Civil society asks MONUSCO to improve protection of civilians from the LRA

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Today we are highlighting an open letter we co-signed with 58 civil society groups and organizations from around the world to urge MONUSCO to improve their efforts to protect civilians from the Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa, a letter spearheaded by The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative in tandem with Fr. Ernest Sugule, National Coordinator of SAIPED.

“While we recognize that MONUSCO has many competing demands across Congo and faces significant resource constraints, we believe that with focused leadership the mission could more effectively utilize existing resources to keep people safe from the LRA,” said Paul Ronan, Project Director of The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative.

In particular, the letter urges UN leaders to ensure MONUSCO personnel in LRA-affected areas do the following:

1. Reestablish trust and information sharing with the local civilian population, including ensuring MONUSCO personnel meet more frequently with a wide range of civil society representatives, including women, youth, elders, and religious leaders;

2. Support community self-protection initiatives, including by proactively sharing information about LRA movements with a wider range of civil society actors and by implementing Quick Impact Projects;

3. Ensure peacekeeper patrols are responsive to LRA threats and that MONUSCO personnel more thoroughly investigate LRA attacks;

4. Revitalize campaigns to encourage LRA defections, including by collaborating with civil society and the US government to quickly respond to indications from LRA members that they want to defect [which is too often not what happens].

Today we amplify the opinions and requests of the many civil society groups throughout NE DRC that DTJ has worked with in close proximity over the last few years. Their request to senior MONUSCO officials to do more to protect civilians demands a response. We are honored to be a signatory on this important letter. To read the full letter, click here.

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Groups urge UN peacekeepers to protect civilians as LRA abductions surge in DRC

UN Security Council set to meet on DRC in March

KINSHASA, 13 March, 2014 – With Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) still a grave threat to civilians, a letter from 59 civil society groups released today calls on the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) to improve efforts to protect civilians from the rebel group. The LRA has abducted over 3,400 Congolese civilians and killed over 2,400 others since 2008, making it one of the most violent armed groups in DRC over the past six years.

“The LRA has killed Congolese civilians and abducted Congolese children for too long,” said Dr. Shelly Whitman, Executive Director of The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative. “MONUSCO can and must play a more active role in protecting civilians and ending LRA violence in DRC once and for all.”

In February 2014 alone the LRA abducted 35 people in 20 attacks in Haut Uele district of DRC’s Orientale Province, the most abductions the group has committed in one month there since April 2012. MONUSCO troops are deployed in villages close to areas where the LRA attacked but have been slow to respond. In recent years, Congolese community leaders and international NGOs have consistently raised concerns that MONUSCO does not respond effectively or quickly enough to reports of LRA attacks in Haut Uele.

“The LRA is once again attacking innocent civilians with impunity just kilometers away from UN peacekeepers,” said Fr. Ernest Sugule of the Congolese civil society group SAIPED. “MONUSCO should urgently respond with increased patrols in vulnerable areas and investigations to determine which LRA commanders are responsible for these attacks.”

The UN Security Council is set to review MONUSCO’s mandate this month, with the focus expected to be on stabilizing DRC’s troubled eastern region. In a letter addressed to MONUSCO’s senior leadership, the civil society groups urge the UN mission also to take proactive measures to protect civilians from the LRA.

“MONUSCO faces severe challenges in protecting civilians across a country as vast as DRC,” said Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. “But MONUSCO can do more with the resources they have, and the UN Security Council should ensure they do so.”

The letter urges MONUSCO personnel to build better relationships with community leaders in LRA-affected areas of DRC, highlighting how improved information sharing can strengthen the mission’s efforts to protect civilians and encourage members of the LRA to defect.

“Congolese community leaders play essential roles managing early warning and protection systems and preventing local conflicts,” said Ned Dalby at Conciliation Resources. “To fulfill their mandate MONUSCO peacekeepers need to work alongside civil society.”

In 2013, the LRA committed at least 124 attacks and abducted nearly 200 civilians in the DRC. Over 236,000 Congolese civilians remain displaced by LRA attacks, including nearly 18,000 who fled to neighboring countries.

“We have waited patiently for MONUSCO to show us they are willing to respond to LRA attacks, only to be disappointed too often,” said Fr. Ernest. “It is time MONUSCO fulfills its responsibility to protect our people from the LRA.”


