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Returning home after years of conflict

I’m standing on a rocky outcrop on the edge of a dust road in Masisi Territory, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. I’m talking to a group of Congolese farmers who are returning to rebuild their homes after fleeing the ethnic violence of the early 1990s.

Long-term solutions

Concern identified 30 km of roads that will help displaced people return to their homes and give poor farmers access to local markets. Members of the community are explaining how the road repairs were carried out. I get genuinely excited when they tell me they’re setting up committees to ensure long-term maintenance of the roads.

Troops on the move

It’s hard to believe that a matter of months ago, the newly integrated Congolese government and the CNDP where in this little corner of North Kivu. They were trying to resolve the problem of the Hutu Forces Democratique pour la Liberation du Rwanda, the descendants of those responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In truth, it seems unlikely that the coalition has been successful. However, a semblance of peace has settled over the hills.

Rebuilding homes

Mr Yoramama, a farmer, shows me where his home once stood. He tells me there are about 100 families that will return to Karambi in the coming weeks. Work is already underway to prepare the fields for cultivation by these displaced farmers, who have been living in Matanda, 30km away, for the last 14 years.

“We have our land. All we have been awaiting has been the peace…Now the road has been opened, the bridges repaired. We can return.”
 
He points out the scattered homes dotted across the green hills. “It’s the same for all of these villages you see around the sides of the hills…These people have all started to return in the last few months.”

Problems remain

The possibility of going home is not so bright for everyone. Only 10km away in Masisi town, at least 15,000 displaced people are living in camps, still fearful to return home.

Another man from the group told me that before the war his family had 58 cattle. All of them have been pillaged in the past years. He hopes slowly to start rebuilding his herds to graze on the lands that he left behind so long ago.