A friendship restored through the formation of a dialogue space in Kenya's Kerio Valley

In the Kerio Valley in Kenya's North Rift Region, two former close friends, Francis, a Marakwet, and Johnstone, a Pokot, were once united in their agricultural pursuits and shared common goals. However, as conflicts escalated in the valley, their friendship deteriorated, leading to unrest within their communities.

For ten years, Francis and Johnstone lived physically and emotionally apart. Their bitterness eroded their relationship, leaving behind broken dreams and unfulfilled promises in their agricultural pursuits.

The conflict between the Pokot and Marakwet communities in the Kerio Valley belt is mostly linked to fights over pasture and water, animal theft disputes, revenge and counter-revenge attacks, and tribal clashes. This conflict has hindered development, caused insecurity, and resulted in violence. Local peace committees play a crucial role in promoting peace. However, achieving lasting peace in some areas remains challenging, highlighting the importance of community engagement to address drivers of conflicts and foster sustainable peace and development.

Their fate changed with the creation of the Mikeu-Sagat Inter-Village Dialogue Spaces (IVDS), the immediate structure on the conflict belt that responds to violent incidents. The IVDS was established by Interpeace and the Network for Peace, Cohesion, and Heritage Trust (NEPCOH) and funded by the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO). Francis and Johnstone embarked on their journey towards reconciliation by attending the IVDS meeting at St. Abraham's Catholic Church in Endo on 16 March 2024, with a mix of anticipation and unease.

Inside the church, Francis and Johnstone confronted their past, burdened by regrets and unspoken apologies. Despite their history of conflicts, they glimpsed a flicker of the bond that once united them. As they embraced, memories resurfaced, revealing a connection that went beyond tribe and ideology. In that decisive moment, they rediscovered their shared humanity amidst the aftermath of conflict, becoming symbols of hope in a landscape scarred by division and distrust.

Expressing his gratitude for the encounter, Francis shared, "As a farmer from Kasegei, I have fond memories of working the land alongside my dear friend Johnstone. We had plans to cultivate maize and then venture into tomatoes.  Conflict separated us like heaven and earth. Today, through this village dialogue initiative, we have been reunited, and I am overjoyed. I intend to return home and discuss with my family and elders how we can move forward together." Addressing Johnstone directly, Francis added, "Jonathan, my friend, I look forward to the day when we can once again work side by side on our farms. During the years we were apart, I often thought of you and your well-being. I even prayed to God that we would meet again. My prayers have been answered, and heaven and earth have been reunited."

Today, Francis and Jonathan stand united as members of the Mikeu-Sagat IVDS committee, committed to rebuilding the bridges destroyed by hatred and animosity. Their journey is one of forgiveness and reconciliation, showcasing the transformative power of dialogue and understanding.

In the Kerio Valley, Interpeace and NEPCOH are establishing IVDS to mediate conflicts and prevent further escalations between clans. IVDS has also been set up in various corridors in Kenya's North Rift and North-eastern regions. For instance, in the North-eastern region, Sala-Jabi 2 Corridor has four dialogue spaces, the Banisa Corridor has five dialogue spaces, and the Takaba Corridor has four. The Kerio Valley's Mikeu-Sakat IVDS is the first IVDS structure being created in the North Rift region, and the team is foreseeing the creation of over 20 spaces in the coming months. These spaces, as well as other peacebuilding structures in the regions, such as the Conflict Monitoring Committees (CMCs), serve as platforms for open conversations, conflict resolution, and trust-building among diverse communities, making significant contributions to the region's sustainable peacebuilding efforts.

Hassan Ismail, the Country Representative of Interpeace in Kenya, emphasises the importance of locally driven solutions, stating: "Interpeace strives to create and execute community-driven solutions. Through regular meetings and sustained dialogue in IVDS, local communities empower themselves to work towards long-lasting peace and reconciliation. IVDS demonstrates the power of grassroots initiatives in building a brighter future."

The reunion of Francis and Johnstone symbolises hope and resilience in the face of adversity, resonating with those impacted by conflict and offering hope during challenging times. Despite the challenges they encounter, their unwavering dedication to promoting peace in the Kerio Valley motivates them to engage in dialogue and community efforts, one village at a time.

Learn more about Interpeace's holistic approach to building sustainable peace. Click ici to access our "Livelihoods for Peace" paper, which explores how fair access to livelihood opportunities, social cohesion, and inclusive development are essential for lasting peace in communities like the one featured in this story.

