DDR - Reintegration: a second chance for everyone in Ngungu

At Ngungu, the second chance is for anyone who is ready to stand up and contribute to their own development and that of their community. / Photos Tijs Magagi Hoornaert

31 Aug 2023

DDR - Reintegration: a second chance for everyone in Ngungu

Tijs Magagi Hoornaert

Marcelinne instinctively puts on a sincere smile when asked about her dream. For a second, the words won't come out of her mouth, then she finally answers: doctor. In reality, such an answer wasn't always so obvious.

"At home, I still wash my brothers' and sisters' clothes. Once outside, I'm different. The boys avoid me. And do you know why? Because I'm a trained and certified mechanic. A girl and a mechanic. The boys (and men) here in Ngungu are clearly not ready to share their toys with the girls, but their laundry yes".

Marcelinne, and other young adults from Ngungu, feel at home in the new training centre built by MONUSCO in Masisi territory, in support of the Congolese government's Disarmament, Demobilisation, Community Rehabilitation and Stabilisation Programme (PDDRC-S) in North Kivu.

The complex includes an administrative block, a multi-purpose hall with a capacity of 200 people, two dormitories for men and women with 50 beds each, a library to be equipped, a play area and a toilet block. The work was carried out in just a few months in 2022 by a consortium of four Congolese companies.

A centre for change and transformation

A life of peace: that's what Archimède would immediately subscribe to. The life he lives is far from the idea he had as a child. He always wanted to be a veterinarian, but now he's using his exceptional ability to pick up things faster than his peers to learn the art of pastry-making.

"It has been challenging to say the least," says Archimède. "Two and a half years ago, I was part of an armed group. It wasn't a choice. I was kidnapped and spent two years with them. It wasn't an easy situation at the time".

Archimède started his life again when one day the DRC armed forces attacked the armed group's camp and, in the chaos, he managed to escape. "When I returned home, my family were the only ones to express gratitude, happiness and love. The rest of the community put pressure on me to provide proof that I had returned as I was when I left. I gave them this proof. I went to the Ngungu centre and I outdid myself.”

Despite the prevailing insecurity in the Masisi territory, Kahindo's objective and commitment remain unchanged: to play a role in the reintegration of young adults at risk (minors and ex-combatants) by training them at the Ngungu centre. The centre is an attractive alternative to a life without purpose within an armed group.

"It's tough to fight misinformation and preconceived ideas," explains Kahindo. "I'm an educationalist. I know when young adults are susceptible to crazy ideas. Thanks to this centre, we can channel their energy in the right direction: their community.”

She has often thought about what her life would be like if she had followed her initial passion as a young adult. "In life, nothing is a foregone conclusion. I wanted to be a geologist, but here I am helping young adults like Marcelinne and Archimède. When I was young, my environment was just as dangerous and unhealthy as theirs. However, the path I chose required a certain process, time, and energy. I did it and I want to keep to doing it.”

The opportunity for a second chance

The challenges faced by teenagers like Marcelinne and Archimède are not new to them. What is new, unlike what other young people might miss, is the opportunity for a second chance. Here in Ngungu, it's for all young adults who are ready to pick themselves up after being knocked down in any way, ready to contribute to their own development and that of their community.

"If I can convince more girls to become mechanics, this village will be much more prosperous," Marcelinne says. "No matter what these men think. The training I've received at the Ngungu training centre has given me more independence and I like that!".

"Make no mistake about it: for me to remain credible as a former combatant who wants to take part in community life, I will continue to work, do what my parents ask of me and thank God for saving me", admits Archimède.

"On the flip side, we have all the resources, both human and material, that a country can dream of. So, it's time we start putting them to good use," says Kahindo.

If it’s tomorrow’s superstars that you want to see today, all we need to do is give them a little push. Or a second chance.+