International Alert and Réseau Haki na Amani, a Congolese NGO, have recently published a manual entitled Guide pratique de résolution et de prévention des conflits fonciers, in order to support local communities dealing with land conflicts in Ituri, a northeastern district of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Land conflicts in eastern DRC are rife, and local communities are organising themselves in order to tackle the numerous and complex issues linked to the land question in the region. While land is an essential economic asset for the population in this mostly rural part of the world, much more is at stakes for the communities concerned.
Land provides people with a sense of belonging; it forms a part of their identity, and constitutes a strong link for each to their ethnic community. Moreover, it is a coveted prize when one considers the important mining and agriculture resources linked to the ownership of the land. Moreover, the displacement of population and the recent violence that affected the region render land ownership much more complex than it ever was.
This complexity, combined with the inability of the state structures to mitigate these conflicts, underlines the need to support local organisations which try to address land conflicts at the local level. Réseau Haki na Amani, through local committees called Initiatives Locales de Paix (local peace initiatives), is engaged in a number of programmes to try and prevent or solve land conflicts before they spill over into violent confrontations between communities in Ituri.
The manual (published in French) helps spread basic understandings of why these conflicts appear, what are the legal dispositions that do or should apply to these situations, and how local peace initiatives could interact to mitigate these conflicts.