In war-torn South Kivu, village disputes can quickly escalate to wider violence that feeds into complex local conflicts. Official channels for resolving disputes are slow, expensive and corrupt, leaving most people to take justice into their own hands.
In place of this, we supported FOCHI to set up a network of village-level courts that offer free access to justice for a population of 70,000 people. Staffed by trained local volunteers, they are modelled on traditional village gatherings or ‘barazas’. Each of the 12 barazas also has a special all-female section, where cases such as rape and sexual violence can be discussed more openly.
In 2014 we commissioned an external evaluation of our work with FOCHI, and in particular on their barazas. The report showed the barazas have a very high rate of solving cases – 90% through the main barazas and 83% through the female barazas. 86% of people surveyed also felt that the work of the barazas has reduced the likelihood of violence in their community.
It also highlighted the cost-effectiveness of the work, with each court case costing $27, compared to $3-4,000 for cases being heard through a mobile court favoured by some international agencies. Community surveys indicated a greater sense of safety, increased co-operation between civilians and ex-combatants, and increased status for women.