DR Congo

USAID Field Report DR Congo Jun 2005

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Program Description

The Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) helps stabilize and revitalize war-torn communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by facilitating community-level reintegration of war-affected youths and increasing broad awareness of key transition issues. OTI's objectives are achieved through its Synergie d'Education Communautaire et d'Appui à la transition (SE*CA, pronounced "C'est ça!") program. The program, implemented by Chemonics, focuses on community reintegration and revitalization and consists of: basic life skills and vocational training (Youth Education and Skills/YES) provided by Master Trainers; small grants to participating communities, providing a chance to put learned skills into practice; and Transition Awareness and Participation (TAP) grants intended to reinforce YES messages through media-focused information campaigns, and improving access to information by strengthening Radio Okapi (http://www.radiookapi.net) and improving the professional capacity of indigenous community radio stations.

Country Situation

Security -- The security situation in the country became tense in some major cities with the approach of June 30 - the two-year anniversary of the transition government and the date on which many had expected elections to be held. Some citizens used the advent of the Independence Day anniversary to protest the election delay. In Mbuji Mayi and Kananga, in the center of the country, large demonstrations were accompanied by clashes with police forces, leaving as many as 15 people dead, though the final number was unconfirmed. On Independence Day in the capital of Kinshasa, United Nations troops and the heaviest deployment of police forces seen in the past eight years kept the security situation under control, but not without problems. In Kinshasa, footage of police brutality was broadcast on the primary private television station, resulting in the station's closure.

In northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, two Medecins Sans Frontieres employees were kidnapped by armed men in Jina in the Ituri District, although they were traveling in clearly marked vehicles. The two hostages were released nine days later after negotiations, but this incident led to a decision by most humanitarian organizations to declare a reduction of activities for the nine days to reassess the security situation. In South Kivu Province, Front Democratique pour la Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) rebels are reported to have attacked civilians in Walungu Territory and the Ruzizi area (south of Bukavu). In early June, in North Kivu Province, confrontations between government forces and Hutu rebels resulted in the deaths of three soldiers and the displacement of hundreds of people approximately 180 kilometers north of the provincial capital of Goma.

Transitional government and elections -- On June 17, the Parliament passed a law to prolong the political transition period until Dec. 31, 2005. Elections are tentatively scheduled between March and May 2006. The government did complete its two-week-long internal evaluation of performances during the transition period. Although conclusions pointed toward satisfactory achievements, every political faction participating in the government was called on to take corrective measures to speed up the transition process. On June 18, the transition period reached a major breakthrough with the launch of voter registration in Kinshasa. Statistics on June 30 showed that about 500,000 people already had registered in Kinshasa. The Independent Election Commission estimates that approximately 2.7 million people in Kinshasa and 28 million nationally are eligible for registration. The start of voter registration helped to ease tensions around June 30 by giving a clear sign that election preparations are under way. However, opposition parties continue to express mistrust in the ability of the government to lead the country toward free and fair elections, and these parties continue to invite people to demonstrate peacefully.

USAID/OTI Highlights

A. Narrative Summary

The SE*CA program solidified its work with CONADER (the national organization in charge of overseeing the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants) when CONADER's review committee approved SE*CA's proposal to conduct reintegration activities in the Ituri District. This was the first external reintegration proposal to be approved by CONADER. However, SE*CA has worked with CONADER in other capacities from the beginning, to share lessons learned and to provide a mechanism to assist CONADER with reintegration of ex-combatants. For example, in Punia, CONADER staff received bicycles to support their travel to communities to conduct CONADER's own sensitization activities.

The Youth Education and Skills (YES) program is progressing well in all provinces, with all 140 communities in the territories of Kalima, Punia, Isiro, Bafwasende, Buta, Aru and Mahagi receiving the "Reaffirmation of Our Values" training module. District and territorial administrators officially launched the training at some of the new sites, such as Isiro, Buta and Aru. To assist with sensitization in Kalima and Mahagi, Master Trainers are working with local media to help disseminate information on SE*CA activities. Attendance of female participants in the Ituri region has been reported as high.

Several grants were completed, including ones for the installation of electricity in Kasenyi in the Ituri District and for two water-points rehabilitation projects in the Kisangani area. In Kindu, the YES program launched a bicycle-taxi project to assist 200 ex-combatants with their economic reintegration into the community. The acting governor of Maniema Province presided over the launching ceremony, which was attended by several demobilized ex- combatants and representatives from the U.N.'s Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNICEF, and other international humanitarian organizations.

Activities of the Transition Awareness and Participation (TAP) program included the continuation of the development of listening clubs in Orientale and Maniema Provinces, in addition to the creation of regional community centers, which include information centers.

B. Grant Activity Summary

Program Category
Monthly Grant #
Monthly Grant $
Total Grant #
Total in Dollars $
Support the reintegration process between war-affected youth and their host communities
2
$22,885
62
$1,573,958
Reinforce awareness to foster community participation on issues key to the transitional process
3
$38,406
37
$ 893,590
Total
5
$61,291
99
$2,467,548

Five grants were cleared in June. The program launched three grants for new radio-listening clubs in Orientale and Maniema Provinces to raise political-transition awareness by providing citizens with access to Radio Okapi shortwave and the tools to analyze information received through the media. A fourth grant is to support deisolation, reintegration of ex-combatants, and regional economic growth by rehabilitating the Bafwasende Airport using community members and ex-combatants. The fifth grant is to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars to launch its program to work with high-level Congolese leaders from multiple parties to increase trust and leadership and their capacity to work together.

