“We say no to war and yes to peace” was daubed on a community “wall of hope” in the town of Beni in DR Congo as the town Mayor released 11 doves over crowds gathered to celebrate the International Day of Peace on 21 September. The 11 birds, representing the 11 provinces of DR Congo, were let loose to symbolise a united desire for sustainable peace across the country.
Our partner Céntre Resolution Conflits (CRC), who organised the celebrations, has recently completed a project to reintegrate former fighters from the feared Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). . Most LRA attacks now take place in the Central African Republic, leading to claims that there are no LRA fighters left in DR Congo. But this is far from true. Although the main body of the LRA has left the country, many fighters still remain, using the LRA name and committing horrific atrocities for personal gain.
In spite of optimistic claims by the international community and the DR Congo government, the threat from the original LRA is still very great. In areas where displaced persons are present and where there are deliveries of humanitarian food aid, the LRA launch attacks in order to restock their supplies. For the same reason, they also attack villages with successful farms.
An important part of CRC’s project was to strengthen community organisations in the LRA areas, where conflict and violence have caused instability. CRC provided training to more than 250 people, covering subjects such as conflict transformation and organisational skills. As a result, more and more locals are now involved in protecting their own communities and assisting with the return of people who have been forced out of their homes through intimidation and violence.
So far, CRC has created five networks to connect them to militia groups and the local community. These networks, known as ‘Task Forces’, include ex-fighters, community leaders, army officers and business people. Through the Task Forces, CRC has identified communities and groups which can provide links to LRA members.
Another way that CRC forms links with local communities is through radio clubs- groups of locals who produce and deliver the broadcasts. CRC relies on radio as a way to communicate with local communities, broadcasting useful local information as well as messages relating to peace and security. CRC is therefore able to build up trust with local communities and lay the foundations for developing links with armed groups. In the last six months, CRC has set up radio clubs in 40 different communities.
With the success of the original project, CRC is now planning to expand their activities if they can obtain sufficient funding. Since the LRA operates across borders, CRC is also looking for partners in South Sudan and Uganda who can carry on the work of CRC in their own countries and help more communities say NO to war.
With your help CRC could expand their work and help protect more communities from LRA attacks by persuading fighters to put down thier guns. Make a donation today.