A Team Approach: PSYOP and LRA Defection in 2012

Friday 8 December 2023

Tracy, Jared. Published in November 2020.

This source is a historical account produced by Dr. Jared Tracy of the United States Army Special Operations History Office, the organisation tasked with preserving the institutional memory of Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF). The article focuses on the contributions of Psychological Operations (PSYOPs) specialists to Operation Observant Compass, the Department of Defense’s commitment to the international manhunt for Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony in Uganda. Dr. Tracy’s work explores the PSYOP effort alongside civil society organisations run by former LRA members to produce and disseminate two key narratives through mass media: the prospects that existed for future defectors upon reintegration into Ugandan society and messages of forgiveness launched by members of local families, which urged LRA fighters to return home. Small-unit cohesion amongst LRA groups relied heavily upon a simplified understanding of the relation between fighters and Ugandan communities. LRA members were frequently reminded of the irredeemable nature of their actions and were set in inherent opposition to the rest of local society. The PSYOP campaign’s production and dissemination of messages of forgiveness, thus, served to challenge this binary understanding of an irreparable gulf which separated LRA fighters from their previous lives and communities, a highly effective approach which saw more than 5% of the LRA’s total strength defect in the first six months alone. Though certainly focused on the military’s involvement in peacebuilding, this case also serves as a powerful demonstration of the ability of carefully selected narratives to lay a crucial cornerstone for future peace – the immediate reduction of armed conflict without a single shot being fired.

Link: https://arsof-history.org/articles/20nov_a_team_approach_page_1.html 

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