The JRS Great Lakes region was set up in 1995 in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide and other widespread ethnic violence. The first team was dispatched to Bukavu, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the JRS presence quickly spread to other parts of the Congo, Burundi and Rwanda. Since then, JRS teams have accompanied people uprooted by violence that is largely due to the exploitation of ethnic identity and/or the struggle over precious resources.
Today one of the greatest challenges in the region is endemic sexual violence in eastern Congo, a consequence of chronic armed conflict. This area has been a major focus of JRS activities in recent years, with education, vocational training and support for those who are vulnerable, offered in IDP camps and areas of return. The most recent JRS initiatives in Rutshuru, Masisi and Mweso, North Kivu, give preferential attention to women.
In the past, JRS has run other projects in the DRC, in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Uvira and Goma, including a programme for the reintegration of former child soldiers. Projects have opened and closed depending on the ebb and flow of conflicts in the region, and the consequent displacement and needs created. There is one long-running exception: in Rwanda, in two camps in Byumba and Kibuye, JRS serves Congolese refugees of Rwandan origin who fled Masisi and Rutshuru in 1996. There, JRS has offered education and support for vulnerable refugees since 1997.
In Burundi, JRS is gradually closing down its remaining projects as the country recovers from a lengthy and devastating civil war. At the height of the war, JRS had many projects serving IDPs in the capital and elsewhere, which were scaled down or handed over as peace returned. Support for returnees – nearly half a million have returned from 2002 onwards – has been provided, especially to enhance food security; these projects are gradually being phased out too.
The JRS teams often work amid great insecurity. A tragedy that underscores the volatility of the region was the killing of JRS worker Antonio Barggigia in Burundi on 3 October 2000. A Brother of the Friends of the Poor from Italy, he was shot dead in the street in an armed robbery.
Great Lakes Africa
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JRS Great Lakes Africa is one of 10 geographic regions of the Jesuit Refugee Service, an international Catholic organization sponsored by the Society of Jesus. The regional office coordinates the delivery of education, housing, psychosocial and recreational services, as well emergency assistance and support to become self-sufficient, to vulnerable refugee and other displaced populations in Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2009, nearly 60,000 forcibly displaced persons were assisted by JRS in the region.
Democratic Republic of Congo: unexploded ordnances in schools, students at risks
Goma, 27 March 2013 – Unexploded grenades, bullets and other unused munitions were found last month in sewage drains used by some schools in the North Kivu capital. For students in the area, school is not a place of protection, but a threat to their lives.
Rwanda: after 17 years along Congolese refugees, JRS withdraws from the country
Bujumbura, 15 March 2013 – In late January the Jesuit Refugee Service has closed its project in Rwanda after 17 years of accompaniment of the nearly 40,000 refugees from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, bringing an end some of the oldest JRS projects in world.
Forty-six leading Congolese and international NGOs welcome Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, but call for further action to make peace a reality
Goma/Kinshasa/ Rome/ Washington DC, 24 February 2013 – A group of prominent Congolese and international NGOs today called on countries in the Great Lakes region, along with their international partners, to ensure that the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement signed in Addis Ababa is given the political backing necessary to bring an end to war in the eastern Congo.
Democratic Republic of Congo: call for a genuine peace process
Goma, 14 February 2013 – For years the international community has attempted to help stabilise eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), at the expense of billions of US dollars, yet sustainable peace remains elusive. Elections in November 2011 were widely seen as lacking credibility and provincial and local elections have been delayed indefinitely.
Democratic Republic of Congo: local rebels sign historic peace agreement in Masisi
Masisi, 7 February 2013 – The Jesuit Refugee Service welcomes the peace agreement signed on 5 February 2013 by different armed groups to stop interethnic violence and bring peace in Masisi, in the mineral-rich North Kivu province. The agreement seeks to bring an end to inter-ethnic violence which has led to the death of 310 people since April 2012, the displacement of tens of thousands of others, and the destruction of villages and camps for displaced persons.
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Democratic Republic of Congo
Katanga Province, DRC
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