North Kivu province in the DRC has been mired in a multifaceted crisis for two decades. The recent resurgence of M23 attacks has increased violence and xenophobia, and the region has seen a rapid increase in incitement, misinformation and hate speech.
Aiming to minimize this dangerous phenomenon, the consortium formed by members of GAAMAC Africa Working Group, Blessed Aid and the Coalition des Volontaires pour la Paix et le Développement (CVPD) has been working since 2022, with the support of GAAMAC, to implement several actions of awareness raising.
In December 2022, GAAMAC supported the organization of workshops by the two NGOs to confront hate speech. The workshops resulted in the creation of six groups, which have been acting as a permanent reflection framework on strategies to combat hate speech in the province Capital Goma and in the territory of Masisi.
To ensure the project’s continuity and greater impact in the communities served, the partner NGOs implemented further activities in 2023, including workshops and artistic-cultural interventions to raise awareness on hate speech and prevent mass atrocities. The activities took place between March and July 2023.
Sensitization workshop for 50 students in Goma
On 31 March 2023, a sensitization workshop was offered to 50 students in Goma. The workshop was delivered by a trainer who had himself been sensitized during the previous activity conducted by GAAMAC implementing partners. Me Sawy Baeni, lawyer at the bar of Goma and one of the members of the anti-hate speech clubs formed in the course of the activities organized in December 2022 was the speaker at this event.
The workshop aimed at makingstudents aware of the root causes, societal consequences, and measures to prevent and combat hate speech, incitement to violence and discrimination.
Using triggering questions to engage the participants, Me Baeni trained their ability to analyze different tools for combating hate speech, leading them to identify challenges in the path to prevent mass atrocities and to the achievement of stability and peace.
Creation of a song to combat hate speech and prevent mass atrocities
Artistic-cultural manifestations have a unifying potential and are a powerful instrument to engage individuals. Under the guidance of the experts from the two NGOs, local musicians created a song about building a better world, preventing atrocity crimes and eradicating hate speech.
The song was broadcasted on several radio stations in the Province Capital Goma and in the Masisi territory and was available on streaming platforms such as Spotify and YouTube.
Awareness-raising workshop with community leaders
On 20 May 2023, 20 community leaders participated in a workshop to raise awareness on hate speech. Following the same format as the training offered in March, this activity had the following objectives:
- Reinforce the participants’ understanding of the various relevant and binding tools to combat hate speech nationally and internationally.
- Develop with the participants the capacity to analyze these different tools.
- Help participants identify challenges they face when committing to building peace.
Different sectors (administration, military, police, traders) and ethnic groups (Hunde, Hutu, Tustsi, Tembo, Nyanga) were represented.
Considering the alarming situation in the province of North Kivu, the community leaders suggested continuing activities in the region.
Training sessions in schools on the shores of Lake Kivu and Sake
Young people often occupy the ambivalent position of agents and targets of hate speech. In the province of North Kivu, particularly in the Masisi territory, students are a susceptible group and are continually used in conflicts.
These training sessions were carried out in May 2023 in six schools. Although there were a limited number of participants in the training, the messages of combating hate speech and preventing mass atrocities reached numerous students and teachers in the six schools.
Organization of folk dance and theatrical performance
On 5 July 2023, cultural activities were organized in Shasha, in the Masisi territory. These were mainly folk songs, dances, and a few sketches with messages calling for peaceful co-living. Several ethnic groups participated in this activity, including the Hunde, Hutu, Tembo, and Tutsi. In total, more than 200 people attended the ceremonies.
Recommendations of participants
The participants recommended the authorities make every effort to end hate speech in the country. They also recommended to the consortium of NGOs the promotion of activities focusing on electoral conflicts, training peace mediators, and giving instruction on legal tools available to combat hate speech.
CVPD and Blessed Aid are members of the GAAMAC Africa Working Group. To see other regional activities, click here.