Uganda | Burundi | Rwanda | Kenya
Seven members of the Friends Peace Teams Project
African Great Lakes Initiative visited
Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi from January 3 through 23, 1999. The members of the delegation included: Bill and Rosemarie McMechan (Canadian Yearly Meeting) who went to Uganda; Jill Sternberg (New York Yearly Meeting) and Derreck Kayongo (a Baptist working for the Atlanta office of the AFSC) who visited Kenya; and Ute Caspers (German Yearly Meeting), Carl Stauffer (a Mennonite pastor working in South Africa), and David Zarembka (Baltimore Yearly Meeting) who traveled to Burundi and Rwanda. The purpose of the mission was to visit African Quakers in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, to learn about their participation in peacemaking, reconciliation, and healing and to assess the possibility of placing a long-term Peace Team in the area.
Each country was quite different, not only in its history, but where each seemed to be at this time in regard to their peacemaking efforts. In Uganda, the national conflict had been resolved for thirteen years and people are building peaceable institutions which would help insure that systematic destruction of the country would not occur again. Nonetheless, there is a great concern about the continuing conflicts in Northern Uganda on the Sudan border and Uganda's involvement in the war in the Congo.
Burundi Quakers, the National Council of Churches, and others are attempting to heal the damage to the country with determined hope. Yet there is a realistic assessment that the situation could become unglued again at any time, and it might be necessary to pick up the pieces and start the reconstruction and reconciliation process anew.
In Rwanda, people are still in shock from the 1994 genocide and the subsequent large-scale displacement of people, including the return of an estimated million refugees who had left after the 1959 unrest. Conflict are still occurring in Rwanda, particularly in the northwest on the border with the Congo. The recruitment of young men into the army to fight in the war in the Congo is a worry for the Quakers.
Quakers in Kenyaare dealing with the difficulties among the Kenyan Yearly Meetings in tandem with the political uncertainty among the various ethnic groups in the country. There is a feeling that the Quakers should solve their internal disputes then be able to play a more significant role in peacemaking activities in the country. Much significant and interesting peace work was being done in Kenya, and the Kenyan Quakers need to be more active in this work.
In each country the delegation was enthusiastically received by Quakers and others people interested in peacemaking, reconciliation, and/or trauma healing. Although many workshops and projects are occurring, there is amble room for more work in tackling the problems of violence in Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Kenya. On the one hand, many people had horrendous stories to tell and many of these stories were heard in the trauma healing workshops team members facilitated. Yet on the other hand, the people were resolutely working to repair the damage, heal the wounds, and work on long-term solutions to keep the violence from reoccurring in the future.
In Bubulo, Uganda, near Mbale, the home of Uganda Yearly Meeting, the team led a basic Alternatives to Violence (AVP) workshop with two Ugandan facilitators. At Masaba, they met with as officers and members of Masaba Quaterly Meeting (Uganda Yearly Meeting). The delegation also had meetings with members of Bubulo Monthly Meeting in Bududa, as well as with Stephen Guloba, Clerk of Friends World Conference Commitee-African Section, who with his wife and family, hosted the team during their stay in Mbale district. The delegates then went to Kampala where they co-facilitated a training for Facilitators workshop, again with two AVP-Uganda facilitators, one of whom is a former army officer. Among the participants were three other former officers, now all bellonging to an ex-combatants group trying to make the transitions from military to civilian life. In total the team interviewed twelve groups or individuals representing various organizations involved in peace activities in Uganda.
In Burundi, the delegation conducted three trauma healing workshops, one with teachers from the Peace Primary School near Gitega, a seconf for wives of Yearly Meeting pastors, and a third for women of Kamenge Church, an area fo Bujumbura which had been destroyed the previous year in fighting between the government and rebel forces. The team met with a remarkable group of nine people called the "Peace and Reconciliation Ministry under the Cross". The team also visited kibimba, the site of the first Evangelical Friends Alliance mission in 1934 and the site of a major massacre in 1993.
In Rwanda, the team facilitated a two-day "Reconciliation and Trauma Healing Workshop" with the leaders of Rwanda Yearly Meeting anda Quaker pastors from all over the country. They visited Mutura Church, wher Carl Stauffer delivered the Sunday sermon. This church is on the northwestern border with the Congo where rebel and government fighting had killed hundreds of thousands of people earlier in 1998 were destroyed, many fields lay abandoned, few livestock survived, and the people who had fled into the mountain forests were just returning to their homes. Two of the three Quaker secondary schools in Rwanda were visited, and the Team spoke about reconciliation to the student bodies.
In Kenya, the Team attended a meeting with the clerks, general secretaries, and superintendents from the fourteen Yearly Meetings and led team-building exercises. They facilitated a half-day workshop at Lugari Yearly Meeting where the unrest in Kenya had ocurred in 1993, visited two Yearly Meetings near Kitale, and the Friends Theological College in Kaimosi. The delegation also spoke with a number of organizations including the National Christian Council of Kenya and the Nairobi Peace Initiative obout peacemaking activities in Kenya. The Team attempted to visit Tanzania Yearly Meeting, but when they reached Musoma, Tanzania, torrential rains kept them from taking the bus to the remote location of Tanzania Yearly Meeting.
Delegates: Rosemarie and Bill McMechan
Dates: January 7 to January 20, 1999
Burundi | Rwanda | Kenya
Uganda endured two regimes led by Milton Obote, the disastrous rule of Idi Amin, and two additional civil wars. This led to the military victory of Yoweri Museveni in 1986, who has ruled the country for the past thirteen years. Since that time, Uganda has had one of the highest percentage increase of gross domestic product of the countries in Africa. This is partly due to the extremely low economic base after many years of military rule. However, there are still two parts of the country with rebel forces fighting government troops, as well as Uganda's direct involvement in the current war in the Congo.
Peace work in Uganda is being done by many organizations. The recently formed Uganda National Peace Network Program brought together about twenty groups to "coordinate peace organizations/efforts in their diversity for the purpose of effectively and efficiently carrying out violent conflict transformation and peace-building in a complimentary and collaborative manner." Those who attended the inaugural workshop represented only a partial list of peace workers in Uganda. Much of the peace activity is being done at a local level. When the question of participation by a Friends Peace Team was posed, invariably the answer was in the affirmative. Even with the present effort, much more could be done in every sector of peacemaking.
Masaba Quarterly Meeting
After attending Quarterly Meeting, the delegation was shown the foundations walls of the Church the membership hopes to build when they can afford to do so. The community suffered great losses in November of 1997, when a landslide destroyed the homes and land of some of the members. The Meeting House in Matalanye was swept away, and five Friends died. The Meeting built a house for some of the homeless. During the day at the Meeting house, sixty-nine vocational students (teenagers) are taught carpentry, auto mechanics and sewing with the aid of few materials or facilities. The Meeting also runs a primary school (three hundred and twenty students in six classes with eight teachers), a nursery school (eighty children), adult literacy evening classes (thirty students), and conducts trauma healing (forty-one adults and fifteen children). There is a Youth Project that teaches brick making and a Women's Project that give classes on sewing/tailoring, making table cloths, growing trees, and using firewood and fertilizers economically.
Grace Kiconco, Director of Shalom House and AVP-Uganda Trainer
There is a huge demand for AVP workshops, all organizations at the Ugandan Peace Network wanted workshops. MCC has sponsored five AVP workshops under their Restorative Justice program and also through the Prison Fellowship. A Peace Team is very necessary, both for peace education and intervention in hot spots, and to motivate people. Ethnic group tensions are still prevalent throughout the country, and AVP could be helpful in reducing these tensions. It could also begin to alleviate domestic violence. "While AVP has come out of Quakerism, it is universal, and every person has to integrate its values into his/her own spiritual beliefs."
After the military coup by current President Boyoya on July 25, 1996, the country has felt a tentative stability; however rebel forces continue to resist the government. Damaged homes and fields continue to stand abandoned. People are tired of politics, violence and war. As one Burundian said, "It doesn't really matter who is in the Army as long as they don't kill us." Coupled with the pain of post-war trauma, however, emerges a sense of hope for the future and for coming generations. People on the ground across the country are engaging in small, but exponentially valuable attempts to rebuild their country. These reconstruction efforts are opening up windows of opportunity for mutual dialogue and understanding and for peace to go forward.
