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Central East Africa

Pilot trip to East Congo

Congo pilot trip
East Africa SAAR workshop in
Butembo, Eastern Congo, March, 2008
In March, 2008, an SARR pilot trip to East Congo was undertaken by the SARR Director and SARR Congolese Fellow, Dr. Patience Kabamba Dr. Kabamba is a native of the Congo, has a PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University, and a MAs in Philosophy and in Development Studies from Belgium. Drawing on Dr. Kabamba’s extensive previous research in the area, the trip included fact-finding investigations in North and South Kivu Provinces and three workshops in the East Congolese cities of Butembo, Goma, and Bukavu. Local perspectives on the conflict and on the greatest challenges to peace and stability emphasized several themes. These included:

the relation between diverse armed factions, coercion of local populations,

and the lucrative extraction and illicit trade of mineral resources from East Congo

ethnic history and the incitement of ethnic conflict by national and international interests as well as in the colonial past

insufficiency, inefficiency, and corruption of governmental and also international humanitarian services, including concerning military protection and security, education, nutrition, and health

the regional nature of the conflict, including vested interests by Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi in Congolese material resources and in minimizing effective Congolese state presence and control – in addition to the interests of international traders and the financial and governmental as well as humanitarian presence of the international community.

Patience Kabamba (far left) and Bruce Knauft (far right)
with the staff directors of a United Nations refugee camp
for displaced persons in the city of Goma,
Eastern Congo, March, 2008.

In each case, the workshop brought together approximately 30 officials, scholars, and civic leaders – all Congolese, but from diverse constituencies in the conflict – to identify and analyze the greatest challenges to peace and development in East Congo. Issues of natural resource control as well as specifics of political leadership and factional mediation were important issues effectively discussed. 

The three SARR East Africa workshops, which comprised almost one hundred Congolese scholars, officials, and activists in total, underscored the vibrant possibilities for engaged discussion including accomplished national scholars – many of whom graduated from Jesuit or Catholic Universities in East Congo -- as well as key humanitarian administrators and policy makers.