Where borders meet, hope for peace

View of the Ruzizi plain and the mountains of Burundi from the Kalunga area, DRC

Up on the heights dominating the valley of the Ruzizi river, home to the borders of The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Burundi, men and women are opening up a track using pickaxes and shovels. Their aim is to provide motorized access to the village of Kalunga in the DRC.

Angélique is one of them. For this mother of 12, the social reintegration project set up by UNDP and funded by Japan is a godsend:

“Although the work is hard, I got used to it. With my first wages, I bought a solar panel on credit to light the house. And that’s not all: I put in money with 5 other mums to launch a goat- and pig-rearing business.”
Angélique’s husband, a teacher, can now work from home in the evenings.

Breaking out of isolation

The project supports the reintegration of 500 households in the region. In the villages of Luvungi and Kamanyola, constructing office buildings for local government, equipping community radios and restoring roads are a few of the activities employing the local labour force and generating income and savings. The project also offers education in the prevention of sexually transmitted infections and HIV AIDS.

Construction of the first office buildings for Kamanyola’s local government
“There are no government buildings to receive the people; services are carried out in the street,” explains Bertin, Kamanyola’s head of administrative services.
“The big problem at Kamanyola is the lack of a road network,” he adds. “Without roads, it is difficult to sell farm produce at the market. It also creates problems between neighbours, when people have to cross each other’s lands with agricultural equipment.”
Bertin, head of administrative services, has been involved in the project since the beginning.
The construction of a road can open up rural communities living in the hills above the Ruzizi plain.

250 Kamanyola community members have worked on the construction of a 10km long road that will open up access to the rural communities living in the hills above the Ruzizi plain.

Promoting harmony

Kamanyola’s population is estimated at 72,000 inhabitants, originating from several ethnic groups, and also comprising Burundian immigrants. In a region marked by insecurity and population displacement, this initiative strengthens social cohesion and stimulates socio-economic development.

The whole population works together because building this road is a real need for us,” explains Angélique.
Each day foremen manage the workers’ attendance on site.

The road also means the injured and sick can be driven to hospital more quickly and farm produce transported more easily to market. Nonetheless, there is still much to be done.

“We need additional funds to stabilise the road and extend it, so as to shorten the length of the journey to Bukavu,” explains Muzaliwa David, an engineer supervising the site.

The beneficiaries’ selection was achieved through a participatory approach in consultation with the community: 44 displaced persons, 9 returnees, 186 foreign residents, 1 refugee, 4 pygmies and 6 ex-combatants were chosen by drawing lots, after a public campaign with the the slogan “NAPENDA KAZI’’ (‘I want to work’ in Swahili).

A group of young workers meet up after work to discuss a business project they will be undertaking together
“We meet up regularly to discuss and exchange advice. We would like to create a space where we can sell our products” says Angélique.

With their savings, representatives of minority groups created mixed Revenue Generating Associations (RGA) jointly with local community members, which helps strengthen both cohesion and the peace process.

The “Social stabilisation and protection of vulnerable groups ” project is carried out by UNDP thanks to a 1 million US dollars funding from Japan. UNDP provided a contribution of 150,000 dollars.

Textes, photos & infografics: PNUD RDC / Aude Rossignol

Translations: Alison Courrier