The Great Lakes Working Group Meeting Summary: Education and Career Advancement – September 29th, 2017
The Great Lakes Diaspora Working Group is one group within The Hague Peace Projects. Recently, the group came together for its monthly meeting. This meeting’s aim was to hear about the experiences of young Dutch people with African migrant or refugee roots with education in the Netherlands.
Attendees were guided by two questions: How have you used education to achieve your goals? What are the challenges of finding your place in the Netherlands as an African migrant?
From there, participants were asked the following questions:
- Were you able to study in the Netherlands?
- Did you study what you wanted to study?
- Were your diplomas/ certificates acknowledged in the Netherlands?
- Do you have a job? Do you have the job you want?
- Are you working in the same field as you would have in your country of origin?
- Do you feel at home in the Netherlands?
- What is holding you back from reaching your life goals in the Netherlands?
Speakers: Julius and Deo
Next, two guests were invited to speak before the audience and share their stories. The first, Julius, an expert in law and criminality, is originally from Uganda and is now based in the Netherlands. He talked about how different the experiences of an immigrant from Africa to the Netherlands versus an immigrant from Europe to the Netherlands may be, though they are both new to Dutch culture. Julius went on to say that “whatever you see in this world is not an accident but a precedent. He believes that immigrants are getting an education to find a job rather than to grow as people. If you have a skill, you want to succeed, and you have an education, then you can find a job. Julius concluded by saying that education needs to be seen as a form of liberation for self-determination rather than merely job training.
The second speaker was Deo, who comes from Burundi. In Burundi, Deo worked as an air traffic controller before he was forced to flee to the Netherlands to find safety. Once in the Netherlands, Deo obtained an NT2 Diploma in the Dutch language. He then tried to find a job in the aviation industry with his international air traffic controller diploma, but was told that his Dutch language level was not good enough, so he went back to school to improve his Dutch. Eventually, Deo returned to the agency to try to prove his skills in Dutch but was turned away, so Deo went back to school, retrained in a logistics course, and got a job in the flower industry. Deo told the audience that as immigrants, many doors are closed to us, but remain positive, think smart, and find your way to success, however small.
Group Session: Challenges in Career, Education, and Beyond
After hearing Julius and Deo speak, the audience broke off into three groups to identify the primary challenges in work, education, and life overall as an African migrant in the Netherlands.
In the category of work, participants identified the lack of Dutch language knowledge as an oft-named reason for job rejection—even if they have earned language diplomas. Those who have found jobs often get short-term contracts, which only makes an unstable life as a refugee less secure. With these temporary contracts, career opportunities like promotions are limited at best. Networking is also difficult, since most immigrants have few connections in a new country. Cultural differences are hard to reconcile, as it is difficult to learn Dutch do’s and don’ts without being told or working in the Netherlands.
As for education, not knowing Dutch well enough can keep immigrants from taking the course of study that they would prefer. Foreign degrees, diplomas, and certificates are difficult to accredit. The Dutch system does not always support people in difficult situations, like a single mother trying to pay for her schooling and take care of her kids at the same time.
Beyond this, some found that being black and having a foreign name feels like a liability that separates them from their colleagues. Despite being integrated into Dutch culture and having attended school in the Netherlands, at work, people will still ask, “Where are you from?” Many attendees cited bureaucratic demands for paperwork and official documents as a legal oversight, since refugees must frequently flee their countries without the documents that they are later asked to supply.
Following this meeting, the group intends to compile a report to help inform and lobby the Dutch government on behalf of Dutch citizens and refugees with African roots. This open discussion night was helpful as many were able to share their stories and opinions. As one participant said, “it is difficult to do what you love as an immigrant. Instead of not doing what you love, be pragmatic, and do what you like.”
On the 10th and 11th of November we will host for the third time the annual Great Lakes Region Conference. The first edition (the root causes of conflict) in 2015 and the second (the role of media in conflict and peacebuilding) in 2016 were very successful and therefore we would like to continue and invite you for the coming conference. This year we focus on the role of women in the peacebuilding process in the great lakes region. Unfortunately, it is women that are still the victims of conflict rather than the carriers of peace and change.
The Great Lakes Region in Africa (Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo) is one of the most vulnerable and unstable regions in the world. In the region armed conflicts have evolved for decades and human rights violations are commonplace.
Rape, torture and murders of women and girls of all ages have reached epidemic proportions since 1994. Violence against women has become a deliberate strategy of war. However, women are not just victims, they also play an important social role, they contribute to peace and stability. To create a future in a war torn society, women are an indispensable basis.
With this conference, we want to strengthen trust between men and women from this region and among women themselves so that they are able to work together for peace.
Day 1| Friday, 10 Nov.: Women & Men in Peacebuilding: Why Gender?
13:00-13:30 Registration (tea and coffee available)
13:30-13:45 Welcome and Opening – Jakob De Jonge
13:45-14:15 Keynote 1: Peace & justice [in French] – Evelyne Ombeni
14:15-14:45 Discussion: Why Gender? Why Peace? Dr. Helen Hintjens
14:45 – 15:15 Keynote 2: Le Mouvement des Femmes et des Filles pour la paix et La securite aux Burundi. Why is this important? [in French] – Anésie Nkanira
15:15: 15:45 Tea and coffee break
15:45 – 17:30 Women at the negotiation table. Should men be invited!? Deogratis Irambona – Marie Chakupewa – Hayinchte Muhorakeye – Antionette Mutesa – Godefroid Nimbona – Marie Nagadya, Moderated by Sophie Kwizera
17:30 – 17:45 Round up and summary reporting of key insights of the day
17:45 – 19:00 Drinks & Networking Butterfly Bar, ISS,
Day 2| Saturday, November 11th: Women and Men in Peace Building – What Can Be Done Different?
09:30 – 10:00 Start (tea and coffee available)
10:00 – 10:15 Recap and Welcome – Jakob de Jonge
10:15 – 11:00 Peacebuilding from a gender and development perspective – Dr. Anthony Otieno Ong’ayo
11:00-11:30 Debate: Lobby platform: 1325 the UN Resolution on Women, Peace and Security
11:30-11:45 Coffee break
11.45-12:15 Women, development & stability in Rwanda – Gloria Uwishema
12:15 – 12:45 Gender and Reconstruction in post-conflict DRC – Marie Chakupewa
12:45 -13:45 Networking Lunch – Kenyan Delicacies
13:45-14:45 Art workshop-The influence of art in peacebuilding – (Creating Rights- Fiana. Gantheret, Justin Kabika)
14:45-15:45 Debate: Our seat at the Peace Table: women of the Great Lakes Region – Christine Among(Uganda), Marie Balagiza (Congo), Anesie Nkanira (Burundi), Yvette Muhire (Rwanda)
15:45-16:45 Group discussions: Case studies: Moving towards an inclusive and peaceful Great Lakes Region? Future perspectives.
Rwanda: Chaired by: Sophie Kwizera
Burundi: Chaired by: Deogratis Irambona
Uganda: Chaired by: Moses Atacon
Congo: Chaired by: Bashi Cikuru
16:45-17:00 Closing remarks
17:00 -17:30 Dance performance by Jean Claude Mihigo (Ballet Ukwezi)
17 :30 -18:30 Networking Bites and Drinks – Kenyan Delicacies
Where: Institute of Social Studies, Kortenaerkade 12, The Hague
When: 10 & 11 November
Free tickets, but registration required: Reserve here!
This event is organised by the Great Lakes Region group of The Hague Peace Projects. Every month we organise an event with a topic related to peace and social change, here in the Netherlands as well as our countries of origin.
The topic of this meeting will be the youthful Dutch citizens of African migrant roots & refugees and their use of education to achieve life ambitions. What are challenges of finding your place in the Netherlands, as an African migrant?
‘’I Came to the Netherlands as a small girl, was able to do study to the highest level but now I can’t find a job that matches my qualifications.’’
‘’ I was an educated and experienced middle aged man when I came to the Netherlands, but my qualification were not honored.’’
‘’By my request for education in my preferred field I was directed towards another profession.’’
Join us for an interactive discussion on this interesting topic!
