In situations of war and violence, idealistic solutions are rarely the reality. In the civilian conflict surrounding Joseph Kony's rebel fighters, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the ideal scenario is that abducted members of Joseph Kony's army peacefully surrender, exit the jungle, go through rehabilitation, and return home to the families that have missed them for years. This December, however, the ideal happened. On Tuesday, December 10, nineteen people -- nine fighters, four women, and six children -- quietly left the violent rebel cult created by Joseph Kony. Weapons raised, the nineteen former members of the LRA approached a fisherman and asked him to take them to Ugandan military forces to officially surrender.
The surrender process for Joseph Kony's captors is a tricky one. In some areas of central Africa, the practices or even identity of the LRA is unknown. LRA fighters or captors will try to defect, but the people receiving them don't know who they are, speak their language, or know why they're carrying weapons. Combine this with the fact that abducted victims have been forced to commit violent crimes against innocent communities, and it's evident why a fighter's reintegration is emotionally complicated. The fisherman that received the nineteen defectors showed intense bravery by taking them to the proper officials.
Invisible Children partners with local community leaders to facilitate sensitization and information sessions for communities currently in areas known to house the LRA. One of the most crucial tools in these sessions is a film called They Came At Night.
Made in partnership with Discover The Journey, They Came At Night is a film that depicts the complex physical and emotional factors involved in a fighter's escape from the LRA, from the fighter's life-threatening danger as he runs away from his captors to the community's struggle to accept -- at the risk of their own safety -- those that have perpetuated violence. Replacing conventional documentary-style storytelling with a character-driven narrative, They Came At Night is an imagined portrayal of a real situation: simply, a network of individuals navigating the trauma of injustice.
The film's tagline, "This film was not made for you," points back to the true power of the media: its role in emotionally preparing communities across central Africa to welcome back their lost children as the frequency of defections -- and thus, the dissolution of the rebel group -- becomes increasingly imminent. While the film is an essential instrument of the sensitization process for the immediately affected regions, its story amongst international audiences is no less powerful as the film shows us an intimate, on-the-ground side of the LRA conflict that has never before been seen in Invisible Children's media.
The news of nineteen escapees, paired with the release of our new film, brings renewed hope to a conflict defined by atrocity and crisis. More exciting than the evidence that counter-LRA programs are working is the promise that Joseph Kony's rule is coming to an end, and soon. And when it does, regardless of how ideal the political, emotional, and social situation is, we will continue to implement solutions amid less-than-ideal circumstances along the pursuit of restoration and justice.