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Devastating suffering in DRC shows urgent need for local peacebuilders

  • Published

    15 October 2009
  • Written by

    Peace Direct

Eighty-four human rights and humanitarian groups in the Congo Advocacy Coalition have denounced the UN’s failure to act over the actions taken by the Congolese government’s military operation in eastern Congo, which is backed by UN peacekeepers. The operation, which is aimed at neutralising the threat to civilians from the Rwandan Hutu militia group FDLR, has resulted in an “unacceptable cost to the civilian population.”

Estimates suggest that since the operation began in January 2009, 1,000 civilians have been killed, 7,000 women and girls have been raped, and more than 6,000 properties have been destroyed – not only by the FDLR militia – but also the UN-backed Congolese Government soldiers. In total, some 900,000 people have been forced to flee their homes.

These devasting figures highlight the inability of the UN to stop abusive soldiers from the Congolese Government engaging in civilian violence. The DR Congo conflict is the world’s deadliest since World War II and has already cost the lives of over 5 million people. Reading this report it would be easy to lose hope for a peaceful solution. However there are people living in DRC who themselves are victims of this war but who refuse to give up hope and who are making real, lasting achievements to build peace through non-violent methods.

Henri Bura Ladyi is the director of  Céntre Resolution Conflit (CRC), a peacebuilding organisation based in Beni supported by Peace Direct. He is working to persuade the militia to lay down their arms, to leave their factions, and to return peacefully to their communities. His programmes break down the barriers of fear and mistrust that feed the cycles of violence and enhance trust, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Henri uses a network of ex-militia to contact hard to reach armed groups and to demonstrate there are other options available to them. His programmes offer militia the support they need to return to normal life; teaching them livelihood skills so they can support themselves without violence.  Henri works with local people to show them they have more to fear if the militia remain armed in the bush than if they accept them back into their communities. He also works to negotiate the release of child soldiers and give them the support and skills to live in peace.

CRC has created a network of people stretching across militia commanders, government, church leaders, and right across communities. Due to their influence in Aveba and Beni area, four brigades comprising a total of 8,000 militias disbanded last year. Over the next year CRC will demobilise a further 5,000 militia members, bringing the surrounding communities closer to peace.

Henri’s achievements are a clear indication that there is cause for hope in DR Congo, but that peace will not be obtained through sanctioned violence. In a country ripped apart by years of war and instability, adding another armed force to the mix, no matter their intentions, can only bring more suffering to families and communities. Peace Direct believes that local people need to be at the centre of conflict resolution, and building peace needs to happen not through armed clashes, but in the villages and communities at the heart of this conflict.

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