Traditional chiefs in Ituri province commit to peacebuilding efforts

May 10, 2023

In late April, traditional chiefs from the Ituri province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) gathered in Bunia to discuss effective strategies to curb rampant violence perpetrated by armed groups in the region. The two-day meeting was a productive forum for open and honest exchanges about each individual’s role in restoring state authority and supporting the peace process. During the meeting, some chiefs expressed their belief that security in Ituri should come from the people themselves, while others called for an end to hypocrisy and a united effort towards peace. To demonstrate their commitment to tangible results, the traditional chiefs signed a commitment to working towards building peace at the end of the dialogue.

During the meeting, a representative of the customary chiefs acknowledged the challenging task. “We are committed to implementing all we have learned during these two days for peace in our dear and unique province. However, we are seeking the support of the political, administrative, military, police, and judicial hierarchy to accompany us in this difficult ordeal requiring the assistance of all.‚ÄĚ

The Director of the Ituri Military Governor’s Office echoed the call for collective commitment to peace. “All of us must commit ourselves to peace in Ituri and spread peace. Spread this hope so that Ituri can find peace. Pona paix toko lemba te…, Ju ya amani hatuta choka…, for peace we will never be tired…,” emphasised Master Unega

” As leaders, we have the responsibility to ensure that the people we govern live in a state of total peace and tranquility. However, we must acknowledge that achieving peace often requires sacrifice from all parties involved. Therefore, I urge us to adopt a spirit of sacrifice, service, and selflessness towards others. By doing so, we can try to leave a more peaceful Ituri to future generations,” urged Interpeace‚Äôs programme officer, Christian Vangazi.

The provincial coordinator of the Société Civile/Forces Vives of Ituri, Dieudonné Lossa, invited everyone to objectively reflect on the current situation, as he believed that without peace, progress was impossible.

The ongoing issue of civilian killings in this region continues to pose a significant obstacle. In response, the Congolese Head of State, Felix Tshisekedi Tshilombo, has extended an outstretched hand to promote peace. This message serves as a call to action for armed groups to fully commit to the peace process and work towards a resolution. “We strongly appeal to all armed groups to join the Demobilisation, Disarmament, Community Recovery, and Stabilisation (P-DDRCS) programme,” the traditional leaders urged.

The meeting brought together over 100 participants, including customary chiefs from the five territories of Ituri, representatives of civil society, administrators of the territories, the P-DDRCS, the provincial inspectorate, and other actors involved. The discussion was part of a project supporting mediation and resilience for peace in Ituri and Greater North Kivu, implemented by the Mediation Consortium, composed of Interpeace, the Pole Institute, Action for Peace and Concord (APC), and New York University (NYU). This initiative was driven by civil society in collaboration with the provincial government through the technical support of Interpeace with funding from the European Union.