Projects for Peace: The Vision of Kathryn W. Davis

"My challenge to you is to bring about a mind-set of preparing for peace, instead of preparing for war."


For much of the past decade, Adam has been on the move in central Africa, following the movements of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and working to end what he considers “one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in the world.” His weapons of choice are words.

For more than three decades the LRA, led by Joseph Kony, has been perpetrating violence and human rights abuses in northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic. Common tactics have included the mutilation or murder of innocents and abduction and enslavement of children. The LRA filled their ranks with boys forced to kill or be killed, and girls as young as 10 who were abducted and forced into sexual slavery. More than 30,000 children were abducted by the LRA over the course of their brutal history in the region.

With the LRA weakened, the worst of the terror seems to have passed. Yet abductions are still occurring in central Africa, and even as the LRA leadership structure is being dismantled, former LRA soldiers abducted as children now struggle with the challenge of reintegration. When Adam first began working in central Africa, this reintegration was his focus—but he also helped mitigate violence and encourage more defections. In over a decade of work with the organizations Invisible Children and Bridgeway Foundation, he partnered with local leaders on a wide range of projects designed to undermine the LRA.

Many of the projects were successful. One effort, started by a Congolese priest, established a radio system linking 74 remote communities across three countries, in order to provide early warning of impending LRA attacks. The system contributed to a 90 percent decrease in violence over the course of five years and is still operational today. Adam also helped create the LRA Crisis Tracker, a geospatial mapping platform used to track and alert security forces and humanitarian first responders about LRA activity. Another initiative spread counterpropaganda messages via radio and fliers.

One particularly effective technique to encourage defection of LRA members was flying a helicopter over known LRA areas while blasting “come home” messages through aerial loudspeakers. Adam and his partners on the ground often recorded these messages—delivered by former soldiers or their family members—and took them by helicopter over the LRA’s area of operation, pushing play on the recorder over and over as the miles of triplecanopy forest rolled by below. All of these initiatives helped boost defections to unprecedented levels, with over 700 men, women, and children coming out from the LRA over a five-year period.

Bridgeway Foundation is focused on mitigating armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Adam intends to use lessons learned from the LRA mission in this new context. Words are still his weapons—only this time, in a new language. “We will work with community leaders who are building campaigns of peace,” he says. “And French will empower me to build the lasting relationships necessary to see results.”