When will we have justice in DR Congo?

December 21 2010: The whole of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and in particular the Eastern provinces, lives in a constant state of fear and emergency, due to impunity at a high level. Local people - particularly women, who are subject to widespread human rights abuses - do not know which authorities to rely on. The world may aspire to peace and stability, but we ask ourselves how peace can become a reality if there is not equal justice for all. Marginalisation and exclusion can not promote a lasting peace.

By Sango Shila, ACODIF President. 21 December, 2009

The whole of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and in particular the Eastern provinces, lives in a constant state of fear and emergency, due to impunity at a high level. Local people – particularly women, who are subject to widespread human rights abuses – do not know which authorities to rely on.  The world may aspire to peace and stability, but we ask ourselves how peace can become a reality if there is not equal justice for all. Marginalisation and exclusion can not promote a lasting peace.

The situation in East DR Congo has become worse with the arrival of government troops as part of the Kimia II operation to oust the FDLR. Many government troops are not paid and lack discipline. The rape of women and girls is widespread.

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Two weeks ago a man was killed in Misisi, a village in the territory of Fizi, by a government soldier. The victim had gone for a ride from Misisi to another village 5 miles away. He was stopped by a soldier who demanded money for cigarettes.

The victim told him he haven’t any money. The soldier got angry and took his bicycle, saying “If you don’t have any money, we’ll take your bike”. A fight broke out, and the soldier took his machine gun and shot the man in the chest, killing the man before fleeing into the bush.

Once the local people were informed, they went in search of the soldier. They destroyed and burned the houses of soldiers in the village, and took machetes, arrows, and spears to fight the government troops.

According to the managing director of Fizi Hospital, 18 people were killed. This demonstrates how easily one incident can quickly escalate to affect a huge number of people.

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Upon learning of the situation in Misisi, we in ACODIF, with the help of local authorities, went into the village. By gathering together local leaders from churches, surrounding villages, and the army, in a 4 hour meeting, they were able to bring about a peace agreement to end the violence.

This meeting has allowed the people who had fled to the mountains were free to return to the homes. However, this incident demonstrates the levels of violence that still exist in the region, and how ACODIF has had to negotiate for peace in the absence of control by the government of its troops.

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