Bringing the Local Government Closer to the Population was the theme of a workshop organized by one of ECI’s partners – The Centre de Recherche sur l’Environnement la Démocratie et les Droits de l’Homme (CREDDHO), on May 26, 2012 in Goma. Theworkshop successfully brought elected provincial representatives together with their constituents to discuss issues affecting the community. CREDDHO is working to change how local government interacts with the population by not only bringing the provincial budget to the table but also helping the community to monitor the results of the promises made by the local government during the election campaign. “Corruption is the major obstacle to national progress in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the provincial government of North Kivu is no different. They have a hard time fighting corruption because they themselves came to power through a corrupt electoral system.” These were the words of CREDDHO representatives during the opening of the workshop.
CREDDHO advocates for peaceful co-existence, good governance, and human rights in Eastern DRC. As one of ECI’s grantees, CREDDHO has been working to hold the elected government officials accountable for their promises to end corruption and end human rights violations. The first step, according to a CREDDHO representative, is to help the community learn about the provincial budget and work with them to monitor all expenditures. This will serve as a pre-audit and will minimize corruption. Elected representatives from Rutshuru and the Nyiragongo territory were present – the two territories in North Kivu that have been heavily affected by both a lack of security and anarchy.
Rutshuru territory has been deeply affected by the regional conflicts, refugee movements, and internal displacements facing eastern DRC. The lava that flows from the Nyamulagira volcano, 40 km southwest, has just added to their misery. Since combat flared recently in DRC, tens of thousands of people have once again fled from the violence. Most of them have come from the Kibirizi area, northwest of Rutshuru, where people have routinely been beaten, robbed, raped and even killed. May of these displaced have managed to reach Kanyabayonga, Kayna and Kirumba. Many others still remain in the bush around Kibiridzi and are subject to continued violence and looting.
Nyiragongo territory lies beneath the Nyiragongo volcano that has a reputation for spawning pretty nasty lava flows with significant hazards to human life. The territory has no water and people have traveled miles to fetch fresh, clean water. Poverty is easily seen here with the naked eye and insecurity has become a daily occurrence. “In school I learned that long before legislatures began to assert their role as policy makers, they served as representative institutions,” stated one participant, “they provided a link between citizens and their government and articulated the views of their constituents and served as liaison between government and the citizenry. However, our representatives have become distant from the people they were elected to serve and thus serve only themselves,” he continued.
Both representatives took turns explaining how they have failed their constituents. They admitted that they were just learners in their early years in elected office, and when they requested an audit of the system it was too late as their mandate had come to an end. “None of you have come close to the population,” claimed one participant, “we knew what the problems were and could have helped you solve it,” he continued. The other participants said “legislators take in information which keeps them informed about the constituency and could be taken back to the legislature to educate other legislators about the province, resulting in more informed policy decision-making. Legislators could facilitate the flow of information and services back to their constituency, making government more real and accessible, improving delivery and empowering constituents to participate in developing their communities, however, our representatives never approached us.”
The discussion was tense, but all parties agreed that it was important to continue talking and pressuring the government to fulfill their promises to the population. Participants also agreed that it was important to hold those in the government accountable to their election budgetary promises and to bring those who are stealing public funds to justice.
Bravo CREDDHO for a successful workshop!