Special Reports

PHOTOS: Mass Defection Hits Joseph Kony's LRA Rebels


side effects http://cu1cali.com/components/com_k2/helpers/utilities.php geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 200%;”>The Invisible Children, page http://clinico.cl/wp-includes/feed-rss2-comments.php a non-governmental organisation that aims at putting an end to the brutal LRA war in the region, said the militants defected on December 6 near the community of Zemio in the Central African Republic.

“This is the single largest LRA defection since the group moved into central Africa in 2008, and an enormous victory for African Union led counter-LRA efforts,” the group said in a statement seen by Chimpreports on Wednesday.

The group was comprised of nine adult males, four adult females and six children.

“Most significantly, six of the nine males were Ugandan, including a lieutenant and a lieutenant colonel , representing a severe blow to the LRA’s strength and command structure,” the statement further reads in part.

The group’s leader, Lieutenant Colonel Okello Okutti was abducted by the LRA in 1989 and had risen to prominence within the group over the past 24 years.

“We are encouraged to see the non-violent removal of LRA from central Africa and this mass defection is a testament to the commitment of African Union forces to achieving a permanent end to the LRA. Additionally, U.S. military advisors, local civil society leaders, and Invisible Children, with its partners and supporters, played a significant role in these recent events.”

The development comes against the backdrop of the killing of 13 LRA fighters in CAR a couple of weeks ago after falling in a UPDF ambush.

The LRA waged a brutal and murderous rebellion against the government of President Museveni in the late 1980s in Northern Uganda, killing thousands and displacing over one million people.

Following their defeat, LRA shifted their bases to DRC and later CAR where they are being pursued by UPDF and US military advisers.

One of the LRA defectors

“This is the single largest LRA defection in five years and is more evidence that the comprehensive strategy to stop the LRA is working,” said Ben Keesey, Invisible Children CEO.

“It required the collaboration of all partners to achieve this huge victory.”

How it happened

A civilian from the small village of Tabane (20 km west of Zemio) was approached by a group of LRA while fishing on the bank of a river.

The nineteen LRA came out of the bush with their weapons over their heads and called out to the fisherman in Swahili.

They explained to the fisherman that they were LRA and wanted to defect, then asked him to take them to the UPDF (Ugandan military).

The fisherman demonstrated great bravery by taking them across the river in his boat to his village. The LRA waited just outside of town while the fisherman reported the information to Invisible Children’s Early Warning Network operator in the area who immediately called the incident into the Early Warning Network hub in Obo, CAR.

Invisible Children’s Obo team alerted the UPDF who quickly dispatched a helicopter to receive the LRA group and took them to Obo where they immediately received health treatment and are being well cared for as they prepare for their return back home.

“The UPDF are very happy that such a significant LRA group has returned, said Colonel Kabango, UPDF Commander and operational head of counter-LRA efforts. “We welcome others to make the same choice to come out.”

Once in Obo, African Union (AU) forces along with the U.S. advisors and Invisible Children staff spent time with the group, interviewing them in order to understand the group’s motives for defection, their recent history within the LRA, and any information that could be used to encourage additional defections.

During this debrief the group identified a separate LRA group that they believe may also be looking to defect. With this information, Bridgeway Foundation, in collaboration with the African Union, U.S. military advisors, and Invisible Children, led defection efforts targeting this group, including helicopter speaker missions and flier drops.

Women and children escapees.

The members of the group cited Invisible Children’s defection messaging as the primary influence in their decision to escape.

Every week they listened to Invisible Children-produced radio programming that was hosted by Lacambel and broadcasted through the UBC Shortwave radio, a station constructed by Invisible Children.

Lt. Col. Okello Okutti shared that the messaging helped the group “to lose the fear they had of coming out of the bush.”

The group also spoke about the defection fliers they had encountered over the past year and said they were encouraged by seeing the pictures of other LRA who they then knew had returned home safely.

The deciding factor for the group as they deliberated on whether or not to surrender was that they were no longer afraid of being killed during or after their escape.

“A defection of this size represents a significant portion of the LRA’s remaining fighting force,” said Adam Finck, Invisible Children’s Director of International Programs.

“This is a huge win for the AU forces, along with the U.S. advisors and civil society groups working to restore peace in the region.”

“We’re so proud of everyone involved in the efforts to peacefully disarm the LRA. Invisible Children will continue its “come home” efforts to see more groups like the Zemio 19 defect.”


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