From November 5th to 6th 2015 around 120 people from Rwanda and the neighborhood areas of Burundi came together in Bugesera district for a very special Community Forum to discuss challenges of peace in the region and how to overcome them through dialogue.
The two days forum which attracted local community members, government officials, private sector, youth, civil society actors, teachers and many others from both Bugesera and Kirundo in Burundi, provided opportunities to discuss, reflect and exchange their ideas– all of which explore conflicts and obstacles to peace and tolerance in the Great Lakes Region.
Hosted by Never Again Rwanda, in partnership with International Peacebuilding Alliance (Interpeace), the Community Forum aims to provoke thinking through the powerful medium of dialogue, cinema and participatory theatre to deconstruct stereotypes and prejudices, and promote values of peace, Tolerance and non-violence.
Speaking at the event, Never Again Rwanda’s Director of Operations, Ms. Mukankubito Immaculee lauded the cross boarder initiative for its contribution to the improvement of relations among residents of the region. She rated the initiative as a positive sign of good governance and reiterated NAR’s commitment to support such good initiatives in the move of building working relations and sustainable peace.
“Sustainable Peace is everyone’s concern here. We believe that jointly efforts of the cross border population with the local leaders will help to eradicate conflicts and identity stereotypes in in the Great Lakes region”, she said.
Madam Uwiragiye Priscille, the Vice mayor of Bugesera in charge of Social affairs lauded the community forum as a very important space for the citizen the time to discuss on the issues of peace. “We are very happy to receive Never Again Rwanda for bringing the forum closer to our population.” She said, “What make us happier is to see our citizens sitting together with our brothers from neighboring countries discussing challenges and solutions of peace.” She added.
During the Bugesera community forum,NAR’s researchers shared with the audience the findings on a recent study on “Land, Population Movement and Identity Conflicts in the Great Lakes Region. Participants also got an opportunity to view films: “Stéréotypes et Manipulations identitaires dans la Région des Grands Lacs” (Identity manipulation and stereotypes in the Great Lakes Region), “Touches pas à ma terre!” (Don’t touch my land!). Additionally, two professional theatre troupes performed plays, which analyze the root causes of the land conflicts and the issue of identity stereotypes in in the Great Lakes region.
Furthermore, members of Bugesera-Kirundo Cross-Border Dialogue Space, one of the permanent dialogue spaces for peace facilitated under the Great Lakes Peacebuilding Programme, shared with community members on their experiences the process, the content and the outcomes of those spaces.
After each documentary film and the theatre, the participants went into discussion groups in which they exchanged about how the messages apply to their lives, and even proposed solutions to the issues raised.
A similar community forum was planned in Kamembe for participants from Kamembe-Bukavu and Bugarama, Kamanyola and Cibitoke dialogue spaces, from November 12 to 13, 2015 with an aim to foster peaceful relationships and cooperation between the border community members of the three countries.
The Community forum is an initiative that grew from the Great Lakes Peace-Building program, supported by Interpeace. Never Again Rwanda partners with 5 other regional civil society organizations to run the regional Great Lakes Peace-Building.
The program promotes peace education and dialogue as a means of preventing conflict and increasing understanding among parties that may have competing interests. It works with residents of DRC, Burundi and Rwanda to enable them to accommodate their differences and resolve conflict through different cross-border dialogue spaces.
As of now, Never Again Rwanda established a series of permanent cross-border dialogue spaces: Rubavu- Goma, Kamembe – Bukavu, Bugaragama- Kamanyora- Cibitoki and Bugesera – Kirundo.