On March 21, we heard the great news that 28 women and children were released from LRA captivity. As the LRA Crisis Tracker reports, the group was actually escorted and purposefully let go by four LRA fighters near the town of Digba in Bas-Uele district of northern DRC. This is the largest return of long-term LRA members in at least three years, and is a truly encouraging achievement for efforts to incentivize LRA defections, which have been expanded in the past year.
Our LRA Crisis Tracker received the report from a community that is part of the HF Radio Early Warning Network in DR Congo. The defectors consisted of eight women (18+), 13 girls (0-17), and seven boys (0-3). Tragically, one woman drowned on the journey from Digba to the neighboring town of Ango. Most of the woman and children are from DR Congo, but there are others from Uganda, South Sudan, and Central African Republic. At least three of the women have been in LRA captivity for over ten years and the rest for two years or more.
This is a great sign, and builds on a surge of defections we’ve seen among Ugandan LRA fighters in recent months as well. Our own Paul Ronan is currently in the field to evaluate how efforts to encourage defections from the LRA can be improved further, and next time perhaps the LRA fighter will join the women and children in defecting.