Press contacts

New York, NY: Lindsay Branham, Program Director, DTJ 202 368 2921


Signatory organizations and representatives


  1. Action Humanitaire Justice pour Victime
  2. Action pour le Développement et la Protection Communautaire (ADPC)
  3. Association de Taxi Moto Dungu (ATAMOD)
  4. Association des agriculteurs de Bangadi
  5. Association des Femmes des Nazawa pour le Développement (AFND)
  6. Associations des Mamans de Bangadi
  7. Associations des Mamans de Duru
  8. Association des Mamans de Ngilima
  9. Association Nationale des Mamans pour l’Aide aux Déshérités (ANAMAD)
  10. Carrefour juridique culturel
  11. Centre de Réinsertion et d’Accompagnement au Développement (CRAD)
  12. Coalition Congolaise pour la Justice Transitionnelle (CCJT)
  13. Coalition Nationale pour la CPI en RDC
  14. Collectif des Auxiliaires Libéraux de Justice
  15. Commission Autochtone de Lutte contre la LRA: CALL
  16. Commission Diocésaine de Justice et Paix du Dioèce d’Isiro Niangara
  17. Commission Diocésaine de Justice et Paix du Diocèse Dungu Doruma
  18. Commission Diocècaine de Justice, Paix et Réconciliation, Diocèce Anglicanne d’Aru
  19. Congo Action pour le Développement (CAD)
  20. Communauté pour la Promotion des Humains (CPH)
  21. Communicateurs pour la Promotion, Protection et Défense des Droits de L’homme plus la Ligue des Femmes Défenseures de droits Humains ont leurs sièges au Kasai Oriental (COPPRODDHO ONGDH )
  22. Congo en Images (CIM)
  23. Dynamique de Développement Durable (DDD)
  24. Fondation Congolaise pour la Promotion des Droits de l’Homme et la Paix
  25. Fondation point de vue des jeunes africains pour le développement (FPJAD asbl)
  26. Forum des Mamans de l’Ituri (FOMI)
  27. Groupe d’Associations de Défense des Droits de l’Homme et de la Paix (GADHOP)
  28. Groupe LOTUS
  29. Initiative Congolaise pour la Justice et la Paix (ICJP)
  30. Institut Supérieur de Dungu (ISD)
  31. JUSTICIA Asbl
  32. la Ligue des femmes défenseures des Droits Humains (LIFEDDH)
  33. Ligue des volontaires pour la défense des droits humains (LISVDHE)
  34. Ligue Nationale Pour Les Elections Libres et Transparentes (LINELIT)
  35. Ligue pour la Promotion et le Développement Intégral de la Femme et de l’Enfant
  36. Mama Tiya Molende (MTM)
  37. ONGDH Justice Plus
  38. Option pour Assister les Personnes Vulnérables (OAPV)
  39. Président de la société civile Bangadi
  40. Président de la société civile de Faradje
  41. Protection, Action pour le Développement Intégrale (PADI)
  42. Réseau des associations des droits de l’homme du Sud Kivu (RADHOSKI)
  43. Réseau des Organisations féminines des Uélés (ROFU) [15 organisations féminines]
  44. Rt. Rev. Samuel Enosa Peni, Bishop of the Diocese of Nzara, South Sudan and Chair for Regional Taskforce for Religious Leaders and Civil Society in the LRA-affected region
  45. Société Civile de Niangara
  46. Solidarité des Volontaires pour l’Humanité (SVH)
  47. Solidarité Féminine pour la Paix et le Développement Intégral (SOFEPADI)
  48. Solidarité et Assistance Intégrale aux Personnes Démunies (SAIPED)
  49. Terre des enfants
  50. Youth Program for the Development of Africa (YPDA)


  1. Conciliation Resources
  2. Discover the Journey
  3. The Enough Project
  4. European Network for Central Africa (EurAc)
  5. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  6. Jocelyn Kelly, Director, Women in War Program, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative
  7. PAX
  8. The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative
  9. The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative

Santa Barbara International Film Festival Official Selection!

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They Came at Night, our new Mobile Cinema film made in partnership with Invisible Children was just selected to compete in the Dramatic Shorts competition at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Jan 30 – Feb 9, 2014.

We are very excited. To see the full line-up of all the incredible films playing this year check it out here. If you are in Santa Barbara, please come see the film. Stay tuned for screening date and time.


They Came at Night Featured as Vimeo Staff Pick

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DTJ is pleased to announce that They Came at Night was chosen as a Vimeo staff pick. The film was made in partnership with Invisible Children and was shot exclusively with first-time-actors, who were personally affected by the war during a short production schedule.

This film is currently being toured across three countries in central Africa by local organizations in conjunction with an in-depth facilitated workshop to prepare communities to peacefully receive LRA escapees who return home. This film is being used as a catalyst for forgiveness.

