In February, 36 leaders and representatives of local civil society organizations attended a two-day workshop on Geneva Call’s work and on the laws of armed conflict. The workshop took place in a village located in the Masisi territory, an area partly controlled by armed groups. Clashes between these groups and governmental forces are common and highly affect civilian lives.
All participants – including representatives of women and youth organizations – expressed their support to Geneva Call’s work to engage armed non-State actors on the protection of civilians. Discussions and exchanges notably focused on the protection of schools from armed occupation and attacks.
Attendees reported cases of schools used as camps by armed forces with dramatic consequences for the community. Children may fear to attend school and the presence of armed men or ammunition stocks inside the school turn it into a military target and put children in danger. In addition, school facilities may be damaged leaving the community without an essential pillar to build its future development.
Following this workshop, first contacts with armed groups operating in the region were established. With the support of the local community, Geneva Call hopes to develop a sustainable dialogue on civilian protection with these groups.
After the launch of Geneva Call’s office in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) last year, this workshop marks a new stage in the engagement of armed groups in Kivu, one of the most conflict-affected regions of DRC. Geneva Call is also preparing to engage armed groups in the Walikale and Rutshuru areas.