2016 / Editorial / Photo Essay

CROSSINGS the journey to peace

  • Photographer
    Carol Allen-Storey

‘CROSSINGS’ the journey to peace Cross-border trade between the DR Congo and its neighbouring nations fosters peace. Importantly, it provides a potent tool to end poverty through economic prosperity. The DR Congo with Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda is the epi-centre of this trade, a region economically broken through decades of armed conflict, a region where corruption flourishes and its humble citizens flounder in profound poverty under an umbrella of poor governance. There are estimated more than 30 competing armed groups threatening the region, especially the M23 operating close to the Eastern capital of Goma creating waves of murder, rape and displacement. Conflict, accompanied by endemic poverty is the divisive weapon assaulting the citizens’ daily. Tragically, it is estimated more than 6 million people have died as a result of these conflicts and more than 2 million displaced rivalling the genocide of World War II. In spite of the depravity, small trade between the DR Congo and its neighbouring nations flourishes, and is a potent survival mechanism for more than 45,000 of its resident’s dependant on trade with their neighbours. Small trade consisting mostly of agricultural products is acknowledged as an effective weapon to assist its citizens to climbing out of the mire of their suffering, and as importantly providing them with dignity and self-respect. More than 75% of cross border traders are women, many of them head of household as they are the only ones economically contributing to the family. The potential is vast but hinges on dismantling the destabilising conflict activity and establishing an environment where peace reigns as a means to attain economic growth and the reduction of the poverty which clouds the region. International Alert, the peace-building organisation recognised the potential to establish the framework for peace through strengthening the relationships of small cross-border traders, their economic interdependence and importantly the solidarity it fosters. Alert, working in partnership with local Congolese NGO’s, has initiated a programme to strengthen their economic capacity. The goal is to promote the emergence of women merchants as a successful group lobbying for better conditions for trade, and to capitalise on their interests for peace and good governance. It is a long-term, innovative approach, with the potential to leverage existing interests and dynamics for positive change. Crossings, a daily journey to peace and prosperity.