'Women of Courage' 2013:
DR Congo Tour

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The diverse peoples of the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to endure the worst armed conflict since World War II and many Congolese activists carry on a courageous struggle for human rights and peace that is largely invisible to Canadians.


Since war broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1998, more than 5 million people have died – most of them from lack of access to food and health care, but many directly from violence. And though technically the conflict ended in 2003 with ratification of the Pretoria Accord, fighting has continued.

Today, the humanitarian situation in eastern Congo is among the worst in the world. In the eastern provinces, hundreds of thousands of people remain displaced and too frightened to return home. The conditions for women and girls are particularly troubling: thousands have been raped by militia men or soldiers from the national army.

KAIROS Partners

KAIROS works with human rights partners in the DRC, including Héritiers de la justice (HJ), the Protestant churches’ service organization for human rights and peace. Based in Bukavu, HJ's mandate is to work non-violently to support human rights and reconciliation in the South Kivu, North Kivu and Maniema regions, as well as the larger Great Lakes region of Africa including Rwanda and Burundi.


The elections held in 2006 were meant to put an end to the era of dictatorship and war in the DRC. It had been over 40 years since Mobutu Sese Seko, with the help of U.S. and Belgian security agents, overthrew Congo's last elected government and killed its leader, Patrice Lumumba. Despite the historic 2006 elections, the underlying causes of conflict in the DRC – such as disarmament of militias, army reform, the legacy of the genocide in Rwanda, and the illegal exploitation of Congo’s mineral wealth – have not been adequately addressed in the country, and hostilities have continued.

Resource War

On 12th December 2008, a Group of Experts on the DRC appointed by the United Nations delivered a report to the Security Council providing one more piece of evidence that the main source of financing for the militias in the country comes from the illicit trade of natural resources, particularly cassiterite, gold, coltan and wolframite. The Group presented an appraisal of the mining operations and showed evidence linking these activities with some exporters based in South Kivu, as well as foreign consumers at the head of the chain.

DRC's soil holds at least 80% of the world's coltan, for example. Coltan is refined into a heat-resistant powder called tantalum that can carries the high electrical charge needed in computers, video cameras and game consoles; it is also necessary for the capacitors that control the charge in cell phone circuit boards. All of the parties involved in the war in DRC have been involved in the mining and sale of coltan according to the UN, including, most notoriously, former members of the Hutu regime that committed the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, but have since fled across the border into the DRC and formed the militia group, Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR). The illegal trade in these resources fuels conflict in the DRC and neighbouring countries.

The December 2008 report builds on the work of another UN panel struck in 2003 to research the connection between war and resources. The first panel concluded that a predatory network of the elite including army and government officials had been established in the DRC for the illegal exploitation of resources leading to "an economy of war" in the country. The panel called on the United Nations to impose financial restrictions on 29 companies and 54 individuals involved in the pillaging. It also named 85 multinational mining firms accusing them of ignoring OECD guidelines on ethics.

Eight Canadian companies were on the original list of those that had violated OECD guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

A Chance for Peace

The United Nations has the largest peacekeeping force in the world stationed in the Congo and trying to halt the violence. It numbers about 17,000 members. But Congo is a region the size of Western Europe, and the troops cannot be everywhere at once.

In January, 2008, following weeks of negotiations, 22 armed groups and the government came together in the town of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province in the east, and signed a ceasefire agreement. Unfortunately, the former genocidaires from Rwanda (members of the FDLR) were not included in the agreement.

Nonetheless, the Goma agreement provided for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of troops from key areas and creation of a program for the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of combatants into civilian life or the national army (FARDC). The Agreement and the resulting Amani peace process followed negotiations between the government, renegade general Laurent Nkunda and numerous Mai Mai (community-based) militias to end fighting that had resumed in the region late in 2006. The new program, headed by a Catholic priest, has so far failed to provide a durable peace. Despite the promises, human rights abuses continue, and in the fall of 2008 new waves of violence erupted in the east.

The ceasefire brought a great sense of hope to the Congolese people. Urgent action is needed to get the peace deal back on track.

Congo Resources

Africa's Blessing, Africa's Curse: The legacy of resource extraction.
This KAIROS publication is available on our order form. Designed for personal reading and the classroom, it offers an overview of African nations' struggle to control their mineral wealth-- and the colonial forces that have sought that wealth for themselves. 

