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Encouraging Rebel Demobilization by Radio in Uganda and the D.R. Congo: The Case of “Come Home” Messaging



For several years, local radio stations in Uganda have broadcast “come home” messages that encourage the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army to demobilize. Since the rebels began carrying out attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic, several international actors have introduced the same messages to these regions. This new effort has internationalized radio programming, benefited local radio stations, provided new forms of messaging, and functioned in collaboration with military actors. This article provides an overview of how “come home” messaging functions in different contexts, examines the effects of these actions, and calls for research into an important shift in military–humanitarian relations.
Encouraging Rebel Demobilization by
Radio in Uganda and the D.R. Congo:
The Case of “Come Home” Messaging
Scott Ross
Abstract: For several years, local radio stations in Uganda have broadcast “come
home” messages that encourage the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army to demobilize.
Since the rebels began carrying out attacks in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo and Central African Republic, several international actors have introduced
the same messages to these regions. This new effort has internationalized radio
programming, benefited local radio stations, provided new forms of messaging, and
functioned in collaboration with military actors. This article provides an overview of
how “come home” messaging functions in different contexts, examines the effects of
these actions, and calls for research into an important shift in military–humanitarian
Résumé: Depuis plusieurs années, les stations de radio locales en Ouganda
ont diffusé des messages “Rentrez à la maison” qui encouragent les rebelles de
l’Armée de Résistance du Seigneur à se démobiliser. Depuis que les rebelles ont
commencé à mener des attaques dans la République Démocratique du Congo et
la République Centrafricaine, plusieurs acteurs internationaux ont mis en place
les mêmes messages dans ces régions. Ce nouvel effort a internationalisé la
programmation radiophonique et a été bénéfique pour les stations de radio
locales. Il a aussi fourni de nouvelles formes de communication et a fonctionné
en collaboration avec les acteurs militaires. Cet article donne une vue d’ensemble
sur la façon dont les messages “rentrez à la maison” fonctionnent dans des
contextes différents. Il examine aussi les effets de ces actions, et appelle à plus
de recherches universitaire sur un changement important dans les relations
African Studies Review , Volume 59, Number 1 (April 2016), pp. 33– 55
Scott Ross is a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at The George
Washington University. His research on the Lord’s Resistance Army conflict
focuses on international justice, humanitarian intervention, and media. E-mail:
© African Studies Association, 2016
34 African Studies Review
Keywords: Lord’s Resistance Army ; Uganda ; Democratic Republic of the Congo ; radio ;
demobilization ; humanitarianism ; conflict ; peace ; Invisible Children ; MONUSCO ;
media ; reconciliation
Once a week in northern Uganda, Lacambel Oryem sits down in his
studio at Mega FM and greets his guests. Sometimes they are civil society
leaders discussing efforts at reconciliation, sometimes they are the fam-
ilies of children abducted by the rebels, and sometimes they are even
the rebels themselves, those who have given up war and returned home
with hopes of reintegration. They tell many different stories, but the
message to the rebels is always the same: come home.
In northern Uganda, civilians in the Acholi subregion have lived
through war for over twenty years. They were the target of both sides in
the conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan
government, a war that saw the abduction and conscription of children,
forcible displacement of the peasantry, and devastating violence across
the region (see Branch 2011 ; Dolan 2009 ; Finnström 2008 ). In response,
war-affected communities have developed an innovative use of radio to
help end the war. Radio stations in northern Uganda broadcast messages
encouraging rebels—many of them abducted conscripts—to escape and
surrender. These messages, which hope to demobilize the LRA peacefully,
promote the state’s amnesty law and encourage reconciliation between
rebels and the community. Though the rebels left Uganda in 2006, the
messages continue today as humanitarians and peacekeepers record and
relay them on the airwaves in LRA-affected regions of the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR). As this
local response to the conflict has been expanded, however, it has encoun-
tered obstacles to its effectiveness.
The LRA conflict has been the subject of many concerted efforts to
find peace, and the use of radio may be promising, but these efforts are
not without their pitfalls. These radio programs—long operated by local
organizations—have increasingly become the project of external actors.
Here I examine these radio programs and how they have been imple-
mented, expanded, and transplanted across the conflict zone over the
last decade. I will first discuss the general role of radio in conflict in
Africa before turning to radio programs in LRA-affected regions, based
on interviews conducted in Uganda and the DRC in 2013. I show how
the expansion of these programs by outside actors has had unforeseen
consequences, and that it has led to a more militarized form of human-
itarianism. Overall, I argue that demobilization media efforts must be
grounded in local contexts, and that efforts to broaden their scope
face obstacles in regard to both reaching their audience (be it rebel or
civilian) and retaining credibility. Radio is a channel for humanitarian
intervention, but its mobility does not always translate to successful
“Come Home” Radio Messaging in Uganda and the D.R. Congo 35
Radio and Conflict in the Great Lakes Region
Throughout Africa, radio plays a central role as one of the leading media
for dissemination of information. In sub-Saharan Africa—especially in the
Great Lakes region—these programs have played a pivotal role in both con-
flict and postconflict settings. When radio and conflict are mentioned together,
many are likely to recall stories of Rwanda, where it is said that Radio
Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) incited violence and helped
facilitate the genocide of Tutsi and moderate Hutu civilians by Hutu extrem-
ists in 1994 (see Kellow & Steeves 1998 ; Li 2004 ). The station was backed by
Hutu extremists and frequently played messages that deepened ethnic divi-
sions between Hutu and Tutsi and blurred the line between Tutsi civilians
and rebels. Though the level of RTLM’s culpability may be debatable, it
seems to have played at least a secondary, local-level role. In his examina-
tion of RTLM’s impact, Straus ( 2007 ) says that radio “was not the principle
reason why men entered into violence; rather, mobilization was locally
organized and face-to-face.” Nevertheless, he did find a “tiny fraction” of
violent incidents in which radio messages naming particular people or
places within Kigali led to targeted killings (2007:626,620). In addition,
it is clear that RTLM promoted anti-Tutsi sentiments, although it is difficult
to determine to what extent this might have laid the groundwork for
Regardless of the actual, direct effects of radio messaging, however, the
pervasive belief that this played a crucial role in Rwandan violence has led
to numerous efforts to use radio for benevolent purposes. Many have asked,
“if radio can be used so effectively to promote hate, can it not then also be
used at least as effectively to promote peace?” (Betz 2004 :43–44). Indeed,
postgenocide Rwanda has seen one of the most comprehensive efforts to
promote peace and reconciliation via radio. In 2004 the Dutch NGO La
Benevolencija started a radio drama titled Musekeweya (“New Dawn” in
Kinyarwanda) focused on understanding the roots of violence and pro-
moting reconciliation, active bystander interventions in violent acts, and a
better engagement with trauma (Staub et al. 2008 ). A year-long study found
that the program did not necessarily change listeners’ personal beliefs,
but succeeded in substantially changing their perceptions of social norms
(Paluck 2009 ).
The team behind the Rwandan radio program later developed the story
further, incorporating more themes and broadcasting the drama into parts
of eastern DRC. The goal was to promote reconciliation with the hope of
convincing members of the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda
(FDLR, originally comprising genocide perpetrators who fled Rwanda in
1994) to return to Rwanda. One report on this initiative highlighted that a
number of ex-FDLR had listened to the program in the DRC before return-
ing to Rwanda (Ingelaere et al. 2009 ). The radio program was not actually a
primary driver of demobilization; while many rebels were disillusioned with
FDLR objectives and tired of the life of war, many viewed it as propaganda
36 African Studies Review
and did not believe its depiction of a Rwanda focused on reconciliation.
The program did, however, play a role in the “dynamic of competing ide-
ologies and mindsets” between the FDLR leadership’s narrative—which
claimed that the rebels faced punishment upon return—and the Rwandan
government’s narrative of reconciliation (Ingelaere et al. 2009 :31).
Much of the literature on radio and conflict centers either on its role in
incitement, as in the case of RTLM in Rwanda, or efforts to promote peace
through objective reportage or scripted dramas.
