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On the Long Road: Burundi
By Alexandra Douglas and Dr. Alexia Nibona

Introduction

War and Health

Health and Peace

A Community Peace and Health Model

FWA’s Philosophy

On the Long Road: DRC
By Alexandra Douglas and Zawadi Nikuze

Summary

The Story You Need to Hear

Learning From Within

The Worst Place to Be a Woman

Conclusion

Conclusion

As reviewed in the previous pages, HROC-North Kivu has already made life-altering differences in the lives of participants and communities where it operates. In the village of Nyamitaba, which is barely accessible by jeep and yet continues to be a center for on-going violence, HROC is working in and through the transformative power of peace to help heal the wounds which continue this deadly cycle of conflict.

However, on the road of peace, there are also many challenges. In September 2009, the internally displaced person (IDP) camps were unexpectedly disbanded by the government. The government did not follow any of the international protocols for the repatriation of IDPs. That is to say, the dispersion of the camps was not informed, planned, or voluntary. The international NGOs administrating the IDP camps were taken by surprise and no support was made available to people returning to their villages (i.e. people were forced to walk). This has resulted in HROC-North Kivu not knowing where many past HROC participants currently reside.

The HROC-North Kivu staff is working to locate past participants so they can continue to follow up and accompany them on their healing processes. But instances such as these often mean that participants will face further traumatic experiences as they return to their homes to perhaps find them destroyed or occupied by others.

The HROC staff has also found that women who are rape survivors feel they cannot return to their villages because of stigmatization and ostracization by their families and communities. This means that they must find ways to survive on their own in Goma or surrounding cities without the humanitarian assistance provided to them in the camps. Given women’s low socioeconomic status, gender discrimination in the workplace, lack of formal education, and the stigmatization of survivors of rape, these women are made even more vulnerable in their new circumstances.

In many ways, challenges such as these mean that the work of HROC-North Kivu is more needed than ever.Without a doubt, the HROC staff and facilitators are doing their best to meet any new obstacles they come across, even if it means putting on their boots to walk through the mud and the bush to reach the villages where HROC participants—old and new—reside. Their only recommendation to AGLI was to continue supporting this work so that the program can expand, reach more people, and provide further training for those who have already participated.


Testimonies

Rebecca is a 35 year old Hutu woman with 3 children. Her husband divorced her after he discovered she had been raped. She lived in the Mugunga IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp until it was dispersed in September 2009.

In 1998, I was in the house with my younger siblings and my mom. We were all raped. Even my mother was raped, and she died as a result.

It was all in the night. The men were all in the military, or at least they wore military uniforms. We don’t really know who they were, but the Interahamwe [FDLR] used to wander through that area at night. The Interahamwe would mix with the locals and the locals would tell them where to loot and who to attack.

After it happened, we took my mom to her brother. But he had no money for medical care either and so we took her home. That is where she died. My dad died a year later.

After that, we moved to another territory. I took all of my siblings with me. But it was insecure and we could not stay there, so we came to Goma.

Everything was difficult. My sisters, in desperation, would go out to meet men. Then they would get married. Things wouldn’t work and then they would come back to me. Things got bad. They would get jobs at factories picking through beans, working long hours, and making less than $1 per day. My brother in desperation joined the army; he was only 14 years old. Today, we don’t know where he is. One of my sisters has gotten married in Muaso. The other two have given birth twice, but they live with me.

My sisters still have flashbacks. When one of my sisters gets a flashback, her eyes will get stuck in one direction. She fears something coming at her day and night. She can never stay alone or sleep near the door.

I personally don’t get flashbacks like I used to That has come with time and the [HROC] teachings.It was at the workshop that I realized I was not alone. And through that I felt I was able to take the first step towards forgiveness.

Georgette is a 38 year old woman with 6 children. She is Havu.

My trauma began when I married a man from a different tribe than me. I was discriminated against by all of my in-laws, who were Hunde It has to do with some old story that says the Havus killed the King of the Hundes Something about a Havu lady who married the King and then was an accomplice in his death.

Anyway, I got married in 1988 and that is when the conflict began between us. They said they would not pay the dowry and they told his family not to visit us. My husband and I found ourselves very lonely. I remember when they had to flee because of the ethnic war, I was happy because they were suffering.

Then, in 2006, my own house was put on fire. Luckily, no one was there, but we lost everything. Life became very difficult. We looked for a new house, but the only place we found only had space for two of our children. So we ended up making a temporary house out of canvas. We lived like that for three years.

During that time my own family had to flee from Sake and came to our house. Our house was so small and my two sisters with their 9 children, my mom and two orphaned nephews came to live with us. They squeezed in like a cup. We only ate once a day. We were never satisfied. Eating just served to calm the worst of the stomach pains.

We lived like that for 4 months. Life became so tough they decided to go back before the war was over. But on the way back they had to change directions because of more problems.

During this time, I had lost all hope. I was very bad off. A friend of my husband’s then introduced me to HROC.

What I remember most from HROC are the stages of healing. I remember I looked at the consequences of trauma and I realized they could even lead you to death. I saw so many of those consequences playing out in my own life. My blood pressure was up; I stayed in bed all day. So when we talked about the stages of healing, I said to myself that I had to listen and follow very closely. When I came home from the training I felt much calmer. I used to go to church, but I was not touched like I was in the workshop.

Jacqueline is a 40 year old woman with 4 children. She is Tutsi.
Before 1994, we lived well with our neighbors. After fleeing because of the war, we were trying to trace information on all the things that we left behind. My family owned three houses, but we heard that they had all been set ablaze. My brother went back to check on the houses, but then he didn’t come back and we heard that he was dead. We never saw his body.

As soon as security was restored again, we went back to start rebuilding our lives. But then security broke again, and so we fled…again. This time, the roofing was stolen from the houses we had rebuilt.

We came back again during the census and we learned who had stolen from us. I began to feel this hatred grow in me from the bottom of my heart.

After the census, we went back to Rwanda where we had fled. But life was difficult. So when security was re-established once again, we came back. It was then that I heard about HROC.

After I heard the teachings, I went back to Muhato and met with the people who had destroyed our houses. I began to talk to them. They had been afraid to come and ask for forgiveness. They would send others, but were too scared to come themselves. HROC helped me learn to reconcile things and reach out to them. I also got the courage to put new metal sheets on the roof. The people who stole from us now rent the houses.