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|WINTER 2000: v5i1 INDEX||
WINTER, 2000: Volume 5 Issue 1
Positions are available for two people interested in working as peace team members in Burundi for 25 months beginning July 1, 2000. These international team members will work with two Burundians in developing the Burundi Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Center, a new endeavor to deal with the consequences of years of violence in Burundi, sponsored by Burundi Yearly Meeting of Friends and the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams Project. Team members will train for six months in Africa in trauma healing and reconciliation work, in Kirundi (the language of Burundi), in history, and in the social, political, religious, and economic situation of Burundi.
Application deadline—April 1, 2000.
For more information about these positions or to support the African Great Lakes Initiative contact: AGLI, c/o David Zarembka, 17734 Larchmont Terrace, Gaithersburg, MD 20877: tel: 301 208-1862; or visit our website at http://www.quaker.org/fptp/agli/ To receive reports or responses by e-mail send your e-mail address to: [email protected]
The Confederate flag flying on the South Carolina capitol has created a controversy with the NAACP urging a boycott of South Carolina until the flag is removed. The Civil War has been over 135 years! It was a brutal conflict. Approximately 1.1 million people or 3% of the population died during the conflict. Sherman marched to the sea destroying everything on the way. Little or no healing or reconciliation occurred. Reconstruction, share-cropping, Jim Crow segregation, discrimination, the Ku Klux Klan, and continued bitterness have resulted. Personally one of my great grandfathers had three brothers killed in the war and another great grandfather had three brothers wounded, two so severely that they never became functioning members of society.
Will a similar history repeat itself in Burundi? How does a society which has been torn apart heal itself? How do individuals who have experienced nightmarish tragedies recover? Even with the end of the conflict, will not these wounds if left to fester lead to suicide, alcoholism, random violence, child and wife abuse, and the possibility of a new cycle of violence?
The Burundi Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Center will tackle these questions. Its objectives are to:
The project, a partnership between Burundi Yearly Meeting of Friends and FPTP’s African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI), will support a team of four people, two Burundians and two internationals, who will spend three months in training in Burundi and three months in training in trauma healing and reconciliation in South Africa. The team will then return to Burundi and set up the Burundi Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Center.
See Contact Information to obtain a proposal describing the project in detail and a shorter brochure.
At this point we need help in two areas:
This is a very ambitious project, particularly in the scope of what it plans to achieve—promoting the healing and reconciliation of a society torn asunder by internal conflicts.
Burundi is one small country in the Great Lakes region of Africa beset with civil war, violence, and the breakdown of its society. Rwanda with its 1994 genocide, the Congo with its nine-country African “world war” and Uganda with conflict along its western and northern borders are also part of this unsettled region. Briefly, what is the current situation in Burundi and neighboring countries?
When the African Great Lakes Initiative visited Burundi in January, 1999, the situation was fairly calm. During the week I was there, one small massacre was reported in a remote area of the country near Rwanda. Former Tanzanian President, Julius Nyerere was leading eighteen Burundian parties towards a peace settlement in talks in Arusha, Tanzania. The economic situation was poor, partly because of the unrest and partly because of economic sanctions imposed in 1996 when Pierre Buyoya seized power in a military coup. Shortly after we left, the sanctions were lifted due to the progress that was being made at the Arusha peace talks.
By the time the team for the Kamenge Reconciliation and Reconstruction Project arrived in July, 1999, the situation had deteriorated. The peace talks began collapsing and shortly thereafter, Julius Nyerere became ill. Various rebel groups, including two militant Hutu parties who were not among the eighteen parties at the peace talks, began to step up their attacks. Usually this meant that they would kill a few Burundian Tutsi soldiers, while the soldiers would retaliate by killing a number—sometimes a large number—of Hutu civilians, accusing them of harboring the rebels.
As the number of incidents increased with more and more people being killed, the Tutsi army forced almost 500,000 Burundian Hutus living in Bujumbura Rurale (the rural areas around the capital of Bujumbura) into displaced persons camps. A few Hutu took refuge in the compound of Burundi Yearly Meeting in Bujumbura, but neighbors complained and the army removed them. Conditions in these camps are dreadful—cholera, a disease which occurs in situations where sanitary facilities are inadequate, has broken out in a few camps.
