Building human security in Ituri Province, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Armed conflict in Ituri since 1996 to the present day has resulted in the widespread and severe violation of human rights that include massive killings, rape, torture, mutilation and property destruction that has infringed peace and security in the province. Many studies on Ituri armed conflict point out land, minerals and identity as underlying causes of this social breakdown that lead to continued insecurity in Ituri. While acknowledging that there are many things that threaten the lives of individuals in times of war, this study focuses exclusively on the perceptions of the people from Ituri about the meaning and threats to peace and security as well as building human security in the province. To investigate these perceptions, I use the concept of human security which is a new way of thinking about peace and security. Although, this concept has a broad meaning, I mostly focus on its components that promote the protection of civilians against severe and widespread threats and as a people-centred approach, it advocates for the responsibility to protect civilians by their governments and the international community while the latter is given the full mandate by the UN, through its Security Council to intervene in countries whereby, governments are the perpetrators of violence on its own civilians or whereby governments are unable to contain violence perpetrated by warring fractions on innocent civilians and causing the displacement of millions from their home. I used a qualitative approach that sought to obtain as many as possible the views of participants which in turn were described thoroughfully so as to obtain patterns and themes that explain exactly what participants think is the meaning of peace and security and what could be the possible threats that make them feel insecure. To reach my goal, I used participant observation, focus group and semi-structured interview methods. 105 participants were selected randomly to participate in the research, that is, 94 in focus groups and 11 in semi-structured interviews. An additional 31 participants were also interviewed in Johannesburg to validate the data collected previously. Content analysis was used to analyse data. The study finds that there are various meanings to security and that threats to peace and security depend on the kind of meanings that people from Ituri perceive to be the meaning of security. The meaning of security depends on the context in which people live. Both victims and perpetrators ‘should’ work towards the achievement of peace and security. From the findings, it was concluded that the international community should not play both arsonist and fireman roles, rather engaging honestly and sincerely in building peace and security in the province of Ituri. This may lead to sustainable peace and security in the province.