As planned, for the 4th time in a row, the Center for Conflict Management (CCM) of the National University of Rwanda (NUR), organized the International Conference on the ICGLR Pact with the theme: Democratization Process in the Great Lakes Region: Progress and Challengesâ.
The two-day conference was held at Sports View Hotel in Kigali, from May 25 to 26 2011. The conference started in the presence of the Minister of State in charge of Primary and Secondary Education as the Guest of Honor who officially launched it.
In her welcome note, Dr Rose Gasibirege who represented Professor Silas LWAKABAMBA, Rector of the National University of Rwanda, in this conference stated that the National University attaches great importance to debate and research as a means to achieve global objectives of good governance, peace building and sustainable development which Rwandans and the people of the region need and deserve. She summarized efforts of the university to link its services to the community by establishing research community outreach centers such as the Center for Conflict Management that strives to promote peace and security in the region and beyond.
Thanking all partners, particularly the Swedish International Development Agency, for its support that made this conference organization possible, she welcomed everybody present and invited the Guest of Honor for the official launching of the conference.
In his opening speech, Minister Mathias Harebamungu reminded participants that basing on the experience of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the Government of Rwanda decided to join other nations in the ICGLR Pact in order to continuously work for peace and stability as an important milestone in the search for development within the Great Lakes Region.
He stressed that this conference comes at the right moment when most of ICGLR member states are organizing democratic elections. Commending regional efforts to promote democracy, he reminded that democracy and good governance are conditions for peace and security without which sustainable economic development is impossible. Adding to that, the minister encourages regional intellectuals to work as one body to strengthen the regional integration and social welfare.
Recognizing the important role intellectuals play in building positive peace, the Guest of honor promised full support from the Government to efforts like this one of the National University of Rwanda to organize such an important conference that would surely lead to important resolutions to support policy makers and other practitioners in Rwanda and elsewhere in their efforts to build knowledge based development.
He called upon participants to consider the recent experience of African nations to solve their own internal problems and take part in keeping peace in other sister nations. This clearly shows that African countries are not sources of problems in the world as many have wrongly declared.
Before officially launching the conference Minister Harebamungu invited participants to benefit from and actively contribute to discussions and debates in this conference in order to reach sincere and constructive deliberations that the region can also export to other parts of the world.
More than 100 participants attended the conference that received very wonderful presentations on the provided theme: âDemocratization Process in the Great Lakes Region: Progress and Challenges.â
Apart from Rwandan intellectuals, the conference saw the presence of many scholars from the ICGLR Region and beyond. Foreign presenters included Prof Tony Karbo from the United Nations mandated University for Peace, Prof Vincent Muderhwa from the Independent University of Goma (ULPGL), and others. A detailed list of speakers and facilitators is attached to the present.
Participants included officials from the public, private and civil society organizations took part in plenary discussions that proved a great resolve of the region to promote positive peace and sustainable development.
The Organizing Committee is editing recommendations. Here is a brief summary of presentations made:
1. Rwanda has learned that financial means should not stop the country from organizing elections. It is recommended to utilize available local financial means and avoid relying on foreign aids that most of the times are hard to control and come with much conditionality.
2. Democracy is governed by democratic values that include freedom, inclusion, equality, respect, tolerance, compromise and trust, etc, based on the rule of law, popular sovereignty, rights and liberties and economic well being. In democracy, people express themselves and governments should respect the voice of the people.
3. Democracy is a concept that has been misused by the very people who were expected to implement it properly (colonizers, political leaders, etc). We learn a lot from the past in order to build the future, reason why we should build our arguments on searched data without which we should abstain from intervention. Countries of the ICGLR should strive to implement good policies defined in their constitutions, such as gender equity, and stop acting in opposition to principles they have established themselves.
4. Leadership as a catalyst is the most important actor of change. Therefore, the following aspects should be taken into account:
â˘ Leadersâ flexibility in the process of change to minimize obstruction because change acceptance is not always obvious. In this context, leadersâ flexibility could lead to sustainable outcomes. If the leadership is not flexible, it will not only delay the process of positive change but also generate intractable violence;
â˘ Usage of Rwandan cultural innovations in various reforms to move towards sustainable development. However, those innovations have to be used properly to avoid leading to fragile outcomes which would bring the process of change backward and or worsen it.
5. When contact is used in favorable environment, the divide gets into contact with the same status, pursuing a common goal cooperatively and with an institutional support, this tends to reconcile them. A cooperative could be that favorable environment.
â˘ Genuine and successful cooperative can be good connectors across the divides. They can create a favorable space in which negative-dehumanizing attitudes are likely to be overcome, while positive-re-humanizing are likely to be fostered; that is from fear to fearlessness, from suspicion to trust, from division to union, from anger and resentment to calm, from hatred to attraction and conviviality. This remains however a long process.
6. Peace education is a major mechanism not only for Rwanda but also for all countries of the Great Lakes Region and the world. Without social peace there is no development. That is the reason why, for the well being of the humanity, peace education should be the priority for all nations.
7. Education practices need to be oriented towards the creation of human beings capable of promoting positive change that leads to sustainable development. Teachers and other practitioners in the field of education should strive to use pedagogical approaches that help in training individuals capable to critically analyze the drives of the society and responsibly contribute to the building of its durable future.
8. Teaching about genocide is the most complex topic in post-genocide Rwanda. It is however one of the most indispensable content in making young generations more peaceful, more aware of the genocidal danger (âIt happened and could happen againâ, said Primo Levi). The suggested model focuses on three strategies of application:
To look on common positions of children (sharing suffering, sharing innocence, sharing heritage) within post-genocide Rwanda
To refer to historical documents and personalities for explaining (not polarizing) the present and for orienting the future
To refer to other cases of genocide: indirect sympathy towards our victims by sympathizing in favor of other genocide victims.
9. A good combination of science and technology and social sciences is needed in the Rwandan society in order to strengthen productivity through creating a peaceful environment (moral enjoyment of life: freedom to implement development policies): what human beings achieve materially should go hand in hand with the ones they are: human beings.
10. Language is a useful tool for communication in all domains of living: individual, national and international. The country is to establish appropriate linguistic policies that meet the needs expressed by Rwandans taking into consideration our recent and ancient history, our current needs for development and peaceful resolution of conflicts.
By Sam Sibomana