Young Peace Journalists Stories: ‘My path as a Young Peace Journalist’

The following interview was conducted to Merveille Charles Kakule Saliboko, a member of the Young Peace Journalists from Butembo, North Kivu province, DRC.  He tells us why he chose to become a Young Peace Journalist for Pax Christi Internationaland explains from his own perspective the importance of such project.

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Interviewee Identity

Name: Merveille Charles Kakule Saliboko
Age: 26 years old
Sex: M
Hobbies: Communications, journalism, blogging writing, traveling

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Summary

This interview has been made to Merveille Charles Kakule Saliboko, a young peace journalist based in Butembo, North Kivu, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Merveille is also a journalist, blogger, and works in communications for certain organisations. He writes for print, online press, and radio on topics relating to peace, agriculture, the environment, and sustainable development in the African Great Lakes region since 2010. His passion is to tell the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, marginalized people, people displaced by war and waiting for the return of peace in their respective hometowns.

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Why did you decide to take Pax Christi International training?

In March 2016, I published an article on people fleeing the massacres of Beni, article published in the French magazine Afrique Agriculture. This article was awarded by AJVPD Tupashe Amani in collaboration with the MONUSCO public information section as part of the Amani Presse Peace Journalism Awards in North Kivu in May of the same year. The Young Peace Journalists initiative is timely, to enable me to sustain this peace journalism experience serving refugees, displaced persons, asylum seekers … 

How did you hear about it?

My cousin Kennedy Wema, who is a journalist (president of Syfia International and Reporters Without Borders correspondent in the DRC), took part in a Pax Christi International activity held in late 2016 in South Africa. Knowing that I had won a peace journalism award and knowing my concern to make this world better through peace journalism, he invited me to apply by sending me the phone number by email.

Why did you choose to interview these people?

It seemed interesting to me to better understand the situation that the orphaned child victims of the Beni massacres go through on a daily basis, when they fled, how their life goes in the community that welcomes them (here the school) and how the teachers understand the behavior of these children: how do these teachers “adapt” to the victims? Are they prepared to deal with the unpredictable cases of these traumatized victims? Are these victims sufficiently integrated? These are the questions that I wanted from the start to have answers for, to better present this situation to the rest of the world.

As for the second interview (to be published soon), I also proceeded with a questioning: the decision of the Prime Minister was made, was it followed? What is the current situation of Rwandan refugees living in Congo-Brazza? Are they stateless? What was the level of their integration into the local community (they have just spent 20 years in this country, for many of them!)? Questions that allow me to identify the situation of these people, in light of the cessation clause of the refugee status put forward by Rwanda since the end of 2017 that only Congo-Brazza has decided to apply.

Is migration a hot topic in your country?

This is a subject that is on the lips especially in the province of North Kivu where I live. Tribal communities are wary of each other especially towards the Rwandophone populations. They are rightly or wrongly accused of being at the root of the conflicts in the region. Recently, there was even a petition to demand the split of North Kivu, a petition initiated by the Rwandophones (Hutu and Tutsi). The same approach was initiated in South Kivu. In both cases, the other communities spoke with one voice, and initiate a counter-petition for the territorial unit of said provinces. In an amalgam, some people even say that the killings in Beni are perpetrated by Hutu who want to go to Ituri (there were also massacres not long ago, by the same people according to these sources). Looking for land to cultivate. This situation had even hampered the free movement of people from Goma (capital of the province) to Butembo (economic lung): thus, in mid-2016, two innocent women from Goma were stoned and burnt alive in Butembo. I had denounced this situation on my Facebook account, giving the true identity of these victims, the reason for their trips (family or business): here too, the youth had become aware. Given the relative prosperity of the Butembo region, there is no feeling of emigration. It is above all the internal migrations (mentioned above) that are all the rage.

How many interviews have been conducted up to now?

For the moment, a paper has been published. It’s a compilation of five interviews created with victims of the massacres of Beni, in the Nord-Kivu province in the east of the DRC. In the second interview, we see a human rights activist from The Congo, who tells us about the situation of Rwandan refugees in this country: what they endure, in light of the recent decision of the Congolese Prime Minister Clément Mouamba, to apply the secession clause of the refugee statute (as requested by the Rwandan government). This interview will be published next 29th of June.

What has changed?

It is difficult at the present time to quantify the changes in the communities that have been affected by the publications. Still, the article on the victims of the massacres sparked a wave of solidarity in the comments in the various Facebook groups where I shared the link. More awareness was born.As for the article on Rwandan refugees living in Congo-Brazza, we are waiting for the publication to have an impact. I hope that this will be the beginning of an awareness of the situation of those people we hardly talk about, except for the rare moments when the “officials” of the United Nations (UNHCR), Rwanda and Congo decide to talk about it.

What did it bring you personally?

I got out of it a lot of things. First, a practical training on peace journalism (I parachuted in this area by winning a prize following an article published in the “agricultural” sense). I needed to be equipped to cope better with the various situations in the region in which I live: I am convinced that peace in the world begins with me. I also met other young people, peace-loving like me.

Photo: Merveille (pictured in the middle) interviewing Massai people in north-western Tanzania in 2016.

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