• October 14, 2013
  • LRA Crisis Tracker
  • 0

First Contact: Messages from the LRA to local communities

In our most recent research report, Loosening Kony’s Grip: Effective Defection Strategies for Today’s LRA, we explored the rising disillusionment of Ugandan combatants in the LRA. In the Congo, this growing disenchantment may be one of the reasons LRA forces are communicating more with local populations. On at least nine occasions between January 2012 and June 2013, LRA combatants considering breaking ranks with Kony – at significant personal risk – made preliminary contact with the local population.

This trend, which we highlighted in our most recent LRA Crisis Tracker brief, may come as a surprise to some, especially because the LRA is oft perceived as an insular and isolated group. Most often they send messages to local communities through individuals they encounter during attacks or via abductees they release. A Crisis Tracker analysis of interactions between LRA groups in the Congo and local civilians between January 2012 and June 2013 identified at least 24 such messages, including those in which they expressed a willingness to surrender.

However, the intent of these messages has varied. Sometimes LRA combatants will send messages that threaten local civilians or ask them to refrain from interfering with the LRA. The message medium varies as well, with nine of the 24 messages we analyzed being in the form of handwritten letters, while the remainder were verbally communicated. The efforts of the LRA to communicate with the local population highlight the potential role these local communities may play in encouraging the LRA to surrender.

About the Author

Michael Poffenberger
Michael Poffenberger

Michael Poffenberger is Executive Director of The Resolve.