Africa, Conflict

Freedom of expression and peace deals; a chat with Congolese journalists and activists

Congo is also like a little child, everybody thinks that they can bring us a solution without even properly reflecting on it, everybody on the outside.

Last week  I was in Congo to train a group  of journalists and activists in social media and activism. During this trip I interviewed 2 Goma-based journalists and a youth activist on the challenges of working in an area with conflicts that have no permanent front lines  Conflicts, in which often civilians pay the highest price as different armed groups fight over ever-changing political interests.  Late last year, Oxfam released a report that showed there were more than 25 armed groups in North and South Kivu provinces.

The latest conflict to hit Goma, the capital of natural resource rich North Kivu province in Eastern Congo, was last year when M23 rebels temporarily occupied the capital over disputes with government regarding their integration into the national army.

Often in these times, we mostly feed on reports from international media, written by journalists who fly in and out and can be fairly protected. In the case of Uganda we had most reporters covering the conflict from M23 frontline at the rebels invitation.

For Congolese journalists who are part of these communities who have suffered the wars for over a decade, the conditions are different. They often don’t have the protection of a large media house and they can make enemies with any groups no matter how ‘objective’ their reporting can be. Also in a country where the government troops commit crimes just like the militias do, the work of a local journalist or activist is tougher in Congo.

For instance, last year DRC government banned broadcasts on the conflict in eastern part of the country.

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