Relations between communities in the sub-region have deteriorated significantly because of numerous political and economic crises, but also because of the increasing radicalization of certain groups. There have been violent conflicts, wars of all kinds, the genocide that took place, in Rwanda, from April to July 1994, and growing mistrust between ethnic groups, which has fueled hatred, intolerance, and nameless tensions that have often led to bloody clashes. Despair has taken hold of many people, and there is no guarantee that the scale of the crisis can be quickly reduced unless all actors mobilize to work together to reverse the trend.
This negative development of the facts places the Legal Representatives of the Protestant churches (Presbyterian Church in Rwanda (EPR), Anglican Church in Rwanda: Diocese of Shyogwe, Butare, Kigeme and Cyangugu and the Baptist Community in the Center of Africa (CBCA) members of the United Evangelical Mission of Germany in the sub-region in front of enormous challenges. They feel challenged, invited to do something, as their inaction is considered unacceptable. However, how and where to start? The stakes are high, but many believe that religion is still the institution that can positively change the situation. Religious communities offer the largest social infrastructure for intervention in a variety of areas. They have the power to unite people to promote noble causes.
Thus, on February 19, 2008, the Legal Representatives of the three churches mentioned above met and decided to create the "Actions pour la promotion de la Paix, la Réconcilition et le Développement durable dans la Sous-région des Grands Lacs (APRED-RGL)/(Actions for the Promotion of Peace, Reconciliation and Sustainable Development in the Great Lakes Sub-Region)" program. In 2009, the activities of the Program were made operational, and in October 2010, a Protocol of collaboration between the churches was signed, to regulate the management of the said Program.
APRED-RGL is financially and technically supported by United Evangelical Mission and Bread for the World.
In the beginning 2010, UEM supported the APRED-RGL program with 11,000 Euros for implementing its first activities. Four years later, the same organisation sent Mr Claus Schrowange as UEM Co-worker in APRED-RGL. Mr. Claus worked and left the program after 4 years of service’s period and was succeed by Mr. David Fechner who left also the program in October 2022. Knowing the role-plays by UEM Co-workers, the program request UEM to send another Co-worker for supporting. The visits and advocacy that UEM Authorities offer to the program are the most evaluated by the Board of Director members (Legal Representatives of the Churches) who initiated the program and the beneficiaries of the program.
Seven years of hard work later, in 2015, with intense activities, the importance of the action that the APRED-RGL Program is carrying out has been increasingly discovered by other churches in the sub-region. And during that year, among the other churches in the region, five have applied to join the program. Thus, in the 2nd General Assembly of APRED-RGL, held at the EAR/Diocese of Shyogwe in Muhanga on April 25th, 2015, five other churches were received and integrated as new members of APRED-RGL. These include the Association of Baptist Churches of Rwanda (AEBR), the Free Methodist Church of Rwanda (EMLR), the Community of Baptist Churches in Eastern Congo (CEBCE), the Union of Baptist Churches of Burundi (UEBB) and the United Methodist Church of Burundi (EMUBU). In this way, the member churches of the APRED-RGL program have grown from 3 to 8 Churches in 2015. In addition, others have applied for membership, but the Program has not yet the opportunity to integrate them.
Foundation of our actions to promote peace, reconciliation and sustainable development in the Great Lakes sub-region
To achieve its vision of a peaceful, united and developed Great Lakes sub-region, the APRED-RGL Program is working with the following 12 target groups in current project:
1. Religious leaders (pastors and youth leaders of the parishes) from the targeted parishes in Kiwanja/Rutshuru/DRC
2. Youth theater groups (4 groups) structured in groups according to the border towns, except Amani kwetu in Rutshuru. This photo is Amani Kwetu members.
