Helping ex-soldiers in Congo back into society

No guns sign on the entrance of Mugunga refugee camp in Congo. Credits: Peter Kristvik Risholm/Caritas Norway

No guns sign on the entrance of Mugunga refugee camp in Congo. Credits: Peter Kristvik Risholm/Caritas Norway

“It will still take a lot of time and effort to build a stable peace in Congo,” said Guezing Kizinga, in charge of Caritas Congo’s disarmament, demobilization and socio-economic programmes for ex-combatants.

“But slowly, the ideas and concepts of peaceful conflict resolution we promote through our peacebuilding workshops will become part of people’s ways of thinking and everyday behaviour.”

Caritas in Congo works with former combatants, in particular child soldiers, as part of the National Disarmament and Demobilization Programme. Around 24,000 former soldiers and the communities they live in are supported through this programme.

Former combatants, especially ex-child soldiers, need help not only to receive schooling or to find a job but also to readapt to life in a peaceful environment.

“We mainly work with the soldiers themselves through discussion, role plays or other activities but we also promote awareness raising and tolerance within the communities they live in. Former soldiers are often stigmatized, people don’t want to have them in their villages. So it is important to involve the communities in the reintegration process,” said M. Kizinga.

The humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo has caused immense suffering. Over six million people have died in ten years of war and unrest and millions have been uprooted. For large numbers of Congolese, fear and danger are part of everyday life. Promoting a culture of peaceful coexistence between communities and conflict resolution through dialogue is an important part of Caritas’s work.

“The media are another important aspect of conflict prevention for us. Often, conflicts between communities are initially based on rumour that can be created or at least spread through local media. Once a community or its members have become the target of violence, there will be people asking for revenge and then the situation escalates,” said Mr. Kizinga.

In the east of country, the fight over minerals and resources is responsible for uprooting families, creating child soldiers and leading to the use of rape as a weapon of war. It is in particular for these types of conflicts that Caritas is now launching French and Spanish versions of its English language website Peacebuilding: Web Toolkit for Trainers.

“The contents of the printed Caritas Peacebuilding Manual are already being used a lot in our programmes. We adapted some of the activities and case studies to our local contexts to make them more effective, but the manual gives us a good basis to work with. The launch of a French version of the Caritas Online Peacebuilding Toolkit was great news for us. Having these materials available online and the possibility to exchange with others will be very useful for us,” said Mr. Kizinga.

Caritas Internationalis

President: Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle
Secretary General: Michel Roy

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