La Benevolencija in DRC

The first democratic and free elections in the DRC were held on in 2006. Under the new constitution the president is elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term). The next elections are scheduled for November 2016. This fragile political context is likely to expose the country to new waves of conflicts and the emergence of new armed groups. It is crucial to prevent new cycles of violence by actively sensitizing the population and leaders on their reciprocal civic responsibilities. La Benevolencija combats scapegoating, work for citizen empowerment, and feature a separate focus on pre- and post electoral support activities. The activities focus on teaching the general population indicators by which they can recognize and resist hate speech, learn to analyze critically election programs presented to them by politicians, act to resist incitement and manipulation, act as positive bystanders demanding holding their politicians to account and engage themselves actively in a process of electoral scrutiny.

Activities targeting a leadership audience meanwhile feature debate and analysis programs that allow the listeners to themselves form a vision of positive political behaviour after which to strive.

La Benevolencija will address the mechanisms of scapegoating used by politicians to show how it is used to justify inaction towards, e.g. taking care for the armed and police force, or the judiciary to get paid properly and revamping the health care system to both ensure the country’s, and the individual citizens’ protection and health support.

In terms of what issues should be tackled to arrive at such a result, research has shown that political inequalities between groups are most likely to motivate leaders, while socioeconomic inequalities motivate followers. Political violence is most likely to occur when there is a confluence of exclusionary governance and economic and social marginalization imposed by one group on another. In order to minimize the likelihood of conflict, policies should first address the political inequalities that most often provide a catalyst for the leadership of a violent uprising. Reducing the immediacy of conflict allows for subsequent work to address the socioeconomic inequalities that could eventually mobilize the group members at large.

The conflict in the Kivus has shattered several communities. Sexual violence is still widespread. Not only do victims have to live with the physical injuries and psychological trauma resulting from rape, the widespread use of sexual violence also results in a disintegration of the social fabric. In the Kivus La Benevolencija maintains its peace building activities with special focus on information on trauma healing and justice issues and the prevention of sexual violence.

General training programs for the biggest perpetrator of these acts – the FARDC are being developed currently by other NGOs in cooperation with the Congolese authorities. However, the atrocities involving the highest amount of cruelty are committed by other groups, mostly local Maj Maj and FDLR rebels, remnants of the genocidal Interahamwe militias who fled into the Congo. These groups have been mostly immune to outside sensitization until now. La Benevolencija therefore intends to include behaviour change messaging for FDLR rebels in its Rwandan Radio Drama serial Musekeweya. In the second half of 2011 broadcast including such messaging will start, reaching the FDLR rebels in the Kivus.