Quaker Network for the Prevention of Violent Conflict
Le Réseau de quaker pour l'Empêchment de Conflit Violent

Quaker Consultation on Peaceful Prevention of Violent Conflict,
Focus Africa

3rd Annual Gathering
September 23 - 27, 2002
Bujumbura and Gitega, Burundi
 

I.   Introduction

From September 23 through September 27, 2002 some 43 Friends from 12 different countries gathered in Bujumbura for the third international Quaker Consultation on the Peaceful Prevention of Violent Conflict.  The meeting was hosted by Burundi Yearly Meeting and the Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services, with partial funding from the Canadian Friends Service Committee, Quaker Service Norway, and the Quaker United Nations Office--NY/American Friends Service Committee.  While we learned of peacemaking efforts in Colombia and Sri Lanka, the focus was on the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Friends and colleagues at the consultation came from Burundi, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Norway, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Switzerland, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  Participants carried organizational affiliation with the African Great Lakes Initiative of Friends Peace Teams, American Friends Service Committee,  CARE International, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Friends International Center (Nairobi), Friends Peace House (Kigali), Friends World Committee for Consultation (Africa Section), Uzima Foundation (Nairobi), Quaker Peace Centre (Cape Town), Quaker Peace Service and Witness (UK), Quaker Service Norway, and the Quaker United Nations Office (Geneva and New York).

Participants in the Consultation included those active in such programmes as Alternatives to Violence Project; Change Agent Peace Programme (Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, and Kenya); Burundi Yearly Meeting of Friends; Burundi Yearly Meeting’s Women’s Collective; Christian Centre for Justice, Peace, and Non-Violent Action (Bogota, Colombia); Decade to Overcome Violence (US Conference, World Council of Churches); Evangelical Friends in Peace, Community Development, and Child Care (Uganda); Friends in Peace and Community Development (Kenya);  Great Lakes School of Theology (Bujumbura, Burundi); Magarama II Peace Primary School (Gitega, Burundi); Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation Under the Cross (Burundi); Peace and Community Action (Sri Lanka); and Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services along with a wide range of other community and policy programmes.
 

II.   Purpose

The first consultation, held in London in 2000, was a response to the war in Kosovo which, in the words of last year’s report, “greatly challenged Friends to not only continue witnessing against the use of violence, but also to articulate viable peaceful alternatives to managing gross human rights abuses and intra-state conflict.” Participants realized that Friends could contribute more effectively to peace by working to prevent large scale violence long before its outbreak than, as so often, waiting until it has become imminent.  This led to questions about how Friends might best work in pre-violence and post-violence stages of conflict.  It was decided to meet annually to pursue these questions and to involve Friends from the “South,”  --who had been under-represented at the London consultation.

The second consultation, September 30-October 5, 2001, was held in New York and Washington, D.C.  The New York venue permitted the consultation to draw on expertise at the United Nations regarding models for early warning and the peaceful prevention of violence.  Among the themes that emerged were the wealth of opportunities and the challenges to preventing conflict in Africa; the lack of shared knowledge, connection, and cooperation among Quakers working on conflict prevention; the changing nature of conflict in the world; recognition of a unique niche for Friends coupled with the need to work with others; and bridge-building among Friends, North and South.  A set of working principles was developed to guide Quaker efforts to mobilize and focus Quaker endeavors for the next ten years to prevent violent conflict, with an initial focus on Africa.

The third consultation, held September 23 through 27 was to further the work begun in the first two consultations.  In keeping with the view that the consultations should be held alternately in centers of power and regions of conflict, the consultation was held in the African Great Lakes region, specifically in Bujumbura, Burundi.  This  consultation was to learn more about what Friends are doing to prevent violent conflict in the African Great Lakes region, especially, and then to look for ways to collaborate in advancing this work.
 

III.   Consultation Programme

There were four components of the work:  worshipping, consulting in plenary session and small groups, visiting Friends projects and institutions between and including Bujumbura and Gitega, and reaching out to policy makers and press in a public event.  In worship we sought to open ourselves to divine guidance so as to advance the work for peace.  Visiting the selected peace projects in Burundi was important both to inform those of us from outside Burundi and to bring supportive attention to these projects.  Further attention was brought to them, and to projects outside of Burundi, in the public event, held on the last day of the consultation, to which policy makers, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, and press were invited.

