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

Notes from Donald Thomas, P.O. Box 14893, 00800, Nairobi

This was the third consultation on the peaceful prevention of violent conflict. The first took place in London in 2000 and focussed on the war in Kosovo. The second took place in New York and Washington DC in 2001 and focussed on the situation in Africa. The third took place in Bujumbura, Burundi and again focussed on Africa and particularly on the situation in the Great Lakes Region. Though not actively involved in peace work, I was able to attend thanks to support from the American Friends Service Committee. Special thanks are due to the Burundi team who made all the arrangements for our accommodation, meals and transport and generally took very good care of our needs.


Participants included Quakers and Co-workers from Burundi, Congo, England, Norway, Rwanda, South Africa. Sri Lanka, Kenya, Switzerland, Uganda, and USA. The main organisations represented were as follows:

1. Quaker Peace Service and Witness (UK). QPSW currently has a programme at Gulu in Uganda.
2. American Friends Service Committee (USA). AFSC has an on-going Africa Initiative Programme which is focussed on the Great Lakes region and Central Africa (Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Angola).
3. Change Agent Peace Programme (CAPP). This programme operates in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Congo. It is supported by Norwegian Quakers and the Norwegian Government.
4. African Great Lakes Initiative (USA) which is supported by Baltimore Yearly Meeting. AGLI is supporting the Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services (THARS) of Burundi Yearly Meeting and the Alternatives to Violence Programme (AVP) in several countries especially Rwanda. AGLI work is carried out by Friends Peace Teams comprising local and overseas Friends.
5. Friends World Committee for Consultation (Africa Section), based in Nairobi.
6. Quaker Peace Centre, Cape Town.
7. Friends International Centre, Nairobi.
8. Friends Committee on National Legislation, New York.
9. Quaker UN Office, New York and Geneva.
10 Burundi Yearly Meeting.
11 Rwanda Yearly Meeting.
12. Congo Yearly Meeting.
13. Evangelical Friends, Uganda. Other organisations represented included: the Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation under the Cross (a programme of Burundi Friends); Magarama II Peace Primary School (a programme of Burundi Friends); Great Lakes School of Theology (a programme of Burundi Friends); World Council of Churches Decade to Overcome Violence; Mennonite Church; Christian Centre for Justice, Peace and Non-Violent Action, Bogota; Colombia; Peace and Community Action, Colombo, Sri Lanka; Uzima Foundation, Nairobi; and CARE International.

The programme included three and a half days of consultations and one and a half days visiting Friends projects and institutions while travelling to and from Gitega. Time was allocated for a number of participants to report on particular programmes and projects. My own interest in Burundi had been stimulated in part by involvement with the Quaker Refugee Committee at the Friends International Centre Nairobi, that assists in the running of a tailoring class for Quaker refugees from Burundi and Rwanda. The main value of the consultation for me was seeing and hearing about the activities that are taking place, discussing proposals and making personal contacts.


Seven broad themes were identified for discussion in small groups:

1. Quaker values and conflict
2. Trauma healing and conflict
3. Economics and conflict
4. Peace making and conflict resolution
5. Small arms and conflict
6. Health and conflict
7. Governance and conflict


The following were some of the areas identified where Quakers (in collaboration with others) could make a useful contribution:

1. Publication of relevant material in appropriate languages.
2. Support for suitably qualified and concerned individuals to attend relevant courses such as those at the Quaker Peace Centre in Capetown.
3. Support for existing programmes such as Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services, Alternatives to Violence, Change Agent Peace Programme.
4. Work Camps.
5. Peace Tours for policy makers to familiarise them with the activities that are taking place.
6. Reintegration of Child Soldiers.
7. South-South exchanges.
9. Resettlement of refugees.
8. Regional conferences of peace workers.


