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.
involved with mediation in late 2006 when Judy Friesem and her husband,
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.
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
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
of the region but also to serve the needs of communities that found themselves
outside the net of the judicial process.
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.
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.
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
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
and the Salesian Catholic fathers who have missions throughout Central
Africa. Trainings were also done in Bujumbura and Kigali, and a completely
was started in Tanzania on the Island of Pemba, north of Zanzibar. Students
in this session included social workers, Sharia judges, magistrates, a
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