Committed to peace in DRC since 1996: Odette’s story

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 in an inclusive dialogue process with government officials to resolve conflict, build peace and create stable institutions.

Peaceful coexistence

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 Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and I didn’t have a problem with anyone. When the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL) arrived to contribute to the stabilisation and peace in the country, I created an association called Association of Congolese Women for Reconstruction (AFCOR), which brings together women from all communities in North Kivu, DRC.

Odette Budari Kamanzi leans on a white car wearing a red and shite outfit, standing in front of a stone wall.

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.

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About the project

The Nija za makubaliano: Les chemins vers les accords project brought together men and women from Kitshanga in the North Kivu province of eastern DRC in an inclusive dialogue process with government officials to resolve conflict, build peace and create stable institutions.

We used a consultative and participatory approach to dialogue, encouraging all parties to the conflict in Kitshanga to develop a collective and long-term vision of peace.

We also helped identify the interests of ‘conflict entrepreneurs’ (those who seek to benefit from conflict) at the local, provincial, national and regional levels and devised means of addressing their grievances.