In the LRA conflict one
type of program stands out: “come home” messaging programs. These locally
grounded programs take many forms, but for each one the underlying goal
of the weekly broadcast is to encourage the rebels to demobilize. Distinct
both from radio dramas and reporting, come-home messaging instills feel-
ings of forgiveness in listeners through interviews with affected individuals,
and the programs have become a central part of an internationally led effort
to end the war. They have been deployed by NGOs, the U.N. peacekeeping
force (MONUSCO), and even various militaries operating in LRA-affected
regions. But despite the numerous actors involved in these programs and
the large number of scholars who have written about the LRA conflict, rel-
atively little has been written that focuses directly on the radio programs
The only research done on radio and the LRA conflict thus far
focuses either on peace songs (McClain 2012 ), censorship and talk radio
(Ibrahim 2009 ), or media practices (Brisset-Foucault 2011 ). Come-home
messaging is a unique type of radio content that has played an integral part
in the LRA conflict, and it warrants closer examination.
The conflict itself has fluctuated over the course of its twenty-seven-year
history, from full insurgency to what some characterize as banditry or ter-
rorism. The history of the conflict has been marked by phases in which
both rebels and the state carried out violence upon the civilian population,
followed by periods of relative calm and attempts at reaching peace, which
failed due to mistrust or sabotage and led to periods of more intense vio-
lence (see Dolan 2009 ). One recent phase included internationally medi-
ated peace talks and even a ceasefire in 2008, but the talks crumbled and
ended when the Ugandan military launched an offensive against rebel
camps in the DRC that December, provoking massacres against civilians.
It is against this backdrop that radio programs are now working to encourage
rebels to surrender.
Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Northern Uganda
The role of forgiveness in the conflict in northern Uganda has been central
to local efforts for peace from the beginning. When insurgent groups first
emerged after Yoweri Museveni took power in 1986, there were efforts to
end those conflicts by offering pardons to the rebels in exchange for their
demobilization or reintegration into the military. For much of the war,
the efforts to end the war have included the use of radio to disseminate
information and communicate with rebels. With a wide audience in the
“Come Home” Radio Messaging in Uganda and the D.R. Congo 37
Acholi community, including among rebels, radio proved to be the optimal
way to promote reconciliation. The use of radio as a means of communicating
with and about the rebels took many forms and shifted over the course of
the war, but it almost always maintained its peace-centered goals.
As the LRA took its place as the sole remaining rebel group in the
region, it carried out an increasing number of abductions to sustain its
struggle against the government.
Virtually all Acholi were affected—either
as former abductees or as those who had lost loved ones to the LRA—and
as a result many Acholi saw the rebels themselves as victims who should be
forgiven. In addition, as years of warfare and the experience of both rebel
and state violence took their toll, a communal sense of “war fatigue” drove
the broader Acholi community to turn to forgiveness rather than more vio-
lence (Finnegan 2010 ). This culminated in the Amnesty Act of 2000, which
was passed with broad support from the Acholi even over the objections of
the president. Essentially a blanket amnesty, the act established an Amnesty
Commission whose goal was to encourage the LRA fighters to surrender by
convincing them that they would be received peacefully. The commission
would go on to grant amnesty to more than twenty thousand former rebels
by the end of 2008, including more than ten thousand LRA members (Bean
2008 ). While there was much debate over amnesty and the broader narrative
of reconciliation (see Pain 1997 ; Allen 2007 ; Finnström 2010 ; Branch 2011 ),
the narrative of a more restorative way to resolve the conflict became central
to efforts to end the war. Over time, reconciliation-centered initiatives dom-
inated the aid discourse in northern Uganda, where the radio messages
increased after the amnesty law was passed and as the reconciliation narra-
tive gained traction. The radio programs that are the subject of this essay
were just one of the recipients of renewed donor funding in the name of
Acholi conceptions of reconciliation promoted by NGOs such as International
Alert (see Dennis Pain’s 1997 report) and others. In the years after Pain’s
report and the passage of the Amnesty Act, aid programs in northern Uganda
focused on promoting the idea of reconciliation, and come-home radio pro-
grams became integral to the peace-centered effort to end the war.
Mega FM and the
Dwog Cen Paco
The promotion of amnesty and forgiveness in the LRA conflict has found
support in radio stations that air messages about the Amnesty Commission
and dedicate programs to encouraging LRA fighters to surrender peace-
fully. Chief among these stations is Mega FM. Founded in 2001, it was one
of the first radio stations in Gulu town and is now the station with the widest
reach. When I first visited Mega FM, I met with Okello Willy, the radio pro-
duction liaison officer for Invisible Children, a U.S.-based NGO that has
become deeply involved in radio messaging. Originally focused on raising
awareness about the plight of victims of the conflict and providing aid,
Invisible Children shifted its focus to ending the conflict beginning in 2011.
A former radio presenter, Willy had recently joined Invisible Children to
38 African Studies Review
coordinate radio programming across four countries, a job that includes
recording over a dozen unique messages each month in addition to coordi-
nating what various radio presenters air on their respective stations. The day
I met with him, he was meeting with a Mega FM radio presenter to record
messages to be played across the LRA-affected region.
Willy and the presenter recorded minute-long messages announcing
the recent expansion of the U.S. government’s Rewards for Justice pro-
gram. The U.S. program, founded in 1984 and expanded in 2013 with
the passage of new legislation, allows the State Department to offer
monetary rewards for information leading to the arrest of LRA leaders
indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Many proponents
of the law hoped that it might provide enough incentive to others in
LRA-affected areas such as pastoralists, poachers, and even other LRA
deputies to help capture top commanders (Ross 2013 ). The recordings,
made in the Acholi language, announced the award offered by the U.S.
government as well as phone numbers for informants to call. They also
listed the three remaining ICC-indicted LRA leaders by name: rebel leader
Joseph Kony and senior commanders Okot Odhiambo and Dominic
The messages played by Mega FM would reach all of northern
Uganda, in addition to LRA-affected regions in DRC and CAR where
Invisible Children relayed the programming through shortwave radio.
They also would be translated into Lingala, Azande, Swahili, and Arabic
and played by various radio stations across the region. At the time Invisible
Children sent the radio messages to Uganda Broadcasting Corporation,
the public broadcasting entity, but it was still in the process of building
a new shortwave transmitter in Gulu, northern Uganda, that would even-
tually service Mega FM. By allowing NGO staff like Willy to use the sta-
tion’s studios and by dedicating air time to Invisible Children’s programs,
Mega FM has been able to widen its audience and gain access to improved
The relationship between Mega FM and Invisible Children may be new,
but this is an old strategy for the station. In her study of media practices in
northern Uganda, Florence Brisset-Foucault ( 2011 ) explains how Mega FM
was adept at negotiating its dependency on international donors. From
1989 to 2001 the only radio station operating in northern Uganda was
Radio Freedom, which was affiliated with the national army and therefore
distrusted by many Acholi. Many Acholi believed the army was just as
responsible as the rebels for violence in the region, including the forced
displacement of the population (Dolan 2009 ), and they accused the gov-
ernment of profiting from the war politically and financially and thus
having no motivation to end it (Mwenda 2010 ). In 1999 religious and polit-
ical leaders from Gulu were able to secure funding from the British
Department for International Development to start a radio station devoted
to peace and confidence-building between the LRA and the government.
Through this partnership, Mega FM became the successor to Radio Freedom
as the primary radio station in the north in 2001. It retained several of the
“Come Home” Radio Messaging in Uganda and the D.R. Congo 39
trained and experienced radio presenters who had worked for Radio
Freedom, but enjoyed international funding and the liberty of no longer
being associated with the military.
These advantages put Mega at the forefront of the growing local radio
market. Whereas Radio Freedom could broadcast only in the municipal
area, Radio Mega’s 150km range could reach IDP camps as well as rebel
bases. In addition, while not directly affiliated with the national army, the
Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF), the staff that had stayed on from
Radio Freedom had connections with the military that gave Mega FM access
when it came to featuring rebel returnees’ voices on air to encourage demo-
bilization. These advantages in turn made it the prime station for NGOs
who wanted to disseminate announcements about development programs,
further enriching the station. Brisset-Foucault explains that “the sine qua non
to obtaining a larger transmitter and to developing the radio station was the
adoption of the peace media project” (2011:216). Today, Mega FM’s rela-
tionship with Invisible Children is merely a continuation of this strategy.
