16 July 2017
Kinshasa, 16 July 2017 – In a country like the Congo, making use of the formal legal mechanisms is not always the best method of peacefully resolving conflicts. That is why Avocats Sans Frontières gives support to local justice actors in the country: community and traditional leaders, civil society organisations, paralegals, etc. This approach is central to the organisation’s new five-year project, officially launched at the start of June.
Drawing on fifteen years of experience in DR Congo, ASF recently launched a new five-year programme (2017–2021) with the aim of continuing its efforts to meet communities’ increasingly urgent needs in terms of justice. “Legal aid, as we typically think of it, largely depends on legal professionals and is too often focused on bringing conflicts before the courts. However, these legal institutions are unable to meet the immense needs of communities and people still have very little confidence in formal legal institutions,” explains Gilles Durdu, ASF Country Director.
To improve access to justice, it is necessary to diversify ways of resolving disputes and to support actors who put in place innovative and alternative mechanisms such as mediation. There are many advantages to these: they provide an affordable and locally accessible form of justice, which enables the speedy resolution of disputes, doesn’t require specific official procedures, and emphasises compensation and reconciliation, thus helping to maintain social cohesion. These mechanisms also help to reduce the strain on the courts. As part of its new five-year projet, ASF supports such forms of local justice, as well as strengthening collaboration with the formal sector (bar associations, lawyers, etc.) in order to guarantee the protection of the rights of populations in a holistic way.
Mgr Daniel Nlandu, Bishop of Matadi and representative of the Commission Diocésaine Justice et Paix (Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission), has enthusiastically welcomed this initiative, which will make it possible to respond to “the complex problem of conflicts of all kinds, which infect our societies and have always been a central priority of our Commission.” He urges all actors in the field to work together, “for the well-being of our communities, and for social peace.”
According to Irène Sifa Masumbuko, Minister of Justice and Human Rights for the province of North Kivu, “the role of lawyers and of civil society remains paramount in meeting the justice needs of vulnerable populations.” To achieve this objective, the Minister highlighted “the importance and necessity of combining the efforts of state legal institutions and civil society and international organisations.”
The project aims to raise awareness among 25,000 people of their rights and of the means of exercising them, to deliver free legal consultations to 4,500 people, and to provide legal assistance that is adapted to the needs and specific interests of 1,750 people. At the same time, 100 actors who work to facilitate the peaceful resolution of conflicts will receive training, to ensure the delivery of quality services.
This project is being carried out with the support of Belgian Development Cooperation, in partnership with the bar associations of Goma and Matadi, the Commission Diocésaine Justice et Paix, and the Dynamique des Femmes Juristes. It was officially launched on 7 June in Kinshasa and was the subject of two initial knowledge-exchange workshops with the various stakeholders in Matadi and Goma, held from 13 to 15 and from 19 to 21 June, respectively (see picture above).
>>> Download the presentation of the project (PDF in French)