News & Analysis Blog Posts
The gears of the international community are turning after the launch of the Kony 2012 campaign. On the heels of bipartisan U.S. Congressional resolutions about the LRA, the African Union (AU) separately announced two weeks ago that it would be launching a regional initiative and forming a 5,000 person military force to fight the LRA. The AU plans have been in the works for months and there are still a lot of details to be worked out, but the announcement is a welcome sign that the AU is bringing renewed energy and attention to the LRA crisis. Abou Moussa, the UN envoy for the region, sounded a note of urgency while announcing the plan, saying that “the most important thing is that no matter how little the LRA may be, it still constitutes a danger … they continue to attack and create havoc.”
Regional cooperation is essential to capturing Kony and ending the havoc that the LRA produces (see our recent report that explains why), so the AU initiative is a step in the right direction. Right now, Ugandan troops that are pursuing LRA leaders don’t have permission to cross into the Democratic Republic of Congo, thereby creating a potential safe-haven for LRA leadership in the DRC. And some fear that the LRA might also find refuge in the Darfur region of Sudan. The AU efforts will hopefully improve regional cooperation, and make ending Kony’s reign of terror something that governments cooperate on, not squabble over. To boost the AU’s efforts, the Obama Administration should strongly support the work of AU LRA envoy Francisco Madeira, who is leading diplomatic efforts to defrost tensions between regional governments.
As for the troops, at least part of the force will be made-up of Ugandan, Congolese, Central African, and South Sudanese troops who are already deployed in LRA-affected areas. The AU military force will have a headquarterns in Yambio, South Sudan and a political office in Central African Republic.
Some might wonder: Is the Kony 2012 campaign the reason this is happening? In short, not entirely: these plans have been in the works for months. But it seems clear that the Kony 2012 campaign certainly added urgency to the launch of the AU initiative. Indeed, Moussa said international interest in Kony had been “useful, very important”.
If the AU efforts result in increased regional cooperation, we believe they could significantly hasten the day that LRA violence finally ends and Joseph Kony is brought to justice. We will keep you updated as more information about this AU initiative becomes available. Stay tuned.
*Photo credit: Reuters
In the past few weeks there has been unprecedented attention around the world on the need to arrest Joseph Kony and end LRA atrocities in central Africa. However, in the coming months, one of the most important tools needed to achieve this goal – Uganda’s Amnesty Act – could be lost. The Act is set to expire in May, and prospects for its renewal are uncertain at best.
Enacted in 2000, the Amnesty Act provides amnesty from prosecution for individuals who take up arms against the Ugandan government but decide to surrender peacefully. The Act also established the Amnesty Commission, which provides small packages of reintegration support – including cash and basic farming tools – to many LRA returnees and others who accept amnesty, helping them rebuild lives disrupted by war. Over the years, the Act has received overwhelming support from civil society leaders in northern Uganda, as most LRA combatants were abducted against their will and military operations alone have never been adequate to stop the group’s attacks.
Through the use of persistent “come home” radio programming and direct outreach to LRA fighters encouraging them to surrender and accept amnesty, over 10,000 LRA members – a number 30 times the group’s current strength – defected and received amnesty between 2000 and 2008. Since 2008, hundreds more Ugandan members of the LRA have taken advantage of amnesty, helping to deplete LRA ranks and diminish their ability to attack communities in their current area of operations in Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan. These defectors also provide regional governments with valuable information about where LRA groups are located, helping them anticipate what communities may be most at risk of attack.
As a UN official in Dungu recently explained to me, ongoing initiatives to encourage the defection of the Ugandan fighters and commanders that make up the core of the LRA are wholly dependent on the existence of the Amnesty Act. Without it, many LRA fighters and abductees will fear prosecution if they surrender or are caught, driving them to stay within the rebel ranks and continue attacking civilians.