Watch it now below if you haven’t seen it and share it if you have. Click here now to donate to help DTJ continue to use media to protect children from war.


They Came at Night from DTJ on Vimeo.


An Interview with Ernest Sugule

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We sat down with Ernest Sugule, the founder of Dungu-based Solidarity and Integral Assistance to Destitute People (SAIPED) to ask a few questions about his experience working to end LRA violence in central Africa and why he partnered with us to create the two Mobile Cinema films. SAIPED has been our partner throughout our work creating Mobile Cinema programs in DR Congo and we wanted to hear why he believes in this alternative approach to creating change in communities affected by war.

Why did you decide to partner with DTJ on the Mobile Cinema project?

Storytelling is at home in Africa. Africa is a place where storytelling is used as a means of keeping our traditions alive and sharing knowledge with each other. Mobile Cinema does exactly that. We partnered with DTJ because through the Mobile Cinema project, local people can tell their own stories to each other. This allows for people to identify with each other in new ways. Through story, Mobile Cinema gives people the opportunity to visualize someone’s suffering, hear their suffering and at the same time feel that they are not alone in their own suffering. This makes the Mobile Cinema approach so unique and powerful. The second reason we decided to partner with DTJ was because their approach is completely different from other partnership approaches. DTJ builds the capacity of the local organization and then accompanies them for a certain period of time and then lets the local organization run the program independently while DTJ continues to provide funding and program support.

How does DTJ work in partnership with SAIPED?

Our partnership with DTJ is unique and different from partnerships we have had with other international organizations. DTJ trained our staff and accompanied them on the ground. At this point they left, allowing our staff to carry on the project independently with tremendous results. This partnership has helped build the capacity of our SAIPED staff in knowing how to implement the Mobile Cinema and psychosocial programs. SAIPED staff are now even able to use Mobile Cinema in different programs such as the defection program, which includes community forgiveness, etc. Really this partnership has been so helpful to SAIPED staff in terms of capacity building.

Film is a new medium in the remote areas of DRC and is not a familiar way for people to communicate, why do you use mobile cinema films in your programs?

Film might be new in the remote areas of DRC but this also makes it attractive. Film is special because it gathers everybody, from children, to youth, to adults and even elderly people. This is unique because it gets the attention of everyone at different ages all at once. For instance in Faradje, in one evening, the parish priest asked us to show the film to people. Although we did not inform people in advance, we just put our equipment up and started showing the film and leading discussions. 10 minutes later, over 1,000 people turned up to watch the film, including the lecturers from the Higher learning Institution of Faradje. Therefore, film is a new way to tell one’s own story and it has been a very powerful tool to reduce trauma in LRA-affected victims. They see their own stories being told on the screen and it provides an opportunity to LRA victims to open up and start sharing what they went through. This healing process helps them move on with their lives. Mobile Cinema has helped us reach over 2,500 children and their caretakers, and reduce trauma symptoms by over 50% in children who were formerly abducted by the LRA.

How is it significant for people to see a film in their own language about issues in their own communities?

Painful events or even traumatizing events are best expressed in one’s mother tongue. When local people listen to their stories being told in their own language, it makes them feel more at home and at ease. At the same time, this gives them a unique opportunity to realize that they are not alone in their suffering, and to understand that what happened to them also happened to many other people. The film also gives them a learning opportunity to move away from the traumatizing or painful events to positive events in their lives. The film’s resolution creates hope and positivity. The film gives people courage to move on and to start a new life on a new basis. Even just one viewing of the film leaves indelible marks on local people, convincing them to change their inner beliefs. The film is so powerful and unique because it gives opportunity for people to model the positive behavior of the characters in the film.

What is the Mobile Cinema film “They Came at Night” about? What are you trying to accomplish with this film?

The Mobile Cinema film, They Came at Night, is about two abducted boys who are escaping from the LRA. One is caught by the LRA and beaten seriously but the other one is able to successfully escape because of the help of a local hunter. But when this local hunter takes the escapee back home, he faces fierce opposition from the local youth and even from his own wife. After the escapee recognizes what he did wrong and asks for forgiveness from the local youth, he is forgiven by the community. They then accompany him to the military authorities so that he can be repatriated to his own country. The biggest lesson we want to convey to local people is to learn “how to forgive” an LRA combatant who surrenders, or defects. This is so important because if people are not able to forgive the LRA, they will not be able to help the LRA surrender, and the war will continue. However, this demands a lot of effort from local communities. We are essentially asking them to move on from the bitterness they feel to forgiveness. But this is healing, and this is a healing process for the whole community. The film shows clearly how the local hunter and even the local youth had opportunities to kill the LRA escapee but they chose to forgive him and help him surrender so that he could go home. This is what we want the community to learn and model.