Mega FM’s employees are crucial to the station’s ability to report on the
war and communicate with the rebels. Several have connections with the army,
the rebels, or both, which lend these messages extra weight. In December
2002 the LRA leader Joseph Kony called Mega FM’s Ter Yat talk show and
argued that the biggest obstacle to peace talks was the government, not the
LRA. A later episode of the program included a discussion via telephone
between the LRA second-in-command Vincent Otti and military and govern-
ment officials (Ibrahim 2009 ). One radio presenter told me that several
rebel commanders had often called radio staff to communicate regarding
a number of issues. These calls were only possible if radio personnel had
working relationships with both the rebels and government officials, though
even then many walked a fine line of censorship.
One of the most important figures in the history of come-home radio
messaging is Johnny “Lacambel” Oryem, one of the original founders of
Radio Freedom and the originator of the program Dwog Cen Paco (“Come
Back Home” in Acholi) on Mega FM. Lacambel is the face of peace radio in
northern Uganda, largely because of his past as a central figure in encour-
aging rebels to demobilize. In 1987 Lacambel was a member of the local
government and worked to stop the fighting in northern Uganda between
the newly established government and various rebel groups. At that time he
met with the families of rebels, telling them about the chance for a pardon
and imploring them to convince the rebels to disarm. According to Lacambel,
during that time he broadcast a message from a former rebel commander
on Radio Uganda. He and a colleague were able to get state and military
officials to support their effort to use radio to encourage disarmament,
eventually creating Radio Freedom (Uganda Radio Network 2013 ). When
Mega FM was first started in 2001, Lacambel established Dwog Cen Paco , the
weekly program that he hosts today.
Dwog Cen Paco is widely believed to have encouraged thousands of LRA
fighters to lay down their arms and come home. Mega FM was established
40 African Studies Review
soon after the Amnesty Commission was created, and Lacambel’s program
sought to inform rebels about their eligibility for amnesty and encourage them
to demobilize. One report based on interviews with twenty-six LRA com-
manders who had returned home found that two-thirds of them had found
out about the amnesty through radio programming, and a subsequent study
found that programming on Mega FM and Radio Uganda was the most impor-
tant factor encouraging commanders to surrender (Conciliation Resources
and Quaker Peace & Social Witness 2006 ; Conciliation Resources 2010 ).
In addition to promoting state policies, Dwog Cen Paco from the beginning
has featured a diverse range of guests who speak directly to specific rebels.
These guests are often the families of those abducted, and Lacambel inter-
views them to provide rebels with updates about their relatives and life
in their natal villages since they were abducted. For example, one segment
posted online in 2013 (and likely recorded around the same time) features
two brothers speaking directly to their nephew, who remains with the LRA.
One of them, Kilama Christopher, begins,
I am here to talk to my nephew named Odong Patrick. He was abducted
together with his uncle called Tabu Charles. Charles has already come
back home. I have come here to tell him that he should find a way of
escaping and come back home. We are all there at home, your mother
Natalina Arach is still alive, your grandmother Buladina Angom is also still
alive, they all think about you and they don’t have sleep because of you.
They want you to find a way of escaping and come back just like your uncle
Charles did. (The Voice Project n.d.)
Kilama concludes his message,
I only have one thing to ask you to do for me: come back home. We are
waiting for you. I remember when we transferred herds of cattle with you
from Parabongo to Ajulu, you were still very young by then and I carried
you on my shoulders on the long journey. I still value you so much. I see
the pain my sisters and your mother Natalina are going through while they
think about you. We all have one prayer; come back home my child.
(The Voice Project n.d.)
Later in the segment, Lacambel interviews the brothers about life in post-
conflict Uganda.
Lacambel: I want to ask if there are some people who have returned in the
community from the bush. How are they living their lives?
Kilama: Your brothers who returned from the bush are having a very happy
life. Tabu, who was also abducted with you, was trained by World Vision
and [is] now a welder. He is having a very good life in town here. There is
nothing to be afraid of, no one will take you anywhere for torture, put you
in prison, or kill you. That is all wrong information being spread out there,
you just come back home. ( The Voice Project n.d. )
“Come Home” Radio Messaging in Uganda and the D.R. Congo 41
Messages like this seek to encourage rebel demobilization by speaking
directly to the rebels, making them miss life at home. Even Kilama’s answer
to Lacambel’s question was directed not at the host, but to his nephew.
As Willy explained it to me, Dwog Cen Paco is part of a concerted effort to
make LRA abductees want to return by showing them what awaits them and
describing what postconflict northern Uganda looks like:
We want to somehow make them homesick by creating a picture of home.
. . . We talk about culture, we talk about business, we talk about politics, we
talk about anything just to give them updates on home life. They should
know how home is, and then they should feel homesick, so that they can
defect and come home after listening to this, “Oh! This is happening in my
village!” because I go and do recordings in the villages. Say, okay in this
village now a road has been constructed, a center has been built, it is now
very beautiful, people are doing business like this, and when you left when
the place was actually a very useless place, but now you hear it’s developed,
people are still there and you hear the voice of people you left, that makes
you think you should come back. (Interview, Gulu, Uganda, June 8, 2013)
For those seeking to use radio to weaken the LRA, these efforts at convincing
the LRA to come home are seen as the best tactic to combat the narrative
put forth by LRA commanders, who often tell abductees that they will not
be received by their communities if they try to return, but will instead be
rejected by survivors and killed by the army. After being abducted and
forced to commit egregious acts of violence against their own communities,
rebels are cut off from their kin, and many commanders try to keep that
connection severed. These direct messages informing rebels that their fam-
ilies miss them and painting a desirable picture of home work to reestablish
that connection.
A particularly important part of the programs’ information campaign
is the inclusion of former rebels. By allowing them to speak on the air in
support of reconciliation and reintegration, these programs lend credence
to the words of bishops, elected officials, and others who are frequently heard
on the radio. Take, for example, former LRA lieutenant Michael Oryem’s
message to LRA commanders who remain in the bush:
Remember that I was also with you and you all know my life history.
Whenever I say something, it is always true. I appeal to you, Binany, take
your time, turn around and come back with all the people with you in
Congo. . . . I know that your soldiers are still there so you just come back home
so that you begin a new life, you will go and find your children, I heard that
your children are grown up. Some are already in the secondary school.
You come back home so that you continue supporting their education and
take care of them. (The Voice Project 2012 )
These types of messages make up a large portion of come-home messaging
both from Mega FM and other radio stations. Former rebels speak to those
42 African Studies Review
who remain in rebel ranks in order to act as trustworthy interlocutors for
the NGOs, civil society leaders, and others who are working to end the con-
flict. These messages seek to counter the narrative put forth by the LRA
leadership, although the conflict between the two narratives is one that each
rebel has to negotiate constantly. For every come-home message broadcast
by a former rebel there is an opposite message propagated by commanders
who tell their fighters that the messages were coerced and that their friends
were killed after being forced to record them. Radio serves to provide an
alternative story, but which story is true is not always clear to the intended
audience. Just as Ingelaere et al. found in Rwanda, radio programs are part
of rebels’ “dynamic of competing ideologies and mindsets” (2009:31), and
rebels have to rely on their past experiences with the Ugandan state to
inform their understanding of the radio messages.
For LRA rebels, their experience with the state has been one of violence,
and commanders view the state as not genuine in its overtures to amnesty.
LRA leaders themselves have called Mega to air their grievances and accuse
the military of preventing peace, and the radio station has had to walk a
fine line between promoting reconciliation and giving space to the LRA
narrative. When I asked one program manager at Mega FM how he made
sense of telling rebels they would be forgiven while the UPDF was actively
pursuing them, he said that the station staff had challenged the government
on this issue. “These are issues, and we raised them,” he told me. “[We would
say to the UPDF] ‘you say you want peace but still you are firing,’ . . . and
then even the public would phone in and say ‘why do you [the UPDF] do
this?’” (interview, Gulu, Uganda, June 11, 2013).
Not everyone perceives a conflict in broadcasting messages of forgive-
ness even in the context of ongoing military operations. Lacambel was ada-
mant that UPDF missions against the LRA were first and foremost a “rescue
mission,” and he saw no contradiction between telling rebels they would be
forgiven and receive amnesty and the fact that they were also being tracked
by soldiers (interview, Gulu, Uganda, June 15, 2013). A series of paintings
hanging in a World Vision rehabilitation center in Gulu is similarly telling.