However, with the LRA no longer active in Uganda, some there are questioning whether the legislation is still relevant and appropriate. Many point out that the Act grants amnesty and provides reintegration support to LRA commanders accused of terrible crimes, while victims of LRA violence often receive little or no assistance or reparations. The Ugandan government also sees the Act as an impediment to their desire to prosecute some LRA commanders accused of war crimes (including Thomas Kwoyelo and has raised the concern that the Act brings Ugandan law out of alignment with international human rights law. Some within the Ugandan government are now discussing whether the Act can be renewed with amendments that allow for the prosecution of the most senior LRA commanders, but many think it should be allowed to simply expire.
That would be a mistake. Allowing the Amnesty Act to expire would cause great concern in northern Uganda and other war-affected areas of the country, and make people who have already received amnesty uneasy about their futures. It would leave dozens of Ugandans who have escaped the LRA or other Ugandan rebel groups over the past six months in legal limbo, as dysfunction within the Amnesty Commission has prevented them from receiving their official amnesty certificates.
But most importantly, and often unrecognized in the current debates within Uganda, the end of the Amnesty Act would severely undermine current efforts to encourage Ugandan LRA fighters and commanders to peacefully surrender. The UN and others are now working to expand ongoing programs that use FM radio broadcasts and aerial leafleting to encourage fighters and abductees in LRA ranks to defect. These programs have already shown success, and hold even greater future promise with their expansion. If the Act expires, these efforts will be back at square one.
As a result, many opportunities to help LRA abductees escape and reduce the group’s capacity to attack civilians would be lost. Civilians in LRA-affected areas of central Africa would bear the worst of the consequences.
Foreign Policy featured an article last Friday by Invisible Children’s Program Director, Adam Fink, that rebuts many of the misperceptions and criticisms of the Kony 2012 campaign, puts the campaign in the broader context of Invisible Children’s long history with the issue, and emphasizes the potential for significant progress that can result from it. Read the whole article below.
Of particular note, the article highlights the much-needed perspectives of communities currently affected by LRA violence, here and here. For more examples of what some local voices are saying, you can check out Resolve’s recent post “Perspective from Communities Currently Affected by LRA Violence,” or today’s BBC article which, as far as we know, is the first news piece about Kony 2012 reported from an area currently-affected by LRA violence.
You can read Adam Finck’s piece below or on the Foreign Policy’s website.
100 Million Viewers Can’t Be Wrong | by Adam Finck
While Kony 2012 was being released, I was working with Invisible Children staff and community leaders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on civilian protection initiatives. I was astonished to see the view count climb into the millions. None of us expected that a 29-minute film about Joseph Kony would go viral — or that the backlash would include criticisms that Invisible Children was unaware of the current location of his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), when, in fact, our work has extended into currently affected regions of central Africa over the last two years.
What was perhaps most surprising to see in the wake of Kony 2012 was the misperception that the LRA are still in Uganda. Kony 2012 does portray the LRA’s movement away from Uganda into the DRC, the Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan (minute 15:01), and a quick look at the LRA CrisisTracker leaves no doubt about the LRA’s current area of operation. Yet somehow the message in the film fell short of getting the point across. Perhaps it was due to the focus on a young Ugandan who was affected by the conflict, or perhaps it is driven by the unfortunate fact that only 20 percent of viewers actually watched the entire film, and the rest may have missed a few crucial details.
There has been much discussion about the video’s impact in the days since Kony 2012 launched, but unfortunately almost none of the opinions have come from the three countries currently affected by the LRA. The insight of local leaders in the DRC, the CAR, and South Sudan has been largely excluded from the broader conversation, as has their viewpoint on the apprehension of LRA leadership in 2012, and it is clear that the discussion needs to expand.
Kony 2012 is undoubtedly simplified. It is, after all, a short film geared toward high school and college students. It was also designed for the Internet, where attention spans are notoriously short. But the backlash criticizing the film for being oversimplified misses the point — Kony and his top commanders are still committing atrocities today in central Africa with impunity, and international efforts to stop him have not succeeded.
