Great Lakes Region: This is what we do

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.

 

CHALLENGES OF LGBTI ACTIVISM IN RELIGIOUS SOCIETIES

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.

International Uganda Convention in The Hague

uganda-convention-eventbriteThe 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:

  1. The Role and Unity of the pro-democracy and good governance activists (tools of change – drivers of change)
  2. Consensus on the benchmarks for sustainable political stability and democracy.
  3. Consensus on whether Uganda is a democracy or the country needs political reforms and free and fair elections
  4. 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.
  5. The Ruwenzori Crisis; focusing on prevention of genocide, military conflicts and demilitarising Uganda’s politics once and for all.
  6. Uganda’s strategic role to stability in the Great Lakes and IGAAD and Great Regions.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

We look forward to your confirmation of participation and guidance.

Declaration and Plan of Action on the role of diaspora media in peacebuilding in the Great Lakes Region

Pour traduction française, voir ci-dessous

 The Hague Peace Projects (HPP) in conjunction with International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) recently concluded the second edition of Diaspora Conference on the Great Lakes Region with the main theme: “The role of media in conflict and peace building”.

The 3-day conference on November, 24, 25 and 26 attracted bloggers, media workers, teachers, advocates, activists, artists, peace workers, students and NGO workers.

The conference is a continuation of the broader mission of The Hague Peace Projects to create and facilitate a positive environment in which the Diaspora communities can contribute to peace building processes through dialogue among all parties encouraging violent conflicts in their home countries.

This year’s conference topic was “The role of media in conflict and peacebuilding” Jakob de Jonge, the director of The Hague Peace Projects convened the debate with the subject of the role of media in conflict and peacebuilding. Many of the contributors reflected on the role of Diaspora media in peace-building in the African Great Lakes region.  One delegate said: ‘This conference is like a blanket; we are getting warm already’.

The delegates encouraged a common shared vision of building a Great Lakes Diaspora media initiative which can work for peace, preach against hate, prevent violence and influence the social and mainstream media to help spread the word!

Moving forward to the next year’s conference, 3 key points were identified as the priorities to be addressed:

  1. Unity in Diversity
  2. Engagement and Responsibility
  3. An Action Plan for the Great Lakes Diaspora Media
  1. Unity in Diversity

We have common historical experiences of war and violence. We can learn a lot from the past, and from one another to inform our future. We do not wish to be messengers of hate.  This conference was a fact check for us. Whenever someone from Uganda or Burundi mentioned challenges, someone from Rwanda or Congo would share a similar experience. This helped to bring us together. Mutual understanding among us requires sensitivity to hurts and hopes of everyone: Burundians, Rwandans, Congolese, Ugandans, Tanzanians, indigenous people, women, youth and (social) media workers and audiences. We learned some lessons about unity in diversity in Africa Great Lakes Diaspora (social) media:

The conference also served as a reminder not to forget the situation of the indigenous people of the Great Lakes region, especially the Batwa. As the first people in the region, we should use media to promote the indigenous people’s right to land, to culture, and to a dignified existence. We can do this through ensuring they have fair representation in our Diaspora media, including in social media.  Indigenous people have taught us about how to live with our environment, and their knowledge should be valued, for future generations.

  1. Engagement and Responsibility

Blaming and hate speech trigger violent actions on the ground. Our responsibility is to prevent and avoid misuse of media for politically violent philosophy of “The end justifies the means “marked with motives for political and commercial manipulations of media expression. We should look at media as an instrument that needs to deal with the facts and not the opinions. And the media should try to remain impartial. If neutrality or impartiality were like colors, then these are the colors the media should wear when it informs and communicates with the public.

We should not assume that others in the rest of the world know better than we do how to make progress. We want to defend what is best in (social) media; solving problems and reporting responsibly. As one delegate said, media is like a Hammer; tools that can destroy or can mend and help solve problems.  We in Diaspora (social) media connect Great Lakes Diaspora with people in the region. This gives us some special responsibilities in strengthening the role of media in peace-building.

