DR Congo: Good Governance
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a tragic history of violent hostilities behind it. After the declaration of independence from Belgium in 1960, war broke out with political and ethnic undertones. Then, in 1997, neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda helped to depose the dictator Joseph-Desiré Mobutu, which provoked large-scale bloodshed that is sometimes called the Great African War due to the involvement of the armies of all of the surrounding countries. The conflict has never come to a real end – despite an official peace treaty, fighting continues to this day. The first presidential elections since 1960 were held in 2006. Even though the country has a long way to go until it achieves a democratic rule, its inhabitants are now able to enjoy their rights for the first time for many decades.
People in Need helps the inhabitants of the DR Congo to improve access to justice and also focuses on educating local people about their fundamental rights. We teach inhabitants of remote villages in various areas on how inheritance right applies, on land rights, and about the importance of birth certificates. An important emphasis is put also on law enforcement in the area of sexual violence which still represents a real threat for local women and girls. Raising awareness in communities, operating “mobile courts”, training traditional leaders and civil judges improves access to fundamental human rights and raises awareness about what rights people have.
Give Justice a Chance
Through awareness campaigns, such as street theatre, we demonstrate various options of how to solve their problems and we present them with the range of rights denied to them in the country due to a protracted period of turbulent historical and security-related development. Such legal concerns include for instance the right to land ownership, the right to land ownership which in rural areas is a crucial artefact for ensuring a livelihood. Only a small percentage of Congolese know the legal rules concerning land ownership, such as the right of heirs to continue to work their land or methods of solving disputes concerning unclear land ownership. Another important area for awareness is violence. Domestic violence and violence committed by rebels represents a massive risk for local women and girls. We also try to inform parents of the benefits of a birth certificate, or rather what obstacles a child without a birth certificate may face in access to healthcare or when starting school.
A great obstacle to the enjoyment of rights lies not only in people’s knowledge or ignorance, but also in the methods of claiming their rights. Financial considerations and long distances to court (journeys lasting several days) often foils people in their attempts to resolve a problem. For this reason, People in Need now organises “mobile courts” which come to the people in their villages. Community savings associations, known as care groups, which manage to save small amounts of money for essential community expenditure such as healthcare, education, or legal costs can help to cover the financial costs of such court cases.
Read more here (in French)