Odette Budari Kamanzi provides support for International Alert’s “Chemin vers les Accords” project, which brings together men and women from the town of Kitshanga in the North Kivu province of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in an inclusive dialogue process with government officials to resolve conflict, build peace and create stable institutions.
I have been engaged in peacebuilding since 1996. It was during this year that the hunt for the Tutsi community began, and all my family fled to Rwanda.
"I refused because home is here in DRC and I didn’t have a problem with anyone. When the AFDL (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire) arrived to contribute to the stabilisation and peace in the country, I created an association called AFCOR (Association of Congolese Women for Reconstruction), which brings together women from all communities in North Kivu, DRC.
Together with these women, I started working on peaceful coexistence between communities by sharing the philosophy that says diversity is a richness that is fundamental to building a great nation. Through AFCOR, members agreed and recognised that we had committed violent acts in the past against other communities and to be able to move forward we must regret these mistakes and honestly ask for forgiveness. After years of working together, I decided to temporarily suspend the activities of the association because of internal divisions and escalation of tension within the region.
Despite this set back, I continued to inform women about civic duty, raise awareness about peace mechanisms and support them to be promoted in high-level position to make better decisions toward peace and above all to be role models for future peacebuilders."
Playing a pivotal role
Women have played a fundamental role in building peace in DRC.
"They helped the population of Luhanga in Masisi Territory to transition from conflict to peaceful cohabitation. Also, in 2008, during the war of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), women played a big role in discouraging its leader from hiding in the forest and give himself up quickly to avoid further bloodshed.
I wish to see more dynamic woman focusing on building peace. I could be seen as a reference point for my community because whenever there is inter-community conflict, other members call me to take a neutral position to help resolve the issue."
Odette is a Senior Manager at the Stabilisation and Reconstruction Plan in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (STAREC) – A government structure, with the support of the United Nations system, that works towards the rehabilitation of infrastructure, reducing poverty and working towards inter-communal reconciliation and good governance.