A major component of consultation is to learn from one another information, insights, and methods that can help us in our own work.  The first morning, for example, was devoted to a presentation of the Alternatives to Violence Project in Uganda.  There were (1) an explanation of basic principles, (2) exercises to give Friends unfamiliar with AVP some idea of AVP workshops, and (3) personal and moving examples of finding alternatives to violence.  Those familiar with AVP in the United States learned how the project has been adapted to the circumstances in Uganda and elsewhere in the African Great Lakes region.  AVP has been introduced in Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda.  The presentation sparked requests to introduce AVP in Kenya.

During the afternoon of the first day, participants, working in groups, drew up lists of outcomes they expected or desired from the consultation.  These lists were shared in plenary session and reflected both the range of interests of peace workers present at the consultation and much of the complexity of the nature of violent conflict.  It has become common in recent years for those concerned with human well-being, whether individual or communal, to look at the physical, social, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of human existence.  It is probably safe to say that all fundamental human activity has these four dimensions; certainly violent conflict does.  The “dimensions” are not discrete and independent but deeply inter-related.  The spiritual, for example, finds expression in psychological, social, and even physical realms.  The expected and desired outcomes for the consultation reflected these four dimensions of human existence as well and served as the basis for the identification of seven broad themes which were the focus of work during the consultation:

 1. Health and Conflict.
 2. Economics and Conflict.
 3. Small Arms Disarmament and Conflict.
 4, Governance and Conflict.
 5. Peace Making, Conflict Resolution, and Conflict.
 6. Trauma Aftermath and Conflict.
 7. Quaker Values and Conflict.

Another aspect to this list of broad themes is that some appear to address more explicitly the aftermath of an episode of violence while others appear to address more explicitly the causes of violent conflict, but in the familiar cycle of violence aftermath is precursor.

Small groups were formed to address each of these themes, identify constituency for work on the issues, and decide on the methodology to be employed.   Each group developed an action plan for the period between this 3rd Consultation and the next one.  This reflected the growing sense that it was time to move from sharing information to collaborative endeavor.

An advantage of meeting in a region of conflict is that the bitter fruits of violent conflict are manifest concretely, and do not appear as abstractions.  Much is being learned about the phenomena of conflict induced trauma, both its terrible toll on the victims of violence and its role in causing future violence.  In Burundi and Rwanda there is scarcely a family that has not experienced loss due to violence, so the task of post-conflict trauma healing is enormous.  While noting that post-conflict trauma healing needs to be sensitive to particular circumstances, the small group focusing on trauma healing called for a network of persons engaged in this work in different regions of Africa so that sharing with one another members of such a network could (a) gain insight into designing more effective trauma healing programs, (b) learn more about the human rights framework for healing justice, and (c) raise awareness of trauma healing work at policy levels, both nationally and internationally.

Another cost of violent conflict in Africa at this time is the spread of HIV/AIDS, a major public health problem and social issue with broad economic ramifications.  The group with this focus noted that when people are hopeless, they do not defend their rights; they do not protect themselves or others.  The problem is exacerbated in places where conflict reduces effective governance, as in Burundi.  Furthermore, HIV/AIDS is leaving many orphans who face a bleak future and are often susceptible to being recruited to serve as soldiers in situations of violent conflict.  The health and conflict group focused on the importance for peace of programs to assist the victims of HIV/AIDS and their families, both to heal the wounds of violence and to prevent future violence.

The flood of small arms in Africa is both the result of prior armed violence and a contributor to present and future violence.  Small arms contribute to the destabilization of the Great Lakes region. The group with this focus wants to find a way for Friends to incorporate arms awareness and knowledge of conscientious objection into their peace education work.  They recommended that they become a part of such existing programs as the Alternatives to Violence Project, the programme of the Rwanda Friends Peace House, the Peace School curriculum, and the Change Agents Peace project.  The concern will be carried to Rwanda and Burundi yearly meetings.  Many other ideas were developed and plans are being made to implement them.