Of the many topics listed above, I was only involved in discussion of two proposals as follows:

1. Publications We agreed that there was a need to make relevant material available to peace workers in the region and in particular to provide material about Quaker beliefs and practices in relation to conflict. The following steps were outlined.

a. Identify organisations or individuals who might be interested either in providing or receiving suitable material.
b. Identify existing documents which would be useful, either as already published or when adapted and if necessary translated into local languages.
c. Prepare a bibliography of suitable material.
d. Identify translators and make arrangements for the translation of publications which are ready.
e. Identify existing Quaker writers in Africa.
g. Establish a panel of readers/editors to ensure that what is written and published is relevant, well written, of suitable length, and attractive in style and format. (Some names were suggested).
h. Mobilise the necessary resources. The major expenses would be for publication and distribution although some material could be made available on the internet. Writers would not be paid but some funds might be needed for translation and for the purchase of publications for reference, translation or adaptation. Permission to use other material would have to be sought where necessary.

Other suggestions included support for a Peace Making Newsletter and the publication of articles by African writers in Quaker Journals in USA and UK.

Members of this small working group included the following:

Tom Paxson [email protected]
Moses Bigirimana [email protected]
Martin Wilkinson [email protected]
Mkoko Boseka [email protected]
Adrien Niyongaboh [email protected]
George Walumoli [email protected]

2. Alternatives to Violence AVP is being promoted through the African Great Lakes Initiative which is being coordinated by David Zaremka. The first session at the consultation was assigned to a practical demonstration of AVP training involving all the participants. The session was conducted by two AVP facilitators from Uganda. The explanations and activities provided a means to identify topics of concern that could be followed up in later sessions. AVP is taught through three-day workshops. There are four main goals:

a. to cultivate a climate of affirmation and openness and a sense of the worth of self and others among the participants.
b. to build a community among its participants, one in which mutual trust and sharing is possible.
c. to teach participants how to overcome those barriers of communication that are so often at the heart of intolerance and thoughtlessness.
d. to teach some of the skills of resolving conflicts so that the needs and interests of all conflicting parties can be accommodated.

There is an underlying assumption that there is some good in everyone, that people’s attitudes and behaviour can change and that there is a Transforming Power (God, if you prefer) that enables such changes to take place. Participants at workshops must be volunteers. Training is carried out by facilitators who have had longer periods of training and have worked for some time under experienced trainers. Training for facilitators is carried out in several stages:

1) basic workshop
2) advanced workshop,
3) training for facilitators workshop and
4) facilitation of basic workshops by new facilitators under supervision.

David Zarembka made it clear that rather than a few basic workshops with no long term goal, it would be advisable to adopt a programme that will produce a number of fully qualified facilitators by the end. They will then be able to sustain and expand the programme on a long term basis. Discussion with several people who have had experience of AVP confirmed its value and the four Kenyans who were at the consultation (Hezron Masitsa, Donald Thomas, Joseph Andugu and Malesi Kinaro) had discussions with David Zarembka on the way forward. David Zarembka had produced a provisional budget and we are to finalize plans with him through email ([email protected]).


