By Doussouba Konaté | Read the French version here
I recently returned from a trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with Alejandra Ona, our Finance Manager at Accountability Lab Global. We were in the province of South Kivu, in the cities of Bukavu and Uvira, as part of the implementation of our DRL-funded “Building Integrity in the DRC” program.
This program, which began implementation in September 2020, aims to contribute to efforts to reduce corruption in the DRC through a number of means such as empowering civil society to support integrity through creative and positive campaigning. The program will also mobilize young people to address or fight corruption through a Film Fellowship and an Accountability Incubator, and push for greater fiscal transparency and feedback loops on tax issues.
Despite the ups and downs and the delay in the implementation of the program due to Covid-19, among other things, the past two years have been rich in activities, results and learnings. I encourage you to read our Annual Report.
This trip to the DRC was an opportunity for me to meet some amazing people doing impactful work and to also witness the magnificence of this country, whose natural beauty is the envy of the world. We have established an Accountability Lab DRC office in the city of Bukavu, which is managed by a brilliant team of four people who in a few months of activities, have been able to create a network of very bright young people who want to make a positive change in their country.
“I really like the vision and the program. It would be important to continue to educate the population on their rights and duties so that they can demand accountability,” remarked Dieu Merci, one of our DRC Film Fellows.
This trip provided an opportunity for me to meet with different authorities including the provincial Minister of Planning, Budget and Promotion of Investments and other actors in the field of governance such as the Swiss Cooperation. I also met with the President of the AL DRC Board to talk about the prospects and possibilities of collaborating for both greater transparency in the management of public affairs but also greater ownership by the population.
In the city of Uvira from which Lake Tanganyika separates this city to Burundi, I took part in some activities such as the training of accontapreneurs who pitched their accountability related ideas and participated in an Integrity morning with neighborhood leaders, community frontline associates and city officials to talk about the importance of the participatory budget.
We held the first of two roundtables in Uvira where our partner organization Cercle d’échange des jeunes de la région des Grands Lacs (CEDEJ), or “the Great Lakes Youth Exchange Circle,” implements the Accountability Incubator and Civic Action Teams programs. The second roundtable took place in Bukavu and brought together more than forty participants.
The most memorable part of the trip was meeting with participants from all of the Accountability Lab DRC programs and discussing their impactful initiatives at length. It was incredibly encouraging to see how, through this program, we were able to create a network of young people who are hungry for change. Through our campaigns and apprenticeships, training and collaboration spaces, coalition building efforts and meetings, all our program participants are receiving the training and knowledge to become more actively engaged in strengthening accountability in the DRC.
Some of the brilliant young people I had the opportunity to meet included accountapreneur Alex Murhula who created Julizha, a 100% free and open source community information and communication platform promoting good governance, good citizenship and accountability. Every time a citizen reports a delivery issue such as a pothole or delayed garbage collection on the app, it automatically generates a notification which is sent to local authorities and for timely and appropriate action.
Another accountapreneur, Assani Suzanne, who has established four university integrity clubs boasting 54 members in total – 21 women and 33 men – and growing steadily. These clubs have held civic engagement sensitization sessions in the city of Bukavu’s universities, which have helped grow their membership and raise awareness about the value of integrity. Among the institutions of higher learning playing host to these clubs are the Catholic University of Bukavu and the University of Bukavu (UCB).
Three young people, including two women, have created powerful films through AL DRC’s Film Fellowship program. The films explore topics as diverse as rape and violence against communities, especially women and children in J’ai droit à mon histoire, the wealth of the country that the community does not benefit in Adhoka or the anarchic construction in the city of Bukavu. As part of the latter, the film Construction anarchiques was screened at the French Institute of the city of Bukavu and caused lively discussions between the authorities and the population. Many students in urban planning and architecture were present to raise awareness and to work together to ensure that these disasters do not happen again.
I also met Brigitte who, despite not having a high level of education, is now a Community Associate and has become so important in her community that local authorities cannot organize a meeting without consulting her.
Integrity Icon Marie Mithila Ponga has been showered with recognition from other organizations, along with Diplomas and Certificates of merit and recognition for her hard work on behalf of women and children. Her desire to serve the population has led her to occupy other positions such as Vice President of the UNICEF Communication Task Force and mediator in conflict resolution. Another Integrity Icon Hilaire Ngoie Mwepu is a magistrate at the Tribunal who marked the spirits with his wisdom and his advice to this youth.
Finally, Landrine Shukuru, Program Assistant at Accountability Lab DRC, has just been accepted into the Regional Leadership Center East Africa Leadership YALI program where she will undergo a 3-week training on civic leadership.
Overall my experience in the DRC was filled with amazing and inspiring encounters that give me hope for the future of this country.
Doussouba Konaté is the Interim Country Director of Accountability Lab Mali