03 / 1993
ULOMARE (Union of Housing Tenants and Subscribers to Water and Electricity Companies)is a non profit-making trade-union-type organisation based in Bukavu, a province of South-Kivu, in Zaire, which advocates for the rights of its members. It also educates tenants and consumers on their rights and obligations, some of which they are completely unaware of, after countless abuses by their social partners: the landlords for the tenants and the water and electricity companies for the consumers.
To achieve this, ULOMARE has set up a special system of commissions for the defence of their members deprived of their social rights. The members of these commissions are also working for the training of their colleagues, who will later have the same roles in their respective local branches. It is important to note that all the members of these commissions are paralegals trained by professional lawyers.
Amongst these special commissions, the "Commission of State Owned Companies" receives the complaints of customers and defens them. This commission has been confronted by a special situation, the practice called "dahulage", or unofficial connecting up. Indeed, all too often in disadvantaged districts the requests for electricity connections made by potential customers of the National Electricity Company (SNEL)are ignored, and it is very common to wait a long time, from 1 to 8 years. In January 1992 the local population, having realised the extent of its needs, created consumer groups neighbourhood by neighbourhood with the aim of connecting themselves up to the nearby electrical wiring.They managed to get an electric current in irregular conditions (non-isolated cables, no feasibility study conducted in the area...), and now domestic electricity is available despite the dangers and the resistance from the national distribution firms.
This action was hailed by ULOMARE, which has normally had to negotiate the connections, as well as by certain members and leaders of democratic-leaning political parties, and even by some SNEL officials.
Confronted by this social situation which had arisen in some districts of Bukavu, neither the SNEL, nor the administrative authorities were really in a position to fight back, the files waiting to be considered numbered well over 1800. More than 10.000 irregular connections were thus made. The only way open to the SNEL was to cooperate with the "dahuleurs" (the people who had irregularly connected themselves up to the electricity system with no legal or SNEL intervention), in order to find a solution to the conflict which would be acceptable to both parties.
In fact, the "dahuleurs" have continued to join ULOMARE so that it can negotiate on their behalf and accelerate consideration of their file. The SNEL has also asked ULOMARE to act as a mediator in order to guarantee harmonious relations.
Since then the SNEL has come to realise the dangers of electrocution and of the destruction of certain social infrastructures (electric cables stolen on the public highway, light switches and light bulbs stolen in schools and churches...)linked to this "dahulage". Finally the SNEL decided to set up provisional offices to deal with connections in each disadvantaged neighbourhood of the town of Bukavu from March 1992 onwards.
This practice was also recounted in the workshops of the Interafrican conference on alternative legal practices, Cotonou, October 1992. On this occasion a comparison was established with a similar case in Chile.
Original card in French in Dph data base. The ’title/sub-title’ field corresponds to the ’translated title’ field in the French card.
Card introducing ULOMARE, written during the Interafrican Meeting on alternative legal practices, Benin, 12-17 October 1992.
KANDIKI KAMALEBO, Janvier, Travail sur les pratiques alternatives du droit, 1992 (Zaïre)