Yambio Religious Leaders’ Conference Statement
Last month, religious leaders from Uganda, DR Congo, the Central African Republic (CAR), and Sudan met for a conference in Yambio, South Sudan, to discuss the impact of the LRA on the region. They issued a statement outlining recommendations for dealing with the LRA threat. Many of their recommendations mirror those we discussed in our recent report From Promise to Peace: A Blueprint for President Obama’s Strategy.
The religious leaders’ statement highlighted the importance of improved civilian protection mechanisms. One recommendation they made was to improve communications networks in LRA-affected areas to help build the capacity of civilians to anticipate LRA attacks and protect themselves by strengthening early warning mechanisms. This could be accomplished through improving cell phone and radio coverage, and through strengthening physical infrastructure such as roads. In this vein, our partners at Invisible Children are currently working on a project to expand radio networks in DR Congo to help improve early warning mechanisms. As our report notes, existing telecommunications infrastructure in LRA-affected regions is sorely lacking, but expanding coverage could help communities both share intelligence on LRA activities, and warn each other about impending attacks.
Another component of the religious leaders’ statement discussed the need to communicate directly with the LRA, including its top commanders, to encourage them to peacefully lay down their arms. When the LRA was active in Uganda, broad-based radio programs and reception centers, as well as direct contact with rebel leaders, and leafletting campaigns was often effective at encouraging rebels to stop fighting and turn themselves in. Expanding initiatives like these throughout the entire LRA-affected region could have similar success. As we wrote about in August, there have been some small-scale efforts at training radio presenters in the broader region to encourage defection, but expanding such programs could play a major role in diminishing the LRA’s numbers, and thus reducing their capacity to attack civilians.
But perhaps the most important point they bring up is the need for greater international cooperation and renewed political will to bring an end to the LRA crisis. They write, “The international community has so far failed to develop a comprehensive plan to deal with the LRA as a regional threat, instead addressing the crisis in a piecemeal and haphazard way in four different countries. The LRA is seen as the responsibility of everyone and no one at once, and the lack of a coordinated and comprehensive strategy to address the problem is the predictable result.” Let’s hope that with our combined advocacy efforts we can overcome this inertia of international apathy and push our leaders to develop a comprehensive solution that is really capable of helping bring peace to the region.