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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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