For Immediate Release
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a new award today that will help communities in the Central Africa Republic (CAR) reduce their vulnerability to violence from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The Secure, Empowered, Connected Communities (SECC) program will support communities to develop and implement security plans and reduce their isolation and vulnerability through communications technology and skills building. The three-year award advances community-driven solutions to complex and enduring problems. The program will be implemented by Catholic Relief Services.
For over two decades, the LRA terrorized communities, abducted civilians, and forced children to become soldiers across northern Uganda. Since the LRA was driven out of Uganda in 2006, northern Uganda has undergone a remarkable transformation due in part to sustained support from USAID. While the LRA has been weakened, it continues to pose a deadly threat to the communities in the region bordering the CAR, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the Republic of South Sudan. An estimated 465,000 civilians—more than 20,000 of whom are in the CAR—remain displaced due to fear of LRA brutality.
Insecurity caused by the LRA affects communities that are already suffering from acute poverty and underdevelopment. Communities in southeast CAR are particularly vulnerable to attacks by the LRA because of the limited international humanitarian presence in the area, minimal government influence, and physical isolation due to poor communications systems, roads, and other infrastructure. Protecting civilians not only benefits the local community, but also reduces the LRA’s available targets and weakens their influence in the longer term.
USAID is currently implementing humanitarian assistance and reintegration programs in LRA-affected areas in the CAR, the DRC, and the western region of the Republic of South Sudan, as well as community-based protection programs in northeastern DRC. USAID’s SECC program will address a critical need for support to communities affected by the LRA in CAR.
The SECC program will provide small grants directly to vulnerable communities to aid them in improving their security. Communities will develop and implement security plans that reduce their vulnerability to violence. Improved communications technology and information sharing among communities—as well as with local, national, and international organizations—will reduce their isolation and exposure to threats associated with the presence of the LRA and other armed groups. An additional $1 million will support the holistic reintegration of LRA escapees by addressing their psychological, social, and economic needs through an existing USAID project implemented in the CAR by UNICEF.
"The new USAID program constitutes a key element of the comprehensive U.S. strategy on the LRA, working with civil society and government partners to respond to critical protection needs for the many LRA victims and vulnerable civilians in southeastern CAR," said the U.S. Ambassador to the Central African Republic, the Honorable Lawrence D. Wohlers.
In the DRC, USAID is supporting similar community-based protection programs that incorporate high frequency radios and cell phone towers to help communities enhance their protection and facilitate the exchange of timely information with humanitarian actors on critical needs and conflict developments. Communities are already seeing tangible benefits—for example, by cataloging local grievances to advocate for and advance collaboration among community members, the police, and the DRC Armed Forces.
Last updated: January 30, 2014