Walter James

Walter James (SOS Femme en Danger – SOSFED): Walter graduated in 2006 from the University of Minnesota. Following college, he worked on international development in Haiti and Senegal, and studied human rights and international development in Senegal, Costa Rica, and Morocco. Walter first visited Eastern Congo as a 2009 Peace Fellow for The Advocacy Project, where he documented the work of civil society organizations such as SOS Femmes en Danger, Arche d’Alliance, and Tunza Mazingira. The following year, he graduated from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy with a Master’s degree in Public Policy.



Part III: Living like a refugee is not easy

24 Jul

During our visit to Lubarika, the inqueteurs of Arche d’Alliance interviewed several refugees.  Among them were two village women; we will call them Rehema and Furaha.

Rehema

Rehema

Rehema’s household consists of two adult men, three adult women, and numerous children.  When Rehema’s family started hearing gunshots in their village of Buhembe, they decided to move the women and children to the relative safety of Lubarika.  The men in her family went to Uvira to find work.  Rehema says that they survive on food the neighbors give them.  Rehema has been a refugee numerous times, ever since the war started in the mid-90s.

Furaha

Furaha

Furaha is from the village of Kaziba.  She has nine children, and this is her first time being a refugee.  Fortunately, her husband has found work in a manioc field in Lubarika, so they are able to eat.

These women will return to their home villages when they hear that the security situation is safer.  However, the cycle may start over again at any moment.  Constant internal displacement is hard on the local economy, limits food production, and puts stress on public health resources.  In addition, sexual violence is used as a weapon against the civilian population by both sides of the conflict.

Posters on the wall of the clinic in Lubarika

Posters on the wall of the clinic in Lubarika

Since 1994, the Congo has had to deal with pillaging invaders from Museveni’s Uganda, Kagame’s Rwanda, and Burundi; rebel groups that use the chaos to despoil the civilian population; and a weak Congolese government that has done little to protect its citizens.  In the broader global community, the response to the Congolese crisis has been lost in realpolitik and manipulated by regional players.   The constant internal displacement caused by armed conflict has contributed to millions of deaths in Eastern Congo since 1994; it is estimated that only a fraction of the approximately 5.4 million deaths caused by the war were from bullets or machetes, the grand majority instead were caused by disease and starvation.

One hopes that there will be a quick response to help the community of Lubarika and its population of IDPs.  However, if the security situation further deteriorates, everyone in Lubarika may have to flee to the town of Luvungi.  This, of course, would exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in the region.  Time will tell.

The Arche d'Alliance team in Lubarika

The Arche d'Alliance team in Lubarika

Posted By Walter James

Posted Jul 24th, 2009

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