C. Indicators of Success

In addition to the approval of SE*CA's proposal to CONADER, the program has been seeing examples of its success in mitigating ethnic-based conflict in Ituri. An undercover SE*CA employee spoke to different people at the Lokorto Bridge, which was rehabilitated by ethnic Hemas and Lendus, two groups at the center of the Ituri conflict. Two of these people were traffic policemen. The first one said: "It was a very clever initiative to associate young men from different communities and ethnicities together to build this bridge." He said that this was a catalytic move that jump-started improved relationships among different tribes and communities in the Bunia area. Before the project, Hemas and Lendus never came together for peaceful activities. The traffic policeman said that just a few days before, he had seen Hemas from Muzipela and Ngitis from Bakoko, two rival tribes and communities, out together in Bakoko. The scene shocked him, but it turned out that these young men were workmates from the bridge project. The other policeman said that before the bridge rehabilitation project, he would come to work in a Hema area without disclosing his address to his workmates because his supervisors were from Muzipela and he was from the rival Bakoko. He was afraid that disclosing his real address could endanger his life or, at the least, damage his working relationships. Because the bridge project seemed to eliminate ethnic tensions between the young men who worked on it, he was no longer afraid to say that he was from Bakoko.

The Youth Cultural Center in Bunia, which has been supported by SE*CA, provides an additional example of how SE*CA has helped to mitigate ethnic and political conflicts. The center provides a forum for youths of different ethnicities to discuss issues freely and to find solutions to conflict in their areas. During one serious discussion, a participant summed up by saying: "We should stop with violence." This is an important statement, given that most of these youths have been involved in militias.

Improved ethnic relationships are also exhibited in different theater groups at the center. One group includes players from Yambi and Muzipela. Yambi is a community aligned with the Lendu FNI militia, while Muzipela is dominated by the mostly Hema UPC militia. These two groups are rivals and were enemies during the country's civil war. Similarly, music groups made up of youths from different ethnicities also perform at the center. The center has provided stability and peace between ethnic groups by providing an example of good inter-ethnic relations, as well as a forum for information on the political transition.

SE*CA also has supported reconciliation through the Seeds and Tools Project. In Maniema Province, for example, the project has contributed to reconciling two communities that had experienced struggles over leadership and power. Participants in the project mentioned that there used to be a conflict between the Lotangi and Lokando communities in Maniema because of their ethnic differences. Lotangi is a community populated by the Songola, while Lokanda is populated by Ngelela. During the civil war, the Mai Mai leader from Lotangi and the one from Lokando were fighting for leadership, and this rivalry caused open conflict among the populations. Thanks to the implementation of the Seeds and Tools Project in Maniema, these two communities were forced to work together, and this led to their reconciliation and to improved stability in the region.

In addition, SE*CA has collaborated with CONADER on projects for Maniema Province. The bicycle project in Kindu has succeeded by giving bicycles to 200 ex-combatants who have a direct opportunity to reintegrate into their communities by earning an income. The bicycle-taxi drivers are now earning between $2 and $25 a day and have started an economic trend, with a surge in bicycle taxis and commerce. Residents state that since the launch of the project, the security situation in Kindu has significantly improved. And the launching ceremony for the project became an opportunity for the acting provincial governor to inform the population on the transition process and calm tensions about the election delay. The acting governor gave a strongly worded address, stressing that the transition process had to move toward elections. She said that June 30 would remain an Independence Day celebration, even without elections on that day, and that disruptive behaviors would be perceived as an attempt to stop the country from making progress toward voting. Her speech had such an impact that it was repeatedly broadcast on Radio Okapi during the week of the launching ceremony.

D. Program Appraisal

The stories in the previous section give a hint at some of the successes that the team has seen on the ground. SE*CA also has been busy evaluating grants. Evaluations are generally positive, with most grants achieving the objective of improving stability through reintegration or access to information. For example, the Radio Okapi shortwave-radio program has been a success, with enormous demand for more hours and with reports of people walking to neighboring villages to be able to listen to the radio in the morning. SE*CA has responded to this information by encouraging the addition of more hours for shortwave and has recently signed grants for additional shortwave-radio listening clubs for some of the most isolated but unstable areas in the eastern part of the country.

In addition, the recent progress with CONADER has been a great signal of success for the program. Through its application process, the SE*CA program was able to provide feedback on logistical and programmatic realities for reintegration programming. Additionally, SE*CA's application helped CONADER to finalize procedures for other reintegration partners to apply and work with CONADER. The SE*CA program's success also has attracted other interest in SE*CA itself. After seeing and hearing about SE*CA's work, the Belgian Technical Cooperation Agency approached SE*CA about being its implementing partner in the Buta and/or Isiro regions in Orientale Province. Discussions continue between the two organizations about the possibilities for collaboration.

Next Steps/Immediate Priorities

- Continue efforts with CONADER to reintegrate ex-combatants in Ituri.

- Further discussions with the Belgian Technical Cooperation Agency about partnering to conduct infrastructure rehabilitation in Orientale Province.

- Use baseline assessment recommendations to fine-tune field strategies for new areas.

- Carry on with the development of and support to listening clubs and community committees.

- Develop a technical and journalism training program for radio technicians and journalists.

- Continue discussions for handover of OTI activities to the USAID Mission.

For further information, please contact:

In Washington, D.C.: Galeeb Kachra, Program Manager, e-mail: gkachra@usaid.gov; telephone: (202) 712-1905