The concern of the small arms group regarding education about conscientious objection ties in with the work of the Quaker values group.  This group recognized that peace workers in the African Great Lakes region needed relevant, contemporary material on Friends’ peace testimony and Quaker beliefs and practices regarding conflict.  Friends who were sustained by their Christian faith and the Gospel message of love, during the terrible humanitarian crises that have shaken the area, see the need to share this faith and message and to articulate the spiritual foundations of peace witness in language suitable for the circumstances.  Contemporary expressions of the peace testimony and its spiritual roots are being gathered, but in addition encouragement will be given to Quaker writers in Africa to contribute to this literature.  Especially needed is material in French, though it would help as well to have material in Kirundi/Kinyarwanda.

The ongoing hostilities in Burundi have caused economic havoc; a country once able to feed itself now relies heavily on food aid.  A country’s economy is a nexus of physical, social, and psychological factors affected by violent conflict and at times a contributor to it.  The small group on economics and conflict was particularly concerned with the plight of refugees and displaced persons, the need for rehabilitation programmes, and the economic issues involved in housing, health, and employment.  Employment is of particular concern for demobilized rebels.  The trip into the Burundi highlands featured visits to the site of a housing rehabilitation project and to an internally displaced persons camp.  One of the four proposals on which the small group is working is to provide assistance to refugees in Kenya to visit safely their homes in Burundi to enable them to assess directly the risk and desirability of returning home permanently.  This exciting venture would require the cooperation of the governments of Kenya and Burundi and of the UN High Commission on Refugees.

Government is the way that a society formulates and implements policy, and legislates, administers, and enforces law.  Without government there is anarchy; with government, it will be involved in some way in whatever violent conflict that occurs. The group focusing on governance felt that almost all African post-independence conflicts have been and are the result of bad governance.  Civil society has a crucial role in addressing governance problems, and therefore civil society needs to be strengthened in countries suffering from bad leadership.  Training of civilians was proposed in human rights, nonviolence and conflict resolution, good governance, and the exercise of democracy.  It was suggested that such training could be incorporated in the work of such existing programs as AVP, THARS, AFSC, FCNL, QRSW, Mi-PAREC, and the Quaker Peace Centre--Cape Town.  An especially egregious form of bad governance is the political and social marginalization of ethnic or religious groups.  Conflict prevention, it was urged, must include the empowerment of marginalized groups.

The remaining small group focused on the needs of those working in all these various ways to prevent violent conflict.  Peacemaking can be a dangerous and lonely activity and no one person can effectively address all the relevant factors contributing to violence nor all those conducive to a peaceful and just society.  The interconnections among the concerns of the previous groups, furthermore, illustrate the inter-relatedness of the various peace-building initiatives.  The peacemakers group stressed the need for those working for peace to have more contact and communication among themselves.  This needs to be done nationally, internationally on a regional basis, and globally.  The enrichment from sharing ideas and experiences occurs both horizontally, for example the sharing among those engaged in community-based programs, and vertically, for example the sharing among those engaged in community-based programs with those engaged at various policy-making levels up to and including international policy making at the United Nations.  The consultation of which this is the report facilitated both horizontal and vertical sharing and left participants hungering for more.  The peacemakers group recommended that the Network facilitate national and regional international meetings of Quaker peace workers and envisioned exciting possibilities for future collaboration that would permit the rapid concentration of peace worker resources to address emergency situations.

The final activity of the consultation was a public event held 1500h - 1700h September 27th at the Novotel in Bujumbura.  Government officials, leaders of NGOs working in Burundi, and the press were invited to attend.  Between 80-90 persons attended. David Niyonzima moderated the “Public Conference” which comprised two panels presenting (1) Quaker peace work in Africa (THARS - Adrien Niyongabo, AVP - Vicki Nakuti, CAPP - David Bucura, Security - Jeremy Routledge, and Cooperation for Peace - Dianne Forte) and (2) Quaker peace work in other parts of the world (Paul Stuckey on work in Colombia, William Knox on work in Sri Lanka, and David Atwood on work with governments and international organizations).  Question and answer periods followed each panel presentation.  The second panel was moderated by Ferdinand Nzohabonayo.

