LRA Members Communicating with Local Populations in Congo
Though the LRA is widely perceived to be an isolated and insular group, LRA forces often try to send messages to local communities, often via people they encounter during attacks or abductees they release. A Crisis Tracker analysis of interactions between LRA groups in Congo and local civilians between January 2012 and June 2013 found at least 24 such messages, including 9 in which LRA members wrote letters. In 6 communications, LRA forces requested that civilians inform local communities to refrain from interfering with the LRA or cooperating with military forces. However, in several other communications, LRA forces sought to reassure civilians that they no longer wanted to kill people.
In 9 incidents, LRA members expressed a desire to defect from the rebel group, sometimes asking civilians for assistance in doing so. In several cases, such as a series of incidents near Faradje in April and May 2013, LRA communications were clustered in a particular area in a short period of time, indicating that LRA combatants were making repeated attempts to surrender.
These attempts at communication likely reflect a high degree of disillusionment within LRA groups in Congo. Recent evidence suggests LRA groups in Congo are increasingly isolated from LRA senior commanders operating in CAR and the Kafia Kingi enclave, and operate in significantly weaker and smaller groups. However, only one Ugandan LRA combatant defected from the LRA in the first six months of 2013, indicating that LRA members still face significant barriers to successful defection.