2007 Appeal Letter
November 1, 2007
Every morning now when I awake and look out my bedroom window, I see
Mt. Elgon looming majestically sixty miles to the north. It is one
of the highest mountains in Africa and rests on the border between
Kenya and Uganda. The elders say that they used to see snow on the
top in the morning on their way to school, but with global warming,
I have never seen snow.
I glance at the mountain because I wonder how the people living on
the mountainsides are faring. The biggest conflict in Kenya is on the
slopes of the mountains. Two clans of the Sabaot tribe, who are related
to the Masai tribe, but live as agriculturalists on the fertile, well-watered
slopes of the mountain, are clashing over land. In the last year over
200 people have been killed and 60,000 have become displaced. The land
lies fallow. The people, afraid to go to their fields because some people
have been killed while cultivating, did not plant in April as usual.
Schools and health clinics are closed. Travel is difficult. The Kenyan
Government – as too many governments opt to do – has attempted
a military solution bringing large numbers of police and army to suppress
the conflict rather than solve it.
What is the African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI) doing about this conflict?
In Mt. Elgon, AGLI has begun the process of training 20 Healing Companions
through the Healing and Rebuilding Our Community (HROC) program. AGLI
has finished the first basic workshops to select the 20 candidates and
has brought Florence Ntakarutimana from Burundi and Chrysostome Nshimiyimana
from Rwanda, both experience HROC facilitators, to conduct these workshops.
The workshops are being held at the Friends Peace Center in Lubao, which
was recently built by AGLI workcampers, because the situation was too
tense on Mt. Elgon for the participants from the opposing sides to feel
comfortable interacting there.
I talked to Florence and Chrysostome after the second workshop. They
told me that the workshops were very similar to those held in Rwanda
and Burundi; when the participants arrived, the two sides did not sit
together, did not make eye contact or greet each other. However, by the
end of the third day the HROC magic had worked just as it does in Rwanda
and Burundi. The two sides had become friendly and were now determined
to work together to heal the wounds and resolve the conflict without
In January 2008, Adrien Niyongabo from Burundi and Solange Maniraguha
from Rwanda, two of the best HROC lead trainers, will come to Lubao to
conduct the first two-week Healing Companion training for the 20 newly-selected
trainees. Once trained, the new trainees will take this information back
to the mountainside to conduct further trainings.
Kenya has more than
130,000 Quakers, the greatest number of Quakers in the world. Recently,
my wife, Gladys Kamonya, and I decided to move
to Kenya. We build a house in Lumakanda, a small town of 500 people in
an administrative district of Western Kenya and moved there in March
of this year. Gladys’s grandmother joined the Friends in the 1920s
when Quakers were discriminated against and had to live separately from
other members of the society. Recently, Gladys showed me where her grandmother
came face-to-face with a lion on her way to Sunday meeting! My father-in-law,
David Okwemba, was inducted in the British army during World War II,
but refused to carry a gun. He was put in prison for two weeks until
a British officer decided to hire him to be his cook – an occupation
he continued the rest of this working life.
Our move to Kenya has worked well for me and for AGLI. With the advances
of technology, I am able to use cell phones and the Internet in ways
that would have been nearly impossible or cost prohibitive 9 years ago
when AGLI was founded. I continue to be on monthly AGLI Working Group
conference calls and I now plan to come to the US 2-3 times per year,
just as I had once visited Africa.
The move has been
greatly advantageous for the AGLI work. Our programs have grown considerably
in the past two years and it is no longer feasible
for me to visit them all just once or twice per year. AGLI is also attempting
to intercede in conflicts before they become “hot” and violence
escalates. This will necessitate a rapid response when an incipient conflict
is identified. I want to be close by in order to assist in monitoring
the situation and organizing the response. Some examples of “hot” conflicts
are listed on the attached page.
With the completion
of the AGLI-supported Friends Peace Center in Lubao, AGLI will be in
an excellent position to enhance the peacemaking work
of Friends in Kenya. When AGLI started AVP in Kenya in 2003, Friends
in Kenya – unlike those in Rwanda and Burundi – were lukewarm
towards peace work. Since that time, AVP has caught the imagination of
Friends in Kenya and the demand exceeds our ability to meet it. My presence
will increase the possibilities for additional trainings and my AGLI’s
office will be in the Friends Peace Center when the administrative block
You recently received
the latest AGLI Report, “Now I Am Human:
Testimonies from the Healing Companions Program in Rwanda and Burundi,” which
indicates the profound effect the program is having on the participants
and in the communities in Rwanda and Burundi. Your support has been vital
for AGLI’s programs to thrive and grow. I respectfully request
that you continue that support. We will then have the means to continue
with the program on Mt. Elgon as well as the attached list of AGLI’s
Thank you for journeying down this road with me.
David Zarembka, Coordinator
AGLI’s newest endeavor is to intercede in incipient conflicts and
put out fires before they become “hot” in order to keep them
from escalating. We have begun this new endeavor with the following projects:
• At the beginning of 2007, the Tanzanian Government expelled 60,000 Rwandan
and Burundian refugees from the Karagwe District, an area west of Lake
Victoria in Tanzania. The Rwandan Government placed some of these refugees
in resettlement camps where they were to build new, self-sustaining communities.
Originally, the Rwandan Tutsis refugees were placed in separate camps
from the Hutus in Tanzania. However, upon return to Rwanda, these two
groups were mixed together with much suspicion and distrust among them.
From May to July 2007, AGLI did a pilot intervention in one resettlement
camp with six AVP workshops. The results were so successful that AGLI
is currently expanding the program into six more of the resettlement
• Rwanda government
officials in Kidaho, northwestern Rwanda, have asked AGLI to work with
30 families in the region which are in severe
conflict -- sadly, for reasons currently unknown, four families have
killed members of their own family. AGLI will sponsor three AVP workshops
for sixty members of these families.
• In northwest Kenya, warriors from the pastoral Turkana and Pokot
tribes have raided each other’s cattle for generations. Now, unfortunately,
the warriors are using semi-automatic weapons instead of spears, leading
to much death, the fleeing of the inhabitants, and destruction of the
community. AGLI has secured access to these two groups and has planned
a 7-workshop AVP program for the groups. Regrettably, just as AGLI was
to begin the program renewed fighting has broken out and the program
has been postponed, illustrating one of the difficulties of doing this
type of intervention. I will be visiting the region in early November
2007 to make new arrangements so that AGLI can begin the program in January
• In Gisenyi,
Rwanda and Goma/Sake, Congo, AGLI is currently training 20 Healing
Companions together from both countries in order to foster
positive relationships between the two countries which have seen two
wars and continued conflict.
While it is too early to assess the success of these projects, they
have the potential to bring non-violent, non-military solutions to potentially
violent conflicts. Thank you for your interest and support.