The room’s walls are lined with portraits depicting children’s journeys from
abduction to their reunion with family members with captions that read,
in sequence, “Pursuit by Army,” “Crossfire Ambush,” and “Army Rescues
Children.” Depictions such as these both elide the fact that the army missions
may not be purely benevolent and also ignore the reality that any attack tar-
geting the LRA, even an attack whose mission is to rescue abductees, further
endangers victims within LRA ranks. Several staff members from Invisible
Children staff went even further and described come-home messaging and
military pressure as part of one comprehensive approach. As an example,
one mentioned the failure of come-home messaging that had been targeting
known LRA groups operating in Garamba National Park in the DRC in 2013.
“The issue has been, there’s been no military pressure on those groups for a
year and a half,” he said. “LRA defections don’t really occur in situations . . .
where the LRA is not very threatened” (interview, Kampala, July 13, 2013).
“Come Home” Radio Messaging in Uganda and the D.R. Congo 43
Indeed, beginning in 2011, Invisible Children became active in efforts
to stop the LRA rather than just providing aid relief, and it now works
closely with regional militaries and the U.S. government. Emulating milita-
ristic language, the organization named a new office for “Counter-LRA
Operations,” whose program manager has explicitly said that “Invisible
Children does not claim to be neutral. You know, we are not in this conflict
saying we are not going to take sides” (Gonzales 2013 ). Both NGOs and the
radio stations thus operate in a blurred area between insurgents and the state,
and navigating these interstices is crucial to their objectives.
As a successor to a military radio station, Mega FM continued to receive
state funds and had to tread carefully in airing rebel voices due to fears of
censorship, and some station staff noted that the army at times tried to dic-
tate come-home messaging and had used the messaging to anticipate rebel
movements. As a result, rebels perceived the program as threatening in
ways that went beyond encouraging them to disarm. Dwog Cen Paco was tem-
porarily discontinued in 2006, when the LRA and the government of
Uganda came together at the Juba peace talks. One of the rebels’ condi-
tions for meeting was that this and other programs be discontinued. Instead
of come-home messaging, Lacambel reported on the peace process to the
broader public—rebel and civilian (interview, Gulu, Uganda, June 15, 2013).
The program manager I met with also insisted that Radio Mega continued
to serve as a source of information for the rebels by communicating about
the peace talks.
There were corridors where the LRA were supposed to travel, and when
they traveled through such corridors they would not be attacked.
there was no means of communicating to them, there was only the radio,
so UPDF and other players would give us the route and we directed them.
The rest who wanted to stay and follow until the agreement was signed fol-
lowed those corridors and it was a very safe haven for them. (Interview, Gulu,
Uganda, June 11, 2013)
Indeed, even though programs like Dwog Cen Paco were perceived as
threatening to the LRA, the rebels had many direct interactions with radio
station staff. The station manager recounted that several station employees
talked with rebel leaders off the air in the early 2000s, and Lacambel described
a number of conversations with rebels who had turned to him to verify claims
made by the government or to negotiate their demobilization (interviews,
Gulu, Uganda, June 11 and 15, 2013). These relationships have continued
into the present. Since the conflict resumed in 2008, radio stations have
continued to play songs and present dramas that promote peace and recon-
ciliation, but the most important development in come-home messaging
has been the revival of Dwog Cen Paco on Congolese and Central African
airwaves. Lacambel was ill in 2012 and Invisible Children helped him get
medical care and then hired him as a consultant. In early February 2013
his Dwog Cen Paco program began anew on Mega FM’s airwaves, with the
44 African Studies Review
shortwave connection widening its reach into LRA-affected territory in the
Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic. Invisible
Children has been crucial in reviving the program and in building up
Mega FM’s infrastructure. “We pay for that hour of air time,” one Invisible
Children employee told me. “We essentially pay for it by building a shortwave
station [in Gulu] for Mega” (interview, Kampala, July 13, 2013). Lacambel’s
direct contacts with the rebels have persisted, and he has utilized these in
his new capacity with Invisible Children and at the helm of Dwog Cen Paco .
In early 2013, for example, a group of LRA left a letter in a Congolese town
asking for Lacambel to verify that surrendering was safe and to give them
instructions. He was then invited by MONUSCO to speak on the radio and
leaflets with his words were distributed in the area.
The Dangers of Radio
The work of Mega FM, therefore, continues to be integral to peace-centered
efforts of ending the war and bringing abducted Ugandans home, despite
the fact that the war has moved beyond Uganda’s borders. In emulation of
Mega FM, other radio stations have also initiated come home-messaging
and efforts to communicate with both the LRA rebels and the broader war-
affected community. However, in expanding come-home messaging to other
areas, radio programmers have encountered obstacles in their relationship
with the rebels or with their credibility among civilians.
Lira district, southeast of Gulu, is home to the Langi people, an ethnic
group distinct from their Acholi neighbors. As the war with the LRA began
to spread in the early 2000s, the Catholic Radio Wa, founded in 2001 and
located near the Ngetta mission atop a hill north of Lira town, began broad-
casting its Karibu (“welcome” in Swahili) program in response to LRA massa-
cres and abductions. The Karibu program was identical to Dwog Cen Paco in
almost every way, according to Alberto Eisman, the director of the station.
The content of the program was simply sending messages of hope and
of relatives, and sometimes former child soldiers who had escaped. They
were coming to the program and they were sending messages to the peo-
ple who were still in the bush. . . . [Abductees] did not have the courage to
come back [after being indoctrinated]. That is why in this program, it was
found that one of the methods to bring back these children was to reestab-
lish this emotional link that had been broken by the rebels. Messages as
simple as, “so and so, I am your uncle, our grandmother died, we are always
thinking of you, and we just hope one day you will be back.” Former child
soldiers were reporting that they were back in school, that nobody was
taking revenge on them, that life was somehow back to normal. (Interview,
Lira, Uganda, June 13, 2013)
Karibu was very successful in bringing rebels out of the bush and back to
their communities. According to the director, a contact in the UPDF said
that between 2002 and 2006 the messages led to the surrender of more
“Come Home” Radio Messaging in Uganda and the D.R. Congo 45
than fifteen hundred rebels. When the Karibu program, like Dwog Cen Paco ,
stopped broadcasting come-home messaging in 2006 as a precondition to
the peace talks in Juba, Radio Wa shifted its programming toward a more
general focus on peace-building.
However, some crucial differences between Radio Mega and Radio
Wa had important consequences for Radio Wa. Unlike the Radio Mega pre-
senters, those of Radio Wa were not as closely in touch with the rebels.
Unlike their colleagues in Gulu, they did not have rebel commanders’
phone numbers, nor did they have contact with their families. They were
not even of the same ethnic group. Thus, when rebels moved into Lira dis-
trict and the Karibu program was started, radio presenters began to receive
threats from anonymous callers. One early morning in September 2002,
rebels attacked the radio station and set the building on fire. It would be six
months before Radio Wa would resume its broadcasts from the safety of a
provisional office in the Catholic church in Lira town.
This incident draws our attention to the social relations in which Mega
FM is embedded, and which Radio Wa lacks. Mega FM was deeply tied to
these relations and was able simultaneously to convince rebels to demobilize,
to communicate with rebels, and even to grant rebel voices airtime. Radio Wa’s
attempt to encourage the LRA to surrender lacked this dynamic relationship
and led to its being targeted. The international community’s intervention
treats radio messaging as a panacea for change, but such interventions
require that social relations be taken into consideration.
This difference in the experiences of the two radio stations is important
to keep in mind in the context of more recent developments. As the LRA
has begun to carry out attacks across DRC and CAR, come-home messaging
efforts have expanded across Central Africa. In the border area between
DRC, CAR, and South Sudan, NGOs such as Invisible Children and The
Voice Project, as well as the U.N. peacekeeping force MONUSCO, have
partnered with a number of small radio stations to produce come-home
messaging. Some of these stations (like Mega FM) were well-established while
others are relatively new, and some were even created specifically to
respond to the LRA. For many stations, this financial and material support
has been the primary reason they are able to continue their work. This sup-
port varies from refurbishing equipment to enhancing recording and broad-
casting capacity to providing messages for broadcasting.