When: 29 September 2017
Where: Paviljoensgracht 20 2512 BP Den Haag
The Hague Peace Projects
Wanna know more about dictatorships in the Great Lakes Region? Join us during the ‘Night of the Dictatorship‘. This article, written by Ugandan blogger and activist Moses, gives you some insight of the situation in the Great Lakes Region and life under dictatorship.
A dictator is a political leader who wields absolute power and equally a state ruled by a dictator is called a dictatorship. The usage of the term “dictator” is generally used to describe a leader who holds and abuses an extraordinary amount of personal power, especially the power to make laws without effective checks by legislative assembly.
In contrast to the traditional dictator, the modern day dictator has definitely transformed and modernized from a rule by decree dictatorship to a constitution-manipulating dictator to conform to the demands of free space demanded by their strategic development partners or allies if you may want to say so.
They bare this sense of conviction in superiority to lead; they believe they are invincible, invulnerable, immune and divine. The narcissist dictator holds human edicts, rules and regulations in disdain and human penalties in disdain. He regards human needs and emotions as weaknesses to be exploited.
They cling to power through a tool of fear mongering, killings and brutal use of violence to instill fear on the population, to prevent any uprising or revolution against his rule. The fear-factor and scaremongering techniques are habitually applied to tame and silence anti-regime activists.
One of the features inseparable from a dictator from within the context of the great lakes region in Africa, is most certainly that they have a military background therefore assuming power through undemocratic means and while in office, they will employ the similar principle of command and control used in the military to consolidate power.
One such dictator is President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda; he came to power in 1986 following a destructive war in which many lives were lost. His history of war goes back to the early 70’s when he led an ill prepared ill-fated expedition against another infamous dictator general Idi Amin that was to result in the loss of many young lives.
Since then, he has ruled with iron fist for 32 years, in which he continued to order more young men who had to pay with their lives in wars in Rwanda, Congo, Sudan, Central Africa Republic and Somalia as well as within their own country. The police and troops, some led by his son, have put down protests with maximum prejudice.
After leading a rebel insurgency that took over Uganda in 1986, Museveni declared: “No African head of state should be in power for more than 10 years.” However, 32 years later, he is still here, winning one after another in a spree of “coconut election” in which other political parties are technically legal for the purposes of escorting him to the state house and the main challenger who won him pants down is detained for 68 days in his own residence to deny him legal redress.
He uses the state to monopolize violence and cruelty. During war in the north parts of Uganda the people of the region were inhumanely herded into camps of displaced people. The camps were some sort of concentration camps at the height of the forced confinement in the most horrible conditions. More than 1000 people were dying every week. Watch this and/or this video to get an idea of the situations in the camp.
The system he leads thrives and survives on corruption and nepotism and all manner of bad governance, at the apex of it sits a new leadership style model around the military the structure, which is constructed along the lines that every order comes from above to the bottom, hence the saying in Uganda “order from above”. The dictator is mostly ruthless to his former comrades because they detest betrayal from within its ranks. He uses the tool of depriving to impoverish the citizenry into poverty and disempower them economically, socially and politically so that they do not have the means to oppose him. Meanwhile he lavishly spend money like there is no tomorrow. In Uganda the dictator spends $ 300.000 dollars for his daily errands, he moves with a fleet of 40 armored powerful vehicles when he travels in land.
He periodically holds some cosmetic elections to legitimize his rule, these elections are often been nakedly a fraudulent processes marred with illegalities and incapable of being free or fair.
The elections are “already rigged” because of the fraudulent processes denying many Ugandans citizens without any reason, through unacceptable practices of bribing some sections of the electorate, and the wanton misuse and abuse of state resources and institutions to ensure a Museveni victory, not to mention the absolute determination the police and the security services employ to escort him and his ruling party to statehouse.
Museveni is not alone in coveting life presidency in the Great Lakes region. Inspired by him, Nkurunziza of Burundi recently pushed his country to the brink of war in order to get himself a third term after serving the constitutionally mandated two terms. In Rwanda, Paul Kagame who did a “Medvedev” in reverse having been the man behind the throne before he became president is well on his way to doing away with the two term limit in the Rwandese constitution in order to perpetuate his own rule! President Joseph Kabila of Democratic Republic of Congo has been grappling with amending the constitution to allow him contest for the record 3rd time.
