I wish to tell you about a boy I met this month. On August 13 I travelled to Butembo with 5 other members of the Céntre Resolution Conflits (CRC) team. Our aim was to help those who wanted to be reconciled with the government by increasing the militia’s awareness of voluntary demobilisation, using radio broadcasts and by meeting with the leaders of armed groups.
Whilst I gave my radio broadcast a boy waited outside. He was around 20 years old and he was bare-chested with soaking wet clothes and a shaved head. I was nervous to approach this stranger, but I did so and this was the story he told me:
His name was Colonel Kambale Maitre des Erreurs (Teacher of Mistakes) and he was the chief commander of over 150 militia. He had been trying to leave the bush for the past three months but had not been able to find the opportunity to do so safely. The Colonel admitted that he had killed many people, but he also said that he had attempted to liberate almost 40 people who had been arrested under his command. Now he was trying to break away from the militia and live in peace. That morning Kambale had gone to wash his clothes in the river, seeing his chance, he had escaped into the forest and after walking all day in the rain, he arrived in Butembo, where he heard our broadcast.
Because CRC is known in Butembo the police were willing to let Kambale stay the night in their cell and although by this time everything was closed as it is not safe to be out after dark, I managed to find a woman to prepare some food for us and Kambale.
The next morning we went to seek help from the Mayor – he was keen for CRC to help Kambale as he believed that young people must be supported to increase their options so that they are not forced to become combatants in the bush. It is good to know we have his support and faith in the work we are doing.
I left Kambale with the Centre for Transit and Orientation (CTO) where he was given support to find family members and to re-enter village life. He is now living in a village close to his Aunt’s house. In the following days 11 of Kambale’s combatants came out of the bush and the CTO have been helping them reintegrate. Kambale and I will continue to work together to call others from the jungle.
Kambale is just one example. Since the beginning of August, 158 children and 45 adults have chosen voluntary demobilisation and come out of the jungle. The CRC team will work with them to find peace.
Beni Aug 2009″
Find out more about the work that Henri and CRC are doing to find peace in a war which has claimed at least 5 million lives by visiting Henri’s page: /peacebuilders/drcongo/