Delving deeper into the issue quickly reveals its complexity. The LRA have become masters of evasion and survival, eluding regional forces by weaving between country borders and veiling their tracks among those of nomadic herders. They are much smaller in number than they were a decade ago, and yet the atrocities they commit against the civilian population remain devastating. Since 2008, the LRA has abducted more than 3,400 civilians, killed more than 2,400 others, and displaced more than 400,000 people from their homes. The history of the conflict is complex, and the solutions require a multifaceted response from an array of humanitarian and security actors. A 29-minute Internet video will inevitably fall short of addressing these nuances.
What is not complex, and what the film appropriately simplifies, is the morality of the issue. For 26 years, Kony has perpetrated some of the most egregious human rights abuses on the planet, with total impunity. This idea justly demands the world’s attention, and in the simplicity of Kony 2012, the film has garnered just that. The film is a gateway to learning more about the conflict, its background, and involvement in broader social issues around the world.
In their rush to point out Invisible Children’s oversimplification of the LRA, the critics made an error — an oversimplification of Invisible Children itself.
Invisible Children and dozens of other groups have been directing attention to this conflict for years. We’ve made 11 films about the LRA, starting in 2003 when the group was still active in Uganda. After the LRA moved out of Uganda, we launched an advocacy campaign with hundreds of thousands of youth from around the world asking the international community to support the Juba Peace Talks in South Sudan. Yet in these talks, as in the past, Kony took advantage of the relative peace to stock up on supplies and abduct young recruits to strengthen his force. With dialogue off the table, we worked with a coalition of partners to pass the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, which President Obama signed into law, pledging U.S. support to apprehend top LRA leadership and provide assistance to LRA affected communities. Most recently, we’ve expanded operations on the ground in the DRC and the CAR to support civilian protection and rehabilitation initiatives led by local partners. For eight years, we have been following the LRA’s movements, working with LRA-affected communities and collaborating with local and international organizations to promote lasting solutions to the crisis.
Invisible Children’s program leaders on the ground are from Uganda and the DRC, many of whom have been personally affected by the LRA, and who are leading the design and implementation of innovative recovery efforts in the region. In Uganda, Country Director Jolly Grace Okot has pioneered the model for our programs, taking a long-term approach to overcoming the effects of conflict by improving the quality of education at schools and offering merit-based scholarships to the region’s most promising youth. In DR Congo, we’ve partnered on projects with local leaders like Abbe Benoit Kinelegu, who have committed their lives to stopping the LRA crisis, most notably through a civilian early warning network and FM projects that encourage LRA defection. A glance at our programs on the ground and the substance of our most recent advocacy campaign shows that we do our homework, and the choice to make this film “simple” was just that. A choice.
The true impact of Kony 2012 in this conflict will not be in its ability to raise awareness, but in its demand for results. This is not about tweeting a warlord into submission or ending a conflict with a click. This is about years of advocacy work done by groups in central Africa, northern Uganda, Washington, D.C. — and, yes, San Diego — united with groups around the world that have enabled us to reach this moment. Each person involved in the efforts to make Kony famous is helping to build a global constituency, bigger than any one person or organization, invested in the end of LRA violence — pushing those in positions of power to increase their commitment towards peace in the region. And with the introduction of a new bipartisan resolution introduced into U.S. Congress this week, progress has already begun. To end the LRA threat to communities, we need to change the conversation to a solutions-focused approach on the ground in currently affected regions.
I was able to witness part of this dynamic discussion last October at a civil society conference in Dungu, DRC, where leaders from the DRC, the CAR, and South Sudan came together to lobby their own governments for increased action against the LRA. The leaders also asked President Obama to follow through on commitments made in the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. Representatives from currently affected areas thanked Obama for support to regional efforts, and then demanded to see results. Kony 2012, in its simplest form, is asking each of us to demand the same.
