Sunday, September 11th, 2022, RET Germany was awarded the “Prize of Excellence” by the Association Sans But Lucratif (ASBL) “Tous vers un-Congo Nouveau”, (T.C.N) -All towards a new Congo- for its work with child soldiers since 2012 in DRC. During the ceremony, multiple awards were distributed to individuals and non-profit organizations working to promote youth empowerment and improve the living conditions of vulnerable communities in North Kivu.
RET was awarded the prize for its Demobilization, Disarmament, and Reintegration (DDR) interventions in the DRCongo, and the impact of its holistic programs on vulnerable communities.
Since 2012, RET has implemented its programs targeting adolescent child soldiers in South Kivu (2012-2014) in conflict zones such as Fizi and Kalehe, and North Kivu (2015-2020), in the Walikale, Rutshuru, and Masisi zones with programs meant to reintegrate former adolescent combatants back into their communities while preventing future recruitment.
RET DDR intervention begins with the prevention and sensitization of communities, and reaching out to armed group leaders through grassroots partners using a participatory approach. RET’s approach also involves preventing the recruitment of children and youth into armed groups by targeting key stakeholders and community members with specific training and awareness-raising activities. Following the demobilization phase, former child soldiers are integrated into RET’s rehabilitation centers (Centre for Transition- CTO.) During the rehabilitation process, the demobilized youth are provided psychosocial and medical support to address the traumas faced while in the armed groups and are given the opportunity to either learn a trade skill to start a small business or attend catch-up classes and go back to formal education. Upon completion of the rehabilitation phase, youth are integrated back into their community. A sustainable reintegration of the rehabilitated youth is anchored on follow-up support in education and trade training of the vulnerable youth within the community.
RET has, over the years, applied a “Human Rights” approach in its DDR programs and implemented a community-based strategy to involve key stakeholders in the DDR process. Stakeholders include relevant government bodies, local authorities, local leaders, religious leaders, school authorities, parents, and youth associations involved in the project design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. The community also participates in organizing and implementing peace projects.
RET’s DDR programs are meant to holistically bring a lasting change in communities affected by child-soldier recruitment. The local government has recognized the programs through the Executive Unit of the National Program of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (UEPN-DDR) and the national army.
To date, RET has rehabilitated more than 1,177 combatants, trained more than 540 stakeholders and 33 youth associations on International and National legislation regarding child and adolescent rights, and implemented over 60 peace projects in collaboration with youth associations and local communities to engage youth and promote peace over violence positively, signed letters of disengagement on the recruitment of children in North Kivu with 32 armed groups, sensitized more than 40,000 community members on peace-building at the community level, providing alternative pathways for vulnerable young people and creating income-generating structures for stability and finally assisted more than 500 parents with cash support to build sustainable livelihoods by setting up small businesses.
RET is currently implementing the transitional development project “Multisectoral support for improved food security and peaceful and inclusive co-existence of conflict-affected populations” in eastern DRCongo (2021-2024)
Within this project, RET is working to improve peaceful relations between ethnic groups and integrate stigmatized, vulnerable, and traumatized groups, especially youth ex-combatants and indigenous Batwa groups, into the local community and economy, in tandem with increasing food security of smallholder farmers in North Kivu and Ituri provinces while applying sustainable natural resource management, and improving the balanced diet and nutritional practices for smallholder farmers and their families.
RET has developed a number of creative activities like psychological support that will promote the integration of vulnerable and traumatized groups like ex-combatant youth and Batwa families into the local communities by establishing community peace councils (barzas); training the barzas members on social cohesion and peaceful conflict resolution; organizing quick-impact activities of public interest (peace projects) targeting 1350 members of different ethnic groups and communities; organizing recreational activities and involving at least 2500 members of multiple ethnic groups and communities; sensitizing community members about peaceful co-existence, inclusion, and conflict prevention…etc. And much more.
RET’s active interventions in eastern DRC, since 2012 to promote social cohesion, community resilience, and transitional development haven’t gone unnoticed, and we are grateful for this award and the recognition. We are confident that RET programs are bringing a lasting positive change in the communities in DRCongo.
The award sought to praise, honor, and celebrate the efforts, leadership, innovation, and activism of the people who, within the exercise of their public and private functions in multiple fields, are contributing to restoring the image of DRC and reviving the hope to believe in a better and prosperous Congo. Various organizations, including INTERNEWS, UNFPA, IMA, CEPAC AND IFAD, CAFED, and more, were represented at this 1st edition of the prize of excellence.
As it was emphasized by Josué Muneke, coordinator of the ASBL/TCN: “Let us encourage and recognize the bravery, innovation, and leadership of people and organizations, and push them to work harder for the development of the North Kivu province. This prize is an award for gratitude and tribute to the individuals and organizations who have positively distinguished themselves in their work to render communities more resilient.”
TCN is a non-profit organization with a vision to contribute to the training, monitoring, and empowerment of young people by adopting the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.