Daniel’s story: From militiaman to peacemaker in the Democratic Republic of Congo

July 31, 2023
Daniel Amisi Jean. Credit: Franck Kaseya/Pact

In good spirits, sitting under a mango tree with a smile on his face, Daniel Amisi Jean shares his story. He is 49, from the Twa community and the father of seven children. He lives with his family in Kilima, a village 150 kilometers from Kalemie, in the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the past, as a farmer and goat and pig breeder, Daniel easily supported his family. But he lost everything to conflict between the Twa and the Bantu.

"I had 12 pigs, one hectare of corn and one of manioc, and a dozen ducks,” Daniel says.

Violent conflict between the Twa and the Bantu broke out in Tanganyika province around 2014. Many families were forced to move from their villages, including Daniel’s. 

"Because I had nowhere else to go, and after receiving the news of the death of my older brother and three of his children, I finally decided to join the Twa militia to protect my family and avenge the death of my brother,” Daniel explains.

He took up arms and accepted scarifications to make himself invisible.

"Having been the one who planned the attacks within our group of over 265 fighters, I was at the front line. But I didn't win anything except losing," Daniel says thoughtfully.

His path began to change in 2019 when he heard about the Tanganyika Conflict Mitigation and Reconciliation (TCMR) project. Funded by USAID and led by Pact, TCMR is working to build peace between the Twa and Bantu communities. Daniel heard that Pact was organizing awareness-raising sessions on peace and social cohesion for the inhabitants of the neighboring Nyunzu territory. He decided to respond favorably to the call to return to his village and work for peace.

Daniel working the fields with fellow community members. Credit: Franck Kaseya/Pact

Daniel encourages other members of his village to take part in TCMR’s peacebuilding efforts, too. He says he has seen Pact’s commitment to communities and its work to improve lives with a new culture of dialogue and forgiveness, which has gradually changed community habits and strengthened social cohesion for a better future for generations to come.

When clashes erupted again in 2022 after the death of the Muntu chief Mumbwili, Daniel and his family had to take up arms and return to the bush to avoid reprisals. Soon after, Pact organized mini dialogues with the local peace committee between the Twa and Bantu. This ended hostilities and helped to open a key local road. Fighters laid down their arms and went home.

This enabled Pact to organize distributions of food and livestock. Today, Daniel and his family work fields of maize and manioc once more. Daniel employs a workforce made up of Bantus, which demonstrates how much has changed. In the community rice field, Bantu and Twa also work together.

“It's thanks to Pact's support that we were able to hold on and see life return to normal," Daniel says. "I'm not short of food in my house at the moment, and the proceeds from the sale of the harvest provide for my family's basic needs, including my children's schooling.”

Peaceful cohabitation between the Twa and the Bantu in Kilima, where 40% of the inhabitants are Twa, is at its best, enabling the two communities to cultivate, work, pray and carry out community development efforts together. Daniel is a member of the chief's circle, in the role of village treasurer.

Daniel says awareness-raising campaigns and training sessions organized by Pact have changed his life. He used to be hostile to the Bantu, but today he is a member of the local peace committee set up with Pact’s support, where he holds the post of vice president and is in constant contact with the Twa and Bantu of his village.

"I raise awareness door to door and even in schools, so that our children grow up with a culture of peace, tolerance and dialogue," Daniel says.<