Cultivating unity and peace in Burundi through reforestation initiatives

In Burundi, the impacts of climate change have been widespread. With a surface area of less than 30,000 km² and a population of nearly 12 million, the depletion of limited land and natural resources has been an issue for many years, and it is becoming increasingly more.  Deforestation has rapidly cleared large areas across Burundi, depleting a major source of firewood, timber for construction, and protection against soil erosion. Recognising the urgency, the government launched a national reforestation campaign called "Ewe Burundi Urambaye"(Let's Reforest Burundi) in 2018. Although the initiative successfully planted almost 45 million tree seedlings in its first year, reversing decades of rampant deforestation requires sustained and collaborative efforts.

In the Giteranyi commune, Muyinga province, residents have witnessed firsthand the localised effects of environmental degradation. Just ten hills had any tree cover left, leaving the rural area vulnerable to erosion, landslides, and loss of arable land. Community priority-setting sessions facilitated by the “Synergy for Peace III project,” which seeks to facilitate inclusive and collaborative livelihood and social cohesion initiatives, identified environmental protection as a top priority.  

In July 2023, the Giteranyi community group, a diverse collective of stakeholders, came together to make a significant impact. They identified a hill (Shoza) and planted over 10,000 seedlings, a testament to their shared commitment to environmental protection. The participation of both young and old in the reforestation work underscored the unity and shared responsibility in the community. As one participant remarked, "This activity benefits the whole community. By protecting this hill, I'm protecting the people around me and the environment of Burundi."

Beyond environmental benefits, reforestation addressed a driver of potential conflict in the region. Without tree cover, communities are left vulnerable to erosion and landslides. This can spark disputes over land ownership and access to increasingly scarce natural resources like firewood for heating and cooking.

"We are not often aware that climate change is a major contributor to land conflicts, which is why we need to support this reforestation project," explained Floride Nduwayezu, the administrator of Giteranyi commune, who instructed local residents to protect the seedlings.

For the Giteranyi administrator, allowing further deforestation risks escalating resource conflicts. “If the environment is not safeguarded in Giteranyi commune, there is a great risk of major community conflicts due to competition for natural resources such as firewood, trees for building houses,” emphasised Floride.

Further deforestation risks escalating resource conflicts in Giteranyi, where women heavily rely on firewood for household tasks and trees to support crop fields. Renewing these critical resources motivated the reforestation effort’s community participation. Local leaders and other stakeholders like the permanent dialogue group (PDG) of Giteranyi have championed protecting Shoza hill’s new trees.

The Shoza hill reforestation sets an example for other Burundian communities to follow. By taking collective action to address environmental issues, they can strengthen social cohesion while reducing drivers of potential conflict over scarce natural resources.

 

Learn more about Interpeace's holistic approach to building sustainable peace. Click ici to access our "Livelihoods for Peace" paper, which explores how fair access to livelihood opportunities, social cohesion, and inclusive development are essential for lasting peace in communities like the one featured in this story.

 

 

Community-based Participatory Framework for the Assessment of Resilience in Rwanda

 

The Ministry of National Unity and Civic Engagement (MINUBUMWE), in collaboration with Interpeace has released new research titled: a community-based Participatory Framework for the Assessment of Resilience in Rwanda. These findings were presented, along with insightful recommendations, during a stakeholder engagement event held on 8 March 2024 in Kigali, Rwanda.

The launch of Rwanda’s first Resilience Assessment Framework

The Ministry of National Unity and Civic Engagement (MINUBUMWE), in collaboration with Interpeace has released new research titled: a Community-based Participatory Framework for the Assessment of Resilience in Rwanda. These findings were presented, along with insightful recommendations, during a stakeholder engagement event held on 8 March 2024 in Kigali, Rwanda.

The objective of this study, conducted across all 30 districts of Rwanda, was fourfold. Firstly, it aimed to formulate and validate resilience indicators for structuring future research activities, policies, and programmes related to community resilience in Rwanda. Secondly, it sought to devise a participatory, multi-level methodology for assessing resilience indicators, drawing from existing frameworks, while tailoring them to Rwanda's specific context. Additionally, the study aimed to establish a baseline for community resilience across all districts of Rwanda and to propose actionable policy and programmatic recommendations for enhancing resilience nationwide. Involving a significant sample of 7,481 individuals, the study adopted a mixed-methods approach, integrating both qualitative and quantitative methods. Resilience was evaluated across four levels—individual, household, community, and institutional—using a comprehensive set of 38 indicators.

The findings underscored a commendable degree of resilience across all assessed levels, demonstrating a significant milestone three decades after the Genocide against the Tutsi. Recommendations emphasised the need for intensified efforts in societal healing initiatives, infrastructure development, and facilitating access to finance and employment opportunities.

