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Editorial Comment

Why We Should “Love Thy Neighbor”
By Angela Forcier

Why I Do What I Do: Life in Bududa, Uganda
By Barbara Wybar

HROC and the Batwa Ethnic Group in Rwanda
By Theoneste Bizimana

Living Abundantly
By Deborah Dakin

A Bumpy Road to Mediation By George Brose

Applying These Teachings: Testimonies from Congo
By Zawadi Nikuze

Reconciliation?
By David Zarembka

Reaching a Common Reconciliation
By Adrien Niyongabo

Welcome Back
By Dorcas Nyambura

 

 

A Bumpy Road to Mediation
By George Brose

George Brose, a mediator from near Dayton, Ohio, has traveled for the last three summers to train and then mentor mediators in Rwanda, Burundi and North and South Kivu in the eastern Congo. The mediation approach AGLI is using is called “transformative mediation” and fits in well with the concepts of AVP and HROC. Here is a report from one of his practice mediation sessions which shows the complicated and family/community based mediation common in Africa versus the very private, individual mediation done in the United States.

Philippe Nakuwundi, Jeanne Masabo, Edith Niyonsavye, Anne-Marie Ntamamiro,
Jean-Berchmans Ndayishimiye and I drove almost 45 minutes together on a bumpy dirt road to get to a primary school where we were greeted by a representative of the local peace committee. The participants in the mediation arrived shortly after. All greeted us, but some refused to greet each other and it was clear that lines had already been drawn and tensions were high.

In greeting people, I met one man who had come as an observer, Jean-Marie Vianney Hazushimana. He greeted me in Kirundi, which I do not speak but said I could understand. He spoke my languages, Swahili and French, both fluently and told me he had first fled Burundi to Tanzania in 1972. He had come back several times but each time was forced to flee again. He said he was neither Hutu nor Tutsi, but had descended from a mwami (chief) clan the Hansa family and they were considered royalty and not tribalized. I had read about this the night before. He had a younger sister in Ottawa, Ontario, and I said I would try to contact her when I got home to say I had met him. I then went in to observe one of the two mediations which had already started in the peace center office, a building still under construction.

When I got there, they were in caucus (talking to each side separately). One of the mediation observers, Josias Nduwimana, a Quaker pastor from Kibinda, told me, “George, this one is very difficult”. A widow and her two young boys are in conflict with her brother-in-law, the brother of her deceased husband. By custom, the brother-in-law is supposed to dispose of land to benefit the widow and himself. It seems that the widow took it upon herself to sell off the piece of the land that the brother-in-law wanted to keep for himself.

In the mediation, the widow is sitting with her two boys, about age 11 and 12. The brother-in-law is sitting with his family. There are a number of people on the far side of the room. The disputants are against the walls on both sides of the co-mediators. There are a number of people in the room apparently from the extended families on both sides. It looks like a trial with spectators. One of the brother-in-law's relatives walks out followed by his wife. Capitoline Burakuvye, a mediator/observer goes out with them. The older boy now speaks. The brother-in-law shakes his head asserting he is not in accord with what the boy is saying. Then the widow speaks as I step out to take a phone call from Bujumbura. There seemed to be a lot of action while I am outside. When I come back in Jeanne is making of summary with which no one seems to agree. Okay, they can correct and clarify as part of the process. Who are all the spectators? Are they relatives with vested interest? Does this become a face saving exercise with so many spectators? I don't know, but the disputants apparently agreed to the spectators being in there.

After a few more rounds of conversation, the man who bought the land says that he would back out of the deal if the parties would be willing to start over in the traditional way. I think he will still get some land and the brother-in-law will save face. There is a bargain struck, and all the family members stand up and applaud. Jeanne summarizes again to make sure everything is clear.

The peace committee leader, Marc Ndarigendama, then makes a speech to the room, tells the young boys that he hopes they will remember this day, and that problems can be resolved. It must have really been bothering the extended families as so many were present. Everyone made the sign of the cross and sang a beautiful and unusual hymn in that it had no beat, no hand clapping at all. It was a very haunting melody. I was allowed to record this part of the process and it was a truly wondrous event. I have never seen anything like this in ten years of mediating. The peace committee person, Marc, also wanted me to take a picture of the event so that it could be hung in that room as a reminder to the community. We had a boisterous ride back to Gitega, amazed that the case had come together in the last minutes before our scheduled departure. To me it was like days when I was a cross country and track coach and the athletes had trained hard and performed well.

The ride home is great but the euphoria wears off quickly and you know that the next weeks will bring other cases that may not finish so well. But after a day like this one, your hopes will always be high and you look forward to the next opportunity.

Next article: Applying These Teachings: Testimonies from Congo By Zawadi Nikuze