Note: Another HROC facilitator in US wins an award.

IRC’s Rabiou Manzo Wins Refugee Champion Award

One of the longest serving staff of the IRC [International Rescue Committee] in Boise won a prestigious award this month: Rabiou Manzo is one of a very small group of Refugee Champions honored at the Idaho Refugee Conference. Rabiou was honored for his hard work and dedication, and for multiple projects above and beyond his resettlement staff duties, including:

· Teaching BSU students about refugees and refugee services as an adjunct Professor at BSU;

· Weaving himself into client communities by honoring many client communities’ holidays, family celebrations and businesses (if you want to know what to buy in the many refugee and immigrant markets in town, reach out to Rabiou!);

· Travelling to Rwanda for three weeks this year to study a community-led healing program, and coming back to Boise to lead reconciliation workshops between community members on opposing sides of conflict here in Boise;

· Teaching mental health professionals how to be more sensitized to refugees’ needs through the BSU CETI program; and

· Being a steady anchor for all questions thrown to IRC through years and years.

Congratulations, Rabiou: your commendation is well-earned!

(from International Rescue Committee’s webpage)

*****

Intervention by Peacebulders

Report by Peter Serete

(follow-up to Report from Kenya #267 – Insecurity in Kenya – February 21, 2014 – see aglifpt.org/rfk/?p=165)

[Mautuma–picture%20one]

The remains of one of the houses that were burnt down by angry residents of Mautuma location in Lugari Sub County on February 2, 2014

Comment: Peter’s report indicates how a violence-prone community can be changed to one emphasizing non-violence. I think that this model can be used in many similar community situations including those in the United States. Of course, the campaign is on-going as this initiative needs to be reinforced.

The African Great Lakes Initiative with their Kenyan local partner, Friends Church Peace Teams (FCPT), has played a very important role in both prevention and interventions of conflicts in the western region of Kenya including Mt Elgon and parts of North Rift Valley. With the help of well-trained citizen reporters whose work is help monitor and report early indicators of behavior and conflict that may lead to violence. This initiative has helped FCPT obtain updates from around six hundred villages in western, north Rift Valley and Mt Elgon regions which are prone to violence. I have extracted two messages from the FCPT Call-in Center to help understand our matrix of intervention.

“FCPT Lugari villagers are burning houses. Time: 2/1/2014 09:30:21”

“FCPT Tension mounting in Lugari district where villagers burned five homes of suspected criminals. Police patrolling the areas of Mautuma and Mbagara where the robbers raided several homesteads and killed two people on the Saturday. Time: 2/2/2014 10:47:28”

The first attack happened in November 2013 in which a gang of youth attacked the village, killing one person, raping at least eight women, and leaving others seriously injured. Another incident occurred in January 2014 when the gang attacked a home and instantly killed three children, aged two, four, and six years. The most recent attack was on February 1, 2014. The gang again attacked the village by robbing one of the shops, injuring a night watchman who also wounded one of the attackers on the head and right arm with his machete. Three women were raped – one 87 year old woman is still hospitalized at Webuye District hospital in critical condition. On Sunday, February 1, HUNDREDS of villagers in Mautuma location, Lugari sub-county burned four houses belonging to suspected robbers. The residents ransacked Munge, Mugunga and Pan Paper villages. When I visited the area in the company of Getry Agizah, FCPT program coordinator, we learnt sadly that also in the attack women were raped. In one-on-one interviews with residents, they said the police conduct patrols only after a robbery incident is reported. Three suspects have surrendered to the police and are being held at Pan Paper administration police patrol base. The residents marched to the station and threatened to lynch the suspects. The police had a hard time trying to control the crowd that was baying for the suspects’ blood. More police officers from Lumakanda police station moved in to disperse the crowd. During the police operation, blunt objects believed to have been used by the gang were recovered.

From the interviews we found that the residents are using violence as a means of justifying justice — there was high loss of temper on a daily basis, frequent physical fighting, significant vandalism and property damage, increase in use of drugs especially alcohol, increase in risk-taking behavior like torching and burning houses, and detailed plans to commit acts of violence. One man was arrested in Turbo [the nearby town on the main road to Uganda] with a sack full of machetes, after announcing threats or plans for hurting others and carrying home-made weapons. Residents said crime has been rising and accused security officials of laxity. They said the police do not take action when robbery incidents are reported. The residents said they have taken the law in their own hands to protect themselves. We concluded that more violence was a serious possibility.

