A few days ago, at the Faculty of Social Sciences (K.U.Leuven), organized the presentation of research involving in depth-interviews of about 800 Congolese students on the future for sustainable peace in DR Congo. Luc Reychler presented this open book, with a call for reactions and further research, under the title: “DR Congo. Positive Prospects. Building Sustainable Peace Together. Open Book“. The questionnaire touched on an appreciation of today’s situation in DRC, on the various forms of violence, on descriptions of peace and imaginations of the future, on factors necessary to build up peace, on identity issues, on dealing with the past, on foreign players and on the engagement at the service of peace. The results express strong hope and a will to engage a situation that one knows to be very difficult. Of course, one can express criticism of the research, if it would be closed down at this point. Indeed, only students were questioned – they are not representative of the whole Congolose population – and one can wonder to what extent answers are formulated from the perspective of a wished or expected state rather than of the threatening reality. The reseach answers these objections by taking on the form of an “open book”, i.e. the results are brought to the public so as to provoke further research and debate. This is research that calls for engagement and, therefore, for further research.
I had been asked to “respond” to the research. I focused on two perspectives.
(1) I highlighted three aspects of the methodological approach to the research. This is, first of all, research done by people who enter into solidarity, who are aware that the concerns of the people in DRC are also their concerns – the researchers are researching issues that are important to them and that may even raise their anger. Secondly, there is engagement in the sense of interdisciplinary analysis, that attempts to listen to people and to give them a voice, particularly to people whose opinions are not taken into account. Theories of interpretation are developed and revised through a process of conversations with real people in the situation. Thirdly, this research moves with people: responsibility is given to people, they are encouraged to work with the research and to gather hope and energy out of it.
(2) I described some of the ways in which this research works in a European context: how does this research call us to action in Europe? How can we collaborate with the inhabitants in DRC? Several lines of action are possible. How do we as Europeans assume responsibility in the plundering of natural resources in the Congo – how can we elaborate political and legal tools that will help to tackle, on the European side, the plundering of the natural resources? A further question concerns how we deal in Europe with refugees, migrants and the diaspora that arise out of DRC? Are we able to move into an adult relationship with Congolese, who attempt to state their identity, without remaining trapped in colonial and paternalistic patterns of analysis and thought? How can we relate as adults amongst ourselves? The most vital question is, I think, how to descry and sustain hope that energizes.
This research is important and provides important information if it is taken to stimulate further engagement and research. I know the authors will know return the research to those who have answered the questionnaire, so that the reflection process may continue also in DRC.