Our reporting should recognize that indigenous people are often the first victims of violence and of war. Diaspora media should draw attention to the situation of this group

We meet to:

  • Recognize journalists in the Great Lakes Diaspora media, and in the region who have tried to ensure balanced reporting;
  • Acknowledge those who have paid with their lives for media freedoms, and support others who live in fear, also in Europe;
  • Support the challenge of countering false information and hate speech;
  • Report on violence and conflict in the Great Lakes region in a balanced way;
  • Move away from political reporting to economic and social affairs;
  • Address issues so that people can solve their own problems where possible;
  • Avoid irresponsible insults, harsh judgments and partial truths that can incite violence.
  • Strive for fairness in reporting, including in social media.
  1. Action Plan for Diaspora Media

We need to remind policy makers in Europe that they should consult with the Great Lakes Diaspora communities in Europe. Whether they are NGO or government 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 inform them. We should lobby them through our programs to enable to Diaspora to contribute to good governance, peace building and accountability in the region. Diaspora people have many skills they can contribute to ensuring that NGO and government interventions help avoid conflict and polarization. They can also help advise private companies, and agencies concerned to promote peace and development in the Great Lakes region.

We propose this Action Plan to unite us in our diversity in practical and responsible ways.

The main planned actions are listed here:

  • To create a database of Diaspora (social) media organizations and individuals, especially those working on peace and justice issues;
  • To encourage (social) media practitioners to mentor and train others in responsible (social) media;
  • To agree on basic guidelines for peace journalism for Great Lakes Diaspora;
  • To use Diaspora media to raise the visibility of the need to end violence;
  • To show that conflict is a means of getting rich and securing political office in the African Great Lakes region;
  • To learn lessons from experiences in Africa and Beyond; we were inspired by Diaspora actions in Geneva for peace and justice in Eritrea;
  • To value the diverse languages of the Diaspora;
  • To establish Diaspora TV and Diaspora radio, for peace and balanced reporting.
  • To seek training opportunities, for example in peace journalism and non-violence, for those in Great Lakes (social) media.
  • To seek independence from political agendas and politicians;
  • To ensure we lobby to be consulted by NGOs, government and private firms about policies and programs in the Great Lakes region.
  • To ensure media attention for the rights and voices of indigenous people, women, and youth in the Great Lakes region and the Diaspora.

As well as journalists, those who use social media are part of the media.  They are central to this action plan, alongside professional journalists and those who work in radio, TV, the press, and who maintain on-line blogs and websites.

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The Hague Peace Projects

Communiqué de presse:

Sujet: Déclaration et plan d’action de la conférence sur « le rôle des médias dans les conflits et la consolidation de la paix dans la région des Grands Lacs en Afrique » qui avait eu lieu le 24-25 & 26 Novembre 2016

En collaboration avec l’Institut des Sciences Sociales (ISS), The Hague Peace Project a réalisé une seconde édition de conférence-débat avec la diaspora des Pays des Grands-Lacs sur le thème « Rôle des médias dans les conflits et la consolidation de la paix ».

Tenue dans les bâtiments de l’ISS, cette conférence-débat de trois jours a commencé le 24 novembre et s’est terminée le 26. Elle a attiré non seulement des professionnels des médias et des blogueurs mais des enseignants aussi, des étudiants, activistes des droits humains, artistes, des artisans de paix et même des ONG. La qualité des orateurs, tel que souhaité et invité par Jacob de Jonge, directeur de The Hague Peace Project, était basé non seulement sur leurs connaissances et expériences dans le domaine des médias mais aussi sur leurs pays de provenance dont la plupart venait des pays en conflits et où les médias avaient joué un rôle crucial.

Faisant suite à la mission de HPP, cette conférence s’était fixée l’objectif de faciliter un dialogue entre les différents membres de la diaspora et de permettre un environnement favorable d’échanges d’idées pour la consolidation de la paix dans leurs pays d’origine fragilisés par plusieurs sortes de conflits.

Trois points-clés avaient été identifiés comme priorités qui devaient figuraient à l’agenda de the Hague Peace Project au cours de l’année prochaine :

  1. L’unité dans la diversité
  2. L’engagement et la responsabilité
  3. Un plan d’action pour les médias diasporiques de la région des Grands Lacs

1.Unité dans la diversité

Nous, la diaspora, avons des expériences en commun, surtout de la guerre et des violences. Nous sommes prêts à apprendre du passé des uns et des autres. Nous ne voulons pas être des messagers de la haine. Pendant cette conférence nous nous sommes confrontés à la réalité. Chaque fois qu’un participant parlait des défis de l’Ouganda ou du Burundi, une tierce personne du Rwanda ou Congo partageait une expérience similaire. La compréhension mutuelle entre nous, demande de la sensibilité à nos souffrances et à l’espoir de chacun : Burundais, Rwandais, Congolais, Ougandais, Tanzaniens, populations autochtones, femmes, jeunes, et utilisateurs des réseaux sociaux et publics. Nous avons appris quelques leçons sur la diversité des médias et réseaux sociaux de la diaspora des Grands Lacs.

