Saturday, 2 January 2010

Peace Teaching: stories from North Kivu, the Congo -- by Zawadi Nikuze

Camp de Kahe IDP camp, Kitchanga: by Médecins Sans Frontières

Despite the official end of the Rwandan genocide, Burundi civil war, and the 2nd Congo War, over 5 million have died and at least 1 million have been forced from their homes, most recently by the 2005-09 violence in North Kivu with mass rape and kidnapping of child soldiers, intertribal and intra-tribal murders, which the UN force (MONUC) has been unable to stop. Kivu's gold, copper, tin, coltan,cobalt and diamonds are looted by all factions to buy arms. See this UN map for place-names in these stories from FWCC World News (2009/2) about the work of African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI) Peace Teams.

Salome Mapendo Sife is a 31 year-old mother of eight. Her children range from 11 months to 14 years old.

My husband and I are originally from Shabunda in South Kivu but my husband was working in Mweso Hospital as a nurse. Life was good in Mweso, my husband was earning a good salary and I had a kitenge (African fabric) business, sold salted fish and had a small cosmetics shop. We had been living in Mweso for a year when the war erupted. That was the turning point of our life.

On September 7, 2007, war broke out in the Congo and we left with our children. We were fearful to carry anything else. The whole village was on the road, some people were able to carry a few belongings and cattle. On the way, I lost my 7 year old daughter and I got more depressed. We arrived in Bulengo internally displaced persons' camp [see photos] on September 13, 2007. By God's grace, I found my daughter in the camp with other lost children. She was with another little girl, whom we later adopted.

We were extremely hungry, tired, thirsty, dirty, and had no shelter. During the day, we were roasted by the sun and in the night we were soaked with the rain. Each family was entitled to five litres of water per day; there were only four latrines for thousands of us. Due to lack of proper sanitation, cholera broke out and many people died. Other people drowned in lake because we did not know how to safely fetch water.

Life continued to be difficult and I contemplated joining my father in Kindu. I then learnt that he had been killed with my five brothers, my three uncles, my grandparents and family friends. They had taken refuge at our farm and the killers had found them there. This made my life even more difficult and I wished I was also dead!

At the same time, my husband could not stand the suffering and joined a group of stressed men who used to drink the local brew from morning to evening. This brought a lot of quarrels and fights in the home.
The children suffered the most for both my husband and I were taking our stress to them. The idea of running away with children came to my mind because my husband was becoming more violent and we were all frustrated.

When the Friends Church under the Goma
[Rwanda] Relief program began the training in Bulengo camp, my husband was among the first group. After the 3 days of HROC workshops [Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities, of African Great Lakes Initiative], he shared what he learnt and he began changing a bit. He stopped spending his whole day drinking.

In October 2008, I also attended a HROC workshop and I was really blessed. The sharing moment helped me see that there are other people who are also suffering even more than me.
Johari's Window (a HROC exercise where you realize how others see you and how you see yourself) also helped me to understand myself and others. I have also attended the Alternatives to Violence workshop (AVP) which has been helpful too. Now I consult with my husband and there is no more violence against our children.

I had developed hatred against Tutsis because they are the source of our suffering but we have some Tutsi here in the camp and we are all undergoing the same suffering. I tried to find out who killed my father and all who were with him and I was shocked to learn that it was his own people, our own tribesmen. This changed my perception and I no longer discriminate. I apply all these teachings in my Women's Loan Group work, especially when there is a difficult conflict. I thank everyone, including the donors and facilitators, for the different peace workshops, they bring to us in the camps, for we live in a conflict environment.

Camp de Kahe, Kitchanga : UNHCR / S. Schulman. See more

Floribert Mushi is a 36 year old married father of five. He too has adopted a child.

I am a nurse by profession but I used to be a farmer, too. I led a good life in Ngungu. Professionally, I was well paid and my farming was also doing well. I used to harvest 30 sacks of potatoes, 20 sacks of peas, and 18 sacks of beans which I would sell in Goma [Rwanda]. I also had livestock which I used to sell in our local market. But, by the time I fled, I only had 25 sheep which were all eaten by the militias.

I fled in November 2006 with nothing. Life was difficult in the camp; no shelter, no water, no food. We slept outside for 6 months. This situation made me a bitter, unhappy man. I was developing some hatred towards some people and ethnic groups.

In May 2008, I attended the HROC workshop, then AVP, conflict transformation, mediation and I also participated in setting up the peace committee of Mugunga. All these peace teachings have helped me a lot in dealing with day-to-day conflict in the camp. My wife also got a chance of participating in HROC and this helped us manage the trauma in us and in our children.

child soldier in N. Kivu, 2003: Der Spiegel
In March this year, my tent was torched by bad people in the camp and all the belongings perished in the fire. These guys were caught and the camp directing committee was suggesting to delete their names from the list of IDPs but I said, "No, let's settle this by peaceful ways of dialogue".

Now I use these teachings in resolving differences in my family and in the community. We thank you for such teachings for it helps us in difficult situations. Please take these teachings to the people in our villages for they are suffering and are very traumatized. I was there recently and they are undergoing a lot of things. They are in conflict and there is no peaceful cohabitation between the farmers and cattle owners. I strongly believe that they will change like we did in the camp.

[Prof Carl Taylor's 2004 study for Oxfam by points to climate and overpopulation as factors in these conflicts. - Ed.]

HROC (pronounced HE-rock) is a three-day experiential reconciliation workshop modeled on AVP that deals with the personal and community trauma from the violent conflicts in the region. An advanced workshop and a special workshop for HIV+ women have also been developed. See our blog on HROC in Rwanda and the video Icyizere : Hope; also AGLI, Friends Peace Teams and FPT Peaceways magazine; CYM workcamps in Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Uganda; Martin Gilbraith's photos of Quaker reconciliation work, videos of CEEACO Yearly Meeting and Women's Forum in S. Kivu 2008; and photos by children of Bududa Vocational Institute in Uganda.

Other sources -- N. Kivu refugee map Jan 2008, Emily Troutman's blog, Tyler Kacek's photos of Bulengo IDP camp, the work of other churches in AGLI. Women's stories in African Renewal Jan 2007. UN says Congo must prosecute rapists, offer compensation: Reuters 3 Mar 2011. On "blood minerals" see BBC 13 Nov 08, Global Post 4 Dec 09, and UN investigators' report to Security Council 23 Nov 09.

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