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A former Mai-Mai fighter striving to convince others to demobilize

201502. Photo Shabani - DRC story

For 10 years, Shabani Luangela has been involved with a local Mai-Mai armed group active in Eastern D.R.Congo. In 1996, he was seduced by the hateful propaganda that was being disseminated against the Banyamulunge who were accused of wanting to appropriate the Babembe’s[1] lands. Head of logistics within the group, he decided to return to civilian life in 2006, when a Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) national plan was implemented. He then got involved with local NGOs to raise awareness about peace issues trough public campaigns. Because of his dedication to the task, Shabani’s reputation grew locally, leading to his appointment by community members as responsible for the Negotiators Comity (Comité de Negociateurs or CN) in Baraka, Fizi territory.

Three CN were created in 2014 in South-Kivu at the initiative of local structures called Intercommunity Consultation Frameworks (Cadres de Concertation Intercommunautaire or CCI). These structures were born from within the local communities who contributed to a Participative Action Research (PAR) process. This methodology was used by LPI and its Congolese partners, RIO[2] and ADEPAE[3] (in the Fizi and Uvira territories), in order to stimulate dialogue among the community. The PAR process helped them to come to a deeper and common understanding of the root causes of local conflicts and to identify viable solutions. While the CCI are increasingly recognized, by the local authorities and communities, as conflict mediators able to inform and influence local policies, the CN have a mandate to support the demobilisation of armed groups.

Shabani Luangela is one of the pioneers in this field. Earning a living from his farming activities, he generously gives his time to a cause that truly matters to him. He has spent endless hours discussing with community members in order to earn their trust. Consequently, it is now the population which provides him with information about armed group members and how they can be reached. However, within the current context where the DDR plan III has not been implemented yet, Shabani and his team of 10 negotiators tirelessly go to every armed member individually, with the difficult task of trying to persuade them to lay down their weapons, even without financial security. LPI and its partners are fully committed to supporting men and women like Shabani Luangela, whose dedication is indispensable in bringing about sustainable peace in the region.

[1] Banyamulenge and Babembe are two Congolese ethnic groups mainly present in the Fizi and Uvira territories, in the South-Kivu province.

[2] Réseau d’Innovation Organisationnelle (RIO) was created in Bukavu in 2002 as a member of the organisation Eglise du Christ au Congo. Its mission is to promote peace by supporting local communities and strengthening their capacities in terms of conflict transformation.

[3] Action pour le Développement et la Paix Endogènes (ADEPAE) is a non confessionnal organisation, fonded in Bukavu in 1997, with a second office in Goma (Nord Kivu). Its mission is to support the populations from the two provinces in the fields of conflict transformation and the promotion of good governance, in order to contribute to build sustainable peace.