During the stakeholder engagement event, Professor Francois Masabo, a lecturer and researcher at the University of Rwanda, lauded the study. He acknowledged its holistic approach and alignment with Rwanda's contextual realities.

The study received financial support from the Government of Sweden through its embassy in Rwanda. Martina Fors Mohlin, Counselor and Head of Development Cooperation at this embassy, reiterated Sweden's commitment to supporting the implementation of the developed framework within Rwandan communities. “We are proud to have taken part in this study by supporting Interpeace and also the ministry (MINUBUMWE) and enabling this conversation to take place. I very much look forward to working together to take those conclusions forward as we implement them in the society,” she noted.

The Community-based Participatory Framework for the Assessment of Resilience stands as a landmark initiative in Rwanda. It serves as a foundational reference point for future studies in the field of resilience within the country. Honorable Dr. Jean Damascene Bizimana, Minister of National Unity and Civic Engagement, underscored the timeliness of the research, noting Government of Rwanda’ s shift through MINUBUMWE, towards enhancing and strengthening the resilience of Rwandans amidst ongoing challenges stemming from the consequences of the Genocide agains the Tutsi.

“Resilience is one of Rwandan values. We want to design programmes and initiatives that are informed by our cultural values, which will help to effectively address our specific problems. This research that MINUBUMWE conducted jointly with Interpeace responds to this need. It will enable us to strengthen the resilience of Rwandans, to build a peaceful and prosperous country based on concrete and realistic indicators,” Hon. Bizimana highlighted.

As a way forward, a comprehensive roadmap is currently in development. This roadmap will guide the implementation of findings and recommendations derived from the research study. It serves as a strategic blueprint for all stakeholders involved in societal healing and resilience efforts. Each stakeholder will be tasked with setting specific strategic and programmatic objectives, along with corresponding targets and actions. These objectives aim to sustain the gains achieved in resilience while simultaneously addressing any fragilities identified during the research study.   

Paving the way for inclusive governance in Kasaï

 

The Inclusive Governance for Peace programme in Kasaï Province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), implemented by Action pour la Paix et la Concorde (APC) in partnership with Interpeace, has made significant progress in empowering women's and youth leadership.

For a long time, women in the region have been marginalised and their decision-making authority limited. However, a new era of inclusivity and equality is emerging, providing women with more opportunities and rights.

In 2019, Munda Tshonga Mado, a 47-year-old mother of six, was a homemaker. By 2020, she had become the deputy of the "Mawika" district in Kamonia, Kasaï Province. Her leadership, characterised by democracy, inclusivity, and dedication to peace, has earned her recognition and appreciation in her role as district head.

Since 2021, Mado has been participating in peacebuilding events, including training sessions for community-based organisations. APC and Interpeace organised these sessions, which focused on conflict analysis, positive conflict transformation through mediation and dialogue. Women like Mado found a platform to reclaim their voices and assert their roles in the public sphere.

Sharing her story, Mado says: "During this time, we attended several training sessions with local authorities. One day, the chief of Kamonia district, Job Kayimbo, approached me to take on the role of chief of the Vatican locality, one of those in his district. Shortly thereafter, a conflict arose between the incumbent chief of the Mawika district and his deputy. Faced with the difficulty of reconciling them, the mayor of the rural commune of Kamonia, who also appreciated my work, appointed me as chief of the Mawika district, consisting of five localities."

Mado's appointment as the chief of the Mawika district, a position previously considered unattainable for women, shattered stereotypes and highlighted the potential of women to lead in traditionally male-dominated fields. She actively participated in peacebuilding activities for the project "Renforcer la gouvernance pour la paix en République démocratique du Congo," funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).

In 2022, Mado's journey took a significant step forward with the launch of APC's project aimed at enhancing women's leadership. She actively participated in workshops and training sessions along with her peers. These sessions covered various topics including women's leadership, UN Resolutions 1325 and 2325, and the factors that contribute to women's exclusion from decision-making processes. As a result of these efforts, a positive shift in attitudes occurred, with male participants now advocating for women's inclusion in positions of authority within peace mechanisms and political arenas.

During a workshop on peace governance in November 2023, Clément Yaudiko, the President of Civil Society in Kamonia, expressed his support for Mado's development initiatives. However, Yaudiko also emphasised the importance of addressing cultural barriers that hinder the empowerment of women and the progress of young people in the Kasai area.

Mado faced discrimination from male politicians, leading to a limited number of votes cast against her in the 2023 election. Undeterred, she maintained her resolve and decided to contest as a national deputy for her party, the Union pour la Nation Congolaise (UNC), in the Kamonia electoral district. Despite falling short of a majority in votes, Mado persisted and showcased her dedication to the political arena by actively pursuing mentorship opportunities.