Adam Finck is director of programs at Invisible Children. He spent two years living in post-conflict northern Uganda and, more recently, two years working with local partners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic on the expansion of community-led civilian protection and rehabilitation initiatives. Follow him on Twitter @adamfinck.
** Photo credit: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images
This week – in a unified show of support for the goals of the KONY 2012 campaign – Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Ed Royce (R-CA) introduced a resolution in Congress highlighting the ongoing atrocities being perpetrated by Joseph Kony and calling for continued U.S. efforts to help arrest Kony and protect communities being targeted by LRA violence. Senators Inhofe (R-OK) and Coons (D-DE) will introduce a companion Senate resolution next week.
The resolutions have been in the works for weeks, but leaders in Congress hope to seize the momentum being generated by the KONY 2012 campaign. “There is increased attention on the terror inflicted upon innocent people by the LRA – and that’s a good thing. I am hopeful that we can use this momentum as a force for change,” McGovern shared in a press release . “This resolution builds on past legislation and the current campaign by giving an added focus to these atrocities on children and efforts to stop them,” Royce added.
The video going viral is no guarantee that the goals of the campaign will be promoted in Congress. For that to happen, we need to translate the awareness generated by the film into concrete action for peace. You can do that by signing up here to meet with your member of Congress, right in their local office .
The text of the resolution (H.Res.581) aligns very closely with the KONY 2012 campaign policy manifesto, issued last week in the form of a letter to President Obama last week. It reinforces bipartisan Congressional support for US efforts to help end the threat posed by Joseph Kony and the LRA and highlights a number of steps that the Obama Administration, regional governments, and international partners can take to address the ongoing crisis caused by LRA violence.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also came out in support of the KONY 2012 campaign at a press conference on Monday. Senator Leahy – a champion for human rights and longtime advocate for efforts to end LRA violence – applauded activist efforts and committed to help expand assistance for communities being impacted by LRA violence. Check out the video above for highlights, and sign up to join a lobby meeting today.
People from all across the United States – and indeed, around the world – have weighed in with their views on the Kony 2012 phenomenon and the historic attention Joseph Kony has received over the last 10 days. However, despite the more than 90 million views of the Kony 2012 film online, the dozens of articles and interviews by mainstream news outlets, and the hundreds of blogs that have been written on the subject, there remains a critically important aspect of this story that has been left untold by the mainstream: perspectives from those who currently living in the midst of LRA violence.
Voices from communities in regions of DR Congo, South Sudan, and Central African Republic where the LRA continues to kill, abduct, and displace thousands of innocent civilians are notably absent from the public conversation. While frustrating, this is no surprise. As Resolve has noted on many occasions, Kony chooses to prey on communities in the most remote and marginalized areas of central Africa, where news of LRA atrocities rarely reach the outside world. These areas lack basic communication infrastructure and technology.
For the past six years, many religious and civil society leaders in these communities have been calling for assistance from their own governments and from the international community to help protect civilians targeted by the LRA and apprehend Joseph Kony and his top commanders. Their input formed the basis of the policy recommendations for the KONY 2012 campaign. It would be tragic if – in a moment of such incredible attention to their plight – views from affected communities continue to go unheard.
Our team is working now to gather comments from religious and human rights leaders in these communities, but in the meantime, below is a compilation of a few of the testimonies from these leaders over the past few years.
“Let Us Be Free: A plea for relief from the violence of the LRA” produced by Discovery the Journey
- Letter from Father Abbé Benoit Kinalegu of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission in Dungu, DRC, in response to the Kony 2012 film and campaign
- Perspectives from religious and civil society leaders in South Sudan on the LRA and the Kony 2012 campaign, gather by Resolve’s Director of Advocacy
As you saw in the first video, a woman from an LRA-affected area of South Sudan emphasizes, “We want people who will talk on our behalf,” — people who will share these stories with the rest of the world. You can help spread her story, and those of many others, by doing two things right now:
1. Tweet this blog and post it on Facebook so that the voices of currently affected communities are included in the public conversation about Joseph Kony and the LRA. Here’s a sample message:
Amplify the voices of people currently experiencing #LRA violence in central Africa http://bit.ly/wbaBRy @weareresolved #KONY2012
2. Sign up to lead a Kony 2012 local lobby meeting and share these stories with your members of Congress in person.
We’ve made Kony famous. Now let’s do what we can to help bring his atrocities to an end.