Can film really create change in LRA-affected communities? How?

The mobile cinema program has produced changes measured by quantitative and qualitative data in the communities. For the first Mobile Cinema program about reintegration, we were able to reach over 2,860 beneficiaries of whom 1,430 were children who escaped from the LRA. The program also reached over 1,430 caregivers of these children. We included the caregivers or parents of these children in order to reduce their trauma as well and equip them with same basic techniques to recognize trauma and addressing that in their own children. So far we have been able to reduce psychological distress symptoms by over 50%. This means that children are reporting feeling less depression, anxiety, trauma, sadness, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of isolation. Also, formerly abducted children are experiencing less negative stigma. Qualitatively, the Mobile Cinema program has been able to create space for children to deepen connections to their families, peers, teachers and community members. The community now holds more value for formerly abducted due to increased empathy towards them. Lastly, we have seen increased community cohesion and unity because of the program. The second Mobile Cinema program focuses on forgiveness and encouraging peaceful surrender from the LRA. Our target is 2400 beneficiaries in two communities. So far we have been able to reach over 600 beneficiaries. The program is designed to create a Safe Reporting Site for escapees where they can surrender without being attacked by the local community members. So far we have had tremendous results. For instance, before following the program, one beneficiary told us that he would never forgive an LRA escapee because the LRA killed all of his family and he wants to take revenge for their deaths. But after going through the program he was able to say that, “now I can forgive an LRA soldier who escapes so that I have peace”. All the participants have been able to move away from bitterness and vengeance towards forgiveness.

How can the film help communities to decide to peacefully accept LRA combatants who surrender? What is the role of it?

Various characters in the film provide role models to the community. Community members can learn from these role models and imitate them. Therefore, community members can remind themselves of what they saw in the film and play the same role. The other thing the film does is that it sets a base for forgiveness for the entire community. The community can learn from the film how to forgive LRA members who want to defect.

There are some sensitive scenes in the film, does this create a mental trauma for communities who watch it?

The film should look close to reality so that it is believable. That is why some sensitive scenes should be in the film to make it appear as close to reality as possible – so that people can relate from their own experiences. This also gives opportunities to the characters in the film to show the community how they can move away from these painful experiences. Yes this is sensitive in the first exposure, but this is necessary so that the community is able to move away from the painful events. The painful event becomes a learning event from which local people learn from in order to know what to if the events repeat themselves. The other reason why it is important to show sensitive scenes is that the more we are exposed to our own stories and realities, the less traumatized we become. This is a learning process for the community as well because we expose them to difficult realities but in a safe setting. And then we help them process these events and overcome them.

What is your vision for what Mobile Cinema and the CDCs can accomplish in DRC?

This has been one of the most successful community-based programs, which exists to build resilience within communities. Resilience is defined as, ‘the ability of individuals, communities, organisations, or countries exposed to disasters and crisis and underlying vulnerabilities to anticipate, reduce the impact of, cope with, and recover from the effects of adversity without compromising their long-term prospects’. My vision for the Mobile Cinema and the CDCs is to expand it to all affected communities in DRC and the region at large.

Training Local Partners in Community-Based Programs

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DTJ and Invisible Children partnered together to provide an in-depth training to representatives from local organizations in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan to work with local communities on community-based defection efforts. The program includes Community Defection Committees and Mobile Cinema screenings, which target preparing communities to receive LRA combatants when they do surrender. The training included five days of in-depth discussions in Kampala and a five-day field component in DRC where theory was put to practice.

Why is defection important? Encouraging and facilitating the peaceful surrender of LRA combatants is one of the most effective ways to reduce threats to communities in central Africa and weaken the LRA’s ability to effectively operate. Defection is a non-violent strategy to remove the LRA from the battlefield.

The main goals of entire Community Defection Committee (CDC) and Mobile Cinema (MC) strategy is to increase positive defections from the LRA and to protect communities who are still vulnerable to LRA attacks.

DTJ and IC developed a thorough manual which serves as a guide for local partners to facilitate their implementation of the Community Defection and Mobile Cinema program model and as a resource for the theory, methodology, activity and reporting expectations. The program was designed by DTJ based on field research and is outlined in the report “Come out and live among us” which will be released in early December.

