The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continues to destabilise parts of the Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and South Sudan by committing atrocities and causing terror to local populations. The resulting humanitarian needs are immense – there are currently over 440,000 people displaced by the conflict across the three countries. The LRA conducts abductions and loots supplies, and takes revenge on civilians when under attack.
Given this well documented phenomenon, more than fifty civil society leaders from the affected region met in Bangui in early September and, after two days of discussion, presented the following recommendations to Prime Minister Faustin-Archange Touadéra of Central African Republic and members of his government, the UN Special Representative Margaret Voigt, and the representative of the African Union, Mike Bugason. They highlighted the need for a comprehensive and results-oriented approach to resolving the LRA conflict:
• Reach out to the LRA and increase the impact of DDR: More opportunities must be provided for abductees, rank and file soldiers, and mid-level commanders to defect from the LRA’s ranks and be reintegrated into their communities. Reception centres in northern Uganda are functional but these are lacking in CAR, DRC and South Sudan. To increase the effectiveness of ongoing efforts, international donors and national governments must support the implementation of regional agreements on legal frameworks for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programmes, and amnesty laws in all affected countries. Contact needs to be made with LRA groups to encourage return and diminish the LRA’s capacity.
“LRA combatants are our children. We have failed to protect them – they have been abducted, forced to kill, they have lost their humanity. We should consider them as victims of circumstances, and welcome them back.” Bishop Baker MacLeod Ochola, Kitgum, Uganda
• Protect civilians: The LRA abducts its victims where they are most vulnerable: in outlying areas with little infrastructure and few basic services. Offensive military attacks against the LRA result in more civilian casualties and to be effective require a greater number of troops than is available. In contrast, as both a humanitarian and military strategy safeguarding civilians works to weaken the LRA by cutting off its supply. We urge national governments, the AU and the UN to make civilian protection central to all responses.
“There must also be community facilitation and work with local leaders as there's still a lot of fear: when people see LRA coming out of the bush they're afraid of what's going to happen.”
Sister Angelique Namaika, DRC
• Encourage social and economic recovery: The LRA conflict has entrenched the poverty of vulnerable populations. To reduce their susceptibility to conflict and crises they need basic services like healthcare, education, communication and transport infrastructure, as well as livelihood opportunities. Visible peace dividends that connect people in the region must be established. Support for dialogue and reconciliation efforts will help to promote reintegration of LRA returnees and reduce community tensions.
“For peaceful social development we need to heal the wounds: there are many personal conflicts in Western Equatoria State community due to years of violence.” – Fr Mark Kumbonyaki, South Sudan
The Regional Civil Society Task Force (RCSTF) agreed on a joint plan of action to take back to their communities. This includes stepping up radio programming to reach LRA in the bush with appropriate messaging, community-level work to increase understanding and sensitivity to former LRA, and advocacy at a local, national and regional level to encourage awareness, cooperation and political action. We urge national governments and
the international community to support civil society’s peacemaking role and maintain the space for locally led
non-violent solutions to the LRA conflict.
Read more related reports :
The RCSTF formed in 2009 with participants from CAR, DRC, South Sudan and Uganda:
The network produces a quarterly grassroots newsletter on the LRA conflict:
The Voice of Peace www.c-r.org/VOP
Contact for info: Nicolas Tillon email@example.com Mobile: +44 (0)7436 102 509 / Tel: +44 (0)20 7359 7728 x.255