A people trapped in narratives and memories : facing pacification in the Great Lakes Region of Africa
Conflict has persisted in the Great Lakes region of Africa since time immemorial, yet the challenges of a peaceful coexistence in this region continue to manifest themselves in an even escalating manner. Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, in a particular way, has experienced a vicious circle of tragedy and victimhood, from unlived memories, through constructed memories and narratives, to lived narratives and memories. Hence, people in this part of the DRC find themselves trapped in specific conflicting memories and narratives. This conflict has dragged in armies of the neighbouring countries to the East of DR Congo and a myriad of ‘Congolese’ guerrilla movements and ethnic militias; millions have died in massacres, displacements, and of starvation, disease, and rape. Given the impossibility of removing the bitter past from history, together with the geographical disparities of the region, stability in eastern DR Congo is sometimes difficult to imagine. The roots of this conflict are grounded in the failure to acknowledge the humanity of the ‘other’ and looking at variances that come with other community narratives as a threat to future prosperity, leading to alienation of ‘those who do not belong’ to the in-group. Thus, solutions to durable peace in this region do not exist in the often flawed ideals of politico-military as well as economic manipulations, but rather in the often forgotten fundamental beliefs of accepting ethnic differences, by accommodating them in one’s community narratives and through concerted willingness to heal the wounded memories as well as poisoned narratives.