Violence of all kinds is endemic. Eastern DRC is an area of considerable instability following massacres and war in the late 1990s and it is also affected by conflicts in neighbouring Rwanda and Burundi. The communities on the middle and high plateaux are very diverse. Isaac says that CEPAP ‘ is a local development organisation that helps restore trust between members of different communities who have gone through times of bloody unrest. We use young people and have put in place a mechanism to address issues of Peace.’.
The initiatives of CEPAP make a real difference. Their projects include:
There is now a network of over 20 youth peace committees. The young people are spreading messages of non-violence, tolerance, and dialogue throughout villages in the middle and high plateaux of Fizi and Uvira. These young leaders promote peace education, engage with local authorities, and raise their voices against gender-based violence and forced marriage. They denounce sexual abuse towards women and guide and support victims of sexual violence to obtain appropriate care. They are working to consolidate social peace.
They have had training in peacebuilding techniques funded by The Radley Trust. Their slogan is 'Youth Pillar of peace'.
"Some members of a Youth Peace Committee saved the life of a 7-year-old child who escaped from having his throat slit by his own father. This 37-year-old father wanted to end his son's life saying that his son had always been sickly and that his money was running out in his son's care. The action happened behind his house and the screams of the child saved him. These young people who passed by the mother came to the rescue and the child still lives. The culprit is in the hands of the police."
There is now a core of trained, experienced and committed young peace practitioners able to build upon their community peace work and spread their experience and knowledge more widely. There is a decrease in the fear of living near people from opposing communities. The youth peace committees are reporting and monitoring incidents of violence and there is engagement with local leaders and peaceful engagement with armed militia.
Another CEPAP project are clubs based in schools working to prevent violence to women. There are now clubs made up of girls and boys in 12 secondary schools. Each Club has a supervising teacher; mainly men as there are very few women teachers. The programme has drafted a practical manual for the Clubs. They have involved different stakeholders including the Child Protection Police, state and school authorities, local women's organisations and parents' committees.
“I am ONORINA ABWE, a member of the Club Amis des Filles du Complexe Scolaire BIESSE/AKE. I admit that I felt afraid to speak out on issues of sexual abuse. But after working in a group with my colleagues I found the courage to educate my friends on the positive denunciation of any form of behaviour aimed at destabilising our school career. I also undertake to do so in my neighbourhood for young girls who are not studying”.
“I am the Prefect of the NGOVI Institute, my name is AKYUMBA MAKENDA Léonard. A Club exists in my establishment. I encourage Club members to be vigilant and truthful. Case reporting is a remedy that discourages the development of destructive behaviour.'
Members of youth peace committees and Clubs Amis des Filles work together and have set up a Youth Peace Council. They often use drama, music and poetry to spread their message and find that sport is a way of bringing people together from different communities.
There are very few women teachers: one in a thousand in the area. So there are no role models and many girls don’t value school life and qualifications. Consequently, for women there are generally lower literacy levels, a lack of knowledge, skills and qualifications and a cycle of inferiority. The first stage of this project has been held with 45 participants. It aims to resolve the imbalance that currently favours men.
We are looking for funding for the next two steps for Accelerated basic training for 20 school leavers over 2 months and then a Special scholarship scheme.
Those thought to be witches have been attacked and persecuted and some have committed suicide. CEPAP ran an effective workshop to raise awareness and change behaviour. Between January to November 2022 seven people were killed in the Makebola area but, since the workshop, there have been no further incidents. We are now raising money to extend this work to two other villages so that another group can be set up to report on, and campaign against, the inhuman practice of female murder.
CEPAP continues to provide psychological support to those experiencing trauma and in distress. Because of the unrest and violence this is very much needed. There is a counsellor based in the community hospital in Abeka (CHA).
We need funding to train 20 young women school leavers to become teachers. This will include Accelerated basic training over 2 months and then a Special scholarship scheme.
Saidi Isaac is the project leader for a team of 14 who are imaginative, committed and hardworking. The team is working tirelessly to foster positive change. The base is in Abeka village and some members of the team work from other villages which face serious humanitarian challenges. These communities are in Makobola, Abembwe (middle plateau of Fizi), and Lusenda where they are working with Burundian refugees. There are coordinators for youth and peace activities, psychological support, prevention of sexual violence and finance.