In DRC, Tanganyika Conflict Mitigation and Reconciliation Project builds peace, better conditions for communities

March 12, 2024
TCMR event
A Pact-supported inter-community peace dialogue between the Twa and Bantu. Credit: Franck Kaseya/Pact

Tanganyika province, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, once a peaceful place, since 2014 has become the scene of regular clashes, inter-community conflict and violence carried out by armed groups and militias. 

The city of Nyemba, 100 km west of Kalemie, has also been rocked by repeated atrocities and violence. In this area in particular, the conflict has disrupted the lives of the population for almost 10 years, forcing people to move away in search of peace.

The efforts of local chiefs, community leaders and other key players have proved insufficient to bring peace.

"Kilonda Kihumpi Kalume, chief of the village Lembe, recalls, "As we were also on the run, we tried to bring the two conflicting parties together, but this was virtually impossible, as tensions were rising day by day on both sides.”

The situation degraded until 2021, when Pact, through its Tanganyika Conflict Mitigation and Reconciliation project (TCMR), began interventions in the area, starting with a mission to identify humanitarian needs, which led to the distribution of food, seeds and small livestock to local communities. TCMR is funded by USAID.

After a period of calm, a Bantu leader was assassinated, setting off new clashed between his people and the local Twa. Houses and fields were destroyed and 11,000 people were displaced to live in deplorable conditions. TCMR played a key role in improving the situation, with peacebuilding efforts including inter-community dialogues and rapprochement activities for the Twa and Bantu. A thousand militiamen surrendered and displaced people returned home. 

"From Nyemba to our home in Luhonge and beyond, no one could move around freely, given the precarious security situation at the time," recounts the Luhonge village chief. “It's thanks to the activities of the TCMR project that we have returned to our villages and are living peacefully with our Twa brothers.”

In 2022, Pact and local partner CDJP organized peace awareness campaigns that convinced key fighters to choose the path of peace. 

"It's the relevance of the messages of peace and development that Pact assiduously brings that I felt challenged and had decided to leave the bush and abandon the life of a militiaman. And to show my good will, I put my words into action by handing over the two firearms I was holding in the presence of the military authorities and Pact agents," the fighter Kaomba explains with serenity.

Combatant Kaomba Mununga Jean had deserted the area for several years, concentrating on organizing his men for banditry operations around the mining estates on the outskirts of Fatuma. He is cited as a sponsor, perpetrator or accomplice in several attacks on Bantu villages, robberies and road blockades, killings and assassinations on the road from Kalemie to Moba.  The Provincial Peace Forum held in Kalemie town in 2018 condemned his activism in the area, and a call for his surrender was emphatically made, as it was for all the other fighters who acted as warlords to create insecurity and fuel the conflict between Twa and Bantu. 

In 2022, warlord Kaomba and over a hundred of his followers moved from their entrenched village over 50 km from Nyemba. Taking advantage of his arable land, and thanks to seed received from Pact, Kaomba set up his cassava field in the village (Tundula) Ntundula. Following his example, the Twa, who once lived by hunting and gathering, are now farming.

One of the objectives of TCMR is to strengthen social cohesion and community resilience.

Thanks to the peace awareness campaigns organized under the TCMR project, Kaomba has now become a model of development and a peacemaker who forbids his former accomplices from bothering peaceful citizens, something that was not possible before the TCMR project. 

"I owe my current change to the TCMR project. My life is not yet as stable as I'd hoped, but the minimum requirements have been met," Kaomba says.

One of the TCMR project's flagship activities is the organization of inter-community dialogue. At the end of September 2023, a dialogue on peace and social cohesion was held in Luhonge, a village about 50 km from the center of the city of Nyemba, bringing together a dozen village and group chiefs, representatives of ex-militiamen, security service agents and political and administrative authorities. The meeting resulted in firm commitments from former warring parties. After numerous awareness-raising sessions, the cessation of hostilities had become everyone's concern. The Luhonge dialogue concluded with a customary ceremony during which a sheep was sacrificed and a palm tree planted in Chief Luhonge's courtyard.

"The blood of this animal means that this is the last time that blood will flow in our villages, and whoever takes up arms again to kill his brothers will be responsible for any misfortune that may befall him," declared Grand Chief Kasanga Nyemba, who attended the dialogue.

Kaomba in his peanut field with a Pact staff member. Credit: Franck Kaseya/Pact

In the search for peace and the strengthening of social cohesion between the Twa and Bantu communities of Nyemba, peace committees set up through the project have made a major contribution.

"We crossed ruined villages in the company of Pact and CDJP to meet warlords on the Nyemba-Kinsukulu axis, as well as in the neighboring Kalumbi groupement, at a time when violence was spreading throughout the villages," recalls Ilunga Moket André, member of a local peace committee.

Thanks to several activities organized in their favor, and after more than a decade of division caused by conflict, the Twa and Bantu now live side by side and work together on community projects. 

"Strengthening social cohesion and peaceful cohabitation between the communities on the Nyemba-kinsukulu axis is an objective largely achieved by the TCMR project, and the focus should now turn to the care and social integration of ex-militiamen and warlords who have agreed to follow the path of peace," says Omari Mena, the project's conflict management advisor.