There has been a historic development in the LRA’s campaign of violence in central Africa. A large faction of LRA fighters has laid down their weapons and peacefully surrendered. Just weeks later, a second group of LRA also surrendered. This is incredible news for communities in central Africa and the dozens of women and children who were held captive by these groups but are now free. We will continue to share updates here as this story unfolds, and in the meantime, you can help us prepare to reunite women and children with their families.
Another Group of LRA Surrender
Following the demobilization of commander Achaye Doctor’s group, a different group of LRA has demobilized!
In early August, a group comprised of Ugandans, Congolese, and Central Africans defected to a delegation of Ugandan and Central African authorities.
These surrenders were the result of efforts that began two and a half years ago. In early 2021, local authorities and community leaders in southeastern CAR proactively engaged two LRA factions – one led by commander Achaye Doctor and the other led by commander Owila. They initiated trust-building measures including allowing children from the LRA to attend local schools and allowing LRA members access to local markets on the condition that the armed group did not carry out any violence. This contributed to the LRA engaging in farming and trade which in turn reduced instances of lootings and abductions.
Then in 2022, the government of CAR began formal negotiations with these groups as part of the national Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration, and Repatriation (DDRR) process. This, coupled with continued trust building by local communities and other actors, paved the way for the surrender of Achaye Doctor’s group first and, more recently, a sub-group of Owila’s faction. It is believed that Owila himself has returned to the bush with a contingent of LRA fighters.
Invisible Children has been supporting the efforts that led to this historic demobilization since 2021 by building trust with these LRA groups and participating in the demobilization negotiations. We also supported the local leaders who led these efforts and worked closely with Central African and Ugandan government officials, UN agencies, and other NGOs. In addition, we have supported dozens of women and children who escaped from these two groups before these recent surrenders, providing them with emergency medical care, basic necessities, and transport to their home community so they could reunify with their families.
We are currently working with partners to help identify the needs of the recent escapees as part of a broader effort to ensure they’re needs are met. In addition, Invisible Children is also assisting nearly two dozen women and children who escaped from LRA groups before these historic surrenders.
Historic Surrender of LRA in central Africa
We have incredible news from central Africa.
Late July, a large group of LRA laid down their weapons and peacefully surrendered. This is the largest demobilization in 15 years and reduces the size of the LRA by one-third, rendering a massive blow to their strength and ability to commit violence against communities in central Africa.
This surrender not only weakens the LRA, but it also means that the dozens of women and children held captive by this LRA group are now free.
Our President and CEO, Lisa Dougan, shared a video update from the region.
None of this happened overnight. You may recall that this time last year we announced that two LRA splinter groups, one under the command of Achaye Doctor and the other led by Owila, entered demobilization negotiations with authorities.
Invisible Children was able to gain the trust of these two groups allowing us to participate in the negotiations and even enter the camps to start registering the women and children so we would be prepared to care for them as soon as they were released. The negotiations were long and hard-fought but finally, weeks ago, Achaye Doctor’s group laid down their weapons and surrendered.
We are so proud of our team’s endurance, grit, and commitment to peacebuilding that led to this historic moment.
We will be following up with more as this story develops, but in the meantime we need your help. Invisible Children leads efforts to reunite LRA escapees and former captives with their families. Between immediate shelter and protection, mental health support, transport, and repatriation fees, it can cost thousands of dollars to safely get a person home to their families. And while it is resource intensive, there is little grant funding available for transport and reunification costs.
Every single one of the women and children in our care has a life to return to, and they are counting on us to get them there.