Here in Washington, DC, it’s the time of year when politicians start fighting over the budget (though these days, it seems like it is always that time of year). Top officials in the Obama Administration have appeared before hearings in Congress to articulate the President’s budget proposal. And – more than ever before – Members of Congress from both political parties have questioned them about how the United States can do more to stop Joseph Kony and help communities being displaced and targeted by LRA violence.
In response to a question posed by Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted that “we have a clear goal: which is to enable local forces to end the reign of terror,” and argued for the importance of empowering governments in the region to cooperate to address the problem, but added that U.S. military advisors in the region can have an “outsized role in bringing about that conclusion.” Clinton also expressed support for legislation recently introduced by Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), which would authorize financial rewards for anyone who provides information that leads to Kony’s arrest.
General Carter Ham, the head of the U.S. military command that engages with countries in Africa, also testified before Congress. In response to a question from Senator Inhofe (R-OK), he noted that the military advisors deployed last fall “are having a very positive effect.” Some of the roles he highlighted that advisors are playing included “intelligence fusion,” “increased intelligence collection,” and “logistics operations to sustain forces in the field.” Offering his assessment of the possibilities for success, General Ham said he was “optimistic, but…not yet to the point where we see the end in sight.”
Resolve documented many of the challenges that continue to hamper regional efforts to apprehend Joseph Kony in a recent policy report, “Peace Can Be: President Obama’s Chance to Help End LRA Atrocities in 2012.”
Earlier today, Senator Leahy (D-VT) also questioned Rajiv Shah, the Administrator of USAID, about programs that the U.S. is supporting to help communities directly affected by the violence. Shah responded, “I want to thank you and our partners… that are helping to establish cell towers that will enable a greater degree of protection,” and shared plans to expand “radio access and programming to help warn communities ahead of [LRA attacks].”
Special thanks go to Senators Inhofe (R-OK) and Leahy (D-VT), as well as Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and Adam Smith (D-WA) for asking questions about the LRA, and making sure that administration officials remain focused on helping address the crisis.
Check out the video above. to see more of what Secretary Clinton and General Ham had to say.
Today we’re kicking off a blog series about Resolve’s latest report, Peace Can Be: President Obama’s chance to help end LRA atrocities in 2012. We don’t normally do this, but to start off we wanted to share a series of images to go along with the paper. The photos show the effects of LRA violence, the people it has impacted, the conditions in the area, and how communities are coping. The analysis and policy recommendations included in the report were based on three months of research in LRA-affected regions of Congo, CAR, South Sudan, and Uganda conducted by Resolve team member Paul Ronan, who also took most of these photos. Read the full report here, and stay tuned for more discussion on one of the paper’s main themes, regional coordination, next week.
President Obama signing the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act on May 24, 2010.
“Unless the U.S. moves quickly to complement and expand on existing efforts, LRA leader Joseph Kony will likely outlast President Obama and his LRA strategy as effectively as he has outlasted the efforts of four previous U.S. presidents.”
Vehicle destroyed by the LRA near Dembia, CAR in June 2011 in which the region’s chief medical officer was killed and valuable polio vaccinations destroyed. (Credit: Civil society representative in southeast CAR)
“Military forces have failed to protect civilians from LRA reprisal and survival attacks during which the group has killed more than 2,400 people and abducted more than 3,400 others since 2008.”
