On Saturday 5th of November The Hague Peace Projects participated in the ‘Afrika Day’ which took place at the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in Amsterdam. Our Great Lakes Region Project held the workshop titled ‘Diaspora, dialogue and peace’. Around 40 people joined the session.
The workshop began with a short introduction on some of the issues faced by each country in the Region.
The Democratic Republic of Congo was represented by Marie-Louise Balagizi and Bejamin Kalumire. Marie-Louise talked about the importance of prioritising security which would as a consequence facilitate people’s engagement. The unsafe situation is limiting people’s possibility to change the status quo, this fosters passivity which keeps the regime in power. People need to understand that they have the power to stop it. Therefore, the mind-set needs to be changed but in order to facilitate such process the security levels have to be raised. A step in this direction is by keeping the discussion open on where the weapons are coming from. Benjamin continued on the issue of security giving his view on a non-confrontational strategy which aims at fostering dialogue between the people and the military.
Deogratias Irambona discussed the current security issue in relation to his country Burundi. He stressed the importance to stop foreign countries from supporting undemocratic regimes. As an example he mentioned that The Netherlands has been financing the security forces of Burundi for many years and that these same forces are currently involved in murders and human rights violations. In this way the Netherland is also responsible.
Rwanda was represented by Sophie Kwizera. She underlined the importance of dialogue not only about the past but also the future. She pointed out the fact that the diaspora should be more active and express their option about the issues affecting their country. She also highlighted the importance of the youth as essential element for change.
Moses Atocon from Uganda continued with a personal perspective to his country, Uganda. He talked about the harsh time he experienced growing up under Idi Amin’s regime and how such events fuelled his desire for change. This change has to be achieved through a peaceful people-led movement. This is the aim of the Kampala based NGO Activists4change, with which he is involved.
The lively discussion which followed touched upon many different issues and controversies triggered by the speakers, proving the complexity and multitude of perspectives that exist around the Great Lakes region conflict. Many causes for conflict were mentioned: weapons trade, bad leadership, Western involvement, the mining industry and the many social divisions among Africans. This should not lead to strengthen the tendency to victimization, but to an understanding that home-grown solutions are possible and that Africa needs the West as well as the West needs Africa. All-in-all it was a very fruitful exchange of views and a clear indication that more meetings and dialogue across group-boundaries are essential to make steps forward towards possible solutions.