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African Great Lakes Region: Investing in mediation at the community level

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Mediators play an important role by facilitating a return to peace during conflict. For this reason, peacebuilding efforts in the African Great Lakes region must not overlook the need for mediators at community level to resolve conflicts.

An insider mediation project, supported by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and implemented by Interpeace, in partnership with Prison Fellowship Rwanda, Pole Institute and Commission for Integrity and Electoral Mediation (CIME), is strengthening capacities of community level mediators in Rwanda and DR Congo. The plurality of issues and actors in the Great Lakes region, as well as their interconnected nature have created a complex conflict system that requires substantive investment in mediators within local communities.

Launched in November 2020, this 21-month initiative will empower peacebuilders within communities, facilitate peer-learning and ensure greater resilience during conflict.

“The project strengthens capacities of those on the frontlines of peacebuilding at the community level, such as the Abunzi [formal structure of community mediators] in Rwanda and will ultimately establish a network of these community mediators across all countries of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR),” says Frank Kayitare, Interpeace’s Great Lakes Regional Representative.

Strengthening local mediation capacities contributes to the multi-faceted and multi-actor approach required to build sustainable peace throughout the region. This initial phase of the project targets communities in DR Congo’s North Kivu province and in Rwanda’s Bugesera District, where Interpeace and Prison Fellowship Rwanda are already implementing a societal healing programme. In total, the project will empower 90 mediators at community level – of which 30 will be in Rwanda, 30 in DR Congo and another 30 at regional level.

Representatives of all the project stakeholders met recently in Rubavu, a district in western Rwanda close to the border with DR Congo, to develop mediation tools and training material that will be used at all levels, from community to decision-making levels in Rwanda and DR Congo. Participants also developed a roadmap for all activities to be implemented during the lifespan of the project.

“The training of community mediators will empower local communities to identify, analyse and resolve local conflicts themselves,” said Dr. Nene Morisho, who represented Pole Institute at the meeting.

This initiative builds on Interpeace’s previous peacebuilding work in the Great Lakes region. Previous analyses, interventions and consultations in countries across the region have found that dialogue and mediation spaces promote peaceful resolution of conflicts and remain an important source of resilience for peace in the region.