“One of the central challenges to the successful implementation of the Obama Administration’s LRA strategy is the breakdown in cooperation among governments in the region… The governments of Congo, CAR, and South Sudan have not demonstrated the capability or willingness to succeed against the LRA on their own”
“The U.S. should increase its intelligence and aerial mobility support to the Ugandans, and help repair civil-military relations.”
“If current initiatives fail to break apart the LRA’s command structure, the group will be poised to survive indefinitely and eventually replenish its strength in the tri-border region.”
“U.S. military advisors [should integrate] protection strategies into Uganda’s operational planning, reporting alleged military abuses against civilians, and sharing intelligence about LRA activity with civilian early warning networks.”
“Local self-defense groups, known as the Arrow Boys or Home Guards,… take advantage of relatively extensive mobile phone and road networks within South Sudan to share information about LRA activities”
“Radio programs remain the most efficient way to spread ‘come home’ messages over vast distances to isolated [LRA] groups.”
“The U.S. must invest more in civilian early warning networks and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) programs, which can help mitigate the consequences of LRA violence and reduce the group’s capacity to prey on vulnerable civilians.”
“Emergency aid and capacity-building for civil society is needed in areas of CAR, Congo, and South Sudan where the LRA has displaced over 465,000 people and is exacerbating communal tensions.”
“The Administration must make decisions about the advisers’ future based on their progress towards achieving clearly defined benchmarks and not on the shifting political currents in Washington, DC.”
“A premature withdrawal [of the U.S. military advisers] would deflate promising momentum from regional governments and U.S. officials to push forward on both military and civilian aspects of the counter-LRA effort.”
Our colleague Paul has been in Central Africa for nearly 2 weeks now, and he has been tweeting his impressions from the ground @ResolveReports. As expected, there has been a mixture of good news and bad.
The ability or inability to communicate via radio has proven to be hugely important in protecting civilians:
It sounds like the KONY 2012 campaign is already garnering international support:
Residents across Central Africa have high expectations for the American troops, and it’s all too apparent that every delay is costly:
For more details from the ground, check out this blog that Paul posted about his visit to Djemah, Central African Republic. He visited the community two years ago, shortly after it had been attacked by the LRA. This was his first time visiting since then.
“Djemah still has no HF radio or mobile phone service, and the mayor told us that surrounding communities write letters and deliver them by hand to tell him of LRA activity. That very morning, we met a man who traveled 30km to Djemah to deliver a letter detailing how two Ugandan women and three small children escaped from the LRA in his community just two days before.”
Paul minces no words when describing what Djemah needs most:
“HF radio and mobile phone projects… should be implemented quickly, and avoid the delays that have plagued similar US projects in Congo. Djemah and surrounding communities have been waiting for such projects for over two years, while the LRA continues to conduct brutal attacks. They can’t afford to wait two more.”
Be sure to follow @ResolveReports to get the latest news from the ground.
Last week I wrapped up my trip to southeastern Central African Republic (CAR) by visiting Djemah, a tiny town that has been an epicenter of LRA activity for over two years. As we flew there, our pilot pointed out villages abandoned by people fleeing LRA attacks, as well as a huge rock cliff where Kony reportedly gathered LRA fighters in 2009.
I was eager to return to Djemah to see how the situation there had changed since I first visited two years ago. In 2010, few people had a grasp of the situation in Djemah because it was virtually inaccessible by road and had no mobile phone service or HF radio to communicate with the outside world. With the help of an intrepid pilot we flew into the tiny airstrip, and hiked several miles into town. There, community leaders told us of recent LRA attacks, including how just months before our visit LRA forces under Joseph Kony’s command had invaded Djemah town and abducted dozens of people.
The damage could have been far worse if a Ugandan military unit, which had arrived by chance only the night before, hadn’t driven the LRA out of the town. Even so, the community was so traumatized by the attack it dared not even venture outside of town to bury some of the dead. That night in 2010, unable to find a place to stay, we hung our mosquito nets from the wing of the airplane and slept on the runway.
