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Quaker Peace Network-Africa (QPN-Africa)

People always ask if the various Quaker peace organizations in Africa interact. Do they overlap and step on each other’s toes? The answer is: Quaker Peace Network – Africa.

The first continent-wide meeting of Quaker Peace Network-Africa was held in Bujumbura, Burundi during September 2002 through the initiative of David Niyonzima, then General Secretary of Burundi Yearly Meeting, and David Zarembka, AGLI coordinator. The gathering included Quakers from East and Central Africa, and southern and western Africa. In addition, members of Quaker policy organizations – Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) from Washington, DC, Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) in Geneva and New York, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Africa program, and Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) from London – sent representatives.

Every one and a half to two years, Quaker Peace Network-Africa gatherings have been held regularly with approximately fifty Quakers from around the continent. The American Friends Service Committee has given grants to provide transportation for African peacemakers from the distant countries to the venue. The African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI) and Change Agents for Peace, International (CAPI) have supplied funding for East and Central Africa participants. The main Mennonite organization in the region, Mennonite Central Committee, has always been invited and attended these gatherings.

The exchange of history, programs, approaches to peace, and planning for the future has been a constant in these meetings. As the international policy organizations have attended when possible, direct, first hand grassroot-to-policy institutions has been one of the valuable aspects of QPN-Africa. In time the organization was divided into four regions – QPN-East Africa, QPN-Central Africa, QPN-West Africa, and QPN-Southern Africa. The regional groups have tried to meet locally between the continent-wide meetings.

At the second conference in 2003 in Kibuye, Rwanda, James Mageria from Kenya explained to the gathering how during the 2002 election in Kenya, the Kenyan electorate was able to successful bring regime change to Kenya, peacefully and democratically through highly organized work by the churches and civil society in Kenya. This made the members of QPN realize that elections were one of the main causes of unrest and violence in the East and Central African countries that Quakers needed to address. As a result QPN-Africa decided to develop a program of election observing. QPN-Africa began election observing with the 2005 Burundi elections. Since that time it has observed elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2006), Rwanda (2006 and 2010), Kenya (2007 and 2010), and again during the most recent elections in Burundi (2010). In the five 2010 Burundian elections for different levels of government, QPN-Burundi had up to 278 election observers placed around the country. Most election observers are local people. There are always some international observers from the other countries to give added creditability to the observations and allows people to see how elections are conducted in other countries. The observers were given one day of training and a questionnaire to complete. After each election these were compiled into a report.

To date what QPN-Africa has learned is that election observing on the day of the election is not sufficient. Observing must begin with the voter enrollment process including the campaign period, the voting itself, the tallying of the votes, and the post election period.
Another function of QPN-Africa has been to upgrade the peacebuilding skills of those who attend the conferences. QPN-Africa has been teaching a program called Reflecting on Peace Practice (RPP) which enables people to analyze their peacemaking activities. The program is designed for peacemakers involved in the planning and evaluation of peace programs and those working to develop effective peacebuilding programs.

The last Africa-wide gathering was held in August 2009 in Nairobi, Kenya. The next one is planned for 2011 in Sierra Leone. For further information contact Hezron Masitsa, Clerk, QPN-Africa, at