Refugees fleeing the DRC

Refugees fleeing the DRC

“Refugees are people like anyone else, like you and me. They led ordinary lives before becoming displaced, and their biggest dream is to be able to live normally again. On this World Refugee Day, let us recall our common humanity, celebrate tolerance and diversity and open our hearts to refugees everywhere.” – Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General            

SALO’s refugee and migrants work:

As part of its principle of regional solidarity, SALO advocates at all levels to improve the position of migrants and refugees living in South Africa, as well as conditions for the poor and marginalised host communities within which many migrants live.

Of particular concern to SALO is the relationship between migrants from the region and South African citizens. As much as the South African government is taking a leading role in constructively engaging in conflicts on the continent, South Africa’s citizens are often not well informed about the history and present of other countries in Africa. Migrants are an important point of contact between ordinary citizens and the rest of the continent. Often, however, relations between migrants and citizens in South Africa has been characterised by conflict and discrimination rather than mutual exchange and learning.

A particularly egregious form of discrimination is xenophobic violence targeting foreign nationals. Since May 2008, when hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals were forcibly evicted from townships and informal settlements around the country and at least 62 people were killed, xenophobic violence has been in the public eye nationally, regionally and internationally, and high levels of violence against foreign migrants have continued since.

SALO works with South African communities through education campaigns on the nature and histories of conflicts in neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, Swaziland, the DRC and Somalia. This is done through workshops and the presentation and discussion of videos about the conflicts. SALO has also produced a video about xenophobic violence.

The aims are to increase South African understanding of the reasons for migration from these countries as a means of increasing dialogue with migrants, as well as building a constituency for the South African government’s efforts to build peaceful resolutions to the crises in these countries.

SALO’s work to counter xenophobia and xenophobic violence, and to work particularly towards increasing the rights and voice of migrants and refugees from Zimbabwe and Swaziland, is supported by the Olof Palme International Centre among others. SALO works in partnership with a range of organisations including the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum; People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP); Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa.

Can Southern Africa save the DRC?

Can Southern Africa save the DRC?

Eternal war: Congolese, fleeing a flare-up in violence between the pastoralist Hema and agriculturalist Lendu in the Ituri region of the DRC in March this year. (Johan Wessels/AFP)
Eternal war: Congolese, fleeing a flare-up in violence between the pastoralist Hema and agriculturalist Lendu in the Ituri region of the DRC in March this year. (Johan Wessels/AFP)

As President Joseph Kabila continues to hang on to power in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), two years and counting beyond the expiry of his constitutional term limit, the activists and politicians who want him to step down are beginning to wonder: Is there anyone who can persuade Kabila to put the country ahead of himself?

The list of those who have tried and failed is long and illustrious. Opposition parties are sidelined. Civil society and independent journalists have been largely ignored, or intimidated into silence. The Catholic Church, usually considered a major power broker in Congolese politics, has been unable to enforce the 2016 New Year’s Eve political agreement, which it mediated to much fanfare at the time. Popular protests have been brutally suppressed — nearly 200 people have died since 2015, and thousands more have been arrested.

On the international front, the European Union and the United States have imposed targeted sanctions on top Congolese officials, but these have not persuaded Kabila to change course.

His government has professed indifference as Belgium, the former coloniser, suspended all direct humanitarian bilateral aid.

Most of the levers of power have been pulled, and still Kabila sits pretty in Kinshasa, even as the country burns around him.

‘Young man, retire’

There is one lever left, however; one last power broker yet to come out against Kabila. This is the Southern African region, which has been characteristically silent as the political crisis in the DRC has worsened, and especially the region’s dominant power, South Africa, which maintains a large peacekeeping contingent there.

“There is a dynamic in international relations where we see the West coming up with pressure and imposing conditions, but then the Southern African Development Community [SADC] will be a little shy, out of some kind of solidarity that we fail to understand,” said Denis Kadima, executive director of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa.

This was especially true under former president Jacob Zuma, who enjoyed a close personal relationship with Kabila.

