Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): North Kivu, Ituri
DRC: Barza Inter-Communautaire in North Kivu
The Barza assembles leaders from North Kivu's nine major ethnic groups to discuss issues central to community life and to help resolve low-level conflicts before they escalate to violence. The word Barza derives from the Swahili word baraza, meaning 'verandah' or a meeting place, usually outside a hut in the centre of a village or under a large tree, for local elders to assemble and discuss problems in the community, providing "a framework for giving directions as to the way of life inside and around the villages". The baraza is traditionally where local inhabitants bring their disputes for their elders' resolution.
Between 1998 and early 2004, a period of major instability and armed conflict in many parts of eastern DRC, the Barza generally succeeded in resolving ethnic disputes in North Kivu, particularly those over land ownership, before they escalated to mass violence. However, by the end of 2004 the Barza's ability to mitigate ethnic tensions had weakened considerably and by the end of 2005 the Barza had collapsed altogether. The pre-cursor to the Barza was the Commission de Pacification et de Concorde (CPC),established by Laurent-Désiré's Kabila's government in 1997, initially as national body with provincial branches. The CPC established 'peace cells' in each region, comprising local eminent persons who worked at the grassroots level, organizing meetings between leaders of antagonistic ethnic groups and convincing small numbers of combatants to lay down their arms and reintegrate into the community. Several observer organizations reported that the CPC was instrumental in generating inter-communal discussions. CPC created the Barza, to consolidate CPC in North Kivu.
It is difficult to distinguish the work of the Barza from that from CPC. The key difference appears to be that the CPC is officially a government-run institution, while the Barza considers itself independent and non-partisan and has been increasingly at pains to distance itself from the CPC and potential links with Kinshasa. The primary purpose of the Barza is to ‘prevent, resolve and heal wounds after conflict'. Issues that have commonly been addressed by the Barza include conflicts over land and property, the distribution of ethnically discriminatory literature, cases of hate speech, social disturbance resulting from the influx of foreign refugees into North Kivu and the regular nocturnal arrests, kidnap and illegal detention of civilians by the state or rebel groups.
Evaluating the overall contribution of the Barza, a European mission to the DRC in 2001 reported: "Together with other complementary initiatives in North Kivu, the Barza [has] been able to find peaceful and sustainable solutions to some conflicts and to promote peaceful coexistence. There has been no 'ethnic' violence in the Barza sphere of influence since 1997, despite regular attempts by one or another authority or armed group to spark new clashes. Moreover, partly as a result of the Barza's work, there is now a trend among the displaced people to settle in multi-ethnic rather than mono-ethnic villages in North Kivu. Despite repeated requests to donors, the Barza has not received any financial support."[I]
While the Barza successfully facilitated an inter-ethnic dialogue in North Kivu between 1998 and early 2004, it increasingly faced two main problems that led to its eventual breakdown in 2005. The first was its own fraught connections to local political leaders, the second was its inability to genuinely resolve disputes among Barza representatives' communities and within the Barza leadership itself.
The problems of intimate links between the Barza and the political leadership were exemplified by two failed attempts to establish a Barza Inter-communautaire in South Kivu. In 1999, civil society and the general population in South Kivu protested against the introduction of the Barza by the RCD provincial governor, claiming that it constituted a further extension of RCD rule in the province. Another attempt some years later, resulted in large demonstrations, waving placards bearing messages such as 'Barza = Conflict'.Opponents of the Barza claimed that it was simply another form of political imposition from Kinshasa.
One of the conclusions of Phil Clark, the author of the article about Barza Intercommunautaire, is that "to continue as a viable, effective tool of conflict mediation in North Kivu, the Barza must maintain independence, and must be perceived in the community as independent, from national and provincial political elites and must confront directly all attempts by these leaders to manipulate ethnicity for political gain". Clark argues that community-level mechanisms like Barza are crucial modes of conflict resolution, primarily because of their ability to foster face-to-face engagement between leaders of groups in conflict and their proximity to affected populations. Observations from the EU, the United Nations Mission to Congo MONUC and others indicate the Barza has shown in the past that it can help resolve low-level disputes, which in North Kivu have often fuelled major conflict. The combination of the Barza's proximity to the population and its function as one of the few forums in which leaders of different ethnic groups can meet to resolve their mutual problems enabled it to fulfill a vital mediation role in North Kivu. [II]
[I] European Union, The European Union's Political and Development response to the Democratic Republic of Congo, p.29
[II] Phil Clark, Ethnicity, Leadership and Conflict Mediation in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo: The Case of the Barza Inter-Communautaire; (2008), Journal of Eastern African Studies, 2:1, 1-17
DRC: Centre Resolution Conflicts in North Kivu
The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is sometimes known as Africa's first World War; the fighting involved seven other countries at one time or another and it has proved to be the planet's deadliest conflict since World War II, with more than 5.4 million casualties since 1994.
Centre Resolution Conflicts (CRC) is a Congolese NGO, working in the eastern province of North Kivu. It was founded in 1993. CRC has developed from an organization focused on training displaced people to peacefully coexist with members of other tribes into an organization whose mediation skills are called upon by local communities, international NGOs, multilaterals and local government officials right across North Kivu. CRC is now a member of the UNOCHA protection cluster in the region. The UK NGO Peace Direct started a relationship with CRC in 2004.
CRC is known for its successful community-led disarmament, demobilization and reintegration work in DRC. It has persuaded ex-combatants to leave the bush and persuaded communities to accept them back. In addition, CRC has educated and assisted 20,000 people across two provinces, by helping 14,400 displaced persons to return safely home, rescuing 650 child soldiers and mobilizing former enemies to resolve conflicts via mediation and negotiation. Much of CRC's success is based on its ability to engage with armed actors (including rebel groups) and to negotiate the protection of their communities from violence. CRC's work with armed groups and ex-combatants has played a key role in reducing the number of armed groups active in North Kivu from nine to four, and negotiations are held to get more groups out of the bush.
CRC has become a key link between communities, local government authorities in eastern DRC and the armed groups in the bush. CRC has a strong focus on working with youth. Local Committees for Peace are created by CRC are non-partisan frameworks for consultation and analysis, reflection and action of grassroots communities around issues of reconciliation, security and participation in the management of public affairs. Since its inception CRC has set up dozens of Local Peace Committees. LPCs organize hearings, dispel rumors, mount a rapid collective response to incipient violent conflict, continue to support the return of IDPs and ex-combatants to their home communities, encourage communities to initiate peace themselves, provide training and create a permanent link between communities, armed groups and the national army.
Some 20 Peace Committees have evolved into very active Task Forces. Task Forces bring together key community leaders who have been involved in addressing conflict locally and represent all sectors of the community: media, culture and arts, education, churches, human rights organizations and so on. Key criterion for membership is being a community leader with a recognized following. They have become an authoritative source of accurate information and have earned the trust of the communities in which they work. By bringing together civil society groups, Task Forces have created a counter-balance to governmental authority within the community and become a focal point for local officials. [I]
[i] Rosemary Cairns, External Evaluation of Peace Direct and Centre resolution Conflicts Project; (2011)
DRC: The Haki na Amani network and Local Peace Initiatives in Ituri
Ituri is one of the districts in North-East DRC and is divided in five territories. In all those territories, LPCs have been established. February 2003, a Conference on the Proliferation and Illegal Trafficking of Small Arms/Light Weapons in the Border Region between DRC, Uganda and Sudan was held in Uganda. All three countries sent delegations, including representatives from respective governments, armies, police forces, armed groups, churches, Muslims, human rights groups and social movements. At the time of the conference, Ituri had been plunged into open warfare and a great number of militias operated there. The situation of public order, human rights and internal security was catastrophic. Inter-community relations had been severely damaged by the war and there was deep mistrust.
Several organizations asked for a program for inter-community reconciliation. A study was performed to assess the situation in local communities. Key proposal was to organize Community Barazas. A network, later named Haki na Amani (RHA), began its first activities in 2004 and was composed of among others Episcopal Justice and Peace Commissions, human rights groups and a women's network.
The goals of RHA are the promotion of peace, the protection of human rights, the encouragement of citizen participation in order to create a society governed by law and order, the opposition of identity violence and the positive transformation of conflicts through the expansion of its members' intervention capacities. International partners and funders are among others IKV Pax Christi, Cordaid & ICCO (all three based in the Netherlands), Trocaire and Pax Christi International Alert.
Its main activities were mobilization sessions to positively transform the conflict. These sessions brought together around 100 persons from antagonistic communities, initially intended for all the leaders and notables of the involved communities, but also local militia leaders. Later on, local administrative authorities and other civil society groups were invited as well. At the end of the mobilization session, the participating communities were invited to elect the members of a Local Peace Initiative (ILP). The ILPs were comprised of a committee of around 12 persons who engaged in mediation and conflict resolution in the community. Some 500 ILPs were established.
In the beginning, the ILPs sought to mediate in all sort of problems by community gatherings, but later, they organized football matches between two communities, reopened schools and markets, helped with the return of displaced persons, etc. All ILPs and Local Initiatives for Community Security (ILSC) were trained as well in constitutional topics, elections and responsible citizenship before the 2007 elections. The inclusiveness of the ILPs helped to lessen tensions between the communities. During the period immediately following the conflict, they were very useful in a situation in which the slightest dispute could ignite a new war. RHA has strengthened the capacities of the ILP leaders in mediation and solving conflicts.
Later, another vast network for peace was added. Known as nyumba kumi, this is a rapid alert system operating at the local level. They are part of the Episcopal Justice and Peace Commission. In total, there were around 800 nyumba kumi. Their existence led to the creation of 57 ILSC. All moderators of ILSC received training, followed by community barazas, aiming for a participatory exchange of local concerns. The process of bringing together the ILSC and the state services responsible for securing persons and their property (police and local authorities) in Local Committees for Community Security was strongly supported. Material support – bicycles – has been provided to the most active ILSCs. These ILSCs are highly regarded by the population and all state actors, which gives its actions a seal of social legitimacy. The alert system traditionally used by ILSCs involves shouting, banging on cans or saucepans and whistling. All members of ILP committees and ILSC participate as volunteers without payment in kind or cash. Payment may lead to intra-group competition.
The creation of RHA and the Ituri program constituted the first action toward enhancing community security in the region. Another step was a 2006 conference on Community Security and Small Arms. The main approach was organizing Community Barazas, gatherings of around 400 people, and a free forum, designed to perform a true assessment of the problems faced by the population. At the end of the meeting, a list of problems was drawn up and accepted by the participants. Key was creating an interface between the different population groups as well as between the state services and the population. At the end of the baraza on community security, representatives were elected to participate in local meetings on the topic of security. After several barazas at community level, a meeting on community security would then be organized at the territorial level.
As well as delivering criminals to the competent authorities, ILP and ILSC have also enhanced the capacity to stand up against state-level abuse and corruption. They have been described positively because of their bottom-up, local, open and inclusive nature, the fact that there are women members and that there has been intensive training and capacity building. Around half of the established ILPs continue to be active, some 300 at present. [I]
[i] - Georg Frerks and Pyt Douma, Local Peace Initiatives in Ituri, DRC 2003-2007,(2007); Pax Christi Best Practice Study no 3.
- Eric Mongo and Joost van Puijenbroek, IKV Pax Christi, the Haki na Amani network and the dynamics of the Peace Process in Ituri: Accomplishments, Challenges and Lessons Learned (2004-2008); 2009, by IKV Pax Christi and Haki na Amani.
- Evaluation des mecanismes des resolutions des conflits utilises par le RHA jusqu'a ces jours; DRC
DRC: Village Peace Committees in North Kivu
The NGO World Relief Congo is establishing Village Peace Committees (VPCs) in North Kivu.
At first, an assessment is conducted in order to get more specific information on the amount of ethnic groups, Barza leaders, traditional leaders, church leaders and others living in a village that might play an active role in a VPC. Afterwards a Conflict Transformation Workshop is organized, and elections for a VPC are prepared. A VPC is composed of ten members, including a Barza member, youth leader, woman leader, local authority representative, church leader, school leader and member of civil society. They meet every week.
Political authorities invited World Relief Congo to expand the program of establishing these committees to other territories and provinces. [I]
[i] Information from Jean-Pierre Mfuni Mwanza, founder and executive director of Central Africa Conflict Prevention Association (CACOPA)