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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More