The 2008 Rafto Prize was awarded to Pastor Bulambo Lembelembe Josué (1960) for his dedicated struggle to end the plight of the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). His work brings hope for peace, reconciliation and human dignity to people who have suffered from the deadliest conflict since World War II.
The most frequent targets of this hidden war are women. In the last ten years in DRC, hundreds of thousands of women have been raped, many in excessively brutal gang rapes. Pastor Bulambo’s message is clear and simple:
“We can no longer accept that our daughters, our sisters and our wives are raped. It should be possible for women to be safe. It is our responsibility to make life safe.”
The DRC faces a grave humanitarian crisis resulting from what has become known as the First African World War. The war in the Congo is significantly linked to the Rwandan genocide. Many African countries and countless militia groups are involved. Since 1998 more than 5 million people, mainly civilians have lost their lives in the conflict.
Pastor Bulambo Lembelembe serves as Vice President of the Protestant Council of Churches, the Eglise du Christ au Congo (ECC), in the DRC’s South Kivu province. His prominence as a church leader has allowed him to preach democratic ideals in an effort to quell rising tensions between ethnic groups in the region. Bulambo Lembelembe Josué is also the Vice President of Héritiers de la Justice, a human rights organisation he helped to establish in 1991. The organisation works to raise awareness of human rights and assist victims of human rights abuses. Bulambo stresses that no amnesty should be given to perpetrators of sexual violence.
Since 2006 Josué’s main efforts have been directed at organising the project Paix et Réconciliation, which works to disarm, demobilise and repatriate soldiers and civilians associated with the Hutu militia Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda, FDLR, which took part in the genocide and then fled Rwanda. Making use of the network of congregations belonging to the ECC, this project has succeeded in motivating around a quarter of the 10 000 militia disarmed and repatriated by the UN Stabilisation Mission, MONUSCO, and securing the return of approximately 23 000 civilian refugees. This very dangerous and difficult work has been carried out with only a small fraction of the funding provided by the UN.
Josué is still working for peace and reconciliation and continues to help the most vulnerable victims of war in a largely failed state.