Film on Identity and Land Conflict in the Great Lakes Region Screened at Canada’s University of Ottawa
December 1, 2016
For two hours on the evening of 17 November 2016, twenty students from the university’s School of International Development and Global Studies (SIDGS), members of the Congolese Diaspora and two policy experts gathered together at the University of Ottawa, Canada, to watch the film Touche pas à ma terre (“Do not touch my land.”)
The film is the audio-visual summary of a 2014 research on identity, population movements, land and conflict in the Great Lakes region, conducted by Interpeace and its six partner organizations. These partners are the Centre for Conflict Alert and Prevention (CENAP) in Burundi; Never Again Rwanda (NAR) in Rwanda; and four organizations in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Action pour la Paix et la Concorde (APC), Pole Institute, Centre d’Etudes Juridiques Appliquées (CEJA) and Réseau d’Innovation Organisationnelle (RIO).
For much of the past six decades, the Great Lakes region has experienced intermittent armed conflict, often resulting in large population displacements and serious humanitarian crises in the region. Interpeace and its six partner organisations have in the course of the ‘Cross-border dialogue for peace in the Great Lakes programme’ conducted two research processes in which local populations from the three countries have asserted that identity, its manipulation and resulting stereotypes are a key driver of continued conflict. They have also emphasised that the interaction between identity and land constitutes a potent conflict factor, often triggered off by the quest of one specific group or the other wanting to access or control political and economic power.
In the three bordering countries of Rwanda, Burundi, and the DRC, these conflicts around identity and land have decidedly taken a cross-border dimension. People belonging to the same communities are found across borders, and population movement is another bridge that explains why a conflict in one of the three countries almost always spills over into the other two.
The film screening at the University of Ottawa was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Decky Kipuka Kabongi, a doctoral candidate in international development policy at Carleton University. The discussion focused on the capacity and role of local and international actors to address land conflict in the Great Lakes Region. Panellists included the well-known Professor and expert on land issues in the Great Lakes, Chris Huggins of the University of Ottawa School of International Development and Global Studies (SIDGS), as well as Maurice Dikaya and Kirsten Van Houten, both Ph.D candidates at SIDGS.
All the three panellists provided contributions based on their research in the region. Mr Dikaya, a Congolese national, discussed forestry projects facilitated by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) to help protect the land in the DRC and the role of the Mwamis (traditional leaders). On his part, Professor Huggins discussed the regional intricacies of land conflict in the region, while Ms Van Houten discussed the role of local civil society organisations in the resolution of land conflicts.
After the end of the panel discussion and presentations, audience members continued the conversation in extensive informal discussion over refreshments.
This screening is one example of the various national and international platforms that the programme uses to disseminate the views of grassroots populations on the obstacles and possible solutions to these recurrent conflicts. These platforms seek to facilitate a wider discussion on the national and international level, with the objective of encouraging reflection and initiatives that contribute to sustainable peace in the region.
Other platforms focus on high level national and regional policy and decision makers. One example from March 2016 was a regional summit on peace education, held Nairobi by Interpeace in collaboration with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and UNESCO. Delegates at the summit included senior officials from government ministries responsible for education, gender and youth; parliamentarians; leaders of provincial governments; and education practitioners from Rwanda, Burundi, the DRC and Uganda.
Download the report on land, identity, population movements and conflicts in the Great Lakes region here (in French, English coming soon)