In the Southern province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Chirezi Foundation is helping to bring about peaceful solutions to everyday problems and reversing the effects of decades of conflict in the country.
The project has established 12 ‘Baraza’ in the region. Swahili for ‘local gatherings’, these peace courts hear out grievances and find solutions. With a justice system that is slow to act, expensive and often corrupt, many can end up taking disputes into their own hands – which can in turn escalate into more serious regional violence. Led by ten individuals, all of whom have been elected by the community, there are also special all-female sections where cases such as marital rape and sexual violence can be discussed more privately.
At a cost of US$27 per case, the expense of holding these trials is minimal compared to other similar programs. The Baraza have a high rate of solving cases – 90% through the main court and 83% through the female Baraza. Around 86% of people surveyed feel a greater sense of peace in the community as a result of the courts. The Baraza model is now being used elsewhere in the country, and founder Floribert Kazingufu believes other post-conflict nations may benefit from using the system. The success has led it to branch out into Burundi with future plans for initiatives in Rwanda and Ouganda (a kingdom of Uganda).
The project also runs a Women’s Trauma Healing and Care Centre and an initiative to rescue child soldiers from militia groups, going on to help provide the skills and conditions needed for lives without violence. Taking back control using practical methods, the Foundation is helping people and the society move towards peace – for the long term.
Floribert Kazingufu, Founder
Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa)