Post by: Sherri Sturgeon
On September 10th the Center for Global Justice was pleased to welcome David Buzard, a regent LL.M. candidate and local attorney to speak on his years of work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. David spent many years working in the Navy JAG Corp, on active and reserve duty from 1990 to 2011. During his time in the Corp, David spent a significant amount of time in the tumultuous African nation of Congo.
Formerly a Belgian colony, Congo is a nation diverse in ethnic groups, and rife with conflict. Centrally located within the African continent, since its independence in 1960, Congo has been in a state of ongoing conflict between local and surrounding ethnic groups. Rich in natural resources such as cobalt, copper and zinc, the fight for control over these raw materials has resulted in an ongoing war that the world has not been able to turn a blind eye to. Further, conflicts in surrounding nations including the genocide in Rwanda and the conflict in Uganda has left Congo susceptible to these outside militant factions. As a result, Congo is in an ongoing state of distress, a state of conflict that has come to be known as “Africa’s World War.” Known as the “rape capital of the world,” Congo is plagued by profound poverty, an all-permeating degree of corruption, and is a breeding ground for child soldiers.
In the face of great opposition, David has worked for nearly eight years in various capacities to begin to turn the tide in this hopeless situation. As a member of the JAG Corp David shared of his mission, to build relationships and to strengthen the rule of law. David spent time working to train the formal military, assisting in their efforts to bring peace to this deeply conflicted nation. As a result, more than 1300 military personnel have been trained, along with 5000 non-commissioned officers and the tide has begun to shift. David spoke of the shifts he has seen over the three decades he has been working in Congo, noting positive changes in a more formalized structure within the military, with increased respect for the rule of law among the forces, and most significantly, an increase in the quantity and quality of trials for those found violating the rule of law.
The movement towards a new “corps” of Command Legal Advisors, separate from the magistrate and the military justice system, has led to an administration of justice that has not previously been seen in this nation. One such example is that rape perpetrators in one particular region have, for the first time, been tried and convicted for their actions, which has resulted in a dramatic decrease of further incidents. The efforts towards a new rule of law, one of justice and not corruption, is beginning to take hold. In conclusion, David shared that in moments in which he was confronted with some of the gravest and darkest evils of man, he found his Faith renewed, and saw a new depth of truth in the scriptures that compelled him forward.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice Intern. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.