“At the end of May I returned from my first trip to the Céntre Resolutions Conflits (CRC) in Beni in the Eastern DR Congo. The region is filled with stark contrasts; the countryside is startlingly beautiful with green fading into the distant, lush fields planted with all sorts of food crops surrounded by thick equatorial forest. The area has abundant water and timber, gold and diamonds, copper and coltan. Yet for all this, the towns and their outskirts are bursting with internally displaced people living in makeshift shelters, too terrified to return to their homes in the countryside.
During my visit I spent time listening and talking with community members and the CRC team. I met people from some of the displaced communities who were looking forward to returning to their fields and beginning to fend for themselves again. I heard stories of success – for example the CRC team was called to the neighboring Butembo town to help resolve a leadership dispute among internally displaced people camping in the town. The conflict had the potential to plunge the whole town into chaos. The CRC were able to draw on experiences from the nearby Ituri district where different ethnic communities worked to share the management of the camps. Using this, they were able to help the communities reach a settlement on how to share the leadership tasks and begin to involve women in the management.
These settlements are the building blocks for eventual peaceful re-integration when the communities return to their villages.
I also heard about the CRC’s new strategy: to involve the militia in peacebuilding. If the militia has a stake in the peace then they will contribute to its maintenance. Most of the soldiers were recruited to the war by their own clan’s militia in order to seek revenge for attacks from other clans. But before the war they were the local youth, yearning for education and living fairly normal lives. CRC is trying to reconnect them to their experiences of normal life.
In a similar vein, the CRC is also working closely with demobilised child soldiers to heal rifts among their own families and assist in their re-integration into the community. This has been very difficult because some families have refused to take back their children for fear of what they have become and some children cannot go back to their villages for fear of revenge attacks from families, whose members the children killed during the height of the conflict.
The support you are giving them is enabling them to sustain this work since peace building requires constant care and attention. The situation is very fragile at the moment; the peace accord signed by different militia is at risk of falling apart due to the postponement of the election slated for 30 June. Henri and his team at CRC are working around the clock to reassure community leaders and church elders, and re-emphasising the need for patience and consultation.
Head of International Programmes