3. Intercommunity Youth Cell (CIPD) Groups made up of leaders of youth groups organized according to ethnicity in Bukavu/DRC
4. Soccer teams for peace (two soccer teams in Uvira, the 1 for Banyamurenge and other communities
5. Student committees in the 10 universities from the well-structured student committees in the targeted universities of Bukavu
6. Committees of youth delegates from ethnic groups that are youth from the well-structured youth committees of ethnic groups (Kumu, Nande, Hutu and Hunde) in Buhene/Goma
7. Members of the Base Cells for Peace and Development (30 CPDs) structured in groups of 30 targeted parishes in the sub-region, with leaders
8. Pastors of the parishes where the CPDs are functioning in the 3 countries
9. Youth leaders of the Parish Committees in 3 countries
10. Women Cross-border Economic Community (CEFCT) in six Pools structured in pools according to the cross-border towns (Gisenyi-Goma, Cyangugu-Bukavu, Bujumbura-Uvira) in the 3 countries
TESTIMONIES OF CEFCT POOL MEMBERS
The CEFCT allows women involved in small-scale cross-border trade to facilitate their work in the framework of cross-border trade. In addition to the trade that these women carry out, they have already established friendships with each other. These friendly relations between these women are proven by the fact:
- They talk to each other not only about trade but also about other issues of daily life;
- That they communicate with each other through the telephone;
- That they have a "WhatsApp" group where they exchange;
- That they organize visits to each other in the border towns;
- That they assist each other and participate in happy and unhappy events...
Also, the CEFCT Pools of DR-Congo and those of Rwanda (Goma-Gisenyi and Bukavu-Cyangugu), are no exception.
The members of these pools operate in the form of savings and credit associations. Testimonies abound that the practice of rotating microcredits contributes to the improvement of the living conditions of beneficiary households, but also to the improvement of the image of women as guarantors of family life. As an illustration, here are some testimonies from women involved in small-scale cross-border trade:
- Mrs. BATAMULIZA Chantal, a member of the CEFCT Cyangugu pool, took out a loan of 300,000 RWF to set up a sewing and knitting workshop. She sews uniforms and knitwear for the students; she sells these uniforms and knitwear in the city of Bukavu and Uvira in DR-Congo through the intervention of the CEFCT pool members. This business has allowed her to build a house for her family. This business also allows her to pay the school fees of her children, the health insurance, to buy food for her family. etc.
- Mrs. NABINTU Valérie Kalimba, a member of the CEFCT Bukavu pool, trades in clothing (loincloths). She found a market in Cyangugu, thanks to the members of the CEFCT Cyangugu Pool. Before doing this business, she had a nickname: "mungonjea sachet ya papa"; that is, the one who waits for what her husband brings home. Now she contributes to the holistic development of her family through this small cross-border business.
Mrs. MUKANDEKWE Yvonne, a member of the CEFCT Gisenyi pool, has benefited from a credit in the pool to do a broiler breeding project. She trades these broilers in the city of Goma in DR-Congo through the facilitation of CEFCT Goma pool members. Thanks to this small cross-border trade, the living conditions of her family are improved.
- Mrs. KABUGHO BINAGHA, a member of the CEFCT Goma Pool, trades fruits and vegetables in the city of Gisenyi. She found the market through the intervention of the CEFCT Gisenyi pool members. Thanks to this trade, she pays for her children's school fees, health care, and food for her family without any problems.
Apart from that, the exchanges have produced several positive effects between the members of the different groups from three countries. There are testimonies of many ladies who have decided to abandon hatred, stereotypes and negative perceptions against people of other ethnicities or communities different from their own. Friendships have made these ladies more sympathetic to each other, whereas stereotypes and intolerance were a barrier between them before. They visit each other on both sides of the border. Between Bukavu and Cyangugu, for example, members of two pools keep each other company, and some of them facilitate trade. These women assist each other and participate in happy and unhappy events... Hence, these women have already overcome the barriers that could prevent them from establishing friendly relationships. And thanks to their friendships and visits, they are influencing the neighboring families.
11. Agri- breeders from the DR Congo and Burundi who are people from targeted parishes and come to learn the new modern technics in agri-breeders in Rwnda
12. Church leader forum of APRED-RGL program
In order to bring about remarkable changes in the members of the target groups as well as the populations of the project's area of action, the APRED-RGL Program has allowed the target groups:
To visit others and let them to discover they work; to share with them the knowledge acquired during the training workshops in order to identify weaknesses and to help them to be aware of the existing weaknesses and to work together to acquire the necessary performance.
