The 1999 Oak Fellow was Didier Kamundu Batundi. He has fought for decades – since 1990 – to protect human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His work has ranged from ensuring torture victims get medical care and helping Tutsis escape mob violence to drawing international attention to human rights abuses and demanding freedom for political prisoners. (See Colby Magazine 1999).
By 1994, Batundi had established APREDECI (Action Paysanne/Peasant for Reconstruction and Integral Community Development). Based in Goma (a region of North Kivu), the NGO specifically protects and advocates for local rural communities. (See lesbahundes.com 2018, Human Rights Watch 2000, & Colby Magazine 1999)
Four years after founding APREDECI, Batundi was exiled. Finding asylum in France, he continued his human rights activism – creating another NGO called Soprop (Solidarité pour la promotion sociale et la paix/Solidarity for Social Promotion and Peace). From afar, he worked on behalf of those suffering from violence in North Kivu; he secured financial support for victims and fought for global attention. Didier’s efforts got the attention of the Reebok Foundation for Human Rights, earning him the 1998 “Reebok Human Rights Award.” (See lesbahundes.com 2018)
Still, Batundi had his work cut out for him. The same year, neighboring countries – Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi – invaded the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Campaigning for peace became all the more vital and challenging. Batundi’s dedication to his home country was recognized in 1999 by the United Nations and Da Capo Foundation, who awarded him the “Global Youth Peace and Tolerance Award.” (See lesbahundes.com 2018 & Colby Magazine 1999)
Colby College also took notice, selecting Batundi as its second Oak Fellow.
Since his fellowship, Batundi’s work has continued. In 2002, he organized an anti-war campaign in the Dominican Republic of the Congo. He has lobbied and partnernered with international organizations (including Amnesty International, OMCT, HRW, and IRCT) to work towards peace in the region. He also works locally in France, providing solidarity to African political refugees. (See lesbahundes.com 2018)
SOPROP lives on, continuing to rehabilitate victims of torture, pusue justice in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and provide education about human rights as well as democracy. According to lesbahundes.com, “Didier Kamundu is still fighting with determination for the rehabilitation of the victims of the violence, for the advent of peace and for the establishment of a true democracy in his country.” (See lesbahundes.com 2018)
References & Further Reading