South Africa and peacebuilding in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) 1996 – 2016 : probing the attitudes of Congolese refugees in Durban.
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This study is anchored on the crisis of Congolese refugees that is taking an astronomical proportion in South Africa. While in different parts in South Africa Congolese refugees may initiate actions that may fuel the magnitude of a new or the ongoing conflict on one hand, and those that may transform and end war the DRC’s war. The study probes the views and insights of the Congolese refugees on South Africa’s peacebuilding interventions in the DRC’s conflict and contends that South Africa can draw from the views, insights and perception of Congolese refugees as another alternative of bolstering its current peace building interventions in the DRC. The study draws heavily on data gathered from four (4) focus group discussions and 58 in-depth interviews (comprising mainly, the Congolese scholars and civil rights activists in Durban). The study uses conflict transformation and realism theories. From a conflict transformation perspective, the study argues that drawing from the views and insights of the Congolese refugees may bolster an all-encompassing South African peacebuilding intervention in the DRC’s conflict. On the other hand, through the tenets of realism, study argues that South Africa can draw from the insights of the Congolese refugees as one way of achieving its dominant interests of having a stable DRC and Africa. Through a survey of scholarship on the link between refugees and conflict transformation, the findings of this study reveals that the inclusion of the views and insights of Congolese refugees in its peacebuilding interventions may earn South Africa respect on the continent as a country that respects the contribution of refugees in peacebuilding. This may advance South Africa’s interest of taking the lead in peace operations in Africa. However, the study also reveals that by participating in peacebuilding while pushing for more economic relations with DRC, the South Africa’s interventions in the DRC’s conflict can be termed as a predatory and exploitative way of the economics of war. For instance, the Inga Dam, agriculture and the abundance of mineral resources to which some South African companies own mining rights, underscores a realist argument that any intervening state intervenes in a conflict country in pursuit of its national interests. The findings of this study also reveal that, by drawing on the views of the marginalised non-state actors like Congolese refugees in its peacebuilding interventions in the DRC, South Africa may fulfill its desire of avoiding spill-overs from the effects of the war in the form of the incessant influx of Congolese refugees. An end to war in the DRC may be one way of furthering economic interests of the South African business segments. Having taken note that the major findings of the study revolve around contentious primary issues relating to the role of Congolese refugees within South Africa’s peacebuilding interventions, a number of recommendations are made. These include: 1. Establishment of refugees’ resource centres as a new approach of mitigating their forgotten role in peacebuilding processes. 2. Clarification of the conflicting interests of South Africa’s peacebuilding interventions in the DRC. 3. Inclusion of other non-state actors in South Africa’s peacebuilding interventions. Finally, a paradigm shift is needed in the conceptualization of what constitutes conflict transformation more so peacebuilding interventions. This includes a new theoretical thinking based on gaining vital views, insights and perspectives from non-state actors like Congolese refugees in South Africa.