Kasaï was a relatively stable region in the Democratic Republic of Congo – a country struggling with multiple conflicts – until 2016 when violence erupted out of a locally rooted conflict. A violent dispute tore apart communities in the Kasaï region, turning the area into the epicenter of an intercommunal conflict that has engulfed the entire region and spread to neighboring Lomami and Sankuru provinces.
Kasaï is one of the poorest regions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and is usually far off the radar of politicians and decision makers in the distant capital Kinshasa. This disconnection has failed to nurture the tradition of social integration and made it difficult for the local populations to see what connects them to each other. As a result, violence broke out in August 2016, pitting local militants against national government forces. Some 5,000 people were killed by the brutal war that raged for more than two years and 1.4 million others were displaced, according to United Nations figures.
Since then, people have struggled to recover from the two years of intense violent conflict as ethnic tensions simmer. The recent influx of over 300,000 people into Kasaï, mainly migrant workers and refugees forced to return home from Angola, is posing a threat of resurgence of violence as the region is still extremely fragile following previous conflicts. This large influx of returnees in Kasaï has stretched the already inadequate resources and generated tensions between returnees and host communities, leading to skirmishes in some villages over limited food resources.
There is a danger that inter-communal tensions may resurface. In the heat of these rising conflicts, Interpeace has partnered with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and Fondation Hirondelle to restore trust among the Kasaï communities and reconcile them with DRC authorities.
On 4 July 2019, our peacebuilding programme for Kasaï was launched in DRC at an event that brought together local and national representatives to present the programme and identify their common strengths for lasting peace in Kasaï and Central Kasaï . In total, 48 participants including women, local chiefs, community members, senior state officials at all levels, members of parliament and international development partners from the European Union, Interpeace, NRC and Fondation Hirondelle attended the launching ceremony.
“This peacebuilding project is relevant in the Kasai area after the conflict of 2016 to 2018 that led to loss of lives, breach of trust and serious human rights violations. I look forward to a fruitful cooperation with the provincial government through this programme to strengthen the interventions on the ground,” said the deputy Governor of Central Kasaï, Prof. Ambroise Kamukunyi.
Our programme, funded by the European Union, will develop and facilitate dialogue and mediation initiatives for reconciliation to support sustainable peace and stability. The goal is to enhance trust and social cohesion among local communities, authorities and security forces in the region of Kasaï and Central Kasaï, by helping them to overcome deep divisions and address their conflicts in a concerted, more inclusive and non-violent ways.
Interpeace’s action will be coordinated and implemented locally in partnership with three Congolese organizations: Action pour la Paix et la Concorde (APC), Travail et Droits de l’Homme (TDH) and the Commission Diocésiaine Justice et Paix Kananga (CDJPK).