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July 26, 2022

On the Path to Institutionalizing the Early Warning System in the Prevention of Atrocities against Civilians in the DRC

Between July 13 and July 14, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, in partnership with the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. State Department, hosted a Symposium in Kinshasa on the Adoption of the Early Warning and Response System by the Congolese State. With opening remarks from the U.S. Embassy’s Chargé d'Affaires, Marion J. Ekpuk; the representative from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Megan Anderson; and the Minister of the Interior, Daniel Aselo Okito, the event marked a significant step in the process of handing over ownership of this vital and important system to the Congolese government.

Through this two-day event, ABA ROLI promoted the effectiveness of community-based conflict resolution mechanisms and reflected on the possibility of its adoption by the Congolese government. The Symposium built on ABA ROLI’s commitment to develop relationships with local stakeholders, including the Congolese Civil Protection Unit (CPU), local authorities, security stakeholders and communities. The participants, including the Minister of the Interior who officially closed the symposium in Kinshasa, pledged their support for this important initiative and discussed follow-up steps that could lead to the establishment of the institutionalized atrocity prevention system throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Symposium brought together U.S. representatives in the DRC, civil protection representatives, national authorities, and other relevant actors. Notably, the Minister of the Interior, the Minister’s advisor in charge of civil protection and disaster management, the provincial civil protection coordinator, police commanders, and military officials attended as representatives from the Congolese state. Additionally, representatives from MONUSCO Civil Affairs Section (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Norwegian Refugee Council and other partners were also in attendance.

Since 2012, ABA ROLI has been implementing a project to prevent atrocities against civilians in Eastern DRC through an Early Warning and Response System (EWRS). First set up in South Kivu and North Kivu provinces, and later expanded into Ituri, Haut Katanga, Tanganyika and Maniema, the EWRS has recorded 10,921 alerts received by CPU, of which 10,162 were shared with response partners following verification and analysis, and 5,626 alerts received assistance.[1]

Since its inception, the EWRS has also been a vital source of information for communities. During the Ebola virus outbreak in North Kivu, more than 9500 requests for information on disease were processed. Similarly, when a volcano erupted on May 22, 2021, in Goma (the provincial capital of North Kivu), more than 77,000 calls and 19,000 SMS requests for information regarding the volcano were received throughout the province of North Kivu.

Testimonies from civil protection prove that this system prevents atrocities and reduces tensions in local communities:

On May 14, 2022, the center of Djugu was under threat from an incursion of assailants from the CODECO (Cooperative for the Development of Congo) group from the village of Gokalu. Residents who saw this group of assailants alerted the Civil Protection, which then shared this information with the FARDC. A few hours later, a large number of soldiers arrived in the area to protect civilians. On the same day, some rebels belonging to CODECO were arrested and five others were killed in clashes with the FARDC.

Ituri CPU

On May 22, 2022, the community observer in the village of Malemba, Nyunzu, alerted the CPU in Tanganyika via EWRS to a rumor of a probable incursion by Twa militiamen into the Luba mining quarry, while villagers were already beginning to clear the area. Immediately after receiving the alert, the CPU relayed the information to assisting partners, including the FARDC. To date, security forces are based in the area and local communities have immediately returned and are living in peace.

Tanganyika CPU

[1] Numbers are as of June 30, 2022 

U.S. Embassy Tweeting about the event:

Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Africa.