La conférence nous a aussi rappelé de ne pas oublier la situation des peuples autochtones de la région, spécialement des Batwa. En tant que premiers habitants de cette région, nous avons le devoir d’utiliser les médias pour promouvoir leurs droits à la terre, à la culture et à la dignité humaine. Nous devons assurer le reportage de ces sujets dans les médias diasporiques et les réseaux sociaux. Les peuples indigènes nous ont enseigné comment vivre avec notre environnement pour cela leur savoir doit être valorisé et protégé pour les futures générations.

  1. Engagement et responsabilité

Les accusations et les discours de haine conduisent à des actions violentes sur le terrain. Il est de notre responsabilité en tant que diaspora de prévenir et éviter des mauvais usages des médias dont les philosophies politiquement violentes de “ la fin justifie les moyens” incitent à la haine et aux conflits interminables. Il faut éviter l’usage de manipulation pour des motivations politiques et commerciaux. Nous devons considérer les médias comme un instrument qui gère des faits et non pas des opinions. Les médias doivent essayer de rester impartial. Si neutralité et impartialité étaient des couleurs, ceux-ci seraient les couleurs que les médias doivent mettre en informant et communiquant avec le public. Nous ne devons pas assumer que d’autres personnes dans le reste du monde savent mieux le genre et la nature des conflits dans nos pays que nous-mêmes. Nous voulons défendre le meilleur des médias et réseaux sociaux ; résoudre des problèmes et rapporter de manière responsable.  Un délégué a dit : les médias sont comme un marteau ; un outil pouvant soit mener à la destruction soit aider à la résolution des problèmes ». Nous, en tant que diaspora, faisons le lien entre les médias diasporiques et nos populations dans la région. Ceci nous accorde une responsabilité spéciale dans la promotion et le renforcement du rôle des médias dans la consolidation de la paix.

Nous nous sommes rassemblés pour :

  • Faire connaissance avec les journalistes des médias diasporiques de la région des Grands Lacs, des personnes qui essayent d’assurer un reportage équilibré
  • Reconnaître ceux qui ont payé de leur vie à cause de leur engagement pour la liberté des médias et supporter d’autres qui vivent dans la peur, aussi même en Europe
  • Combattre la fausse information et les discours de haine
  • Rapporter sur les violences et conflits de la région des Grands Lacs d’une manière équilibrée
  • S’éloigner de rapports politiques et converger vers des sujets économiques et sociales
  • Adresser des sujets pouvant permettre à nos populations de résoudre leurs problèmes si possible
  • Éviter des insultes irresponsables, jugements sévères et vérités partiales qui peuvent inciter à la violence,
  • Favoriser la tolérance entre nous quelle que soit la nature de nos conflits au pays,
  • Faire tout notre possible pour garantir l’impartialité des médias et des réseaux sociaux.
  1. Plan d’action pour les médias diasporiques

Nous devons rappeler les responsables politiques qu’ils doivent consulter les communautés de la diaspora de la région des Grand Lacs en Europe. Aussi, les ONG et gouvernements qui veulent encourager un état de droit dans la région des Grands Lacs sont encouragés à parler avec les membres de la diaspora afin de recevoir des informations sur la région. Aussi les indépendants qui cherchent de l’expertise dans la région peuvent être informés par la diaspora. Nous devons exercer une pression par la promotion de nos programmes et ainsi contribuer à la bonne gouvernance, à la consolidation de la paix et aux responsabilités dans la région. La diaspora a beaucoup de compétences qu’elle veut utiliser pour veiller à ce que les interventions des ONG et gouvernements soient aidées à éviter les conflits et la polarisation. Ils peuvent aussi aider à conseiller des entreprises privées et organismes travaillant dans le domaine du développement et de la consolidation de la paix dans la région.

Nous proposons ce plan d’action pour nous réunir dans la diversité.

Les principales initiatives sont énumérées ici :

  • Créer une base de données de tous les médias diasporiques et individus, spécialement ceux travaillant sur les focus liés à la paix et justice
  • Encourager les acteurs des médias sociaux à guider et former d’autres personnes sur l’usage des médias sociaux de manière responsable
  • Parvenir à un accord concernant des lignes directrices d’un journalisme éprit de paix
  • Utiliser les médias diasporiques pour augmenter la visibilité et nécessité de terminer la violence
  • Montrer que le conflit est un moyen pour s’enrichir, accéder et assurer un pouvoir politique dans la région des Grand Lacs en Afrique
  • Apprendre des actions de l’Afrique et de la diaspora : l’expérience de la diaspora érythréenne et les actions de paix et justice qu’ils ont organisées à Genève nous ont édifiés au cours de notre séminaire
  • Apprécier la diversité des langues de la diaspora
  • Etablir des programmes télévision et radio de la diaspora pour promouvoir la paix à travers un reportage équilibré
  • Chercher des possibilités de formation pour journalisme de paix et de non-violence, pour les acteurs des médias sociaux
  • Chercher à maintenir l’indépendance des agendas politiques et politiciens
  • Veiller à ce que nous soyons consultés par des ONG, gouvernements et entreprises privées concernant leurs programmes dans la région des Grands Lacs
  • Assurer que les médias fassent attention sur les droits et voix des populations indigènes, femmes et jeunes dans la région.

Ainsi que les journalistes , les personnes qui utilisent les réseaux sociaux font partie des médias. Ils jouent un rôle central dans ce plan d’action ensemble aux cotés des journalistes, ceux qui créent des programmes de radio, télévision, presse écrite et ceux qui maintiennent des blogues en lignes et sites Internet.

En conclusion, de nombreuses personnes ont participé et contribué à la réalisation de notre conférence débat sur le rôle des médias et de la diaspora sur les conflits et la consolidation de la paix dans la région des Grands lacs. L’un des participants a déclaré : « Cette conférence est comme une couverture, nous sommes déjà en train de nous réchauffer ». Tous les participants ont soutenu une vision commune pour établir une initiative des médias de la diaspora originaire de la région des Grands Lacs. Cette initiative doit supporter le travail pour la paix et lutter contre la haine afin de prévenir les violences et les conflits dans la région.

La Haye

26 novembre 2016

African Peace Party

Peace is more than only talking, we need to connect on different levels. For that reason we organize an African Party with food, drinks, music and of course our best dance moves!

The African Party will take place in the evening of the third day of the Conference, on the 26th of November. The Hague Peace Projects will host the second Great Lakes Conference on the 24th, 25th and 26th of November with the main theme ‘the role of media in conflict and peacebuilding’. The first day will focus on the general function of media, the second day on experiences with media in conflict or peacebuilding and the third day will connect diaspora and media.

We invite all participants and friends to join this evening at the African Party where there will be free drinks and African music. The musician Fabrice will be performing for us on his guitar and after dinner there will be a DJ.

The Party takes places from 7 PM at Paviljoensgracht 20, The Hague. We hope to see you there!

Discussion about ‘Diaspora, Dialogue and Peace’ on Afrikadag

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.


img-20161105-wa0012-2Deogratias 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.

img-20161105-wa0013-2The 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. 

 

The role of media in Conflict and Peacebuilding in the Great Lakes Region

poster-grl-conferenceOn the 24th and 25th and 26th of November 2016, The Hague Peace Projects together with ISS is organizing a second Diaspora Conference on the Great Lakes Region with as main theme: “The role of media in conflict and peacebuilding”. We would hereby like to invite you for this event.

Order your tickets here.

The Hague Peace Projects tries to facilitate a positive environment in which dialogue among all parties is encouraged. Analyzing and discussing the conflict enables the diaspora communities to contribute to peacebuilding processes not only in their home countries, but also in their diaspora communities abroad.

Last year’s conference topic was “The root causes of conflicts in the Great Lakes Region”. It left rooms for discussion and dialogue, which is necessary in order to create unity among diaspora groups. This year’s conference will deepen the dialogue and understanding by focusing on this one specific topic.

The first day of the conference will be mainly about the function of media in the Great Lakes Region. While the second day will focus on the role of media in conflict and peacebuilding. The third and last day will be connecting the topic of media with the diaspora groups.