Intervention 1 – Listening Session

The Friends Church Peace Teams (FCPT) peace-builders held a listening session with the motorcycle taxi drivers who were still very upset and wanted revenge. The mother of the boy nicknamed “doctor” that was killed wanted to have a peaceful funeral and the FCPT facilitators intervened and cooled the situation and obtained agreement from the motorcycle taxi drivers that they would not become violent again during or after the funeral. From the listening session we learned that we needed to divide the group in three categories to enable us to address different needs; first group signed in for Alternative to Violence (AVP) trainings, another group, most of them victims and perpetrators, signed in for trauma healing, and the last group agreed to be trained in active non-violent communication.

Intervention 2 — Workshops

Non-violence in itself is a testimony and for the last five weeks we have trained 88 participants in Alternatives to Violence. Most of participants were youth, especially motorbike taxi drivers, victims and village opinion leaders, district peace committee members, village elders, two senior police officers and village administrators.

AVP has never been challenged like this, but there is a power that is able to transform violent and destructive situation and behavior into liberating, constructive experiences. “Yes, my son was a suspected criminal, but killing him in cold blood like a wild animal was hurting and paining. Even in courts we have criminal justice. What happened to the peace of our fore-fathers?”

There was stalemate and tension from the fresh memories of the cruel incidents. During the first workshop, when victims wanted all answers to why the citizens of Lugari were experiencing this series of violence, they commented “We know all the culprits and we will kill them so that others can learn a lesson.”

The white elephant [i.e., the major unexpressed issue] in the room at Pan Paper’s Pentecostal Assemblies of God Church, was in pointing fingers at perpetrators and, to our surprise as peace-builders, how the motorbike taxi drivers were excited about killing and use of violence: “What are you people (AVP facilitators) doing to arrest perpetrators who raped an old innocent widow, while she is suffering in hospital, the people who committed the act are out free?” By being honest about our responsibility in conflict and willing to look for alternatives, by disciplining our responses through our words, actions, re-actions and emotions, we helped the AVP participants recognize that violence can never bring sustainable peace.

Our main aim was to train members in nonviolent skills that will enable them to deal non-violently with future conflicts that may arise. “As a police officer this training was important in relation to our work, and glad even citizens who were my fellow participants have learnt how to reduce interpersonal violence in our society. The skills will enable us to build and find new and positive alternative ways from violence.”

“Why choose a non-violent lifestyle at all,” some asked, “Does it ever settle anything? Or does it instead set up an answering violence that makes the community unsafe for everyone, including the person who started it?”

“I remember when we started killing them (suspects), before they died, they could mention a member of their gang, without thinking twice we went and attacked the gang member including innocent members of that family. This has brought great lose in our community. From this training I have learnt to be willing to lay aside habitual assumptions that violence or destructive solutions are the only ones possible. I will teach my fellow motorbike drivers and the customers we carry on finding non-violent solutions.”

When an exercise revealed aspects of cooperation in solving a group problem, participants realized how important it is to put their differences and prejudices aside. The “building a new society” exercise showed how the attitudes and choices made by one society can affect the well-being of another society, and how this applies to individuals as members of families, groups and communities. “We should be good examples and ambassadors of peace when we go out there. Never should we incite violence. I have realized that a violent reaction is only one way of responding in a conflict. Somewhere in every conflict situation, there is the possibility for a non-violent solution. Maybe it is hidden. I have practiced and am going to start with “I message” which is a non-violent way of communication.”

Intervention 3 – Community Transformative Dialogue

A successful intervention should be based on the principle that when a conflict occurs in a local, small village like Mautuma, the intervention should be derived locally from the same community without imposing threats and sanctions. Local problems need local solutions for intervention. On 29th of March Friends Church Peace Teams brought together ninety-seven community members, local administration, police, church leaders, our participants trained in Alternatives to Violence Project and Healing and Rebuilding Our Community trainings, peace committee members, chairmen of Nyumba Kumi initiative [this is a government initiative where ten households are grouped together with a leader to focus on security issues], members of community policing, businessmen, motorbike taxi drivers, village elders, and members that participated in listening sessions. The main purpose was to determine and reflect on violence, attacks, lawlessness and the conflict that had left the Mautuma residents in fear and panic and brainstorm on a way forward — on how to have and maintain sustainable peace.

