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Transformative Mediation in Central Africa
George Brose, AGLI Extended Service Volunteer

The transformative mediation program in this region was a cooperative enterprise between the African Great Lakes Initiative and Change Agents for Peace, International (CAPI), a Nairobi based organization supported mostly by Norwegian Quakers.

AGLI became involved with mediation in late 2006 when Judy Friesem and her husband, Kim Bush, arrived to conduct the first mediation trainings in Burundi (Bujumbura), Rwanda (Kigali), the DRC (Goma), and Kenya (Kakamega). The groundwork was set down by Judy, an experienced mediator from Seattle and Kim who was returning to East and Central Africa where he had been an AFSC volunteer in the early 1960’s. Recipients of the trainings were able to start practicing mediation and developing a process that was based in the principles of the process but also adapting to the cultural climate of the region.

Six months later in 2007, I, a mediator from Kettering, Ohio and a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania and Kenya, followed in the footsteps of Judy and Kim and conducted a second round of trainings with many of their same students. Thus, there was a reinforcement of the principles but also an opportunity to listen and discuss the experiences that the mediators had been having in their practices. In addition, a course was taught to some of the refugee community in Nairobi and to students from the Universite Libre de Kigali. This endowed the region with over one hundred community mediators in place. Goals were set to become involved in mediation where it would not disrupt the judicial systems of the region but also to serve the needs of communities that found themselves outside the net of the judicial process.

In 2008, I returned to do trainings in other parts of the region including Uvira in South Kivu, Congo, Bulengoan IDP camp near Goma, North Kivu, Byumba, Rwanda, and Gitega in Burundi. The earlier sites were also visited. By this time it was evident that the mediation process was seen as a viable tool for conflict resolution and that the Quakers were beginning to make good use of the process. Inclusiveness in the trainings enabled Islamic peoples to participate as well as several other Christian sects. Local trainers were developing and spreading the teaching to other parts of the Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi.

I returned a third time in 2009 accompanied by Renee Bove from Portland, Oregon and Cushman Anthony from Portland, Maine. We taught in Goma, Bulengo, Uvira in the Congo, Kigali and Kidaho in Rwanda, and Mutaho in Burundi. Bringing in Renee and Cushman proved valuable in that they had additional perspectives on mediation and added to the knowledge base. By this time, it was estimated that over three hundred local mediators had been trained directly by the outside staff.

When I returned to train once more in 2011, I learned that the training done by local mediators had now put a total of two thousand mediators in the field. This far exceeded any expectations of the early participants. In 2011, a training was done in Muhondo Catholic parish through the coordination of Project Congo and the Salesian Catholic fathers who have missions throughout Central Africa. Trainings were also done in Bujumbura and Kigali, and a completely new program was started in Tanzania on the Island of Pemba, north of Zanzibar. Students in this session included social workers, Sharia judges, magistrates, a primary school headmistress, and one member of the Catholic church.

Mediation in Kenya
After the initial mediation trainings in Kenya were held, AGLI and CAPI were not able to continue with their development as they were putting their resources into the Central Africa mediation described above. Then in 2011, AGLI realized that trained mediators would be very useful in Kenya for the 2012 election cycle as they would be able to resolve some long-simmering issues that sometimes led to election violence. The program was restarted in Nairobi and western Kenya where most of the Quakers in Kenya live. By this time, it was not necessary to bring mediation trainers from the United States as Theoneste Bizimana from Rwanda and Samuel Kamanzi from North Kivu, Congo, led the mediation trainings. In April 2012, Renee Bove, who in 2009 accompanied George to Central Africa, and Ann Dusseau, a former AGLI work camper in Kenya, returned to mentor the apprentice mediations including working with the best mediations as they develop skills in teaching mediation to others. David Zarembka

Example of a mediation in Burundi:
In Burundi mediators from the capital, Bujumbura, and some outlying areas were trained. Their practicum was done in a remote village where several conflicts had been going on for years. The conflicts were within families. In the dispute in both cases were traditional rights of partitioning land after the death of the head of the household in one case and after a divorce in the other case. The disputes had produced some very serious domestic violence. Because the families lived in small communities, the conflict was closely linked to daily village life and activities. The mediators were able to adapt the formal training they had received from Westerners and apply it using a more traditional African method. Two mediators were used instead of a single mediator. There was gender balance as well. Instead of mediating solely between the two disputants, members of the village, the village Peace Committee, and extended family members sat and observed the mediations. This would be much less likely to happen in the West. These sessions resembled a conciliation technique called Restorative Justice. Both cases settled after close to four hours.
At the end of one of the mediations, several remarkable things happened. The disputing parties and their observing families and village members rose together, prayed and sang. Impassioned speeches were given asking why they had not been able for three years to resolve the mediated dispute. An adult addressed several youth who were present at the mediation, saying that they should learn from this experience that there were better ways to resolve conflict than the violence they were so used to promoting. George Brose