News / Africa

    In DRC, Promoting Peace Through Village Committees

    Members of a DRC village peace committee: Credit: Sean Sheridan/World Relief
    Members of a DRC village peace committee: Credit: Sean Sheridan/World Relief

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Joe DeCapua
    For more than 20 years, the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has been wracked by war, ethnic violence and sexual assaults. More than two and a half million people are internally displaced, and hundreds of thousands of others have fled to neighboring countries. Despite that, efforts continue on the grassroots level to bring peace between local communities by ending disputes over land and livestock


    Various rebel groups, including M23, have been responsible for much of the violence in the eastern Congo. In fighting against the army and U.N. troops, civilians have been uprooted time and time again. And depending where they end up are often terrorized, abused, killed or raped. Women, children and men have all been raped as a means of disempowering the population and controlling territory.

    But Pastor Marcel Serubungo said, for the moment, things are better.

    “We have faced a lot of problems and a lot of fighting. We had a rebel group, which was fighting against the government. But for now the situation is calm because they stopped the fighting and went for the talks in Kampala. So for now they are in Kampala and we are waiting and praying to see what God will do just to bring understanding among them and have peace in our area.”

    Serubungo is a Pentecostal minister and also church mobilization director for the faith-based humanitarian organization World Relief. He said life was very different in the eastern Congo before refugees from Rwanda’s civil war fled into the region in the early 1990s.

    “Before this problem of conflict, life was good because everyone was in his village and he could farm. Most people in the eastern part of Congo are farmers. So people were good and they could manage their lives,” he said.

    Many refugees who fled to Congo were remnants of those responsible for the Rwandan genocide. And since that time, Serubungo said, conflict at the community level has been on the rise.

    “At the grassroots level we have a problem of tribes. Tribes have been fighting among themselves. So, as you know, in the Congo we have more than 450 tribes. So some tribes were fighting because of land disputes and identity things and so on. At the grassroot level really people suffered because villages are attacking villages and that conflict has stayed until now in the hearts of people,” he said.
    Besides land disputes, villages may fight, for example, when livestock wander into a farmer’s field and destroy crops.

    “They fight. They fight. When one is wealthy and another one is not, it’s a source of conflict. When someone is married to a lady from another tribe and then they have conflict it involves immediately the whole two tribes. It’s everywhere you can find it, everywhere in different localities and different territories,” he said.

    For the past 10 years, Serubungo has been working with church and tribal leaders to form Village Peace Committees.

    “The VPC, or the Village Peace Committee, members are people from the village, who have been trained by World Relief, who have been elected by the village community members. And those people who are elected, who are trusted, faithful, they stay in the village and each one who has a conflict he goes to them and they resolve the conflict without any problem,” he said.

    World Relief trains community, youth and tribal leaders in conflict resolution.

    Serubungo said, “This peace building project was successful because now people no longer go to the police or to the tribunal. Instead they go to the Village Peace Committees in their own village and conflicts are resolved.”

    He added that by having peace at the village level, young people are less likely to be lured away by rebel groups or to use violence to resolve disputes.

    “It’s them that people use to fight, to kill people, to burn, destroy the community. It’s the young people who are used to do that. And now [in] our Village Peace Committees – young people stood up –and it’s them who are holding festivals. They’re holding big events in Goma and around Goma just to preach peace, to speak peace to people. So we believe that if the VPCs are active in different places in DRC, we think and we hope that the fighting can stop.”

    World Relief plans to expand the Village Peace Committees to all five provinces in the Eastern DRC. Serubungo visited the U.S. to help raise awareness and funding for the project. World Relief says its goal is to help empower local churches to serve those who are most vulnerable economically, socially and spiritually.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora