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"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 23-25, 2007 Bujumbura Mediation Training


Fifteen people attended including HROC and FWA coordinators and managers, as well as several teachers from outlying areas, and two college students.

By their request, I reviewed the mediation process which went more quickly than the other courses as participants were comfortable with my French and no translating was done. Continuous attendance by participants was problematic as they were close to their offices at the church center and were occasionally called away to deal with job issues. However I put a lot of notes on flip charts and returnees could get caught up to where we were in the class and ask questions which served as reinforcement for the others. One of the initial exercises also required the participants to work in small groups to develop questions that they wanted to discuss during the cours. The interest level was very high much like that displayed in Goma and Kigali. The actual practiing of mediation since their first training in December was somewhat less, averaging 1.25 per participant and the mediations were less formal in nature. More, of meeting and counseling, rather than all the formalities of a mediation session. The subjects mediated covered family relations between husbands and wives, child - child disputes, theft by a student in school, dispute between a conference attendee and a conference director over expense money, an intra office dispute that had caused a lot of friction amongst employees, a land dispute over positioning of a septic tank, a mother who wanted a 30 year old unmarried daughter to leave the house due to the family's poverty and the daughter's refusal to marry, a parking dspute between two taxi drivers, a case of jealousy between to stay at home moms over financial success of each family, dispute within churches and within mediator's own family. A total of 19 cases were documented. It is possible too that the effects of the war in the past 7 months made it more difficult to organize mediation in addition to carrying on other work schedules. A tenuous peace has been in place only a few weeks.

We did more practice cases in the second day than with the other groups due to one language only being used. Everyone had a chance to co-mediate and be a disputant.

I also used some improvisational comedy games instead of the standard AVP games, and these were very well received and got good marks in the post course evaluation. The ability to jump right into an improv sitution was very impressive, the roles were very well acted and extremly entertaining. We were also able to demonstrate the technique of stepping out of your own boundaries and baggage and listening and adapting to other peoples' styles which is important in mediation.

As in the other groups on the last session I suggested they as a group decide where they wanted to go with mediation, but I did not tell them how to do it. I offered to in fact to step completely out of the process and the agreed it wouild be easier for them to discuss those issues in their maternal language. I went for a walk in town and came back and had lunch with the participants and we reconvened and talked about what was decided.

A leadership committee was elected. Five were local and one was from outside town. They asked that all participants pledge to do at least two formal mediations by November. Also they would solicit case referrals from church members and publicize mediation in this milieu before trying to spead beyond. They would also invite others to become familiar with mediation. Though not yet experts, they need to confront the realities of mediation. They would like to reinforce capacity by having an advanced training session next summer, with perhaps a week of theory and practice. They would like to observe trainers doing a real mediation with local disputants. I discussed the realities of that, with culture differences, and suggested that if I were here again I would agree to co-mediate with a local mediator and hopefully convince other mediators to be allowed to observe.

Evaluation of the training was quite high, and I suspected this would be the case as the level of enthusiasm remained high throughout the course
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George Brose
Bujumbura, July 26, 2007

 

 

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I'm safely in Bujumbura after a beautiful bus ride down from Butare today. I did a two day trip in order to see Butare, the site of the national univesity of Rwanda. Stayed at a very nice catholic guest house la procure de Butare. Just wandered around and relaxed. Then this magnificent ride and I had the front seat next to the driver and could take pictures that I never had the opportunity to take before. The conflict was settled here several weeks ago, and there are still a lot of soldiers along the roads maintaining a fragile peace. Some UNO troops as well.

When you come out of the mountains , Bujumbura lies on a flat plain and touches the north edge of Lake Tanganyika. You can see it from 15 miles away. It is hot like going down into the Zambezi valley used to be. The town has a lot of old colonial buildings from the early twentieth century and a number of modern ones too. The president's palace is up in the mountains but can be seen from the town.

I'm in the midst of nice people, the quaker volunteers. There are five , four college students and a professor from Frederickton, New Brunswick. He and I did a walk through town this late afternoon. As there is no room for me in their building, I'm in a hotel for a few days. I'll have my meals with them.