Summing up:

The third annual meeting of the Quaker Consultation on Peaceful Prevention of Violent  Conflict provided a welcome and much needed occasion for both learning about Friends’ peace work in Burundi in particular, and in the African Great Lakes region in general, while those active in the region learned more about other projects and were usefully connected with those working at policy levels in centers of power and internationally.  Horizontal and vertical networking was deepened among Quaker peace workers, existing networks were broadened and new networks established.  By employing small groups focusing on different themes, those present generated many ideas for enriching existing programs by adding components that would contribute other dimensions to the effort to prevent violent conflict.   New initiatives were launched and others, envisioned.  An important strand in the various proposals that emerged was a concern to involve youth.

Participants agreed that the meeting had been of great use and that a continued focus on the Great Lakes region of Africa would be of value for the Network.  The Quaker UN Office in New York offered to send out periodic evaluation requests to help the group assess its progress and the best use of the Network.  The email listserve will continue to be coordinated by the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington, D.C.
 

IV. Future of the Network

INFORMATION GATHERING.  Last year it was felt that the network needed (a) funding and hence the collecting of information regarding funding sources; (b) collecting descriptions of existing Quaker Prevention Network programs and describing a model of effective action; and (c) interpreting our work at the full range of levels, from local to international.  These three concerns ran through the 2002 meeting as well.  The concern regarding information sharing was broadened and deepened by the formation of seven working groups that are to function during the coming year.  While each group is responsible for its own mode of operation, it was clear that many of the groups would rely heavily, at least in part, on electronic communications.  E-mail addresses were gathered from participants.  People were reminded that a list-serve had been established, though it has not been used frequently. At the time of the consultation there were about fifty names on the list-serve.

A request was made for succinct summaries of program activities, like the report by Steve Collett on Quaker Peace Norway.

Lori Heninger will be in touch with everyone at the consultation three times during the course of the coming year.  She will ask in relation to the meeting in Bujumbura, what people have been doing, what results have emerged, and what progress has been made by the small groups.  The information she gathers will be shared.

STRUCTURE.  The Network’s lack of formal structure weakened its ability to plan the Bujumbura meeting.  Although the group did not want to construct a formal organization, but there was concern regarding responsibility for planning the next meeting of the Network.  It was decided to name a committee to monitor progress being made by the seven groups and the planning of the next consultation.

NEXT MEETING.  A small committee, with balanced representation of men and women from the Great Lakes region and internationally, was formed to plan next gatherings.  The committee is planning a two-step follow-up process, consisting of a meeting for people working in the Great Lakes region in late 2003, followed by a fourth international gathering for the broader network in early 2004.  The regional meeting will take place in Rwanda sometime in August or September 2003.  The next international network Quaker Consultation on the Peaceful Prevention of Violent Conflict will then take place sometime during the period from February through April 2004 in Western Kenya.  The planning committee is considering issues of participation, funding, location, and agenda, and will seek further input from the network as planning progresses.
 

V.  Concluding Remarks

As the epistle issued following the meeting noted, “the consultation provided opportunity for networking among African Quaker peaceworkers, as well as for those from elsewhere around the world.  We recognize a shared need to deepen our collaboration and support for each other.  We renew our commitment to the value of each human life, recognizing that our global society does not always value lives equally and that inequities run deep and continue to grow.  Such inequities may contribute to conflict and war in the future. Those of us from wealthy countries felt deeply the disparities between our societies and those of most of the world's population.  But we were encouraged and impressed by the deep faith, bold vision, courage, and leadership of Friends in Africa working to prevent violent conflict and to rebuild their communities....

“We envision many possibilities of working together and supporting each other. Recognizing our limitations, we chose to work on a number of specific joint initiatives. We have committed ourselves to meeting again and working together to continue to learn and implement means of preventing and preempting violence in our lives, in our communities, and in our world....

“We call on Friends everywhere to join us in renewing our commitment to our peace testimony as a living witness. As we do so, we ask you to hold all Friends working for peace in Africa in the Light.”
 

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