News / Africa

Building Peace at the Grassroots Level

Uganda DRC RefugeesUganda DRC Refugees
x
Uganda DRC Refugees
Uganda DRC Refugees

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
A Christian-based aid organization says if peacebuilding is to succeed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, it must begin at the grassroots level.

Millions of people have died in the Eastern DRC from near constant war since the mid-90s. More than one and a half million people are internally displaced. Nearly a half million Congolese are refugees in neighboring countries. And many thousands of people have been brutally raped – women, men and children.



Much of the conflict and violence has occurred in North and South Kivu Provinces. The aid group World Relief says local disputes over land and power are at the heart of the turmoil.

Don Golden, World Relief’s senior vice president of Church Engagement, recently returned from the region.

“Any discussion about peacebuilding in Eastern Congo is mostly about peace between the rebel groups or peace between the regional governments. So it’s all this macro peace. But communities fall apart and war is most keenly felt at the local level – at the very much grassroots level,” he said.

He said that when local groups and communities live together peacefully they are less vulnerable.

“Helping local communities overcome their disputes will keep them from being the toys of the many powers in the region.”

Those powers include the DRC government, as well as many militias and armed groups, some reportedly backed by neighboring countries. Congo’s rich mineral wealth is the trigger for much of the conflict. 

World Relief, he said, works with local houses of worship in providing assistance, adding they have an “ethic of service.”

“If they tap into that Christ-likeness, they serve the poor and serve the vulnerable in their communities. And interestingly in eastern Congo all of the churches are typically tribally-based. So it’s not just a Baptist church it’s a Baptist church from one particular tribe. So when you get churches to come together, to do work together, to do anything together, you’re also getting different tribes together,” said Golden.

Relying on people of all faiths, not just Christianity, World Relief initiated – what are called – Village Peace Committees. There are currently 57 such committees operating in the Kivus. They include some of the most respected members of Congolese towns and villages.

He said, “They are taught the process of conflict resolution – the ability to come together and to find the wisdom of the community. If that region were doing this en masse, instead of having 57 Village Peace Committees, if we had a thousand of them in the region, the hold of those militias to be able to just manipulate one against the other would begin to diminish; and I think the top-down peacebuilding of the U.N. would be more effective.”

During his visit, Golden witnessed how the committees resolved more than 20 disputes. He gave some examples.

“This is the story about two sisters. And one sister moves off to Goma and she leaves $200 behind for her other sister. She returns six months later and she finds that her sister doesn’t recall having received the $200. That’s a dispute. Typically, there would be no recourse for the rule of law and that just becomes part of the animosity of that community. One and on these stories go. A man caught with a neighbor’s wife. The ruin of reputation, etcetera,” he said.

World Relief is calling on both the U.N. and the many NGOs operating in the eastern DRC to also engage in grassroots peacebuilding efforts.

You May Like

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid