“The LRA had pillaged all of my belongings. The rebels released me shortly after. I was really traumatized—on the first day of training, I had trouble remembering my own name.””
– LRA survivor at a Search workshop in Kpaika, DRC
Communities in regions of the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are often victims of the attacks of the Lord’s Resistance Army, the notorious rebel group led by Joseph Kony. Though international efforts have reduced the group’s influence, pockets of LRA fighters continue to attack villages, looting property and abducting citizens.
Communities like Kpaika in the Haut et Bas Uéle Provinces are particularly vulnerable to attacks by the LRA, because of their remoteness, poor infrastructure and communication systems, lack of governmental influence, and limited presence of humanitarian agencies.
Together with Catholic Relief Services and Caritas, our DRC team launched the project Secure, Empowered, Connected Communities (SECC), funded by USAID. This initiative improves security in 96 communities in the Central African Republic and the DRC through the development of local protection plans, and connects villages with each other via radio to reduce their vulnerability to LRA attacks. SECC has helped communities develop risk and action plans that warn each other of potential emergencies. Villagers in Kpaika now use whistles to send alerts in case of danger, and farmers organize to go to their fields together. These measures reduce the LRA’s available targets and contributes to weakening their influence in the longer term.
As part of this project, we use participatory theater, radio, and dialogues to help communities address internal conflicts and maintain social cohesion. 25 participatory theatre troupes trained by Search performed 115 sessions in 34 communities, reaching over 36,000 people in 2016. Actors encourage the villagers to interact with each other and explore nonviolent and reconciliatory solutions to the problems presented on stage. Participants are not only entertained, but also more aware of the challenges other community members face.
“Honestly, I feel liberated and free from the fear I had. I express myself comfortably, I thank the community who chose me as an actor. This training is really crucial for me. I have felt myself change as a person and now I will also be able to transform my community through theater.”
– a theater troupe member
Our radio programs reach a wide audience and inform communities about potential dangers. Biso Bana, a radio show produced by youth from villages attacked by the LRA is especially popular. Our team trained 9 young journalists to report on youth-relevant subjects such as the reintegration of LRA abductees into communities, helping families to understand the plight of community members that have been kidnapped by the LRA.
“With this radio show I have learned things I did not know before. Many children have been kidnapped by the LRA. It is important for communities to welcome them back home with open arms so that they can be children again. I know some ex-LRA fighters in my community. From now on I will be more welcoming to them.”
– one of the trained journalists