For example, The Voice Project, a U.S.-based NGO founded to use music
to spread peace, partners with thirteen radio stations across the four LRA-
affected countries. Much of the content is produced by The Voice Project
and disseminated to each station in segments, allowing radio presenters to
mix come-home messaging with their standard programming. Invisible
Children does similar work, with Okello Willy, the radio liaison, recording
several messages to be sent to the stations on a regular basis. This peppering
of peace songs or come-home monologues and interviews with music or
talk radio programs gives presenters their own autonomy while ensuring
that the come-home messaging stays true to the NGOs’ mission.
46 African Studies Review
But while the stations that operate within the NGO-centered network
have been able to reach out to some of the rebel camps, they lack the rela-
tionship that Mega FM developed with the rebel community. Even though
the radio messages originate in northern Uganda, feature Ugandans, and
are recorded in Acholi, rebels do not always trust them, and radio stations
operating in northeastern Congo have had to rely on connections with
Ugandan actors, especially Mega FM. Therefore, even though some of the
local radio stations are wary of outsourcing their content—for fear of losing
credibility either with their general audience or with international backers—
Lacambel and other Ugandans have proved central to the success of these
prerecorded radio messages (The Voice Project 2013 ). The monologues
that speak directly to rebels therefore remain predominantly in the Acholi
language, targeting mid-level commanders who are almost exclusively Acholi
Ugandans. Compared to lower-level fighters, these commanders are perceived
as being more likely to have access to radios, more able to initiate group
surrenders, and more threatened by hierarchical shifts within the LRA that
might encourage demobilization.
At the same time, the fact that Acholi is playing on the radio in a region
where the average person speaks French, Azande, or Lingala has caused
other unexpected problems. In many ways it undermines the intended effects
of come-home messaging by not being inclusive of the civilian population
that is victimized by the LRA. When the radio programs first began in the
Congo, the local population was wary of the foreign language messages
that had been implemented soon after the arrival of a foreign rebel group
(and the foreign army that followed). According to Jean-Pierre Mboligihe
Ndalu, the director of the Congolese Christian radio station RTK Radio,
When [MUNUSCO] started broadcasting messages here, come-home
messages in Acholi, the local authorities had difficulties with that, and they
were reflecting people’s opinions about that. It was the general opinion
that those messages are in Acholi and we don’t understand them . . . [and] the
LRA are the Acholi, so with the rumors going around that the MONUSCO
people would be somehow supporting LRA, the people were wary and
reacted against the . . . messages. In fact, it was rejected many times, there
were so many meetings about that, they [MONUSCO] were trying to con-
vince people, but even the local authorities . . . said no. (Interview, Dungu,
DRC, July 2, 2013)
This confusion helped to fuel rumors that the radio messages were encrypted
broadcasts through which MONUSCO and the rebels were collaborating to
carry out violence on the civilian population (Lancaster & Cakaj 2013 :28).
Thus, whereas Radio Wa encountered danger in its relationship with the
rebels, MONUSCO and Congolese radio stations struggled in their rela-
tionship with civilians.
Some Congolese radio stations did find ways to ground come-home
messaging locally. For example, Mboligihe embarked on a months-long
“Come Home” Radio Messaging in Uganda and the D.R. Congo 47
sensitization campaign to inform civilians about come-home messaging
and reduce their mistrust of the Acholi-language programming. He also
pushed for messaging within a uniquely Congolese and specifically Christian
context. Thus began the Nya Nyaki Riahe (“Solid Food” in Pazande) pro-
gram in 2012, a program that broadcasts in Pazande, Lingala, and French
and uses Biblical references to support calls for reconciliation and forgiveness
(interview, Dungu, DRC, July 2, 2013).
These programs helped establish
a foundation on which subsequent come-home messages and sensitization
messages would rest.
Nya Nyaki Riahe has also worked with MONUSCO to open discussion
with local authorities. Once these authorities were convinced of the merits
of forgiveness as a method of reducing violence, many were invited on air
to broadcast come-home messages in their own languages. These messages
seek to encourage Congolese abductees to return, just as they seek to con-
vince local civilians to accept surrendering rebels. In early 2012 Invisible
Children began enhancing RTK Radio’s capabilities by providing infra-
structure to improve its broadcast range and power source (Peters 2012 ).
Radio RTK’s solution seems to have helped introduce come-home mes-
saging to Congolese communities and reassert the social embeddedness of
come-home radio, overcoming the obstacles of transferring radio programs
across national, linguistic, and ethnic borders. These obstacles, and the way
they arose and were dealt with, are instructive as NGOs try to replicate the
programs in areas currently affected by the LRA. Initially, this transferring
of programs occurred with little thought paid to local opinions and percep-
tions, and existing distrust of MONUSCO was amplified when it supported
radio messages that most could not understand. If organizations committed
to mitigating LRA violence are serious about promoting forgiveness as a path
toward reducing conflict, engaging with local communities and focusing on
the social relations of all actors are crucial elements of their programs.
Beyond Radio: Innovations in Come-Home Messaging
The use of radio as a tool for mitigating violence and reducing rebel ranks
has not been without critics. The programs have been seen as inefficient, inef-
fective, and even harmful, and as we have seen, the programs themselves
have run into numerous obstacles. At the same time these obstacles, besides
leading to the sorts of adaptations we have seen with RTK Radio, have led to
a burst of innovation as come-home messaging moves beyond radio stations
and into printing presses, airplanes, helicopters, and army barracks.
There is, first, an ongoing debate over how much impact these radio
messages have, a question that is especially important because they account
for a sizeable part of both radio stations’ programming and the budgets
of NGOs. A report by Conciliation Resources and Quaker Peace & Social
Witness ( 2006 ) divides the factors influencing LRA commanders’ decision to
return into two groups: push factors (negative consequences of staying with
the LRA) and pull factors (conditions of outside life that entice commanders
48 African Studies Review
to return). The top push factors for the commanders surveyed included the
ravages if fighting and fear of death, lack of food, and other physical stresses,
while the top pull factors were identified as information about home, the
promise of amnesty, and educational opportunities. Among the pull fac-
tors, 58 percent of the respondents noted amnesty as one of the top five
factors, and all but one ranked it the most important. Regarding informa-
tion about home, it is notable that half of the respondents who cited such
information as important said that they received this information via radio,
and 92 percent of all respondents cited radio as an important source of
information in general. The report further divides information about home
into two categories:
background information that sets the general context for considering return;
and specific, personal information that determines a final decision to return.
In the first category, information regarding the ICC, the Amnesty Act, and the
fate and lifestyles of former members of the LRA in general are the most
important areas of concern to LRA commanders. However, in order to make
a final decision to return, commanders often require specific information on
their own families and communities, and on the fate and lifestyle of particular
ex-members of the LRA who are known to them personally. (Conciliation
Resources and Quaker Peace & Social Witness 2006 :11)
Come-home messaging, as we have seen, seeks to tap into all of these
factors: Dwog Cen Paco and other programs provide information about
amnesty and postconflict development, news about families and home
life, and messages tailored to specific rebels. The goal, as Okello said, is to
“make them homesick.”
However, several studies have called into question the success of the
radio programming. Allen and Schomerus’s ( 2006 ) report on reception
centers in northern Uganda evaluates the numerous centers that aimed
to receive and rehabilitate former rebels, but includes some findings regarding
radio programming and amnesty. The authors found that only a quarter of
returnees who went through the centers had actually received an amnesty
certificate, and that many deliberately circumvented government channels
when surrendering because they believed the LRA narrative about the
UPDF killing those who tried to surrender. The report suggests, therefore,
that even for rebels who had decided to demobilize, amnesty-related out-
reach efforts were probably not the significant factor. In fact, the researchers
found that most rebel commanders forbade soldiers from listening to the
radio. They point out that “using commanders’ return as anecdotal evidence
[for success of demobilization programs] means overlooking [the problem]
that these are the best-informed rebels. It is the foot soldiers that lack infor-
mation” (Allen & Schomerus 2006 :37).