A liberator who saved the Tutsis from complete extermination in 1994, Kagame now practices the same ethnic apartheid he sought to end. His Rwandan Patriotic Front dominates all levels of power: the security forces, the civil service, the judiciary, banks, universities, and state-owned corporations. Those who challenge the president are accused of being a ‘hatemonger’ or ‘divisionist’ and eventually arrested. Recently, to embarrass him, the opposition in Rwanda decided to endorse him as their candidate and the drama did not stop there. His intelligence services had the nude photos of a female challenger leaked to the press; He is cruising to 18 years power.
All the Great Lakes dictators think similarly in one dimension egotistical believe that a country could not do without them. In the Great lakes region Museveni leads the pack with 32 years in power, Kagame second with 24 years, Kabila third with 17 years and still counting. The level they personalize the state and all of its institutions and resources to keep themselves perpetually in power, even if it threatens the economy or to risk bringing his country to the brink of war even if it go down the drain in the process just so that he can rule for the rest of his natural life. Unfortunately, these are the undemocratic caliber of the leaders we have in the Great Lakes Region and the world powers seem to be equally stuck with them.
When a Dictatorship makes a decision; be it efficient, effective, straightforward, or divine revelation, it has no mechanism to balance the consequences of the result. What happen is, even if the dictator makes one or two sound decisions, it will leave the possibilities for all the false decisions to come to have no room for accountability.
Wanna know more about dictatorships in the Great Lakes Region? Join us during the ‘Night of the Dictatorship‘.
Article was written by, Moses Atocon.
A Ugandan Digital Political Media Activist and a Blogger, using internet technologies to organize campaigns.
During this meeting we’re gonna watch the awards winning documentary “Virunga”, named after a National Partk in eastern Congo. The movie focuses on the conservation work of park rangers during the rise of the violent M23 Rebellion in 2012 and investigates the activity of the British oil company Soco International within the UNESCO World Heritage site.
A review in the New York Times stated about the film that “Showcasing the best and the worst in human nature, von Einsiedel’s “Virunga” wrenches a startlingly lucid narrative from a sickening web of bribery, corruption and violence.”
After the sceening we’ll have a discussion to put it in context and understand more of the situation of the conflicts in the Great Lakes Region. We also would like to explore the link between environmental sustainability and peace in the region, and what we as a diaspora can do to foster both of them.
Entrance is free, donation is appreciated (cash only)
When: Friday 14 July
Venue: Paviljoensgracht 20, 2512 BP The Hague
Tijdens de Nacht van de Dictatuur, presenteren wij het programma: Unmask the dictators from the Great Lakes Region
De Great Lakes Region is een zoetwatergebied in het oostelijk deel van Afrika waar de landen Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Sudan en Kenia deel van uit maken. Het is een regio met veel (postkoloniale) problemen en autoritaire regimes. Tijdens Unmask the Dictator zullen enkele sprekers uit een aantal van deze landen vertellen over hun persoonlijke ervaringen met het leven onder een dictatuur. Lukt het jou om aan de hand van hun verhalen te ontdekken over welke dictators het gaat? Test je kennis en maak kennis met mensen die aan een dictatuur zijn ontkomen.
Unmask the Dictator is een samenwerking van ProDemos en the Hague Peace Projects.
© Foto: Anneke Verbraeken
Waar: Prodemos, Hofweg 1-H, Den Haag
Wanneer: 8 september
The Great Lakes Region Working Group is a group of Diaspora citizens from the conflict countries on the region i.e. Uganda, Congo, Burundi & Rwanda. All these countries have common historical experiences of war and violence. As a group, we meet to learn a lot from each other about our turbulent past and how we can use that to bring sustainable peace in the region.
Because of the geo-political problems caused by the regional despots, the conflicts tend to spread tension in all the region inform of refugee influx, cross border violence and wide spread insecurity. Whenever someone from Uganda or Burundi mentioned challenges, someone from Rwanda or Congo could share a similar experience.
Therefore as a measure to create a voice for the diaspora citizens from the GRL, The Hague Peace Projects established this group in 2015. Up to date the group has conducted two annual conferences and other smaller activities to raise awareness, inform and provide host nation, government departments, media, school institutions and the civil society with information about the region.