“We have also heard about president Zuma having interests through his relatives in the DRC,” said Kadima.

Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma owns valuable DRC mining concessions.

“We are hoping that a new initiative will not be motivated by personal gain but by what is best for Congo’s stability,” Kadima added.

With Zuma gone, Congolese opposition leaders and civil society activists are now hoping that his successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa, will be a little less shy; that he might emulate the energetic involvement of former president Thabo Mbeki, who helped to broker the 2002 Sun City agreement, where a deal was signed between some of the warring factions as part of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue after four years of the Second Congolese War.

“South Africa can play a big role … Right now with the new dawn [being] pushed by President Ramaphosa, we feel that it’s a new opportunity,” said Sylvain Saluseke of Lutte pour le Changement, a Congolese youth movement. “Not only do we know that South Africa can do something [for us], but South Africa itself knows that it could depend on the DRC for economic expansion.”

Saluseke wants Ramaphosa, who is also the SADC chairperson, to encourage Kabila to organise credible elections, and then step aside. “Ramaphosa must just tell him, young man, go well in your retirement.”

Ida Sawyer, Human Rights Watch’s DRC researcher, said SADC support has been crucial in keeping Kabila in power. “Until now Kabila has appeared to rely on support from the region, including other leaders who have appeared to use violence and corruption to entrench their hold on power while attempting to maintain a facade of democracy.”

Ramaphosa represents change, said Sawyer — or at least the hope of change. “There are many concrete measures that Ramaphosa could take. One could be cutting bilateral support to the Congolese government if certain benchmarks aren’t met. South Africa could consider imposing targeted sanctions against top Congolese officials responsible for human rights abuses and corruption and election delays. Another possible threat would be to signal clearly that Kabila would not be recognised forever as the legitimate leader, showing that South Africa would support this proposal for a transition without Kabila.”

When the Mail & Guardian tried to get comment, the department of international relations and co-operation passed the query on to the president’s office, which failed to respond. This suggests that, although Ramaphosa may be taking the lead on the DRC portfolio, it is not especially high on his agenda.

“Ramaphosa isn’t shackled to personal economic interests in the DRC like Zuma, but the big question is how much political and economic capital he is willing to spend on reining in Kabila,” said Alex Fielding, a risk consultant with 4C Strategies, a company that specialises in risk and crisis management solutions.

“I fear that Ramaphosa will focus on domestic political goals and uniting the ANC before expending that capital in the DRC at the expense of Khulubuse Zuma and the pro-Zuma ANC faction.”

Strategy of chaos

Kabila took office in 2001 after his father Laurent-Désiré was assassinated. Kabila’s term in office officially expired in December 2016. But he did not organise the presidential elections necessary to replace him, arguing that the country did not have the technical ability or the financial resources to pull off a credible vote — even though it is his responsibility, as the head of government, to make the necessary arrangements.

Since then, Kabila has continued to delay. Elections are now scheduled for December 2018 but few observers believe that they will take place, given the lack of preparation and worsening insecurity. Fighting in the Kasais, the Kivus and Ituri provinces has displaced millions. The United Nations estimates that 13-million Congolese — more than 10% of the 78-million population — require humanitarian aid.

The government maintains that there is an electoral funding shortfall of $900-million.

“Elections in Congo are an illusion,” said Gérard Bisambu, head of elections watchdog Agir pour des élections Transparentes et Apaisées. “There’s no reality to the organisation of elections, looking at what’s happening now. All the talk we hear about the voters’ roll and the electoral calendar and the voting machines: this is nothing but marketing and publicity.”

Bisambu rattles off a litany of irregularities that mean the election cannot possibly go ahead on time. A key concern is the introduction of electronic voting machines, which may increase the potential for electoral fraud. Another is that the chronic insecurity will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of potential voters.

