Summary of AVP-Uganda/AGLI Project
The African Great Lakes Initiative and AVP-Uganda joined together for the AVP-Uganda/AGLI Project that took place from January 31 to February 28, 2000. The purpose of the Project was to facilitate eight Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops, to support the work and development of AVP-Uganda, and to share and learn between the Ugandan and international facilitators. Additionally three Rwandan Quakers came to participate in two of the workshops.
The international AVP facilitators were team leader, Theresa Eldmann (South Africa), Bob Barns (USA), Grazyna Bonati (England), and Ray Boucher (USA). The fifteen Ugandan facilitators were Joseph Karabunga Matte, Betty Atyang, George Walumoli, Andrew Kurima, Hilda Birungi, David Waiswa, Yusuf Gowon, Joseph Olowo-Sirrah, Modesta Guloba, Eunice Obua, Lenny Magisha, Elias Wanyama, Chwinyaai Stephen, Mzee Yosa, and Vincent Oluka. .
Eight workshops with a total of 124 participants were held in Kampala, Mbale, Tororo and Soroti. The participation and enthusiasm of all the parties involved made the Project a rewarding experience. As the international participants wrote in their report, "We have gained immensely as facilitators. We learned from Ugandans of all walks of life. We also learned from each other. The diversity in experience, age, geography and culture contributed to this learning exchange. We thank AGLI from making this project happen."
Arrangements and accommodations were made by Grace Kiconco, the leader of Shalom House, a retreat center and residency for those working in the field of restorative justice. Her administration of the project was superb, organizing eight AVP workshops successfully over a four-week period.
Each week, two international facilitators teamed up with Ugandan facilitators to lead a three-day workshop allowing two workshops per week. Three of these were conducted in Ugandan prisons—two men’s prisons and one women’s prison. The workshop at Murchison Bay Men’s Prison was the first AVP workshop in that institution. Three other workshops were conducted with mostly ex-combatants, former soldiers from the four defeated armies, who are trying to find their place after an amnesty allowed them to return freely to a civilian life. Lastly two workshops occurred with community members—one of these at Bubulo Village was a last minute substitute when the local prison was unable to hold their workshop because the prisoners were in court. The community workshop at Soroti was the first AVP workshop and they would like to start an active AVP program there.
The lead facilitator at each workshop was always an Ugandan. The role of the international facilitators was to support, encourage, and discuss with the Ugandans. Some of the Ugandan facilitators were experienced, while some others were leading their first workshop.
Three Quakers from Rwandan Yearly Meeting of Friends—Pierre Damien Byumvuhore, Marcelin Sizeli, and Caspard Karemera—came to two workshops to see if they would like to introduce AVP into Rwanda (see page 4 for details). After their participation in Uganda, Rwandan Friends have asked AGLI to help them begin an AVP program in Rwanda.
Background on Uganda
Britain, the colonial power, considered Uganda to be the "Pearl of Africa" because of the prosperity and organized kingdom of Buganda, just north of Lake Victoria. When independence was achieved in 1962, Milton Obote became President. Ruling Uganda became a difficult balancing act that President Obote did not handle particularly well.
He was overthrown by Idi Amin, the head of the army, who destroyed the country in six years of misrule, corruption, and egotism. When he invaded northwestern Tanzania, Tanzania responded and Amin’s army melted away as Tanzania walked into a country devoid of a government. Julius Nyerere of Tanzania re-installed Milton Obote as President again, but he performed even worse the second time. He was again overthrown, this time by a guerrilla army.
In 1986, Yoweri Museveni overturned this army. Each of these armies had twenty to forty thousand soldiers who have subsequently been given amnesty if they do not resort again to violence. Currently there is fighting on Uganda’s borders. In the north, the conflict is between the Ugandan government and a group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (supported by the Sudanese Government). In the southwest, the Uganda Government troops are fighting Hutu rebels from Rwanda who formerly perpetuated the genocide there. In addition, Ugandan troops are heavily involved in the fighting in the Congo, supporting two rebel groups who control the northeastern part of the Congo.
Background on Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP)
•Community skills—trust, respect of others (and self), and inclusion.
•Co-operation—team work by compromising personal wants for the benefit of the group, trying to seek win-win solutions.
•Conflict resolution—Finding a common ground and letting "Transforming Power" (see box) work through us for a non-violent solution.
•Communications—listening with caring attention, peaking with clarity, ownership rather than blaming, and awareness of body language.
AVP offers workshops in correctional institutions and in the community in over 40 states in the US and in more than 20 countries abroad. Because it is based on the experience of the participants, it has been successful cross-culturally, and among people from widely divergent class, ethnic, educational and social backgrounds.
"Transforming" means changing and "power" is force, strength, or control. Thus people can change how they act or react in a situation or relationship. Elements of transforming power include looking for the good in others, seeking a non-violent solution, respecting one’s self, and caring for others. It takes willingness and practice to integrate and be able to access these tools. It takes risks and having the courage to try something different. To convey what Transforming Power is we share experiences (personal stories) where we have seen it work and do exercises to have participants look at incidents in their life where they have experienced or seen a non-violent solution to a potentially violent situation.
SUMMARY OF BASIC LEVEL WORKSHOP AT MURCHISON BAY PRISON
February 23-25, 2000
Facilitators: Mzee Yosa, Joseph Olowo-Sirrah, Ray Boucher, Grazyna Bonati
Most of the participants were highly educated and had held responsible positions before going to prison. There were bankers, lawyers, teachers and former government officials, including a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General. They were very keen to let us know this. All were open and willing to learn new things. The prison administration was extremely supportive and made every effort to let us know we were appreciated and wanted.
The team worked well together and was persevering at times until all were happy with the content and the roles people would take on. Because of the high level of participation, the workshop was interesting and sometimes spontaneous. The participants’ general ability to be articulate and inquisitive also kept us challenged. It was interesting for us to see inmates in the workshop dressed in good civilian clothing and operating with what seemed to be a laxness in security. We were allowed to take photographs within the prison and leave the workshop supplies with the inmates.
This was the first workshop to be done at Murchison Bay and everyone involved, i.e., inmates, administration, and the Officer in Charge were excited by it - and determined that they would have more. A lot of the agenda was geared to the participants’ ability and situation. They were particularly appreciative of having exercises that were relevant to their situation and enabled them to deal with their situations. An example was the use of the "Strategy" exercise, which allowed them to develop a plan to address the difficulties they expected to encounter on their return to civil society.
One participant, who had been a visiting professor at the University of Illinois by way of a Fullbright Scholarship and was a permanent secretary in the Ministry of State, said that whenever caring or helping someone else, one should do that without expecting any reward.
The Affirmation Posters were especially appreciated in that they had been composed by the participants themselves and so expressed the positive and affirmative opinions of their fellow participants.
We feel that this was an extremely successful workshop and we are hopeful that a lack of resources does not restrict AVP Uganda’s ability to offer future workshops in Murchison Bay.
Consequently AGLI invited three Rwandans to Uganda to participate in the AVP workshops to see if they would like to introduce it there. The three participants were Marcelin Sizeli (Clerk of Evangelical Friends of Rwanda and President of their Administrative Council), Gaspard Keremera (a pastor and Assistant General Secretary), and Pierre Damien Byumvuhore (pastor of Mutura Friends Church).
They first attended a basic workshop in Soroti for members of the community. The participants consisted of sixteen Christian, Muslim, community based organization and NGO members, the three Rwandans and two Ugandan facilitators and two from the international team. All the Ugandans unreservedly extended a warm hospitality to the Rwandan delegation. This enable a deep sharing of joy, growth and laughter. The Rwandans shared enough of their stories and journeys towards forgiveness and nonviolence to hugely enhance and deepen the process of teh workshop for the others who were present. A mixture of languages were used for communication including Swahili, Luganda, Kiyarwandan, English, and French.
Sizeli had to return to Rwanda after this one workshop, but Pierre Damien and Gaspard stayed a second week and participated in a second basic workshop—this one was in the Luzira Men’s Upper Prison. This was an excellent group of participants—active, intelligent, serious and committed. The participation was excellent and the level of questioning and discussion was very high. Most of the participants left the workshop determined to avoid violence in the future.
The Rwandans sent the following email from Uganda to David Zarembka, Coordinator, AGLI
13th February 2000
Warm greets in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Thank you very much for arranging our participation in the AVP training which is being held here in Uganda...We are at this moment enabled to extend our thanks to the facilitators of AVP here for their friendship and the skills shown during our training and stay here in Uganda. Nor can we forget to thank our Ugandan friends for their good welcome in their beautiful country.
So we hve been interested in AVP; the training in which we have been involved; the programme and goals, have all been important issues which we need in Rwanda in our present struggles (missing persons, demobilized solders, violent population, etc.). We have had discussions with the facilitators on how AVP can start in Rwanda. Many questions were asked and we responded to them....
Meanwhile, we are asking you, Dear Zarembka, to help us start AVP activities in Rwanda....
Yours in Christ,
Pierre Damien Byumvuhore, Marcelin Sizeli, Caspard Karemera
In response, AGLI is working with Rwanda Yearly Meeting of Friends to introduce AVP to Rwanda. A proposal is being written and circulated, sources of funding need to be identified, appropriate facilitators including two from AVP-Uganda will need to be recruite, and Rwanda Yearly Meeting with others will need to organize the initial series of workshop and follow-up activities.
AGLI would like to extend appreciation to the
Quaker Peace and Service (Britain) and Quakerhilfe (Germany) for their financial
support which made it possible for the Rwandans to attend the AVP workshops in
AVP works . . . but not in a vacuum. It must be made available, particularly to those whose lives have been or are being connected to violence. This series of workshops has brought AVP in new or deeper ways to about 140 participants and facilitators. These people have homes and communities to which we hope they bring the positive, non-violent principles dealt with in the workshops in new ways. This kind of benefit is not measurable but is known from the actions of those with whom we have interacted on our respective and shared journeys of "transformation".
We have also gained immensely as facilitators. We learned from Ugandans of all walks of life - especially about the meaning of Transforming Power in this challenging and dynamic country. We also learned from each other. The diversity in experience, age, geography and culture contributed to this learning exchange. We thank AGLI from making this project happen.
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