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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid