Religion and conflict transformation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1999-2004.
This study investigates the role of religious networks in the conflict transformation process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) between 1999 and 2004. Religious groups are an important segment of Congolese civil society in that they wield enormous influence in the Congolese polity that has been characterised by years of arbitrary rule, crisis of governance and, most recently, state deflation/failure or declining state capacity arising from a deadly and complex conflict that has been labelled "Africa's First World War". Over the years, DR Congo's religious networks have demonstrated their comparative advantage in social service delivery in the face of maladministration or malfeasance and corruption on the part of the political elite. The onset of war in the DRC deepened the imperative for constructive engagement by faith-based groups in the public domain, not least in the area of peace building. Drawing from the eschatological underpinning of liberation theology as well as existential causalities, religious networks have undertaken a number of initiatives in the conflict transformation spectrum with a view to building sustainable peace in the DRC. This study, in its explication of the specific roles of faith-based actors in the DRC's peacebuilding process, contends that the involvement of religious networks in such activities as peace advocacy, humanitarian/relief provision, mediation, reconciliation, demobilisation/reintegration of ex-combatants and reconstruction necessitates the rethinking of the overarching paradigm which portrays religion exclusively as a negative factor in conflict situations. Hence, this study seeks to provide insight into the constructive role of religion in public life, albeit with due cognisance of its ambivalent character by which is meant the recognition of religion both as a force for bad and a resource for good. This study contextualises the positive role of religion in public life with reference to the involvement of religious networks in the DRC's conflict transformation process. It also seeks to replace the formal governmental peace process paradigm with a more encompassing framework that encapsulates important and powerful civil society/non- governmental networks, of which faith-based organisations are a part, in peacebuilding processes in Africa using the DR Congo as a case study.