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DRC: 50 years of Independence

  • Published

    8 July 2010
  • Written by

    Peace Direct


June 30 was the anniversary of 50 years of independence in DR Congo and local peacebuilder Henri Ladyi worked with the local community in Beni to celebrate with a peace procession involving the national police, state services and all members of the community.

Traditional music and dance brought the community together and Henri’s organisation ran speeches and workshops on the rights of the child, and the need for peace in Congo’s future.

The unveiling of the Wall was a central part of the day and the Mayor has declared it a permanent memorial to children. The Wall is part of a campaign that has used the personal testimonies of children who have been victims of forced recruitment into armed groups, as well as messages of support from Peace Direct supporters.

In just three weeks Henri has reached 3,299 people, including 1,172 children. He has held four conferences on child protection and ran 15 workshops in rural villages using projected messages from Peace Direct supporters for the children of Congo. Eight of the 30 children who were rescued by Henri in May have helped to connect with those children who are still members of the militia, to show them that they do have an alternative.

Henri plans to erect another wall in Butembo and to run more workshops, so if you haven’t done so already, please leave your message of hope for the children of Congo.


Tragically on June 30, what should have been a day of joy became a night of fear. Fighting broke out between government forces and a Ugandan rebel group just 50 km away from Beni. The streets of Beni began to fill with people fleeing the violence, who told of shops destroyed and houses ransacked. In the last week the militia soldiers have started leaving letters in the villages warning communities to leave as they will attack and kill anyone who stays. The number of people arriving in Beni is growing by the day.

The new arrivals are coming with nothing, and they are dependent on the people of Beni to help them. Over the last five years a lot of Henri’s work in Beni has focused on reducing tensions between those who have been displaced and the host community. So far many people in Beni have opened up their homes to offer food and shelter, and town and army officials are keeping the people informed on what is happening.

In Congo there are over 2 million people who have been forced to flee their homes because of violence and who arrive in neighbouring villages with no way to support themselves. Across eastern Congo Henri has set up teams of former militia members and local leaders to perform reconnaissance visits to check that it is safe for people to return to their villages, and then accompany them through the Bush to ensure they are not attacked en route. In the coming weeks their role will be crucial to the future of the people who are currently sheltering in Beni.

Building peace in Congo is a bit like washing a pig, just when you think, you've got him clean, he's wriggled free and is squelching in the mud again. But that doesn't mean you give up. - Henri Ladyi

Henri, and the local peacebuilders like him, have the determination, the contacts and the moral legitimacy to make a real difference in their communities, you can give them the one thing they urgently need – your support. Please make a gift today and show the people of Congo that, like Henri, you won’t give up on peace.

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