The Peace Primary School
The Peace Primary School, a Quaker led school, was developed in response to the 1993 crisis in Burundi. The objectives of the school are: 1) To educate the children and 2) To train the students in peace education. The school uses the government system in the morning and then in the afternoon the pupils are engaged in a peace education curriculum. Modeste Karerwa, the Head Mistress of the school, expounded on the vision for the work, "Starting with two-year-old nursery school children all the way through the primary grades, we emphasize that peace has to be lived. We work at showing love and unity, so the children can grow into it. We teach theory and then move into the practice of peace. The children are being trained to be examples/models as peaceful human beings wherever they go. We are preparing the new Burundi!" Some of the practical ways in which the school has engaged the students in peace work has been through food and clothing distribution, visiting orphanages, refugee camps and hospitals, and traveling to other schools and performing peace programs using the arts (e.g. choirs, drama, and dance). The school has attempted to empower the students through organizing them around an association for children's rights.
Delegates: Ute Caspers, Carl Stauffer and David Zarembka
Dates: January 14 to January 20, 1999
After the genocide in 1994 in which over 850,000 people were killed, the Friends Church in Rwanda made a concerted effort to spread leadership positions among various groups--Hutu and Tutsi who survived the genocide, and Tutsi returnees who had left the country after the unrest in 1959. Due to the fact that the Friends Church was still led by a missionary, that it was a small church of only 2500 adult members, and that it did not exist in Rwanda during the first conflict beginning in 1959, the Quaker Church has avoided leadership infighting and revolts that have occurred in most of the other Christian denominations in Rwanda. With leadership from all factions, the Quaker Church seems determined to make itself a model for reconciliation in Rwanda.
Mutura Friends Church
Mutura Friends Church is located in the northwest part of Rwanda near the Congo border. This is the area which had great unrest earlier in the year with up to 250,000 people killed. From one vantage point looking onto Lake Kivu, the delegation could only see abandoned houses and fields.
Within sight of the Mutura Church, there is a returnees camp for people who fled Rwanda after the 1959.The returnees also had poor living conditions with small houses, inadequate area to farm, and no livestock. Rev. Byumvuhore, the pastor of the Church, said that some of these people are coming to the church and he would like to start a primary school for everyone so that the local people (mostly Hutu) could learn to live together with the returnees (mostly Tutsi). People continually thanked the Peace Team members for leaving the comforts of their home to visit them in Rwanda, but any sacrifice (as people called it) was minor compared to people like Rev. Byumvuhore who everyday has to meet the challenge of putting their family, church, and community together again, physically, mentally, and spiritually, with little resources other than what they could generate within themselves after the trauma they had experienced.
Kidaho Secondary School and Church
Kidaho Secondary School and Church is located in the northwest, near the border with Uganda. The delegation spoke to the assembled students ( about 200 students) on the topic of reconciliation and conscientious objection to military service. Most of the school's books were destroyed in 1990 when the Rwandan Patriotic Front first invaded the country from Uganda. The school buildings themselves were the usual type for this area of Rwanda (brick walls, with glass windows, and a corrugated iron roof), tidily and cleanly kept. The school had inadequate dormitory space; for example, sixteen girls slept two to a mattress which covered the whole floor. Nonetheless, students were anxious for education. The lack of education is one of the critical problems for the long-term development of Rwanda.
The Team then visited Kidaho Friends Church where a large, enthusiastic group with many of children of all ages greeted the team with songs, prayers, and speeches. There was a primary school (one of the four Quaker primary schools in Rwanda) at the Church which the delegation toured. Conditions in this area were not in the same state of abandonment as in the area around the Mutura Church.
Lugari Yearly Meeting
The Delegation met with about twenty members of Lugari Yearly Meeting, situated in the Rift Valley where ethnic conflict occurred in 1993. The Team and the members discussed their understanding of peace and how to develop skills needed in peace making. Exercises included the web chart on conflict, gift giving and crossing the line. The following day, two groups, one for men and the other for women, explored issues as diverse as domestic violence to building trust to end ethnic clashes.
Kenyan Yearly Meeting Clerks and Superintendents
The Kenyan Team had the unique opportunity to meet in Kaimosi with the leaders of the fourteen Kenyan Yearly Meetings. After a brief introduction to conflict resolution themes, they led the group through several exercises including adjective names, modeling listen and group develop.
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