On Wednesday 1 September 2010, a seminar was held for the benefit of the victims of the Makobola massacres in Eastern DRC. The seminar was organized by the Association of the Makobola Massacre Survivors (ARMMK) in collaboration with five other Congolese peacebuilding organizations. Having met at the Goma Peace Exchange , the organisations decided to form a platform/network, of peacebuilders in order to consolidate the effectiveness of their conflict work and this was their first major joint undertaking.
There were 51 attendees, 15 women and 36 men and it cost a total of $900. Amongst these attendees were local leaders, local government officials and national police officers.
The theme was peace education and the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and the objectives were to sensitize the victim population to the effects of war and other human rights abuses and teach them to bury the hatchet of hatred and vengeance, and instead learn that a society free from murder is possible. They were taught that collaboration, dialogue, compromise and an exchange of ideas were necessary to overcome conflict and to stop it becoming a natural and inevitable part of everyday life. People should view their enemies as a member of their family and do everything possible to resolve a dispute peacefully.
The aim was to help the populations, who have lived through decades of violence and tensions, to become torch-bearers of non-violence and ‘priests of peace’.
The central themes dealt with at the seminar were the importance of peace, the consequences of a lack of peace (in terms of instability, loss of means, poverty etc.) and the challenges of dealing with intra and inter-community conflict. The issue of the persistence of unfounded rumours was also addressed.
People discussed their feelings and experiences using a ‘I see’, ‘I feel’, ‘I think’ framework and together developed a framework for peace. ‘Peace’ was defined as being an absence of violence, war and a climate of security. Peace was also considered as a necessary precursor for all other fields of development, and to allow children to be educated without interruption.
In terms of recommendations for the future, these included increasing the number of seminars, reflections and debates about peace, as well as inviting senior authorities and local/international organizations to come and share their experiences in Peace and Development at these seminars.
It was also suggested that the media be invited to gain coverage of ARMMK’s work on the radio and television.
The greatest problem which remained was lack of funding.
The greatest success of the seminarwas when the realisation finally hit home to the attendees that peace is indeed possible and that all conflicts do is kill. Below, we have provided a selection of images of the event.
Jacques Lumenge, founder, ARMMK. September 2010.