Father Ernest, founder of SAIPED, comments on the training:

I see three pillars that are good – 1 is to have a common regional understanding – that these three countries have a common understanding of what CDC and Mobile Cinema is – the 2nd – knowing each other – knowing the capacity of each other and learning from one another. The third pillar reiterates what Fr Mark said – connecting theory with practice – we were able to connect what we learned in Kampala to the realities on the ground. This is the first project linking these three together. Gaining from local experience and local understanding of the problem and empowering local people to solve their problems themselves. Based on this its a very powerful tool – and it goes with my own philosophy of thinking – it is the locals who know the problem better – working with them is the best solution.”

Photograph by Lindsay Branham of field-training component in Djabir, DRC.


Newest Mobile Cinema Production Underway

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Our newest Mobile Cinema film about an LRA child soldier who escapes and encounters a local hunter who has to decide whether to risk his life and help him or not is underway in DRC. The production team is working with a Dungu-based non-profit organization called SAIPED (Solidarity and Integral Assistance to Destitute People). The team held auditions with over 100 people who tried out for the various roles in the film. The final cast is a selection of first-time actors who have all been personally affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army conflict. The final film will be toured in Mobile Cinema screenings by SAIPED and other central African-based organizations along with an in-depth facilitated workshop to educate communities on the importance of defection and how to be prepared when LRA combatants do escape.

The production process itself is highly collaborative – from the story nexus to acting workshops to actual shooting, we lean heavily on our partners to inform the nuance of every scene and every piece of dialogue. We are all very excited for the final product to come.

Photograph of Director Andrew Ellis, co-Director Alex Mallis, Production Associate Margaux Fitoussi and Joseph Vungula and the two main actors, Innocent Mbula and Godefroid Malaka prepare for the scene when they escape from the LRA. Dungu, DRC.

Mobile Cinema Expands to 12 Communities

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Congo movie-33

Our local partner, SAIPED (Solidarity and Integral Assistance to Destitute People) has just finished the expansion of the Mobile Cinema Reintegration program to over 12 communities throughout northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The 8-session program is a community-based approach designed to help formerly abducted children by the LRA come home.

At the end of the program in each community, a community gift, decided between SAIPED and the community was presented. So far, there are multiple small pharmacies now in operation, to provide needed medicine and generate a revenue, and brick machines for communities to re-build the structures destroyed by the LRA.

We are extremely proud of the SAIPED Mobile Cinema facilitation team that braved destroyed roads, the rainy season and other unforeseeable delays in order to bring the intervention to the communities they deemed were most in need.

Preliminary data analysis shows an incredible 60% reduction in trauma and psychological distress symptoms. This means children are reporting being sad less, isolating themselves less, and are being accepted by their peers.

Over 3,000 children in NE DRC have now been through the intervention. And counting.

Researching Community Perspectives on Defection

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DTJ’s Lindsay Branham just completed a three-country research trip to understand how local Zande communities, the population group most affected by the LRA today and who currently live in the midst of the LRA’s area of operations, can also play a critical role in defection – and how they are willing to take on that role and be partners in these efforts.

Lindsay Branham and Margaux Fitoussi conducted over 190 interviews across three countries, utilizing a standardized questionnaire set that looked at everything from community definitions of peace and forgiveness, to barriers to defection, to how current defection actors, including MONUSCO and the UPDF are perceived by local communities.

The final report will be released Dec. 9th that outlines their findings.

Photograph by Lindsay Branham, Mboki, CAR.

Jean Bosco leads a discussion group during the intervention. Duru, DRC.


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Jean Bosco is Mobile Cinema’s Project Coordinator, leading our local team of facilitators on the ground as they continue to expand the program into 12 more communities across NE DRC.  Beyond his contagious laughter and unceasing positivity, Jean Bosco knows how to get down on anyone’s level and says working with children is, “in his blood.”

Jean Bosco has been a strong human rights advocate. He previously worked as a WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) field assistant for UNICEF, a Human Rights Officer with our local partner, SAIPED, and was a leader for building houses for IDPs (internally displaced persons) in conflict-affected areas in DRC.

Jean Bosco has experienced LRA violence firsthand: members of his family were killed by the LRA and others were forced to leave their home villages and live as IDPs in Duru, where Jean Bosco takes care of them all. He calls Congo a “small paradise” and is grieved to watch members of this community live in a constant state of fear and trauma.

He’s dedicated to ending this long-lasting conflict and bringing peace to the DRC.  When asked why he chose to work with Mobile Cinema, he said: ”Mobile Cinema is a very good program. It impacts people so that they could have a better life in the future. The psychological component of the program is a critical part that NGOs here forget.”

Help Jean Bosco bring peace and psychological relief to more communities in NE DRC: Donate to our Mobile Cinema Expansion.

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