“When we have insecurity, especially in north Kivu and the Kasais and Ituri, it’s very difficult to have elections. In Djugu, for example, where the violence in Ituri has been happening, 300?000 people have registered to vote, but how will they be able to vote on election day?” he asked.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that much of the violence is politically motivated, said Bisambu — and designed to cause enough chaos to prevent elections from going ahead, thereby keeping the president in power.

Sawyer agrees: “Well-placed security and intelligence sources have described to Human Rights Watch official efforts to sow violence across the country in an apparent strategy of chaos to justify further delays.”

For now, that strategy of chaos appears to be working as the DRC becomes ever more unstable. And even assuming they do have the influence to make a difference, there is no sign yet that Ramaphosa, the South African government or SADC are planning to ride to the country’s rescue.

SADC and the DRC crisis – 20 March 2018

The deteriorating situation is the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues raise concern. Characterised by repression of dissent, which has resulted in the killing of protestors, an unclear elections roadmap, ambiguity on succession and an unreformed natural resource governance mechanism, the prevailing situation now poses significant threats to peace, stability and economic success in southern Africa. However, SADC appears ill-prepared to decisively deal with ongoing crises in the DRC and its accompanying silence has left the door wide open from the Joseph Kabila government to act with impunity.

The Open Society Initiative (OSISA), in partnership with the Southern Africa Liaison Office (SALO) and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), invite you to a roundtable discussion on the DRC crisis and the role of SADC in resolving it.


Opening and closing remarks: Dr Showers Mawowa, Deputy Director, the Southern African Liaison Office (SALO)
Nicole Odia Kayembe, Lawyer and Human Rights Defender
Sylvain Mbaya Lumu, Lawyer and Human Rights Defender
Nick Elebe, Director (OSISA-DRC)
Prof André Mbata Mangu, Research Professor and Director of the Verloren van Themaat Centre of Public Law in the College of Law at UNISA. (TBC)

CHAIR: Stephanie Wolters, Head |Peace and Security Research Programme | Chef |Programme de recherche paix et sécurité Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria | Institute d’Etudes de Securite, Pretoria


The capture of the city of Goma in November 2012 by the rebel group known as the Movement of 23 March (M23) exacerbated the suffering of women and children in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In order to end the conflict in eastern DRC, peace stakeholders in the DRC signed the Addis Ababa Peace and Security Co-operation Framework (PSCF) for the DRC and Great Lakes region. This article analyses the extent to which the PSCF for the DRC addresses the plight of women and children in the eastern region of the DRC.

Download PDF here: DO9of2015

Consultative meeting with DRC migrants and students at the University of Pretoria

On Tuesday the 5th of May, SALO held a consultative meeting with DRC migrants and students at the University of Pretoria. The meeting was co-hosted with the African Union Students Alliance (AUSA).

Middle row: officials from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development

Middle row: Officials from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development

The aim of the meeting was to explore challenges faced by this particular group of migrants and facilitate access to policy makers in South Africa. Various themes were discussed including the current spat of xenophobic violence, social cohesion, informal trade and the post-2015 development agenda (specifically security and access to justice) among other things. The meeting we successful in sensitising the policy makers who were present about challenges faced by migrants and in creating awareness among the migrants on institutional framework for recourse in case of violations of their rights.

Thato Chabana, SALO’s Coordination and Research Officer, facilitating the meeting

Thato Chabana, SALO’s Coordination and Research Officer, facilitating the meeting

Women’s Network conduct training on the different mechanisms CSO’s can use to promote gender equality, peace and security. – Report by Lihle Mabuza


Victoria Maloka (trainer), Senior Associate, Centre for Mediation in Africa (CMA),Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria

On the 19th and 20th of November 2014, the Women’s Network Working Group conducted training on the different mechanisms CSO’s can use to promote gender equality, peace and security. This Working Group was formed as a consortium to work on a project on, peace and security for women in armed conflict; in the DRC, Sudan and South Sudan.