We strive to strengthen the commitment among the Great Lakes diaspora communities to organize for peace in the region, be involved in lobbying for human rights and take part in networking through meetings. We lobby through our programs to enable the diaspora to contribute to good governance, peacebuilding and accountability in the region.
We advocate for the inclusion of the diaspora in conflict resolution and peacebuilding in the region. Currently the news that comes from the region is dominated by conflict rather than peace. We want the world to know – despite the prevailing conflicts in the region – some peace efforts have been made although the real impact of the efforts are not yet felt by the people.
We are more and more recognized as serious partners, consulted by policy makers. We aim that in Europe, NGO’s, governments seeking to promote rule of law in the Great Lakes region, or the IND seeking expertise in the region, the voice of the diaspora should be heard.
To achieve our objectives we organize different forms of events in the Netherlands ranging from workshops, conferences, social cultural activities and forums to inform, educate and generate solutions.
Presently we have monthly thematic evenings, normally the 2nd Friday of the month, where we invite different expert speakers to help us understand the different dynamics around peace building. Our subjects are peace, elections, gender, minorities, responsible information sharing, human rights issues, civic space and democratic governance. These meetings are open to public and you are warmly welcome to attend the next event, we normally publicize the events beforehand.
On Saturday 25th February 2016, The Hague Peace Projects, held a discussion on the Challenges of LGBTI Activism in Religious Societies, as part of the Hague Freedom Book Fair in Het Nutshuis in Den Haag. The event was well attended with over 110 participants.
The panel featured five LGBTI activists, Dino Suhonic, the director of the Maruf Foundation in Amsterdam, who is dedicated to helping the position of Muslim LGBTI’s in the Netherlands. Dino is also a teacher, opinion maker and queer activist and writes about queer Muslims, Islam, sexual diversity and gender identity. Michiel Leezenberg is a professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. He has published numerous books on Islam, the most recent of which is De Minaret van Bagdad. This book describes the changes in how people in the West perceive Muslims and also the changing sexual attitudes and practices in the Islamic world. Marie Nagadya, is an LGBTI activist from Uganda, a social worker and researcher on same sex practices. She has been involved in numerous LGBTI activist organizations in both Africa and Europe. She is co-founder of out and Proud Netherlands and is the Assistant Director of Eddoboozi Human Rights Defenders Network in Uganda. Rasel Ahmed, was the editor of Roopbaan, the only LGBTI magazine in Bangladesh and aclose friend of the now deceased founder of the magazine, Xulhaz Mannon and our final panelist was Mohammed Mofar, a member of the LGBTI refugee group, The Rainbow Group in the Netherlands.
Michael Leezenberg opened his discussion by introducing the notion of Islam and homosexuality. It was said that the idea of homosexuality as a concept, did not exist in Islam and the rise of modern nationalism and the nation-state had important implications in defining gender and sexuality including homosexuality globally, also in the muslim world. Rasel Ahmed spoke of his experience in Bangladesh, as editor of Roopbaan, which was the only LGBTI magazine in the country, founded by the now deceased Xulhaz Manon. The magazine gained popularity and provided a great platform for the LGBTI community in Bangladesh. A turning point for the community was the pride rally organized on Bengali New Year, which was severely criticized by the conservatives and soon the LGBTI community were receiving death threats and arrests. As a result of these threats, Rasel was forced to flee the country out of fear and a few days later heard of the hacking of his close friend and colleague Xulhaz, by Al Qaeda. Due to continuous persecution, the LGBTI movement in Bangladesh has now been forced into hiding, for which Rasel feels responsible and would like to reunite them, but is at loss on how to do so under the present political situation. Dino Suhonic highlighted the challenges of being a bicultural homosexual, whereby the country in which one is residing is friendly towards homosexuality contrasting with one’s home country which is very strict. The demography of LGBTI Muslims is very complex, as they feel defeated by their own communities, countries and societies and much more must be done to help them with these challenges and change mindsets. Maruf Foundation tries to help and assist with these issues.