Participants were transported in five vehicles under the leadership of David Niyonzima and other Burundi Quakers. After leaving Bujumbura on the shores of Lake Tanganyika we climbed steadily for nearly an hour up the western wall of the great Rift valley until we reached the rolling hills of the main plateau. Bananas, cassava, coffee or tea were cultivated on small-scale holdings in different areas.
The first visit was to the Kabuguzo Primary School (a Friends school) where children gave a lively performance of song and dance. From there we passed to a national monument commemorating the massacre of about 70 Tutsi who had been burned to death as a reprisal for the assassination, in 1993, of the first Hutu president. This monument was close to Kibimba where Arthur and Edna Chilson had established the first Quaker mission in the 1930s and where they are both buried. At Kibimba we visited the Hospital, the Peace Restaurant, the Secondary School, the Primary School and the Church. Kibimba has been through very difficult times and has suffered a lot of damage due to occupation at times by the army and at times by displaced people. Even at the time of our visit a small section of the school was occupied by soldiers. However, much has been done to restore the premises and to get the hospital and school working. This is the hospital where Susan Seitz and Keith Miller were working during the worst troubles in 1994.
A Peace Committee was established to promote security and reconciliation with ten members of whom five were Hutu and five were Tutsi. The Peace Restaurant became a place for people to meet and a Sports club was established. Mennonite Central Committee facilitated these developments but political problems forced the MCC workers to leave in 1996 and the Peace Committee collapsed.
In 1998 the Peace Committee was revived with the addition of three women. The committee became active with peace education, workshops on conflict resolution were held and development projects were established. It sought permission from the Government to reopen the Secondary School which was in very poor condition and needed major repairs. Currently there are many needs. More classrooms are needed for the primary school; there are displaced people who need resettlement; the livestock project needs support and the sports team needs equipment, especially footballs.
The Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services (THARS) has established Listening Rooms at Kibimba and at other Quaker centres where traumatised people can be listened to and receive help from trained counselors. At Kibimba we saw an astonishing perfomance of drumming and dancing. The music and dancing was thrilling in itself but what made the whole performance more exiting and memorable was the re-enactment of the clashes and the struggle for reconciliation that followed. The dancers started with the burning of a small structure to represent the destruction of homes and then acted out the killing of the occupants as they fled. Subsequently, a figure appeared on the scene carry a crucifix and bearing a message of reconciliation. He tried to bring the antagonists together which proved a great struggle but eventually he had them on their knees repenting of what they had done. In the next scene they are reunited, working together and laying bricks to rebuilt the destroyed homes The final scene re-enacts the beating of swords into digging tools with the aid of burning charcoal and traditional bellows.
From Kibimba we travelled in the direction of Gitega and stopped at a roadside village which had been established for Internally Displaced people. Friends had helped with construction of houses that were mainly occupied by widows and children, victims of the clashes. Shortly after this we left the main highway and took a long journey to a place where a Peace Team had been reconstructing houses that had been burned or destroyed during the clashes. This work of house building has been a major undertaking for several years and is undertaken by a team under the title of MIPAREC-Mission for Peace and Reconciliation under the Cross. We were not able to meet any workers at the site so we returned to the main highway and proceeded to Kwibuka where there is a Garage for training Mechanics, a Primary School, a Secondary School, a Church and a small Orphanage. Kwibuka means “to remember”. It was a Friends’ Mission that was established in 1945. Currently there is an American Quaker, David Kellum, working at the Centre and helping to run the Garage and improve the facilities. Previously there had been a Pastoral Training School but it was closed after 1993 when 8 students were killed. David Niyonzima who was teaching at the time was forced to flee. We saw the graves of the students who had died. The students training as mechanics played guitars and sang. David Kellum emphasised the need to provide opportunities for young people to get training as the only alternative may be recruitment into armed forces. One young applicant who was rejected asked “What am I to do now, go out and throw grenades?” He was admitted! The primary school has 53 teachers and 1,546 students who come in two shifts. They plan to include peace education. Under an agreement with the government, Friends provide the buildings and the government pays the teachers’ salaries.
The next visit was to the Magarama Peace School on the outskirts of Gitega where the children performed drumming and dancing for our entertainment. The school incorporates a nursery school with about 300 students and a primary school with 360 students. The school was assisted by Swedish Quakers to have a small dispensary. Students are selected by lottery and are therefore a mixture of Hutus and Tutsis. Peace education is included in both the nursery school and primary school curricula. It includes practical peace making whereby children are taken to help others in the community who are in need. Teachers are given special training in conflict transformation and the programme also involves parents.
At Gitega we were taken to see the building which has been rented by MIPAREC for training in conflict transformation and other programmes for youth, women, etc. There is a training room, library, office and guest accommodation where some of us slept. MIPAREC has been running course for various NGOs and UN agencies and is currently constructing its own building. Funds for construction come from consultancy services, running a small restaurant and the guest house. Among other activities, MIPAREC runs a video cum discussion club and publishes a newsletter.


On returning to Bujumbura (a journey of about two hours) we continued discussions, heard more of peace activities in other places and enjoyed a cultural evening with drumming and dancing. The last event on the programme was a meeting to which the public was invited where short accounts of the different activities being carried out by Quakers were presented. It was interesting to see in the audience a number of soldiers from the South Africa peace keeping force that is stationed in Burundi.

dbt 5/10/2002


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