Last week I returned to Djemah for the first time since that trip to see how the community has fared. In many ways, little has changed. Djemah remains the heart of LRA activity in southeast CAR, with Ugandan military forces pursuing senior LRA commanders in the surrounding forests.
Djemah still has no HF radio or mobile phone service, and the mayor told us that surrounding communities write letters and deliver them by hand to tell him of LRA activity. That very morning, we met a man who traveled 30km to Djemah to deliver a letter detailing how two Ugandan women and three small children escaped from the LRA in his community just two days before. That night, we ate dinner around a fire on the runway before again slinging our mosquito nets from the airplane wing.
However, some progress has also been made. The community welcomed the presence of US military advisers, who arrived in Djemah in late 2011 and have reportedly helped motivate Ugandan troops to improve counter-LRA operations and their behavior towards the local population. Several people I talked to in 2010 who had been directly impacted by Kony’s attack in late 2009 were now involved in a community early warning group designed to help protect civilians from future LRA raids. However, much remains to be done. Community expectations for what the US advisers will do to stop the LRA far surpass their current capabilities and mandate. As I wrote in Resolve’s recent report Peace Can Be, President Obama must convince regional governments, including Uganda, to recommit to apprehending senior LRA commanders and protecting civilians. If ongoing efforts are going to succeed, he must also provide greater logistical and intelligence support to forces pursuing the LRA.
In Djemah specifically, US military advisers could play a critical role in helping the Ugandan military encourage defections from the LRA with “come home” messages distributed via mobile FM transmitters and leaflets. US officials can also be of enormous help by supporting the installation of early warning communications technology. In recent months, US officials have had encouraging discussions on how to utilize the funds authorized by Congress in the 2012 budget to ensure Djemah and other towns in CAR can benefit from HF radio, FM radio, and mobile phone projects. These projects should be implemented quickly, and avoid the delays that have plagued similar US projects in Congo. Djemah and surrounding communities have been waiting for such projects for over two years, while the LRA continues to conduct brutal attacks. They can’t afford to wait two more.
One of the most troubling aspects of LRA violence in the tri-border region between Congo, CAR, and South Sudan has been its ability to exacerbate tensions that already exist within affected communities. This is particularly true for the Mbororo, nomadic cattle-herders who have historically moved with the seasons across the fluid borders of South Sudan, Congo, CAR, and beyond as they graze their cattle.
We wanted to highlight a recent New York Times piece that looks at the marginalization and violence towards this minority group in South Sudan. Over the past seven years, thousands of Mbororo have been the victims of violence and displacement due to these inter-communal tensions. Potentially hundreds of Mbororo have been killed in these disputes, primarily stemming from land conflicts with the local farming population.
The Mbororo, seen as stateless outsiders by local communities, are often accused of collaborating with the LRA, though little evidence exists to support this. As both the Mbororo and the LRA operate in remote rural areas, they may cross paths. But, as discussed in our recent paper, Peace Can Be: President Obama’s chance to help end LRA atrocities in 2012, the Mbororo have in fact been some of the main victims of LRA violence. The rebels often attack these herders to steal their cattle, or kidnap and hold them hostage until their friends and family can return with goods and supplies.
This scapegoating and marginalization of weak minority groups is all too common in settings of instability and violence—in fact, it is one of the reasons that the LRA has been allowed to operate for so long. “Historically, the LRA has thrived in areas where communities are already marginalized by national governments and militaries that feel little pressure to foster economic development and protect civilians,” my teammate Paul wrote in our 2010 report From Promise to Peace: A blueprint for President Obama’s LRA strategy.
As this New York Times article illustrates, LRA violence has ripple effects that stretch beyond the communities directly impacted by their atrocities. It also contributes to greater volatility and instability in communities across the region, which further reinforces the urgency of bringing an end to LRA violence this year.