Aid organizations had difficulty reaching many of the fifty-eight camps. Doctors without Borders withdrew from the camps in November, 1999, because they opposed the policy of forcing people into displaced persons’ camps and were not receiving adequate access to the camps. This unrest, together with poor growing conditions in the last two years, has led to a food shortage in the country and increases in the price of food and other necessities. In October, a rebel group killed two UN workers so the United Nations withdrew back into Bujumbura only. Then on October 14, Julius Nyerere died.
The upsurge in violence is also due to the larger political situation in the Great Lakes region. Little progress has been made towards a unified Congo. The Congo has essentially been divided into five sections—the Government section headed by President Kabila, an Angolan area, a Rwandan area, and two Ugandan areas. There is some fighting on the edges of the various sections, and each group is essentially “milking” its area (in natural resources, the Congo is one of the richest nations in the world).
Another reason for the persistence of warfare is the number of active armed rebel groups. The Interahamwe (militia) who were responsible for the genocide in Rwanda and later controlled the million or more people in the refugee camps in the Congo are still armed rebels. They have attacked Uganda, killing eight tourists in one incident and, over Christmas, killed thirty-one Tutsi at a returned persons’ camp in sight of Mutura Friends Church where the January delegation visited. The Interahamwe have also teamed up with the Angolan rebels, UNITA, and with the militant Burundian Hutu rebels. As pressure is being put on them in the Congo, they are reported to be moving into Tanzania and attacking Burundi.
David Niyonzima, the General Secretary of Burundi Yearly Meeting, reports:
Is there any encouraging news? Jimmy Carter has gotten the Ugandan and Sudanese Governments to agree to a cease-fire and to stop supporting the opposing country’s rebels. The Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda is being disbanded. (This group is one of the most brutal of the rebel groups, known for kidnapping school children and forcing the boys to become soldiers and the girls to become concubines.) Let us pray that peace can return to that area. Nelson Mandela has been appointed to lead the Burundian peace negotiations, but two militant Hutu rebel groups do not accept him because they accuse South Africa of supplying weapons to the Burundian army.
This is not the time to abandon our Friends in Burundi. I remember when I was there, Burundians everywhere were making bricks. For the Kamenge Project rebuilding the residency/guest house, the bricks the team used were still warm from being fired. Even with a bleak outlook Burundians are hopeful for a peace that will allow rebuilding. Resiliency is part of the human condition.
Grace Kiconco is a remarkable person. When she graduated from college in Uganda with a degree in Social Work, she began visiting condemned men, or as we would say, men on death row. Soon she was working also with their families. Grace has also been working on restorative justice issues and launched “Shalom House” to hold workshops and provide hospitality as needed for those involved in prison work and with the more than 100,000 ex-combatants from at least four defeated armies. She has been supported by the Mennonite Central Committee, Canadian Friends Service Committee, Quaker Peace and Service from England, and various individuals.
In 1996 three Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) trainers went to Uganda and held some AVP workshops. Grace attended these and then with two other Ugandans went to a month-long course at Woodbrooke, the Quaker center in England, where they received their full AVP training. This group returned and launched AVP-Uganda. It has two branches, AVP-Kampala where Grace lives and AVP-Mbale, the home of Uganda Yearly Meeting of Friends.
As part of FPTP’s African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI)’s January, 1999, delegation, Bill and Rosemarie McMechan co-faciliated two AVP workshops, one in Mbale and one in Kampala, and they recommended that support be given to AVP-Uganda, Grace Kiconco’s work, and the ex-combatants. Therefore in February, 2000, AGLI has teamed up with AVP-Uganda to facilitate together at least eight AVP workshops. Two or three will be held in men’s prisons, one in a women’s prison, one with ex-combatants, three with community members, and two or three more with the Quakers in Mbale. Workshops will be at all three AVP levels—Basic, Advanced, and Training for Trainers.
We have assembled an excellent international team of experienced AVP facilitators to work with the Ugandan facilitators. These include:
If you would like to make a donation to or receive a report about this Peace Team in Uganda, please send your name and address to AGLI (see Contact Information). If you would like to receive the report by e-mail, send your e-mail address to [email protected]
For related earlier articles see: