Security is gradually returning to parts of the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Security is coming back little by little. It is not perfect yet, but I must say that our freedom of movement is much better,” said Alphonsine Omoy, a resident of the town of Bunia in northeast DRC.
A joint UN initiative in the Ituri district has empowered communities and stabilized security by establishing police infrastructure, revitalizing local markets, and setting up youth-focused vocational training centres.
The Community Empowerment and Peacebuilding project comes four years after a peace deal that concluded almost a decade of conflict. The project seeks to encourage peaceful co-existence among communities that were torn apart during the conflict in which more than 50,000 people were killed and some 600,000 were uprooted from their homes. About 128,000 were still displaced at the end of 2010.
Local peace and development committees were also established as part of the project, with members of different communities involved in the design and implementation processes.
Supporting police patrols
One of the project’s major efforts was to support the National Congolese Police – some 365 of whom were trained together with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN peacekeeping and law enforcement specialists.
The effort involved building solar-powered police stations in Bunia, Djugu and Mahagi, three of Ituri’s most densely populated cities, heavily affected by the conflict. The stations were also equipped with motorcycles for rapid response.
“We used to work in shacks. Now, each officer has their own office,” said Juvenal Bideko, a senior police officer. “In addition, a special office has been devoted exclusively to sexual violence cases which require anonymity.”
Markets at ethnic crossroads
Markets in three locations - Amée, Komanda, and Kpandroma – were chosen for their roles in serving as crossroads for different ethnic groups, and for promoting trade between communities previously in conflict.
“With its central position, the market will link people from North-Kivu and Ituri,” said Eugénie Angeango, a greengrocer at the new Komanda open-air market. “I’ll be able to earn more and pay my children’s school fees.”
Making up for missed education
Six vocational training centres are being built to help improve the job prospects of young people who lack academic qualifications after the disruption to their education caused by the conflict.
Some 320 students enrolled in three of the completed institutions are receiving theoretical and practical training in carpentry, engineering, farming and plumbing, areas identified as important by local communities.
Once all the training centres are fully functional, 700 students will be trained each year, at least 30 percent of whom are expected to be women. An employment unit has also been set up to help students in their job searches after graduation.
The activities, supported with a US$5 million contribution from the UN Trust Fund for Human Security, are the result of efforts of four main UN agencies; UNDP, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, the UN Refugee Agency and the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Each brings its expertise and partnerships including with the Congolese authorities, non-governmental organizations, the International Organization for Migration, UN-Habitat and the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
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