Unfortunately, members present started blaming and attacking individuals that they thought contributed to the series of violence in the area.

“The security officials are sleeping on their jobs and collaborating with thugs. When you call them they don’t come to rescue on time.”

“The police know these people; we always arrest them (perpetrators) but you release them without taking them to court.”

“You people (motorbike drivers), when you take the law in your own hands and kill people, do you think you are helping this community?”

“The people who killed “Doctor” had police uniforms.”

“I don’t know my Nyumba kumi.”

“You are harboring these thugs; some of them are your children, husbands and neighbors.”

“You people burnt the house and excommunicated an innocent family from this village just because their son was a suspected robber.”

“Village elders hand-picked drunkards to be the leaders of community policing, who need to inform police on drug abuse and insecurity.”

“The government has not come up with clear mandate to conceptualize the Nyumba kumi initiative.”

“Our youth are very idle and that’s why they engage in criminal activities to earn a living.”

The confrontations in the dialogue reminded us what Robert Alan Silverstein said, that many of the conflicts in our lives and in the world are caused by misunderstandings and blaming. Sometimes we jump to conclusions about why others do things. Sometimes we don’t understand the differences of others. Poor communication makes the conflict worse — real dialogue can often lead to understanding, helping communities to get along much better.

“Thank you for sharing your frustrations. How did we get ourselves in this (conflict) and how can we get out of it? The reality today is that we are all interdependent and have to co-exist, and pointing fingers may not help this process. Therefore, the only sensible and intelligent way of resolving our differences and clashes of interests — whether between individuals, institutions or communities — is through this dialogue.” Getry Agizah

Getry, on left, speaks to the people attending the Transformative Dialogue.

“I am a police officer. I have listened to your concerns and I want you to know that, before I become a police, I am a human being — a son, a father and a dear husband to someone, I only came here to enforce peace, security and order, and I cannot achieve those responsibilities alone. The scar you see on my hand came as result of me saving this community; I was attacked by the same community members when I wanted to arrest one of your own. Do you think next time you call me I will come? I don’t refute the fact that some police are corrupt but why should you give them money. We can never buy our security. This dialogue should be an eye opener to all of us. It calls for us citizens to preach peace, volunteer and report any incidences that may lead to violence and let’s impress community policing because security begins with me.”

When we started the dialogue forum, it went confrontational but later in the process when community members realized it was about their issues and they needed solutions, the dialogue shifted to a non-confrontational communication, where members invited were willing to learn from the other and therefore it led much farther into finding new common ground together.

“After attending my HROC training I was encouraged by my healing companion to come out of my hiding after my husband was killed. I went to court to testify. The motorbike driver who killed my husband was a good man and I remember him carrying me to Turbo town on his motorbike if not twice, thrice. It is very sad to lose a husband in that nature. I went to Eldoret Prison, with tea, soda and bread to visit the perpetrator. I was forced by prison wardens to test the food before I could give him (the perpetrator). I risked doing that because my facilitator had shared how it worked in Burundi and I feel at peace after visiting him. I have forgiven the motorbike driver, his family and other people who participated”.

The widow of the late “doctor” after sharing her story during the dialogue

Bringing together peace builders, giving a community that has experienced a lawlessness and series of violence a safe space to express their feelings and concerns about peace brought a sense of inclusivity. This brought all members to the dialogue on board — the entire process was people driven with skills of nonviolence, trauma healing and tolerance.

The community members through the area assistant chief have asked FCPT to initiate a process to bring back the family that was forced to flee to Eldoret.

FCPT formed a 39 member watchdog group that will be trained on citizen reporting to have continuous monitoring of events. They will report to the Call-in Center any early warnings or incidences of violence that may erupt.

Phase II: FCPT/AGLI plans to conduct more AVP workshops with the youth and motorcycle tax drivers, transformation mediation trainings for nyumba kumi leaders, a Turning the Tide/Non-violence for Social Change workshop for community leaders, and a healing companion training. This will cost approximately $2500. If you would like to support this continued effort, please send a check made out to “Friends Peace Teams/AGLI” with memo notation of “Mautuma project” and mail it to 1001 Park Avenue, St Louis, MO 63104. Thanks a lot.

Leave a Reply