Her journey reached its pinnacle when she was elected as the president of l’Union des Jeunes pour le Développement Intégral de Kamonia (UJDIK), showcasing her ability to mobilise at the grassroots level and effectively engage with the community. At present, Mado collaborates with local leaders, providing mentoring and guidance.

Mado's journey serves as a reminder of the importance of gender equality and women's empowerment in Kasaï. It advocates for inclusive governance in peace-related matters and highlights the province's untapped potential to fully utilise the capabilities of its women. This paves the way for a future where women can lead with confidence and conviction.

Local chief embraces change towards championing inclusive peacebuilding and governance in the Kasaï region

André Kalamba Dilondo, the chief of Kalamba village in the Tshofa local administrative unit, Mweka territory, Kasaï province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has played a significant role in promoting peacebuilding and inclusive governance between the Kuba and Teke communities in the troubled Kasaï region.

Since 2016, the once peaceful Kasaï region has been plagued by conflicts known as the "Kamuina Nsapu" conflicts. These conflicts originated a dispute over Prince Jean Mpandi’s alleged customary power as the chief of the "Bajila Kasanga" village in the Dibaya territory, Kasaï-Central province. The situation escalated in the Mweka territory, leading to a conflict between the Kete and Kuba communities in the Kakenge locality. The Kete community consists of the Luba people, an Indigenous ethno-linguistic group in the south-central region of the DRC, while the Kuba, also known as Bakuba or Bushongo, comprise around 16 Bantu-speaking groups in southeastern Congo.

As the conflicts unfolded, traditional chiefs with Luba connections, whose authority was also challenged, brought the conflicts to Kasaï province. In response, loyalists and other communities formed self-defence forces to protect themselves. Exploiting this turmoil, the Kete forcibly evicted some Kuba from their homes due to pre-existing land disputes. Chief Kalamba André, a respected figure within the Kete community, supported this action and claimed the confiscated houses, often referred to as “secondary occupations.” The situation worsened as violence erupted among the chief’s followers, the government, and the security forces involved. Traditional chiefs of Kuba descent also brought these conflicts to Kasaï province as their authority was contested. To counter this threat, loyalists and other communities aligned themselves with the loyalist forces, forming self-defence forces for protection.

However, Chief Kalamba, who was initially a warlord, has transformed into a champion of peace in his region. He has actively participated in numerous peacebuilding activities organised by Action pour la paix et la concorde (APC) in partnership with InterpeaceThese activities were funded by the Swedish Agency for International Development (SIDA) and were part of two projects: the Mediation and Reconciliation project initiated in 2019, and the Strengthening Inclusive Peace Governance in the DRC project in 2021. In the Kasaï region, Interpeace launched the programme "Strengthening Inclusive Governance of Peace in Kasaï and Kasaï Central" to build trust between national authorities and customary power. Unlike other conflicts in the DRC, the conflict in Kasaï primarily arises from tensions between customary power and authority rather than power struggles, identity, or resources. This has resulted in rivalries between the Luba and non-Luba ethnic groups, intensified by disputes over new administrative positions.

Chief Kalamba gradually recognised the significance of peace and harmonious coexistence in community development through the peacebuilding projects. In 2020, he reconciled with his adversary, Shakobe, a Kuba traditional chief, by signing a peace pact. During a 2022 dialogue on identifying dialogue zones and actors, Chief Kalamba announced that he had instructed his community members to return the houses they had confiscated from the Kuba.

Emphasising the importance of inclusion, Chief Kalamba stated: “Thanks to the dialogues and peacebuilding activities organised by Interpeace in collaboration with APC, in which I participated, and the awareness generated from these activities, I instructed my ‘Kete’ community members to release the houses of our ‘Kuba’ community brothers that they had occupied.”

Members of the Kuba community confirmed this progress during the 2023 journalists training event that focused on conflict sensitivity before, during, and after the DRC general elections held on 20 December 2023. Since then, the two communities have developed a mutually beneficial relationship and have even collaborated in resolving land conflicts in the Mpalulu forest, also known as Angola. Whenever issues arise among their members, influential figures from both communities come together to find suitable solutions.

During an event focused on inclusive peace governance and women's leadership, Chief Kalamba met Charlie Changa Bimuenyi, a peacebuilding activist from the Interpeace programme. Through her advocacy, Chief Kalamba agreed to include women in his royal council. Recognising the valuable roles women play in the community, he appointed eight women to this council.

Click here to learn more about Charlie Changa Bimuenyi