Young men cycle on the road between South Sudan and DRC

Globally, one in four young people live in places affected by armed conflict or organised violence. But youth aren’t just the victims of violence – they have the power to act for peace and the vision and ideas to achieve a better future for themselves and their communities.

Benjamin lives in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and has witnessed first hand the violent tensions with South Sudanese refugees in his community. He has been working to create understanding between the refugees and the host communities since 2017, with the support of our partner Commission Diocésaine de Justice, Paix et Réconciliation (CDJPR).

Nearly 100,000 South Sudanese refugees have fled violence in their homelands since 2016 and have moved to northeastern DRC. This current movement of people across the border is straining relationships between the two communities and heightening tensions.

Benjamin is a youth representative in his Local Peace Committee (LPC) in Ingbokolo, DRC. LPCs are informal and voluntary community-led committees which are usually mobilised during periods of instability and conflict.

With tensions escalating between refugees and host communities, Benjamin and the LPC in Ingbokolo decided to travel to the nearby villages where South Sudanese refugees were living. The LPC members organised local mediations, including religious leaders, local chiefs, representatives of the refugees, youth representatives and elders. They also brought Congolese and South Sudanese communities together in football matches to promote social cohesion.

One and a half years later, the LPC is seeing real change. Benjamin said:

"There are changes in the relationships between Congolese and South Sudanese. They now stay together and eat together. They even do business together or marry between themselves. South Sudanese children are also studying together with Congolese children."

Our work with the LPC has not only changed the way both communities live together but has promoted non-violent solutions to conflict:

"Now the conflict parties know that when they have a problem, they can use dialogue to resolve the cause of the problems."

This has led to the reduction of land conflicts in the area, including those about border demarcations which have often been a spark of violence between refugees and the Congolese population since the start of the refugee influx in 2016.

Despite the impact of the tension on young people like Benjamin, they are too often seen as agitators of conflict or as victims. Their potential in resolving conflicts has remained largely underutilised and they are excluded in local decision-making and wider political processes. Conciliation Resources is currently supporting over thirty LPCs across northeast DRC, and promoting young people’s involvement in LPCs and in conflict prevention.

As the number of refugees in northeastern DRC continues to increase, the hard work of Benjamin and the LPCs remains extremely important in strengthening relationships between refugees and host communities and preventing further escalation of conflict.

Conciliation Resources’ work in northeastern DRC was funded by the European Union, Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace between 2017 and 2018.