North Kivu : Stabilization projects restore social cohesion in the Bwito chiefdom
In North Kivu, MONUSCO and its partners, including the Congolese government, last week closed the stabilization projects in the Bwito chiefdom in Rutshuru territory. The closing ceremony coincided with the inauguration of the new Congolese National Police (PNC) station in Kikuku, the chief town of the chiefdom, by Jean-Romuald Ekuka Lipopo, Vice-Governor of North Kivu.
Called "Njia za Makubaliano" (Path to Agreements) and "Pamoja Kwa Amani Na Maendeleo" (Together for Peace and Development) respectively, these two projects developed social cohesion activities such as forums for popular expression and inter-generational dialogues, targeting mainly youth at risk.
The "Njia Za Makubaliano" project, which ended in February 2021, resulted in the stabilization of the chiefdom, with the return of the Mwami (traditional chief who had left the area following community violence). It has also enabled the construction and equipping of the police station and the construction and equipping of the Bwito youth center.
All these projects were implemented between 2017 and 2021 by stabilization partners, including the consortium Alerte International and Pole Institute, as well as UNHABITAT, UNFPA and UNESCO.
The population and local authorities are now waiting for the benefits of these projects in this area torn by various inter-ethnic conflicts exacerbated by the activism of armed groups.
According to the head of mission of the STAREC (Stabilization and Reconstruction of Zones Emerging from Armed Conflict) program in North Kivu, Suni Matabaro, this program has contributed to decreasing the instability that has long existed in the chiefdom. "Today's activity marks the culmination of a long community process, the result of a democratic dialogue among the different ethnic groups and the relevant recommendations from the meetings held in Rutshuru and other round tables. Thanks to this activity, the different local sensitivities have come together to discuss the problems that plague stabilization and peace in the Bwito chiefdom”.
Emmanuel Yirankunda, president of the local youth council of Bwito, is pleased with the positive impact of these projects. "Before, there were attacks on villages. Young people from one ethnic group could attack the villages of people from another group. There was also a market for the Hutus in Nyanzale, for example, a market for the Nandes in Kibirizi, and a market for the Hundes in Kikuku. There was also the burning of villages. When one single person was killed, all members of the community of the person suspected of the murder would be killed in revenge. Today, there is a significant reduction in killings; the torching of houses has ceased; the markets have become inter-ethnic. At the level of meetings and churches, people come together and collaborate. They work together: there is coexistence and communication between ethnic groups and villages that were once divided”.
In the same vein, the Vice-Governor of North Kivu welcomes, above all, the restoration of State authority in this entity. "After the return of the Mwami, the construction of his house, and the return of other services, in particular the ANR (national intelligence agency), we are thereby achieving the restoration and reestablishment of State authority in the Bwito chiefdom, " said Chief Superintend Jean-Romuald Ekuka Lipopo.
The chief of the Bwito chiefdom, in his turn, expressed his satisfaction at seeing the reinforcement of the PNC units in the chief town of his entity, which formerly had only three police officers. Mwami Raphaël Bukavu Kikandi III said: "I think that with the installation of this new police station, it will strengthen security. We even used to use the military to maintain security here. Now we think that with the proximity police that has just been installed, we will have total security”.
All these projects have been financed by the Stabilization Coherence Fund through the International Security and Stabilization Support Strategy (ISSSS) and the MONUSCO Stabilization Unit. A new phase of the same program is currently under consideration for the northern part of the Bwito chiefdom.