Congo: Taking the Initiative

 

by Cliff Kindy

Nonviolent activists seek to reframe the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) so that they, rather than violent actors, hold the initiative. 

One such activist is Monsignor Jean-Luc Kuye, a Pentecostal pastor, president of the ecumenical Eglise du Christ de Congo (Church of Christ of Congo) in South Kivu.  In 1998, when Rwanda invaded the Congo, Msgr. Kuye said, "We are being re-colonized.  How will we respond without more violence?"

Msgr. Kuye provided leadership in a difficult political process at each step of a fragile seven-year dance.  Facilitating national dialogue, creating a new constitution, and barely saving the signing of the Sun City Accords, this church leader worked for peace even though opponents threatened his life. 

As a church leader, Msgr. Kuye assisted the transitional DRC government in 2003.  Later, in the national reconciliation process, Kuye received the assignment to talk with the National Congress for the Defence of People's (CNDP) General Nkunda, and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militias to enable elections in 2006.  Kuye negotiated with the Council of Churches in Rwanda to smooth the return for demobilized FDLR and this year traveled to Rome to ask FDLR leadership to stop fighting. 

Networks of nonviolent actors are replacing violent actors who had dominated the scene earlier.  Churches already provide the spiritual undergirding that carries people through difficult peacemaking, and religious people across the DRC are rebuilding the self-confidence of groups within civil society.  World Relief - which unites denominations and tribes, building homes for widows, and visiting prisons and hospitals - hopes to see a church-led, grassroots, nonviolent movement in North Kivu.  Norwegian Church Aid offered assistance to families re-establishing themselves in Rwanda.  Mennonites played a key role in training and observing for the 2006 election.  The Quaker Ebenezer Peace Center, Catholic Pax Christi, and Anglican Bishop Isingoma are nurturing peace actors who insert nonviolent initiatives into this cauldron of conflict. 

If this comprehensive nonviolent initiative led by churches works, it will usurp any joint military operation.  Such a nonviolent campaign could define DRC history.