Torn apart by 20 years of conflict, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the most violence-stricken parts of the world. In a region with colossal economic potential, many armed groups regularly engage in fighting with devastating consequences for the local populations.
At the same time, the voices and needs of many Congolese people have been excluded from peace-building agendas, and this has been one of the obstacles to resolving the conflict in the long term. And so while the recent dismantling of the M23 rebel group opens a new window of opportunity for peace, many deep-rooted challenges remain of great concern.
It's with this in mind that International Alert, Local Voices and Search For Common Ground have produced and recently launched a collection of photo stories titled Local Voices - Congolese Communities & The Kivu Conflict. Through a series of weekly publications using personal testimonies and photographs, the stories give a 'voice' to local people in eastern DRC, from warlords and young people to displaced women and local authorities.
The project focuses on sensitive issues such as the weakness of state authorities, tensions between ethnic communities, or the presence of armed groups, and places the reader in the daily lives of the communities most affected by the armed conflict. Local Voices aims to inform the general public as well as policy makers about the dynamics and triggers of violence in eastern Congo and to put local populations at the centre of concerns.
For Alexis Bouvy, project director and co-founder of Local Voices, the project is about "giving a voice to populations who have no opportunities to share their experiences with armed conflicts, to express their concerns, their difficulties, their frustrations and their fears."
The stories will be published on International Alert's website through December and January, as well as on the websites of Local Voices and Search for Common Ground. The first story is available here.
For a critical perspective on the peace efforts carried out or supported by the Congolese authorities and international actors, see International Alert's report Ending the Deadlock. Towards a New Vision of Peace in Eastern DRC (2012).
© Local Voices 2013 with International Alert & Search For Common Ground