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Lasting peace in Democratic Republic of Congo only possible if region's governments step up, says aid agency

  • Peace in Uganda is proof that community approach works, says World Vision
  • “Twenty years ago, we were in their position. There is hope but they must put down their guns and talk…” Former Ugandan child soldier
  • “The power of the word is mightier than the power of the sword.” World Vision peacebuilding expert
  • More than 220,000 people have fled renewed fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since April alone

Media contact:

Lauren Fisher

Gulu, UGANDA (September 18, 2012) Leaders around the world must support peace talks in East Africa, and peace-building at the community level, to address the ongoing nightmare facing thousands of children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), said international aid agency World Vision.

In Uganda on the eve of the 31st International Day of Peace (September 21), as it awards an annual peace prize for peace-building, the organization is calling for renewed efforts from all governments to find a lasting solution for eastern DRC.

“Keeping the peace is only one part of the challenge in DRC,” said Matthew Scott, director of peace-building for World Vision International, in Gulu for peace commemorations. “We need to continue to support grassroots peace-building efforts – it requires a team marathon effort to be effective, not a series of individual sprints.”

Leaders in the region don’t have to look far for proof the approach works, Scott said. “Community leaders in Northern Uganda started working together in the 1990s to protect children, and united by a determination to reach peace, facilitated peace talks, worked to protect children from attacks, and even rehabilitated former killers.”

“Peace in northern Uganda was not a result of the efforts of one person. They’ve all done their time and so all feel a sense of responsibility to ensuring peace holds.”

However, living in peace and security remains out of reach for thousands of children and families in eastern DRC.

“It is heartbreaking that as Uganda celebrates its admirable achievements in reaching and maintaining peace, across the border children continue to be terrorized by conflict,” said Scott. “More than 220,000 people have been forced to flee fighting since April. Leaders in Uganda and the region have a role to play in ensuring peace and stability for the families caught up in this.

“As we hear time and again from the people World Vision works with, the power of the word is mightier than the power of the sword. Military solutions can protect civilians from harm in the short term, but can’t build peace in the long term.”

World Vision International peace-builder James Odong, who was once caught up in the conflict in Northern Uganda, abducted and forced to face the challenges children in the region still experience, said: “Twenty years ago, we were in their position. There is hope but they must put down their guns and talk.”

Uganda’s experience shows peace is possible, he said, and is achieved through peace talks, not more conflict.

“Peace doesn’t happen overnight, but if it’s done right, it lasts. We need leaders to commit to this for the long haul, and be prepared to do what it takes.”

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Notes to editors:

  • For photos, footage and interview requests with spokespeople (in English, German, French, Swahili) and former child soldiers in Uganda, please contact Tennille Bergin at World Vision International, +44 7876 503 978.
  • World Vision says governments in the Great Lakes region need to redouble efforts to realize the Pact on Security, Stability and Development to address the root causes of conflict and insecurity in the region, including in DRC.
  • The World Vision International Peace Prize annually honors an individual who takes risks and excels in the work of conflict resolution. It was set up in memory of Steve Williams (1951-2007), a tireless advocate for peace, justice, children as peace-builders, and integrating conflict analysis and policy work. Past winners include peace-builders in the Philippines, Pakistan, Palestine, Kosovo, Romania, and Rwanda.
  • World Vision recently became a signatory to the Global Truce 2012 NGO Coalition.

Spokespersons available:

  • Mr. Matthew Scott (US national)
    Director, Peacebuilding
    World Vision International
    September 18-23 in Gulu, Uganda
  • Mr. James Odong (Ugandan national)
    Manager, Peacebuilding
    World Vision International
    September 18-23 in Gulu, Uganda
  • Mrs. Vianney Dong
    Director, Advocacy and Justice for Children
    World Vision DRC
    Goma, DRC
  • Ms. Davinah Nabirye
    Communications Officer
    World Vision Uganda
    Gulu, Uganda
  • Mr. Lutz Hahn (Swiss national)
    World Vision spokesperson
    September 18-23 in Gulu, Uganda

About World Vision:
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve the world's poor — regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information on their efforts, visit WorldVision.org/press or follow them on Twitter at @WorldVisionNews

World Vision
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