"Seven weeks to look, see, learn, and share some skills in Conflict Resolution…
For over a year this journey has gradually been coming together. But the seeds were sown over 40 years ago when serving in Tanzania with the Peace Corps."  

July 12-13, 2007 Mediation Training in Goma

I was met by Samuel Kamanzi at the Methodist Centre d'Accueil on July 11, 2007. Samuel was extremely conscientious and concerned for my well being at all times and I was very much humbled by some of the things he recounted to me about going to Masisi the week before to teach an AVP course. He reminds me of the early missionaries of the church who at great risk to themselves chose to spread the Word. He has boundless energy, and it is a great fortune of AVP, mediation, and the Friends community that Samuel is a member.

We crossed the border only a half mile away with little difficulty. UN troops were coming through and the immigration department on the Congolese side was on their best behaviour, but having Samuel at my side made it all very easy for me.

I was surprised to learn that the course was reduced to two days , down from three, but I know also that few things anywhere go by plan. They happen for a reason and I do not very often question why. I stayed at the Palais d'leveque and was picked up in the morning by mototaxi. The ride across Goma was worth the 18 hours of discomfort in the air.

We had twenty-two students in the class. Most if not all of whom had been in the basic course given in December by Judy Friesen. The participants had a good foundation in the process even though they asked for a revision of the basics. As we went thrugh the process we shared some ideas. I asked that they divide in groups and develop questions they wanted me to respond to. We got off to a late start, which was expected (9:30) and ended early, (2:30). I thought the day would be much longer, but the heat made people sleepy at times and I would wake them with a light and lively. I only covered 3 of 7 stages of mediation on day one, but talked a lot about geography of the table, bring parties into the room, Agreement to Mediate, invitation to mediation, how to get referrals to mediate. They were attentive and asked good questions. I incorrectly assumed that there might be some people asking me political questions designed to criticize US policies abroad, but there was absolutely none of this. I did about 1/2 in French and half in English, and Samuel translated into Kiswahil. The students spoke almost exclusively in Kiswahili. Learning that this was only their first meeting since the December training, I wanted to kow what if any cases they had done, what were the outcomes and was there any follow up on cases. I also suggested that we discuss on Day 2 where we want to go after this training.

Day 2

On day two I finished the discussion of stages of mediation, responding again to many intelligent questions that led me to understand that these ladies and gentlemen were very conscientious about mediation. Next we did a hypothetical case concerning a renter and property owner, the need to fix plumbing and to pay back rent. I demonstrated brainstorming in the group, getting great responses and then we wrote a clear and concise agreement. I kept playing devil's advocate until we finalized the agreement and signed it. They we started asking what if's about the agreement and clarified the need to be very precise.

After that the class each told how many cases they did, the outcomes, and how long it took. They had done a total of 55 cases, several still ongoing, a high % of settlement, and many maintaining follow on their cases. (click here for a sample of the cases presented)

I also gave them an exercise to work on in groups. Since there were so many pastors, I asked them to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of mediating members of their own church. Samuel led this discussion when the came back to the full circle. This was done completely in Kiswahili, while I worked on filling out certificates of completion. This question stimulated and animated discussion that went on for over an hour. It really made them think about mediating with people they knew. Many felt that now they should weigh the possibilities and maybe invite a pastor from another church to do the mediation or maybe co-mediate. We talked about gender balance with the co-mediator.

Where do we go next?

The next area of discussion was Where do we go next. I learned that they had already registered and have legal status in Goma as a mediation association 'Association de Brassage Social Sans Frontieres' 'The Association of Social Mixing Without Borders'. I suggested that quarterly meetings might be a good idea, and they were on a quarterly calendar , this being July. They were very much in favor. Satureday October 20, 2007, from 9am-12pm at the Ebeneezer Center was set for the next gathering. At that meeting they will organize some committees and look at fundraising, exchange stories of cases they have done and have testomonials of people who have been mediated. Special guests from the intelligensia will be invited and other matters considered.

In our closing one doctor said that he had been deply moved by this meeting and hoped that a mediation training center could be established for the Great Lakes area, based on the type of training so far received. Many others affirmed this idea and saw mediation as a great need for the community.