The schedule day 1 – Role of Media

10:00-10:30              Welcome & opening, Connie Formson (ADPC), Ewing Amadi Salumu, Jakob de Jonge (HPP)
10:30-11:00               Keynote speech 1: Media & democracy: RNW Media
11:00-11:30                Keynote speech 2: .Social media today : Sanne Kruikemeijer, assistant professor Political Communication at the Amsterdam School of Communication
11:30-11:45                Coffee break
11:45-12:15                Keynote speech 3: Media in the GLR; Olivier Nyiubugara, Lecturer Journalism Erasmus University Rotterdam
12:15-13:00               Panel discussion
13:00-14:00              Lunch
14:00-15:15               Working sessions; country by country, strengths weaknesses
15:15-15:30               Coffee break
15:30-16:00              Continuation working sessions
16:00-17:00              Plenary session; reports from working sessions

The schedule day 2 – Media in Conflict & Peace

10:00-11:00              Keynote speech 1 +questions: Media & Conflict; Marie-Soleil Frère, Director Research Center in Information and Communication, Université Libre de Bruxelles
11:00-11:30               Keynote speech 2: Dirk-Jan Koch, Special Envoy Natural Resources, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs
11:30-11:45                Coffee break
11:45-12:00               Case speech 1: Moses Atocon, Blogger, Uganda
12:00-12:15               Case speech 2: Rwanda
12:15-12:30               Case speech 3: Burundi
12:30-12:45              Case speech 4: Marie-Louise Balagizi, DR Congo
12:45-13:45               Lunch
13:45-14:45              Panel discussion
14:45-16:00              workshops: YAGA & PAX
16:00-16:15               Coffee break
16:15-17:00                Continuation workshops 

The schedule for day 3: Diaspora and the perspectives of Media

10:00-10:15                Recap of the two days + questions/suggestions
10:15-10:45                Role of Diaspora;  Abubakar Koroma, International Organization for Migration
10:45-11:15                Diaspora & Media: Sennai Fessahaie, Eritrea diaspora
11:15-11:30                Coffee break
11:30-12:00               New Perspectives of Media; George Weiss, director Radio La Benevolencija
12:00-13:00               Panel discussion
13:00-14:00               Lunch
14:00-15:30               Afternoon program with own workshops
15:30-15:45                Coffee break
15:45-16:30                Continuation workshops
16:30-17:00                Closing words and conclusion conference
17:00-17:15                walks to HPP-office in separate groups
17:15-19:00                Dinner
19:00                           African party (at The Hague Peace Projects)

Where: International Institute of Social Sciences, The Hague
When : 24, 25 and 26 of November, 2016
Language: English

More information and the general outline of the days will follow.

Admission will be free for diaspora and students. For others the tickets are €20,- (payment at the door).Registration is required, reserve your seat here.

If you have questions, please contact us: info@thehaguepeace.org

 

Reflection: Guilty until proven innocent? Rwandans in the Netherlands accused of genocide

On 29 June 2016, the Hague Peace Projects organised a debate in the Humanity House in The Hague about the persecutions of Rwandans in the Netherlands. The initiative stems from the Grate Lake Region’s working group within the Hague Peace Projects which aims to empower the diaspora groups living in the Netherlands. The Hague Peace Projects acknowledged the sensitivity of the topic of the debate, but nevertheless recognised the importance of the debate about Rwandans being accused of genocide.  Much of the discussion on Rwanda take place out of sight of Dutch citizens. We would like therefore create public debate and discuss some of the most pressing questions about Rwanda.

DSC_0184The Dutch and Rwandan government work together to persecute Rwandans living in the Netherlands and who are accused of participating in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. It is doubtful whether the accused Rwandans have access to a fair trial in Rwanda, which is required under international human rights law. So far, around 30 Rwandans living in the Netherlands are accused of participating in the genocide of 1994. However, there seems to be very little substance to the accusations: it is unclear on what kind of information claims are based and how information has been obtained, even for the lawyers of the ones being accused. To shed light on some of these issues, the Hague Peace Projects invited two experts in the field, Marieke van Ejk and Joris van Wijk, along with Victor Kwihangana, who was willing to share his thoughts from a personal perspective.

Marieke van Ejk, a lawyer active in the field of migration, started off the debate by explaining the legal framework of refugees and the role of the Netherlands therein. Ms. Van Ejk explained that the 1951 Refugee Convention protects refugees, but also has the possibility to excludes persons to seek refugee status who have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity through Article 1F. In addition, Ms. Van Ejk elaborated on the application of Article 1F, and clarified that the Dutch Migration Service is responsible for investigations in order to decide whether Article 1F is applicable. It appeared that the Dutch Migration Service relatively easy applies Article 1F, when a person worked for an organisation which could be linked with a war crime or a crime against humanity. Problematic is the confidentiality paired with the procedure, and the burden of proof which is shifted to the person in question, which makes it hard for Rwandans to prove their innocence.