Corlett Letlojane, Director, HURISA

It was the coming together of different CSO’s working in the region which include Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA), Albert Luthuli Human Rights Advocacy Centre (ALHRAC), Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), Southern African Liaison Office (SALO), SONKE GENDER, Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) and Oxfam

The consortium agreed on the overall objective of promoting peace and security in Africa, especially addressing women’s rights in conflict countries. Furthermore, there is a general agreement amongst the members to assist the women in the identified conflict areas by empowering them and deepening their knowledge and capacity in addressing issues affecting women in those areas, as one way of contributing to peace, security and stability in such countries.
The main objective of this training was to strengthen South African CSO’s on international and regional Resolutions concerning women. This was part of an ongoing series to capacitate CSO’s in the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security. Therefore, this training concentrated mostly on the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 of 2000 (UNSRC 1325).

The different CSO’s were able to:
– Strengthen their understanding of UN Security Council Resolution 1325
– Increase awareness and appreciation of linkages between CEDAW and UNSCR 1325
– Enhance capacities for implementation
– Explore possible advocacy strategies for the development and implementation of UNSCR 1325 National Action Plan

The training provided CSO’s with tools to engage at an international level, on ways to promote and protect the rights of women and for them to participate in the peace process. The UNSCR 1325 is very clear about the inclusion of women in decision making and peace processes, as well as the integration of gender perspectives and training in peacekeeping, plus the protection of women. This resolution can therefore be used as a tool to capacitate women and advocate for their participation in bringing solutions in conflict.

Report by Lihle Mabuza


the drc copy


23 May 2014

ICC gives Congo warlord Germain Katanga 12 -year jail term

The International Criminal Court has sentenced ex-Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga to 12 years in prison for aiding and abetting war crimes. Continue reading

A workshop on: The role of the Kimberley Process in addressing conflicts in Africa: special focus on DRC and CAR – 12 November 2013


From the 19th to the 22nd of November 2013, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS or KP), a tripartite global governance initiative bringing together governments, the diamond industry and civil society to curb the trade of conflict diamonds will be holding its 10th plenary meeting in Johannesburg. As a build up to this plenary, SALO is conducting a series of workshops aimed at building international consensus on how to best enhance the effectiveness of the KP.

The aim of the workshop held on the 12th of November was to discuss KP’s role in dealing with conflicts in Africa within the context of resurgent armed conflicts in the Central African Republic (CAR), DRC and Cote D’ivoire. Participants who included diplomats, civil society and industry shared their views on the multi-dimensional nature of these conflict, in particular the role of mineral resources and how the KP can complement other conflict prevention and peace building efforts in these countries.

Kimberly meeting 12-11-13

(From Left to Right: Ambassador Roeland van de Geer – EU Delegation, Pretoria former EU Special Representative to the Great Lakes Region; Mr BL M’Poko – Ambassor of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Head of the Diplomatic Corps; Ambassador Welile Nhlapo – Kimberley Process Chair




Dr Showers Mawowa – SALO

Dr Claude Kabemba

Dr Claude Kabemba – Director, Southern Africa Resource Watch


Aziz Pahad – Former SA deputy foreign minister

Click on the link to view the full Policy Dialogue Report: Policy Dialogue Report No. 21- The Role of the Kimberley Process in Addressing Conflicts in Africa

Building Regional and International Consensus Workshop: African Women and Peace Building – 20 August 2013


First Session Panel from left to right –

  • Fatima Swartz,Chairperson, ACTION Support Centre, Steering Committee
  • Abshiro Said Haji Mohamed, South African Somali Women’s Network
  • Zeenat Adam, DIRCO, Director, Horn of Africa and Indian Ocean Islands
  • Isabella Matambanadzo, Zimbabwean feminist activist  & SALO Ref. Group

Ambassasdor Lindiwe Zulu

Second Session –

Keynote Speaker: Ambassador Lindiwe Zulu, International Relations Adviser to the SA President: Topic: “Women’s challenges in African countries struggling with conflict.”

Click on the link below to view the Policy Dialogue Report for this session:

SALO Policy Dialogue Report – African Women and Peace Building