Another questionable aspect of the focus on radio is that it may suc-
ceed as only one piece of a more complex puzzle of decision-making factors
for LRA commanders. Before taking the risk of leaving the LRA to surrender
“Come Home” Radio Messaging in Uganda and the D.R. Congo 49
and return, many commanders must first verify the information they have
heard through personal contacts. These contacts—often family, friends,
or former rebels—are vital in helping them determine whether or not what
they hear on the radio is true. This verification can happen via radio mes-
sages, but it can also occur through phone messages, face-to-face meetings,
or by releasing small groups of women or children abductees to relay mes-
sages to the broader community and receive word from those who were
released (Invisible Children and The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative 2013 ).
Since the LRA has moved farther from northern Uganda, several of these
tactics are no longer feasible, which both increases the importance of radio
and removes the means of verifying radio messages’ authenticity. There
have been several recent incidents of rebels briefly abducting civilians to
question them about community feelings regarding rebel reintegration,
a more direct—and more violent—method of gaining information.
A 2010 Conciliation Resources report shows how some aspects of com-
manders’ decisions to leave have changed since the collapse of the Juba
peace process and the resumption of conflict. Radio messaging remains a
top factor, along with war fatigue and fears of being attacked, but internal
divisions within the LRA are a new factor promoting return. Recent reports
have also found new obstacles to surrender, such as fears of hostile encoun-
ters with communities or militaries and the long journey from LRA camp to
return sites (Lancaster & Cakaj 2013 :19).
In response to these obstacles, Invisible Children has argued in favor of
focusing on mid-level commanders while also implementing innovative means
of reaching lower-ranked rebels. While Allen and Schomerus ( 2006 ) argue
rightly that commanders’ returns are not indicative of the mindset of lower-
level soldiers, the fact remains that those with enough authority to have a radio
and freedom of mobility are also those with enough resources to potentially
escape successfully. What’s more, if a commander escapes, he may also bring
those under his command with him. Such was the case in December 2013 when
a group of nineteen LRA fighters collectively surrendered near Zemio, CAR.
Afterward the commander of the group told Invisible Children that the main
reason they had chosen to surrender was that come-home messaging had
helped them “lose the fear they had of coming out of the bush” (Invisible
Children 2013). This narrative, however, implies that information about coming
home is a panacea for demobilization, ignoring the risks that rebels—even
rebel commanders—may face in trying to come home and the anxieties of
returning to life in a community that many have been away from for decades.
Invisible Children has also expanded come-home messaging beyond the
traditional radio model embodied by Dwog Cen Paco and other programs in
direct response to the fact that many lower-ranked rebels cannot access radios.
For several years MONUSCO has printed leaflets that are dropped via air-
plane over areas where the LRA is believed to be active (Lancaster & Cakaj
2013 ). Beginning in 2012, Invisible Children also began the mass printing
of leaflets encouraging rebels to come home and directing them to reception
points where they could surrender. These leaflets include images, maps, and
50 African Studies Review
text, and many include messages from former LRA fighters. It is estimated
that between January 2012 and July 2013 alone more than one million leaf-
lets were dropped over LRA-affected territory (Lancaster & Cakaj 2013 ).
However, LRA commanders have reportedly forbidden lower-ranking mem-
bers from picking them up or reading them. Thus, while the leaflets may
reach a broader audience and encourage rebels to flee, they may also be
creating new opportunities for the LRA leadership to discipline its ranks.
Another development with perhaps mixed benefits and drawbacks is
the advent of helicopter messaging. In late 2012 U.S. military advisers
working on counter-LRA efforts began implementing the use of loud-
speakers mounted on helicopters that fly over LRA locations in southeast-
ern CAR to broadcast come-home messages (Lancaster & Cakaj 2013 ). This
U.S. initiative has been implemented as domestic support for ending the
conflict has risen and Uganda’s geopolitical importance in the region has
increased. Nevertheless, for many observers who value humanitarian inter-
ventions and the neutrality of NGOs, the collaboration between NGOs and
the U.S. and Ugandan military in come-home messaging is a worrying sign.
When I met with an Invisible Children employee in Uganda in 2013 he
told me that the organization had permission from park rangers to drop fliers
over Garamba National Park, where less mobile LRA groups had established
camps in out-of-the-way places, and that there were ongoing discussions in
Kinshasa to allow helicopter missions. However, the come-home messaging
alone was appearing less than effective since these groups faced little military
pressure to demobilize. According to the Invisible Children employee, “what
we want to do is . . . start forcing them to move. When movement comes, that’s
when opportunity for defection comes, and when they’re at a new location and
setting up, that’s when people take off” (interview, Kampala, July 13, 2013).
In July 2013 Invisible Children was in the midst of devising a September
push to disrupt the LRA’s isolated life within Garamba and drive up the
number of incidents in which LRA could surrender. The plan was to include
multiple flier drops and helicopter flights each week, in addition to increased
radio messaging. There was also hope that military pressure would be pos-
sible, providing an additional “push” to make life within the LRA less com-
fortable for rebels considering escape. This goal seems to elide the fact that
the LRA has a history of responding to military pressure by attacking civil-
ians. In addition, the fact that an NGO was lobbying for military support
in its efforts to encourage rebels to surrender was a worrying glimpse at the
future of humanitarianism. The campaign did occur, with Congolese and
South Sudanese soldiers pushing the LRA fighters out of their camps, but
its effects have yet to be seen (Ronan 2013 ).
Come-home messaging continues to be part of the broader effort to end
the LRA conflict and bring the rebels home. The programs seek to end the
war by sapping strength from rebel ranks and facilitating the demobilization
“Come Home” Radio Messaging in Uganda and the D.R. Congo 51
of abductees. With roots in community radio stations and local reconciliation
efforts, come-home messaging has been seen to resonate with the Acholi
population that has long been victim to LRA violence. In recent years, how-
ever, international actors have tried to expand these programs beyond this
environment, and this extension into new communities has encountered
unforeseen obstacles as radio stations navigate new social relations with
rebels and communities.
Upon expanding into new communities, radio programs have had to deal
with issues in reaching their rebel audiences and in maintaining credibility.
These obstacles have not heralded the end of the programs, but have instead
led to innovations that expand the concept of come-home messaging itself. Yet
the question remains of how well international actors can effect change by
taking over a local initiative. Invisible Children and other organizations have
brought come-home messaging to DRC and CAR and gradually found ways to
surmount many of the problems they encountered. But the LRA is still active
in the region and the demobilization of LRA fighters has been occurring at
rates that are slow relative to the manpower and capital leveraged to demobi-
lize them. That is not to argue that efforts to bring the LRA conflict to an end
are not important; the rebel force has a history of regrouping and carrying out
massacres, and steps should be taken to mitigate the violence. However, the
transferring of these radio programs into new communities has come along-
side a new form of humanitarian intervention that is willing to partner with
and enable military actors and seeks to end the war rather than merely provide
relief from it. This is new territory for an NGO, but it is a window into what may
be the future of humanitarianism, especially as U.S. AFRICOM expands its
presence into more humanitarian duties (see Keenan 2008 ; Hoffman 2011 )
and NGOs promote interventionist responses (see Finnström 2012 , Schomerus
2015). This more militaristic direction may be a worrying feature on the land-
scape of humanitarian intervention, and these partnerships are a new site for
scholarship regarding humanitarianism and militarization.
While such partnerships may seem effective in bringing abductees home,
they also lump together humanitarians and soldiers, NGOs and the state into
a single entity. Such a close proximity with a state such as Uganda, which
itself has used extreme levels of violence against civilians and may in fact
benefit from prolonging the LRA conflict (Mwenda 2010 ), does not bode
well for those whose main goal is the end of the LRA. That these interna-
tional organizations have been able to marshal such widespread support for
stopping the LRA and embark on innovative changes to expand come-
home messaging is notable. But these actions may come with a cost as the
Ugandan state and, increasingly, the United States government, increase
their military presence in central Africa.
Research for this article was funded by the Lindsey Fellowship for Research
in Africa and the Coca-Cola World Fund at Yale University. Parts of the article
52 African Studies Review
were presented at the Yale Council on African Studies, the George Washington
University Anthropology Department, and the African Studies Association
2015 annual meeting, and I would like to thank attendees for helpful
comments. I would also like to thank David Simon, Sara Shneiderman, and
Kimberly Ross, as well as Sean Redding, Elliot Fratkin, and Ella Kusnetz
of African Studies Review and two anonymous reviewers for providing feed-
back on earlier drafts. I am also grateful to my respondents in Uganda
and Congo who discussed these issues with me.