Mohammed Mofar spoke of his personal difficulties coming out, as homosexuality is considered a sin in his home country of Sierra Leone. After having met a partner and with the help of the Rainbow Group, Mohammed managed to openly admit his homosexuality. Marie Nagadya described homosexuality to be a taboo in Ugandan society as the society is still based upon conservative cultural, traditional and religious values. Marie encountered discrimination at university for researching and showing interest in the topic of homosexuality. She faced obstacles created by both her family and the society, the challenge was even greater as Marie herself was not homosexual. It was interesting to learn that many LGBTI activists in Uganda have become homeless due to the negative comments and hatred from society. It was suggested that the role of the church was fundamental to changing the views on the LGBTI community in Uganda, as it encourages only heterosexual relationship. Scott Livelys visit to Uganda, was emphasized, where a conference with local pastors was arranged, to discuss issues surrounding the taboos of homosexuality. The conference resulted in extreme aggression from the public and a statement from the Archbishop of Uganda stating that he was disappointed with the constitution. The conference led to a proposed homosexuality bill in 2009, which was later passed in 2014. Marie concluded by stating, that homosexuality is considered to be a western notion and therefore is perceived to have no space in Ugandan society.
To conclude the event, the moderator asked each panelist for a suggestion on how to spread more acceptances of LGBTI communities. Marie suggested to love and to not give up. Rasel proposed that the problem lay in intersectional identity, whereby people are not accepted because of their identity. Being Muslim and being gay is a big challenge and therefore the solution should be intersectional. Mohammed suggested unity of the LGBTI community around the world. Michael felt he was not in a position to comment on what people should do. He explained that he felt dialogue was crucial and the fact the audience were present and discussing these issues, was already a great step forward. In Dutch society, you can either be religious or gay, not both therefore it was interesting to note that this panel and audience was a very good example of everyone being both religious and gay, proving that it is possible to be both at the same time. Finally Dino suggested communities should be empowered, that we should create allies through education and engage with people who are opening up spaces for LGBTI communities.
The Uganda Diaspora, The Hague Peace Projects and other organizations, are organizing an “International Conference on Uganda” scheduled from 23rd- 26th February 2017 in The Hague, the Netherlands.
The three days’ convention aims at arriving at a consensus on the roadmap for a; United, Decisive Constitutional Reforms, Electoral Reforms, the Peaceful transition of power in Uganda, and vulnerable minorities.
The three days’ convention will bring together stakeholders in the political, social and economic development of Uganda e.g. but not limited to members of the ruling government party, opposition leaders, Members of Parliament (MPs), Representative from Uganda’s: Judiciary, Civic Society Organizations (CSOs), Religious Leaders, Cultural Leaders who form the nexus of Uganda’s peace, stability and development.
In addition, we have invited distinguished international, local and Diaspora based pro-democracy and pro-human rights intelligentsia as well as a representative from International Criminal Court (ICC) European Union (EU) the Dutch government. and Uganda’s strategic development partners.
Under the Conference theme the following shall be the main areas of discussion:
- The Role and Unity of the pro-democracy and good governance activists (tools of change – drivers of change)
- Consensus on the benchmarks for sustainable political stability and democracy.
- Consensus on whether Uganda is a democracy or the country needs political reforms and free and fair elections
- The Role of Uganda Diaspora Uganda’s in the Political, social and economic development of Uganda Diaspora in the development of democracy and good governance in Uganda with particular emphasis on the Uganda Diaspora Right to vote and direct representatives in the Uganda Parliament.
- The Ruwenzori Crisis; focusing on prevention of genocide, military conflicts and demilitarising Uganda’s politics once and for all.
- Uganda’s strategic role to stability in the Great Lakes and IGAAD and Great Regions.
- The human rights situation in Uganda with particular emphasis on the right to choose leaders in free and fair elections, freedom of assembly and demonstration.
- Good governance. Zero tolerance for corruption and abuse of public resources and affairs, a sound and steady economic growth with clear agenda.
Your knowledge, experience and expertise in one of the discussions prescribed above will add great value to the objectives of the issue and results convention!
You are free to mention or name which topic in relation to the theme you will prefer to discuss and how much time your presentation take.