Joris van Wijk, who is an associate professor in criminology and expert in the field of genocide, further explained what happens with people when they are dismissed from refugee states through the applicability of Article 1F. According to Mr. Van Wijk, Rwandans have to undergo a ‘legal limbo’ now that Article 1F obliges them to leave the Netherlands, but at the same time the European Convention on Human Rights protects them from being sent back, for example when an unfair trail is waiting for them in their country of origin. Meanwhile, the authorities in Rwanda have the possibility to ask the Netherlands for the extradition of suspected Rwandans from genocide. Through extradition, suspected people will be sent back to Rwanda, where they undergo prosecution in Rwanda, and may not get access to a fair trial.

Victor Kwihangana is the son from one of the accused Rwandans, and visualised the procedure Rwandans have to go through when they seek for refugee protection in the Netherlands. He expressed his concern about the procedures in the Netherlands, which might infringe with basic human rights. Most of the people from the audience shared his concern. Unfortunately, a key player in the debate, the Netherlands Migration Service, declined our invitation to speak at our debate. Since voices are currently missing in the debate, the Hague Peace Project aims to elaborate on this topic when other parties are ready to participate. Jakob de Jonge, the director of the Hague Peace Projects emphasised that only when a debate is fully inclusive, wounds can heal and truth can be spoken.

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29-06: Guilty until proven innocent? Rwandans in The Netherlands accused of genocide

Around 30 Rwandans living In The Netherlands are accused of participating in the genocide of 1994. There seems to be very little substance to the accusations: it is unclear on what kind of information they are based and how it has been obtained.Flyer_Rwanda Meeting-01

Other countries in Europe have previously refused to send Rwandans back to their country. But even though the consequences might be disastrous for the ones accused and their families, The Netherlands appears to be eager to cooperate with Rwanda by pushing towards extradition or eviction. It is high time to discuss in a public setting what could be behind this seemingly odd cooperation between The Netherlands and Rwanda.

Speakers:
With a.o. Joris van Wijk (associate professor criminology, Vrije Universiteit, genocide-law specialist, Marieke van Eik (Prakken d’Oliveira, lawyer, migration specialist) and Victor Kwihangana (son of one of the accused Rwandans).

Join us on Wednesday 29 June at 19:30 in Humanity House, prinsegracht 8, The Hague.
Entrance is free, but registration required!

Summary of discussion: The importance of Ugandan elections for Peace in the GLR

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On February 13th The Hague Peace Projects in collaboration with the Ugandan Diaspora, organized a debate on the Ugandan general elections on February 18th 2016. The debate emphasized the effect of the elections in Uganda and its overall role on the peace-building process in the Great Lakes region. Different diaspora from the Great Lakes region, as well as professionals ,participated in the debate to share opinions on the past electoral activities in Uganda and their relation to the upcoming elections. Although the opinions were dived, every participant in the debate emphasized the aim of peaceful elections in Uganda.

The four speakers stressed that Uganda has not faced a peaceful transition of power since Uganda’s independency was established in the twentieth century. Moses Atocon Atyekwo, a blogger from Power 10, explained that the general elections in Uganda usually occur along with demonstrations and protests under the risk of state violence varying from rubber bullets to tear gas. Because the elections have always been plagued by force and in breach with the law, the Ugandan community usually demonstrates for free and fair elections.

Josh Maiyo, a PHD candidate at VU specialized in political economy of development highlighted the key features of the 2016 election in Uganda. He explained: the incumbent president Museveni is facing serious competition from political opponents for the first time in history. According to him, Museveni’s argument to maintain his presidency is related to the Uganda-Tanzania War. Since the current voting generation didn’t witnessed this combat up-close he expects that the new generation is less receptive of this argument. Kenneth Muyingo, representative of the Ugandan Community Netherlands, expressed the need for Museveni to be replaced. He considered Museveni to be a dangerous key player in the Great Lakes region and thus unable to contribute to the aim of peace-building in the region.

On the other hand, Arne Doornebal a former Africa correspondent stressed the difficulties of transition of powers in Uganda. Arne mentioned the extensive role of Museveni in Uganda, inter alia in the media and in the military. This vision was also shared by other participants in the debate: “Uganda has not an army, the army has Uganda.” According to the some of the attendees, originating from different neighboring countries of Uganda, a positive effect of the army on peace in the region is highly doubtful. For example, the International Court of Justice deemed Uganda to compensate $10 billion the plundering of natural recourses in DR Congo between 1998 and 2003. In conclusion it can be said that the upcoming elections in Uganda are greatly important for the country but also for Uganda’s mediating role in the Great Lakes region.

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