Project Muinda, Kinshasa, DR Congo
“Muinda” comes from the word for “Light” in several of the languages used in Kinshasa – a bustling city of over 9 million located in the western DRC. Projet Muinda has grown from the light of hope in each of its members, who are all Congolese determined that their city and their country can be a peaceful home. In a place where local and international political and commercial interests have acted to aggravate conflict and increase poverty for generations, they have taken every opportunity to learn how to build peace and to share these skills.
Muinda is a project of Kinshasa Monthly Meeting, a small unprogrammed Quaker Meeting isolated from other Congolese Quakers who are all in the east of the country. By a series of chances, Ottawa Friends discovered Project Muinda in 1996, and recommended to CFSC that we support their work in training community volunteers to provide conflict resoultion services.
What is a Peace Cell?
“Peace Cells” are groups of volunteers (usually there are 5) who work together to respond to conflicts in their neighbourhood of Kinshasa. The members are trained by Muinda in six peacebuilding skills:
- peace cell facilitation,
- nonviolent communication,
- conflict mediation and resolution,
- community building,
- policy dialogue, and
- working with trauma.
When conflicts arise – typically domestic disputes or landlord-tenant disputes, people know to seek out the assistance of their neighbourhood peace cell.
Peace cells also animate their communities to find collective solutions to problems they have in common. The community-based connections of the network, as well as the members’ peacebuilding skills, make it a strong vehicle for public education on any topic, such as, notably during 2010 and 2011, election participation and observation.
The peace cells operate with the permission of the municipal authorities and have appropriate working relationships with them.
Read a May 2014 article Building a culture of peace in Kinshasa that describes the work of the Peace Cells as witnessed by CFSC during a visit.
Read other descriptions of Peace Cell activities: In Lemba neighbourhood, where teenagers disbanded hostile groups. In Ngaliema neighbourhood, where a soccer tournament was organized.
Take a look at pictures from Project Muinda:
In the DRC’s context of underdeveloped governance, it is important to encourage democratic participation. Project Muinda recognizes elections as an excellent “teachable moment”. The peace cell network contributes by providing: (a) non-partisan observers making regular reports, and (b) mediation teams that can de-escalate minor conflicts that may arise.
For a country the size of DR Congo, there can never be enough international observers to cover polling stations and ensure that there are not pockets of malpractice. Also, the dedication of local people to this role models and develops a local sense of responsibility for local governance. It shows the local political candidates and electoral officials that their own people are watching them, able to discern good behaviour.
The very act of maintaining an impartial, balanced attitude is an important element of peacebuilding, and is a skill that has to be learned, not taken for granted. Election observation offers an opportunity to help people develop this skill in a very practical application. It also provides a timely context for people to learn about their human rights and appropriate expectations for good governance.
Examples of CFSC supported work – 2011 election monitoring:
- Summary Report (August 2010) of the Election Observation Training Seminar and the Launch of the Quaker Peace Network Central Africa and Establishment of its Constitution (This link has been removed temporarily.)
- November 2011 D. R. Congo election observer team reports
- Joint Press Release on Conglese Election from Development and Peace, Entraide missionnaire inc. and CFSC (English and French)