Amani Itakuya #24: Promoting the values of ubuntu and their implications on peacebuilding in the DRC

Promoting the values of ubuntu and their implications on peacebuilding in the DRC

Michel Bigwi [1]


The purpose of this article is discuss how Congolese can engage the discourses that promote the values of ubuntu (quality of human-ness) and the implications of these values on conflict prevention and resolution in DR Congo. In addition, the article explores how foreign organisations and faiths to Africa – the UN, World Vision, A Peace of Life & Christianity and Islam religions – have affected the values of ubuntu in regard to peace-building in eastern Congo. This article assumes that the practice of the discourses promoting the values of ubuntu could lead to restoring the dignity and flourishing of individuals and communities in DR Congo.


While the term ubuntu (a person is a person through other persons) is as old as Adam on the African soil, it resurfaced in the 1990s when Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa used it in post-apartheid reconciliation. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission adopted ubuntu as its framework, which was based on reparation and restoration. The aim of the commission was the healing and restoration of all concerned – victims, offenders, their families, and the larger community through giving a hearing to both the victims and offenders. The same process was followed in Rwanda in local courts called gacaca whose purpose was to bring healing and reconciliation among Rwandans after the 1994 genocide that killed almost a million of Rwandans in a hundred days. Although there have been many writings about ubuntu, no empirical research has ever been done to determine discourses that may promote its values, and the implications of the practice of these values on peace-building in DR Congo.

Eastern Congo needs peace and unless warmongers understand the dignity of the ‘’Different OTHER’’ through ubuntu philosophy, peace will be a far-fetched dream, very hard to achieve. Rebels and western actors, local governance and other players – communities – have to come back to the values of ubuntu.

According to ubuntu, one is diminished when another is diminished and uplifted when another is uplifted. Ubuntu calls for people to see others as humans instead of dehumanising them. Ubuntu is based on restorative justice, thus leading to the uniting, liberating power of forgiveness and peace becomes the end product. This does not however mean ubuntu condones evil. Instead of offering temporal solutions through external punishments, ubuntu allows for transformation in the lives of victims and offenders. When victim and offender are able to meet and share from their hearts, peace is restored in their lives and among people in the community. The practice of the values of ubuntu could thus lead to restoring the dignity and flourishing of individuals and communities in Eastern Congo – one of the countries in the heart of Africa that has gone through recurrent wars. Ubuntu put into action, can bring about sustainable peace during this era marked by exclusion of ‘the other’, translated in racism, tribalism, ethnic divisions and religious pluralism which threaten the beauty of unity in diversity.

Ubuntu in actions:

  • Developing an understanding of ubuntu as a philosophical framework for conflict prevention and resolution in Africa and in the DRC in particular;
  • Exploring the values that promote the practice of ubuntu in DRC and its eastern parts in particular;
  • Communicating these values of ubuntu among people of the same community and between people from different communities in DRC, and how these values can promote harmony in and among communities;
  • Engaging INGOs (International Non-Governmental Organisations), the civil society of North and South Kivu and foreign religions to Africa (Islam and Christianity) to the understanding and practice of ubuntu and the implication of this effect on conflict prevention and resolution in the DRC.


Two levels emerge – micro and macro. At the micro level, communities can be engaged into discourses that promote ubuntu following the aforementioned guidelines and at a macro level, leaders of INGOs, the Government of the DRC leaders and religious clerks, etc. Both mass media (television, newspapers and radios) and interpersonal networks can be useful in creating platforms for discourse and strategic planning for a peaceful DRC. Is peace possible, yes via ‘ubuntu discourse’.


Michel Bigwi is an analyst specialising on East and Central Africa.




[1] Pseudonyme.

3 Responses to “Amani Itakuya #24: Promoting the values of ubuntu and their implications on peacebuilding in the DRC”
  1. Rene Sephton says:

    Wonderful article! Very happy to read your thoughts and i’d be very interested to read more of your work in this area – particularly your thinking on how foreign organizations and faiths have impacted on the values of Ubuntu in regard to peace-building.
    In fact, I’m currently undertaking a PhD on the theme – but focusing on the ‘Bumuntu’ paradigm of the Luba tradition (Patrick there is one answer to your question – the term is ‘Bumuntu’ in Kiluba) – and wanting to explore how prolonged experiences of violence have impacted this vision and its application. Very keen to be in touch with others interested in how this is applied to peacebuilding in DRC – my contact: (

  2. Patrick Maxwell says:

    Good stuff. I have to wonder — since Ubuntu is originally a Xhosa word, is there a word or concept in Swahili or another Congolese language that carries the same connotations?

  3. Lewis Brooks says:

    Very interesting article. I would be interested to know whether the author sees Ubuntu, its promotion and practises based on it, as compatible with court based justice mechanisms such as the ICC’s activities covering DRC and attempts to build up court infrastructure in the country? Or whether Ubuntu is focused on different activities to court proceedings?

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