Action for PEace and Sustainable Development in Congo
Based in the rural Minembwe district of South Kivu province, APDDC works first and foremost for peace and conflict-resolution in this resource rich and often violent area. Armed groups here are abundant, feeding a tragic cycle of inter-community (ethnic) violence. Starting after the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide fled over the border from neighboring Rwanda, the area has experienced years of continuous war and massacres at worst, and periodic flare-ups of violence at best, over the last 20+ years. This entrenched violence prevents any meaningful development from taking place in the area.
As a means to development, as well as an important goal in itself, APDDC sees the vital imperative to work at the grassroots level to advance the peace process.
Formed in 2016 by representatives from each of the major communities (ethnic groups) of the region, APDDC simultaneously models and promotes an approach of dialogue, conflict resolution, and cooperation between communities.
Likewise, just as a cycle of violence prevents real development from taking root, a sustained lack of economic development leads to further violence.
With this insight firmly in mind, APDDC also works directly toward sustainable development activities, such as reforestation, women’s empowerment through microfinance and training, road building, and stay-in-school initiatives.
Education is a primary focus of the APDDC’s activities. Its leaders recognize that if children are in school, they 1) will not join an armed group and 2) they will be able to creatively and capably contribute to the sustainable development of their home.
APDDC’s mission is primarily accomplished through:
1) Awareness raising sessions
Sessions are largely focused on the importance of staying in school, and are conducted in local churches, village assemblies, and perhaps most importantly, among the members of armed groups themselves.
Instructors who visit the various communities are themselves members of the communities they are working among.
Although it is not easy to gain entrance into the armed groups to conduct these sessions, the local respect of the organization and its leaders, and their sustained and respectful approach, has enabled them to gain audience with many.
With a particular focus on young people, APDDC’s trainers speak about the importance of staying in school – the benefits and advantages that it can bring – and the damage that taking part in the war will bring to their communities and their families.
Scores of children have escaped from their armed groups and returned to school after attending APDDC’s awareness raising sessions.
APDDC’s Executive Director, Joseph Harera Sebikabu, explains:
“The leaders of the groups, they can’t exactly accept what we are doing. They can’t ‘give us’ the children, to take back to school. But they know that they are in the wrong, and they know that the children will benefit from going back to school, and that the help we are offering them is important. So they turn a blind eye. The children leave on their own, quietly, and come back to school. When we go back to do another training with the same group, the leader will see us, and joke, ‘so, you have come to take more of my children?’ But he will allow us to do the training again.”
"Right at the beginning of our work, there was one group of children that we raised awareness among. They were 42 children, from a number of different communities and armed groups. All of them left and went back to school. Since then, some have even gone on to University."
2) Dialogue and inter-communal activity
APDDC organizes inter-community seminars and meetings for peace and conflict resolution, with a particular focus on engaging the youth. Inter-community youth dialogues give the youth an opportunity to directly discuss the challenges they face toward sustaining peace with other communities. Inter-school soccer games give young people the forum to begin forming relationships with each other that to build trust and indirectly sustain the more targeted peace and conflict resolution meetings.
3) Direct aid
APDDC’s first mission was to provide school fees for vulnerable children. These include orphans, children from families living in extreme poverty, and children who have returned from armed groups. Since 2016 they have been paying the school fees of approximately 200 children.
4) Development activities: reforestation efforts; microfinance groups; entrepreneurship and literacy training for women; road building. They have ambitions to begin building additional schools, as well.
APDDC’s long-term goal is to build a center for peace training.
Joseph Harera Sebikabu
Co-founder and Executive Director
Joseph is first of all a teacher and a pastor. He not only serves as the Pastor of a prominent local church (name), but also as the Headmaster of a well-regarded local secondary school, Ilundu. Just as importantly, he considers himself to be "a man of development."
"I have seen that people can develop themselves, through learning and understanding. And, by learning and understanding, we develop not only ourselves, but also the world around us. That’s what pushes me to do this work."
Born and raised in Minembwe, Joseph is also raising his family there with his wife. He has left the area only to attend University in Bukavu, where he earned his degree in Human Resources Management.