Aug 2014

Call to protect and rebuild lives in LRA area

Tom Bradley

New research explains how local leaders in east and central Africa and the international community can better protect civilians from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony’s guerrilla group, and reintegrate former members into their communities. 

Two companion reports examine the roots of these interconnected problems and suggest ways forward.

A people dispossessed: the plight of civilians in areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army investigates chronic security threats in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), including the LRA and armed cattle herders. 

Back but not home: supporting the reintegration of former LRA abductees into civilian life in Congo and South Sudan casts new light on the situation facing those who escape Kony’s group and the communities which receive them. It explains why some communities turn away the returnees and suggests how local and outside actors can ease tensions and support the reintegration process. 

The LRA continues to threaten the lives and livelihoods of thousands of civilians in the border areas of DRC, South Sudan and the Central African Republic where a chronic lack of state presence contributes to the perpetuation of violence.

The unpredictable nature of LRA attacks and the ineffectiveness of state security forces leave locals in a constant state of fear and prevent them from pursuing their traditional means of survival: farming, hunting and trading. 

Some returnees struggle to adapt to normal life. 

Each time I hear a loud noise or somebody shouting I feel this urge to kill somebody. They [LRA commanders] gave us the training for this. They would make cuts above our eyebrows to put on their traditional medicines to make us strong and to kill without thinking.

Jean de Dieu, 17, who from the age of 11 spent three years with the LRA

Mental health problems, the result of severe trauma, make it all the more difficult for communities to live alongside family members and neighbours whom the LRA kidnapped and forced to kill. 

Grounded in extensive field research and the voices of communities directly affected by the conflict, the reports suggest that those working towards lasting peace in the LRA affected areas should pursue these four priorities:

  • A comprehensive approach to civilian protection that reduces immediate security threats and guarantees civilians the freedom of movement needed to pursue sustainable livelihoods
  • Strong and collaborative local leadership that sees state authorities working hand-in-hand with traditional and religious leaders and civil society groups. 
  • Community-based and culture-specific reintegration initiatives through which host communities and returnees can rebuild trust. 
  • The long-term commitment of all stakeholders to provide holistic support so that through education and employment returnees can play active and valued roles in their communities.

The two-stranded research project was commissioned by Conciliation Resources and carried out with the financial support of UNICEF and the Norwegian Embassy in Kampala. Findings from both reports are summarised in the Policy Brief, Safe paths home: protecting civilians and supporting reintegration in LRA affected communities.

Conciliation Resources believes a non-violent solution and a just and lasting peace are possible. However, in order for this to happen governments need to address the root causes of the conflict and involve those directly affected. 

PDF copies of the two reports and the Policy Brief that summarises the findings are available to download here

Media contact:

Tamanna Kalhartkalhar@c-r.org | +44 (0)20 7288 8397