Field research in Bukavu 1

Starting phase 1: May 28- June 11
Author Carolien Jacobs 

To start off field research in South Kivu province, Carolien Jacobs (Leiden University) spent two weeks in Bukavu from May 28-June 11. Together with ISDR researcher Patrick Milabyo, Carolien started by making sure all project formalities were met; in DR Congo this means not only making contractual arrangements about collaboration, but also obtaining an ‘ordre de mission’, a letter from an organisation or institute in DRC that allows researchers to carry out their activities in the field. Such letters briefly set out the aim of research, but also identify research locations and modes of transport. In our case, the administration of ISDR (Institut Supérieur pour le Développement Rural) provides these letters. Once researchers go to the field, they usually pass at different authorities to show their letter. Authorities sign the letter and put a stamp on it. It is an important procedure to fulfill before actual data collection can start.

A second important activity before starting the actual field research was to meet up with the local researchers to make sure that everybody was on the same page in terms of research. We therefore talked about the actual content of the research and the methodology of data collection. Together with researchers Joachim Ruhamya (ISDR), Innocent Assumani (Groupe Jérémie) and Stanislas Lubala (IFDP) Carolien and Patrick spent two intensive days of training. Based on contacts available and familiarity with the research sites, we agreed that Joachim would primarily focus on the Kadutu neighbourhood, Innocent would focus on Panzi, and Stanislas on Bagira.

In the days that followed, Carolien accompanied the researchers in the field. Together we practiced interview techniques and familiarized ourselves with the interview guide. For our interviews, we focused on internally displaced living in the suburbs of Bukavu. We also talked to local level authorities (ranging from chiefs of the neighbourhoods, to chiefs of the avenues), and to NGO representatives. To gain a better understanding of the way in which justice is being sought by people in general, and ways in which people from Bukavu consider IDPs, we also targeted regular citizens.

Many researchers feel most comfortable in following interview guides; rather structured lists of questions that can be followed. In practice however, we often follow the flow of a conversation, which means that the list of questions serves mostly as a guide. Other questions are asked in addition to follow-up on information that is provided by the interviewee. Throughout the research phase, the local researchers have familiarized themselves with the list of questions but they have also become used to more open interview techniques. These strengthened skills turned out to be especially useful for follow-up conversations with people.