe temporary housing, locating families, transport home, and basic personal needs that we include in “welcome home kits.”
We’ve set a goal to raise $10,000 between now and July 31 so that we can ensure that LRA captives are set free and have the support and resources they need to reunite with their families and begin to heal. Your gift today will help make it possible.
We will continue to publish updates and how you can help here as the situation progresses.