Top Stories of 2012: New wave of LRA defectors returns home
This week we are sharing three top stories from 2012, chosen by our team as demonstrations of our impact and shared as a token of our thanks.
Our first is a story that stands above the rest as a sign of hope for our work. Contributions from The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative supporters enabled us to advance U.S. actions that helped a wave of LRA fighters and abductees escape from the group in 2012 — maybe even as many as the previous three years combined.
With adequate resources, there are tools we’ve long advocated for that can overcome the fear that Kony and his senior commanders use to prevent LRA fighters and abductees from trying to escape. Way back in 2010, we argued successfully that expanding use of these tools should be a central aim of President Obama’s LRA strategy, which was then being drafted.
The two most effective tools that we highlighted are leaflets that can be dropped by air or tied to trees in areas of suspected LRA movement and FM radio broadcasts. Both mediums often feature messages from previous LRA escapees or family members of LRA fighters, encouraging those who remain in the bush to defy Kony and come home. In areas as remote as the parts of central Africa where the LRA operates it takes significant resources to make these tools work, so we also worked with activists and Members of Congress to secure increased resources for them in the U.S. budget.
Those efforts are now paying off as programs to help LRA fighters and abductees to escape from the group are being expanded rapidly. In one example of their impact, The Resolve’s researcher Paul Ronan interviewed a Ugandan man in October who had been abducted by the LRA in 1996 at age 17, near the town of Gulu in Uganda. Even though he had spent almost half his life being forced to fight for Kony, he gained courage to escape after picking up a leaflet featuring a message from Caesar Achellam, an LRA commander who was captured by Ugandan forces in May.
New leadership from the U.S. is now helping these efforts go one step further. After recognizing that LRA commanders can prevent their abductees from hearing radio messages or picking up fliers, U.S. military advisors deployed to the region last year found a way to send messages that no one can stop. Using industrial speakers mounted to the bottom of helicopters, they are broadcasting “come home” messages directly to the LRA in overhead flights. Our work in 2012 helped convinced President Obama to extend the deployment of those advisors so these efforts can continue.
The work we do often takes much longer than we wish, but the results can be game-changing. Though it is difficult to monitor, the reports we received indicate that 41 LRA fighters defected in 2012, which is more than we recorded in the previous three years combined. Many others abducted more recently by the LRA — but not yet promoted as fighters — have also been aided in escaping.
These are the kinds of results that have to be sustained. Kony’s forces were still able to carry out 266 attacks against civilians that we recorded in 2012. They must be stopped for good, and The Resolve’s research and advocacy programs are helping make that happen.
This week, we’re looking for just 20 people to sign up as The Resolve Cosponsors, committing as little as $20/month to protect our mission. Click here to help us out by becoming one of those 20 people today.
To peace in 2013–
*photo credits: Invisible Children