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Straus , Scott . 2007 . “What Is the Relationship Between Hate Radio and Violence?
Rethinking Rwanda’s ‘Radio Machete.’” Politics and Society 35 ( 4 ): 609 –37.
Uganda Radio Network . 2013 . “Anti-LRA Radio Program Revived in Northern
Uganda.” .
The Voice Project . n.d. “Message from Kilama Christopher—Uncle to Odong
Patrick, an Abductee (#27).” Radio Resources: Volume 3 . .
——— . 2012 . “Michael Oryem Come Home Message to Binany, Ladera, and Odano
(#26).” Radio Resources: Volume 1 & 2 . .
——— . 2013 . Amplify Peace 2013: Musicians United—Translation Report, Broadcast Content .
New York : The Voice Project .
1. See Betz ( 2004 ) on reportage in the DRC; Paluck ( 2009 ) and Ingelaere et al.
( 2009 ) on the use of dramas in Rwanda and the DRC; and McClain ( 2012 ) on
music in the LRA conflict.
2. This robust scholarship includes Doom and Vlassenroot ( 1999 ); Finnström
( 2008 ); Branch ( 2011 ); and Allen and Vlassenroot ( 2010 ). However, none of
them places radio programming at the center of analysis.
3. The LRA emerged after the Ugandan People’s Democratic Army and the Holy
Spirit Movement, among other groups, were defeated by or reintegrated into
the national army. The LRA’s exclusion from early efforts at reintegration
helped clarify, for rebel leaders, a division between “good” Acholi who contin-
ued the resistance and “bad” Acholi who collaborated with the government
and were thus viable targets for increased violence. For more on this time period,
see Behrend ( 1999 ); Branch ( 2005 , 2011 ); and Finnström ( 2008 ).
4. This focus on what was seen as more culturally appropriate interventions
included promoting mato oput ceremonies, revitalizing Acholi governance
structures, etc. Branch ( 2011 ) and Allen ( 2007 ) survey these efforts in their
critiques of traditional justice.
5. In the spring of 2012 I met with a member of Congress as a part of an advocacy
campaign on this issue organized by The Resolve, a Washington, D.C.-based
nonprofit focused on LRA issues.
6. Odhiambo is believed to have been killed in late 2013. Ongwen was taken into
custody in January 2015 and is currently awaiting trial at the International Criminal
Court. Kony remains the only ICC-indicted commander of the LRA still at large.
7. The Voice Project has posted numerous come-home messaging clips that the
staff has recorded and provided to various radio stations for broadcasting in LRA-
affected regions. To access these, see The Voice Project, “Radio Resources,” .
8. During the negotiations in Juba, South Sudan, the LRA agreed to establish assem-
bly points at Owiny-Ki-Bul and Ri-Kwangba, South Sudan, for the duration of
the talks. The level of safety from UPDF attacks at these points was a frequent
point of contention, and Owiny-Ki-Bul was eventually abandoned by the rebels.
Nonetheless, during the negotiations many rebels moved across the region to
reach these areas.
“Come Home” Radio Messaging in Uganda and the D.R. Congo 55
9. See “Leaflets Targeting the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army),” at “DDRRR Leaf-
lets” on the MONUSCO website:
aspx?tabid=10734&language=en-US .
10. This account is taken from an interview with the station’s director as well as
from Radio Wa’s website. For more, see “History,” Radio Wa 89.8 FM. http:// .
11. Nya Nyaki Riahe is the Pazande title of Radio RTK’s program. It is also known by
its Lingala name, Bilei Makasi , and its French name, Nourriture Solid .
... 91 Esta sensación de vulnerabilidad llevó a varios miembros de las FARC a desertar y algunos afirmaron que se fueron porque "con toda seguridad iban a ser asesinados" por sus compañeros por delitos anteriores. 92 porque uno "recibió la orden de matar" al otro. 93 Así, a pesar de un aumento en la severidad del castigo, un sentido generalizado de "persecución" e "injusticia" contribuyó a la decisión de algunos miembros de las FARC de desertar. ...
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Objetivo/contexto: la deserción, o salida no autorizada de un grupo armado, tiene importantes implicaciones para la contrainsurgencia, la terminación de una guerra y la dinámica de reclutamiento. Si bien la investigación existente enfatiza la importancia de motivaciones individuales para la deserción, el declive organizacional, en forma de adversidad militar y financiera, también puede condicionar la deserción. El declive organizacional socava los instrumentos de un grupo para canalizar las preferencias individuales hacia la acción colectiva. Estos instrumentos incluyen los incentivos selectivos, el atractivo ideológico y la coerción. Cuando el poder vinculante de estos instrumentos disminuye, los deseos individuales comienzan a dominar el comportamiento, lo que aumenta la probabilidad de deserción. Metodología: se utiliza la insurgencia de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) para examinar este argumento con un enfoque multimétodo. Primero, se realiza un análisis cuantitativo para explorar datos únicos sobre más de 19.000 desertores de las FARC reportados entre 2002 y 2017, proporcionados por el Ministerio de Defensa de Colombia. Al protegerse contra amenazas a la inferencia causal, el análisis estadístico indica que el declive organizacional impulsa la deserción. En segundo lugar, se lleva a cabo un análisis cualitativo utilizando una gran cantidad de informes detallados sobre entrevistas con desertores realizadas por personal militar colombiano. Conclusiones: los informes demuestran que el declive organizacional debilita los incentivos selectivos, la ideología del grupo y un régimen coercitivo creíble, y fomenta la deserción mediante estos mecanismos. Originalidad: estos hallazgos brindan información clave para los formuladores de políticas, dado que la deserción puede contribuir tanto a poner fin a un conflicto como a acelerar el reclutamiento de nuevos combatientes.
... The Northern region experienced a long civil war compared to the other regions, keeping internally displaced people in camps longer. During and after the civil war, radio was the common source of information listened by a large audience [36][37][38]. Presence of a large number of people staying in camps with increased utilization of radio and limited or no movements made it easier for humanitarian organizations to implement several interventions and programs, especially those that targeted maternal health services. These services became more accessible to women in the camps during and after the civil war, hence the observed finding in the region [39,40]. ...
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Background Early initiation of antenatal care (ANC) within the first trimester is highly recommended in the current 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. Mass media has the potential to promote early initiation of ANC because it has been used successfully in several programs. However, there is paucity of literature on the effect of exposure to different types of media on the timing of ANC initiation in Uganda. Our study aimed at exploring associations between exposure to different types of mass media and timing of ANC initiation among women in Uganda. Methods We used a cross sectional study design, to conduct a secondary analysis of data collected in the 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS). We included weighted data of all the 10,152 women of reproductive age (15–49 years). Multistage stratified sampling was used to select study participants. Multivariable logistic regression was used to determine the association between exposure to different types of mass media and early initiation of ANC. Results Almost a third of the women (2953/10,152, 29.1%, 95% CI 27.9–29.6) initiated their first ANC contact in the first trimester. Women who listened to radio at least once a week (adjusted OR (aOR 1.14, 95% CI 1.01–1.30) and those who watched television less than once a week (aOR 1.28, 95% CI 1.07–1.53) had higher odds of initiating ANC earlier compared to their counterparts not exposed to radio and television respectively. Conclusion Exposure to radio and television is associated with timing of ANC initiation in Uganda. Importantly, the two types of mass media have the potential to reach women with low levels of education and encourage them to utilize maternal health services. The Ugandan government needs to prioritize and intensify the use of radio and television to promote the benefits associated with timing of ANC initiation.
... However, the Supreme Court is hardly the only context in which political scientists are already studying speech. Countless other studies have examined political debates (Bayley 2004;Benoit 2013;Conway et al. 2012;Fridkin et al. 2007;Hart and Jarvis 1997;Thomas, Pang, and Lee 2006), campaign advertisements (Carlson and Montgomery 2017;Fridkin and Kenney 2011;Spiliotes and Vavreck 2002), campaign speech (Bligh et al. 2010;Degani 2015;Laver, Benoit, and Garry 2003;Olson et al. 2012;Schroedel et al. 2013), legislative speech (Herzog and Benoit 2015;Lauderdale and Herzog 2016;Proksch and Slapin 2012;Quinn et al. 2010;Schwarz, Traber, and Benoit 2017;Slapin and Proksch 2008), television news (Behr and Iyengar 1985;Mermin 1997;Oegema and Kleinnijenhuis 2000;Rozenas and Stukal 2019;Sanders and Gavin 2004;Semetko and Valkenburg 2000;Young and Soroka 2012), talk radio (Conroy-Krutz and Moehler 2015; Hofstetter et al. 1999;Ross 2016;Sobieraj and Berry 2011), and political addresses (Cohen 1995;Ritter and Howell 2001;Rule, Cointet, and Bearman 2015;Young and Perkins 2005). ...
