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Start Network in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Interview with Salome Ntububa

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A spike in armed violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between September and December led to 30,000 people fleeing their homes while at least 10,000 people fled the country into Uganda. The UN OCHA reports that there are already 4.3 million people internally displaced in the country.

The Kasai region has been a hot spot for armed violence as armed forces and the military battle to gain footholds in the war-torn country.

Member of the Start Network, Christian Aid, has been implementing a response via the Start Fund to support  people who have been displaced. Regional Manager for Central Africa, Salome Ntububa talks about Christian Aid’s response to the crisis in Kasai and in the DRC.

The conflict in DRC is protracted. Why, in your opinion, is it not being resolved?

From the onset, it is important to state that the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) problems are not exclusively national. No! We have other factors, some of them international, that fuel this conflict. Their motivation is mostly economic, but very selfish. Many people quickly attribute DRC’s conflict to weak leaders and bad governance. That is just part of the problem.

DRC is a very rich country. It has many mines, with lots of deposits of expensive minerals. These range from diamonds, gold to gas. Interestingly, this wealth is concentrated in the east, where the conflict is intense. The country has also a huge population of 70 million, which is a huge resource. It is sad that this numbers count for nothing, as investors shun the country. It is ironic that despite the potential huge market, DRC imports almost everything. Such basic items like soap and sugar are brought in.

Political tension that is fuelled by in-country allegiance to regions does not help resolve the conflict. It is worth noting that DRC is the second largest country in Africa. Despite its size, there is no sense of nationalism. Citizens pay allegiance to their regions, which fragments the nation. Centralisation of the national government does not help but fuels the political tension. In my opinion, fostering national inclusion is urgent.

Despite its huge wealth, the country lacks basic facilities, especially in rural areas. Income levels are very low, with poverty leading to rural to urban migration. The country faces proliferation of slums, which has led to emergence of streets gangs. These groups are recruit vulnerable young people. It is sad to say, but the country is a potential fertile reservoir for terrorists.  If this is not nipped in the bud, we are courting disaster.

Why are Christian Aid’s operations in the Kasai province?

Although our interventions are within Kasai province, we also have operations in Kivu. The conflict began and is concentrated in the east, where Kivu and Kasai are located. As I have mentioned, these are also the richest parts of the nation. The rich mine-fields are within this area.

Kasai used to be one region, which was split into five. This divided those who managed the mines. Power struggles then set in. Christian Aid moved in to help the vulnerable, extremely poor people, which faced a catastrophic humanitarian disaster. It is worth noting that, while other vulnerable regions have development partners, Kasai was disadvantaged. The humanitarian crisis is a level 3, which signifies an extreme crisis. Kasai is an extremely poor region. Despite fertile grounds for agriculture, coupled with excellent climatic conditions, the agricultural potential has not been explored.

Christian Aid’s response targets 100,000 people. The areas of intervention include food security, distribution of seeds and tools. Other areas of intervention are awareness in protection and peace-building, tackling rampant Gender-based Violence and stemming the recruitment of child soldiers.

Are you operating in any other areas?

Yes. We are in Kivu province. In this area, we have more national and international NGOs, that are reaching out with life-saving interventions.

Who are the donors?

The World Food Programme (WFP) and Start Fund.

Does Christian Aid work with partners?

Yes. Christian Aid believes in working with others. Within Kasai, we work with Centre Ecuménique pour la Promotion du Monde Rural (COPROMOR) and Bureau Ecuménique au Développent (BOAD). We are open to building even more networks.

What are the key messages?

Peace should be the clarion call. Amidst the many challenges they are facing, the people of DRC need hope. It is important to have humanitarian responses, but peace is the most important. We can surely do something.

 Do you have any appeals?

Yes. Christian Aid need to scale up its work. We should work more with local partners, many who have been on the ground for many years. They have a better understanding of the context. This approach will help foster better and sustainable peace. This will also help build resilience for those affected by the conflict.

This interview was conducted by Christian Aid as part of Start Fund Alert 198.

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