Some small and optimistic steps taken in our experience for peace and development since many of the conflicts in different settings are interest-based, the mediation facilitators have mainly used the approach based on conflict and actor analysis, dialogue, conciliation, negotiation and mediation. These approaches have helped to identify the causes of conflicts and to consider solutions that the parties in conflict accept. This approach allowed the facilitators to achieve a range of successes, including:
In Uvira/DR Congo, in the CBCA parish of Kakungwe, a husband did not want his wife to work in the family store. According to the man, it is better for the wife to stay at home and wait for whatever her husband gives her. After the mediation session by the members of the CPD, the husband gave the key to his wife; and he understood that the wife has the same abilities to work as him.
In Bujumbura/Burundi, in the UEBB parish of Rohero, a mother was at the point of leaving her home because her husband was threatening her because their daughter was pregnant. The father said that the mother had not been responsible for her daughter, forgetting that the education of children is a task shared between father and mother. Invited by the mother, the members of the CPD exchanged with the two parents. After the exchanges, the father finally understood that he was being unfair to his wife. He also understood that he was also concerned about the education of their daughter.
In Muhanga/Rwanda, EAR Gahogo parish, the members of the CPD have amicably resolved a conflict related to sexual dissatisfaction in the couple. Today, we observe good expectations and mutual respect within the couple where the conflict was prevailing.
Furthermore, APRED-RGL Program provides a technical support for cross-border trade associations and peace clubs. In addition, cross-border visits between members of parish youth leaders and Women Cross-border Economic Community (CEFCT) in six Pools structured in pools according to the cross-border towns have contributed greatly to social cohesion among their family members and neighboring families.
Congolese and Burundian agri-breeders discovering modern agriculture and livestock techniques in Rwanda during the experience exchange visit. During this visit, Congolese and Burundian agri-breeders observe model fields where modern techniques are used. Thanks to the experience-sharing study visit, there was an improvement in production because of the use of agricultural and livestock techniques by Congolese and Burundian agri-breeders as well as by neighbors who come to learn from them (multiplier effects in the agri-breeders' area of activity).
The existence of the APRED-RGL Program provides important lessons to share with readers
§ The transfer of knowledge from the beginning is an essential condition for the success of the actions envisaged;
§ The "participatory forum theater" for peace produces immediate effects, a good methodology for peace education;
§ The intervention through structures organized in the churches offers facilities to reach many people (the faithful), and gives credibility to the work done;
§ Through youth forum theater groups, we establish and enhance dialogue on non-violence and peace;
§ Savings and microcredits stimulate entrepreneurship and are a source of motivation and efficiency;
§ Actions to bring populations together at the local and cross-border level contribute to the restoration of mutual trust and good neighborly relations;
§ Effectiveness of CPD’s (Base Cells for Peace and development) members if : diversity of members, choice of members from the community based on selective criteria, existence of internal regulations;
§ Volunteerism bears fruit, but has limits if there are no motivation measures;
§ Ownership, involvement and commitment of pastors in the parishes play an essential role in achieving the effectiveness of CPDs. CPDs in the three countries are involved in analyzing and mediating community conflicts and engaged in community development activities.
The future of APRED-RGL program
During 13 years ago, APRED-RGL-RGL was functioned under church regulations and to fund other financial partners rather than UEM and PPLM is a problem. It is in that way, that we are looking how it should be the Non-Government Organisation. Even if the challenges of insecurity in Eastern Congo, but the child is in the process of growing.
In conclusion, given the organization of local dialogues, the strengthening of technical and operational skills of peace facilitators and community mediators for positive conflict prevention and management in order to reduce inter-community tensions in the Great Lakes sub-region;
Program, through its approach of mobilizing church and political-administrative
leaders, customary and parliamentary leaders, youth and women in the targeted
regions, has made it possible to improve mutual trust between the various
inter-ethnic communities, and to restore local and cross-border social cohesion
between members of different communities who had long lived in inter-ethnic
wars. Based on the role that the APRED - RGL Program plays in the Great Lakes
sub-region, there is a need to see its long-term impact on the populations of
its intervention zone. However, at present, there are barriers following the
resurgence of the M23 war as well as the insecurity in eastern DR-Congo, which
risks slowing down the good progress of local and cross-border social cohesion