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Speech and dialogue are the heart of politics: nearly every political institution in the world involves verbal communication. Yet vast literatures on political communication focus almost exclusively on what words were spoken, entirely ignoring how they were delivered—auditory cues that convey emotion, signal positions, and establish reputation. We develop a model that opens this information to principled statistical inquiry: the model of audio and speech structure (MASS). Our approach models political speech as a stochastic process shaped by fixed and time-varying covariates, including the history of the conversation itself. In an application to Supreme Court oral arguments, we demonstrate how vocal tone signals crucial information—skepticism of legal arguments—that is indecipherable to text models. Results show that justices do not use questioning to strategically manipulate their peers but rather engage sincerely with the presented arguments. Our easy-to-use R package, communication , implements the model and many more tools for audio analysis.
Technical Report
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This paper reviews the existing DDR literature on the DRC in search for lessons. It aims, on the one hand, to infuse context and specificity into current discussions about DDR programming and the implementation of community reintegration and, on the other, to suggest potential ingredients of a winning formula for DDR in the DRC.
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Read intrduciton + conclusion via eDuke: Since 1986, the Acholi people of northern Uganda have lived in the crossfire of a violent civil war, with the Lord’s Resistance Army and other groups fighting the Ugandan government. Acholi have been murdered, maimed, and driven into displacement. Thousands of children have been abducted and forced to fight. Many observers have perceived Acholiland and northern Uganda to be an exception in contemporary Uganda, which has been celebrated by the international community for its increased political stability and particularly for its fight against AIDS. These observers tend to portray the Acholi as war-prone, whether because of religious fanaticism or intractable ethnic hatreds. In Living with Bad Surroundings, Sverker Finnström rejects these characterizations and challenges other simplistic explanations for the violence in northern Uganda. Foregrounding the narratives of individual Acholi, Finnström enables those most affected by the ongoing “dirty war” to explain how they participate in, comprehend, survive, and even resist it. Finnström draws on fieldwork conducted in northern Uganda between 1997 and 2006 to describe how the Acholi—especially the younger generation, those born into the era of civil strife—understand and attempt to control their moral universe and material circumstances. Structuring his argument around indigenous metaphors and images, notably the Acholi concepts of good and bad surroundings, he vividly renders struggles in war and the related ills of impoverishment, sickness, and marginalization. In this rich ethnography, Finnström provides a clear-eyed assessment of the historical, cultural, and political underpinnings of the civil war while maintaining his focus on Acholi efforts to achieve “good surroundings,” viable futures for themselves and their families.
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The global success of the film KONY 2012 by Invisible Children, Inc., manifests far greater magical powers than those of Joseph Kony and his ruthless Lord's Resistance Army, which it portrays. The most prominent feature of the Invisible Children lobby is the making and constant remaking of a master narrative that depoliticizes and dehistoricizes a murky reality of globalized war into an essentialized black-and-white story. The magic of such a digestible storyline, with Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony as a global poster boy for evil personified, not only plays into the hands of the oppressive Ugandan government but has also become handy for the US armed forces as they seek to increase their presence on the African continent. As the US-led war on terror is renewed and expanded, Invisible Children's humanitarian slogan, "Stop at nothing", has proven to be exceptionally selective, manifesting the occult economy of global activism that calls for military interventions.
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Uncertainty abounds concerning the 19-year conflict in Northern Uganda between the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government. Two questions have received the most attention and could have the most bearing on efforts to resolve the conflict: first, why has the Ugandan government been unable or unwilling to end the war for nineteen years? Second, why has the LRA chosen to use extreme violence against the Acholi instead of trying to build popular support? First, this article addresses these questions, arguing that the debate has failed to take into account the political agency of the Acholi peasantry in the conflict and the relations between the peasantry and government, on the one hand, and the peasantry and the LRA, on the other. By putting the Acholi peasantry and its relations with government and rebels at the center of the analysis, the longevity of the war and the tendency by both rebels and government to use violence against the peasantry can be made sense of as a consequence of both sides' failure to realize an effective popular mobilization among the Acholi. Second, the article traces historically these failures of popular mobilization and the paths by which both the Ugandan government and the LRA came to see the population as a threat and potential enemy instead of as a potential support base. Third, by putting the people at the center of the analysis of the conflict, the groundwork is laid for putting the people at the center of the resolution of the conflict, transcending the current tendency of conflict resolution agendas to focus only on elites, treating the civilian population as passive bystanders or victims.
As Director of the Refugee Law Project at the University of Makerere, Kampala, Uganda, Dolan offers a behind-the-scenes, cross-disciplinary study of one of Africa's longest running and most intractable conflicts. This book shows how, alongside the activities of the Lord's Resistance Army, government decisions and actions on the ground, consolidated by humanitarian. Interventions and silences, played a central role in creating a massive yet only very belatedly recognized humanitarian crisis. Not only individuals, but society as a whole, came to exhibit symptoms typical of torture, and the perpetrator-victim dichotomy became blurred. It is such phenomena, and the complex of social, political, economic and cultural dynamics which underpin them, which the author describes as social torture. Building on political economy, social anthropology, discourse analysis, international relations and psychoanalytic approaches to violence, this book offers an important analytical instrument for all those seeking entry points through which to address entrenched conflicts, whether from a conflict resolution, post-conflict recovery or transitional justice perspective.
Western intervention has become a ubiquitous feature of violent conflict in Africa. Humanitarian aid agencies, community peacebuilders, microcredit promoters, children's rights activists, the World Bank, the International Criminal Court, the US military, and numerous others have involved themselves in African conflicts, all claiming to bring peace and human rights to situations where they are desperately needed. However, according to Adam Branch, Western intervention is not the solution to violence in Africa but, instead, can be a major part of the problem, often undermining human rights and even prolonging war and intensifying anti-civilian violence. Based on an extended case study of Western intervention into northern Uganda's twenty-year civil war, and drawing on his own extensive research and human rights activism there, this book lays bare the reductive understandings motivating Western intervention in Africa, the inadequate tools it insists on employing, its refusal to be accountable to African citizenries, and, most important, its counterproductive consequences for peace, human rights, and justice. In short, Branch demonstrates how Western interventions undermine the efforts Africans themselves are undertaking to end violence in their own communities. The book does not end with critique, however. Motivated by a commitment to global justice, it proposes concrete changes for Western humanitarian, peacebuilding, and justice interventions as well as a new normative framework for re-orienting the Western approach to violent conflict in Africa around a practice of genuine solidarity.
The importance of hate radio pervades commentary on the Rwandan genocide, and Rwanda has become a paradigmatic case of media sparking extreme violence. However, there exists little social scientific analysis of radio's impact on the onset of genocide and the mobilization of genocide participants. Through an analysis of exposure, timing, and content as well as interviews with perpetrators, the article refutes the conventional wisdom that broadcasts from the notorious radio station RTLM were a primary determinant of genocide. Instead, the article finds evidence of conditional media e fects, which take on significance only when situated in a broader context of violence.
This paper seeks to understand the restrictions media actors face in their day-to-day work in Acholiland, northern Uganda, and identify the strategies they adopt to maintain a space for dialogue and debate. Two case studies reveal that it is difficult to see how media actors in this conflict environment can play a significant role in holding the ruling government to account and promoting peace building when they are facing repressive media laws, intimidation, a lack of information, and weak managerial support. This paper calls for policies to support the daily struggles of media actors, such as the adoption of the African Peer Review Mechanism – an instrument used for self-monitoring by participant countries of New Partnership for Africa's Development. Thus, the investigation turns away from questions of censorship to investigating what can be done to support the daily struggles of media actors who are constantly negotiating their way through a labyrinth of restrictions.