For many years the Kivu provinces in the east of the DRC have been severely affected by the conflict. Armed groups are numerous and it is difficult to get a full picture of who is fighting whom and for what reason. Efforts to do so, result in long lists and explanations of groups and their spheres of influence (for a detailed and concise overview, see for instance http://christophvogel.net/congo/mapping/).
Insecurity has led to large numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) in both North and South Kivu. In North Kivu, a number of them is accommodated in IDP-camps, whereas in South Kivu people seek refuge primarily amidst host communities. They either stay with host families or make ends meet in order to rent a house in urban areas. Few of them manage to buy their own plot and property. Most displaced opt to stay either relatively close to their community of origin, or decide to settle in the South Kivu capital of Bukavu. In Bukavu they have to organise their lives and seek ways of peaceful cohabitation with other residents in often densely populated neighbourhoods. This makes Bukavu an interesting place to study as part of our research: what happens when people need to find their way in existing structures of justice? To what extent do they accept these structures and to what extent do these structures accept them? To what extent do disputes exists between residents and IDPs? And to what extent do these groups differ in terms of justice mechanisms that are consulted?
In general, South Kivu province has a high presence of international and local NGOs providing humanitarian and development assistance. This is in contrast with the two other research sites in our project. The overwhelming majority of actual interventions of NGOs however is carried out in the more rural territories surrounding Bukavu town. Thus whereas most NGOs have their registered offices in Bukavu, only very few have specific interventions targeting the urban population. Usually this choice is motivated by referring to the ‘rural exodus’ that is taking place and putting high pressure on available space and resources. There is a feeling that the exodus should not be promoted by offering further benefits to the urban poor and thus making the city even more attractive. We will nevertheless explore a number of the innovative justice enhancing mechanisms that are set up by these Bukavu-based NGOs, as they might give us important insights in ways in which access to justice and the functioning of justice providers can be improved. This might contain lessons for the urban-based IDPs in Bukavu, but also for the other research sites.
The Bukavu team is composed of Dorothea Hilhorst (Wageningen University), Carolien Jacobs (Leiden University), Patrick Milabyo and Joachim Ruhamya (both Institut Supérieur de Développement Rural-ISDR), Innocent Assumani (Groupe Jérémie) and Stanislas Lubala Kubiha (IFDP). Lebon Mulimbi (APDHUD) carries out additional research in Bunyakiri together with Koen Vlassenroot (Ghent University).