KAIROS policy briefing paper #3: Will Democracy Take Root in the Congo? (Oct 2006, PDF format) 

Africafiles' Central Africa section

Global Witness

Human Rights Watch Congo section 

Pambazuka's Conflict and Emergency section: 

Congo's Hidden Tragedy: 65 million people the world forgot. Africa Files/ Hugh McCullum

Development and Peace: Bishops speak on Congo's Dirty War


Churches gather to support democracy and peace building in Congo


Read the communiqué that was issued by conference participants on June 1, 2015.

Mining and Human Rights: building networks of resistance

Philippines Learning Tour_Connie_Desmond_etc_low rez

In recognition of International Human Rights Day 2014, KAIROS co-sponsored Mining and Human Rights: building networks of resistance, an afternoon of workshops and presentations on the struggle of communities to defend their land from the impacts of resource extraction.

When a woman is no longer silent


On the International Day to End Violence Against Women, KAIROS partner Chantal Bilulu reflects on what this day means for her and other women working to combat sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

KAIROS Partners are still Here! Working to End Violence against Women

Women of Courage Logo

On November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, women’s organizations and movements, human rights groups, grassroots organizations and governments from around the world come together to demand an end to violence against women and to look for solutions. November 25 also marks the beginning of 16 days of action to […]

How Can Canada Help End Sexual Violence in Conflict?

DR Congo Women

On June 11-13, survivors of sexual violence will gather with governments and civil society groups for the first ever Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, hosted in London by the UK Government. Over the past year, more than 110 countries – including Canada – have signed onto an International Declaration to End Sexual […]

Bringing a message of urgency and hope from Congo to Parliament Hill


The KAIROS “Women of Courage” delegation to DRC reunited in Ottawa in December 2013 to brief politicians on the urgent situation in eastern Congo and what Canada can do to help build peace and prosperity. Read more about their recommendations.

Bringing a Message of Hope for DR Congo to Parliament Hill


With recent talk of peace returning to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, KAIROS is hopeful peace-building efforts will continue at all levels – from international diplomacy between DRC and its neighbours, down to the grassroots level at which our Congolese partners work every day. We will bring this message of hope to Parliament Hill on December 5, when members of the Women of Courage delegation to DRC, organized by KAIROS in June 2013, will meet with Parliamentarians to discuss the actions Canada has taken and can take to help build peace and stability in this troubled region.

Advent 1: Hope — Gendered Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo


Michiko Bown-KAI reflects on where we can find hope in the context of gender-based violence and a war over mineral wealth in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Women of Courage in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo: Tour Review

The KAIROS church delegation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which took place between June 17th and 30th, was invited and hosted by KAIROS-funded partner, Héritiers de la Justice (Heirs of Justice). HJ is an ecumenical human rights organisation based in South-Kivu province in eastern DRC. It advocates for women victims and survivors […]

KAIROS and Héritiers de la Justice Press Briefing: Bukavu, June 26

In Bukavu on June 26, 2013 KAIROS and Héritiers de la Justice presented a press briefing at Hotel Horizon featuring brief presentations by Jim Davis, Danielle Dubuc, Rev. Marie-Claude Manga, and Perpetue Kankindi.  

Democratic Republic of Contrasts

Amelia Torrie

Amelia Torrie We KAIROS delegates went our separate ways on Saturday, June 29, and no doubt, like me, everyone is reflecting on what we saw and experienced during our 12-day trip. For me, the word “contrasts” applies. Contrast the wide, newly paved, four-lane highway leading from the airport into the centre of Kinshasa that was […]

Remembering our partner and mentor, Pascal Kabungulu Kibembi

pascal kabungulu Kibembi

On Sunday, June 23, KAIROS delegates to the DRC took part in a ceremonial commemoration of Pascal Kabungulu, the  former Secretary General of KAIROS' partner organization,  Héritiers de la Justice, based in Bukavu, eastern DRC. Pascal was murdered 8 years ago, in front of his wife and children, by armed men who declared, "We were […]

Visit to Archevêché Catholique de Bukavu

Archbishop of Bukavu residence

Sister Mary-Ellen Francoeur In the absence of Msgr. Francois Exavier Maroy, the Catholic Archbishop of Bukavu, Msgr. Pierre Bulambo welcomed us warmly.  Bishop Maroy had flown to Kinshasa for a gathering of the Council of Bishops.  This meeting was opened by our partner, Héritiers de la Justice, and introductions were made to set the scene […]

The women of Rhukole Kuguma get work

Sister Mary Ellen with women of Rhukole Kuguma

Peter Lamont Friday was another busy day for the KAIROS delegation as we met with three different civil society groups, all based in Bukavu and all working for the social advancement of women in the Congo, or studying the impact of mining activity on Congolese society generally and on women in particular. But it was […]