Friends World Committee for Consultation - Europe & Middle East Section

Panel Presentation: Being Faithful Witnesses to our Friends Peace Testimony: Serving God in a Changing World


4. A New Day for the Democratic Republic of Congo

Mkoko Boseka is Legal Representative and General Secretary of Congo Friends Yearly Meeting. A pastor and representative to FWCC, he is also studying for an advanced degree in theology and is writing a book titled The Inner Light of Quakers and Its Impact On The Peace Testimony.

Chers Amis: Bon soir Jambo sana Good evening

The period of independence for most African states has led to enormous turbulence. The main causes are dire poverty of the peoples, the political immaturity of their leaders in government and the colonial past of the various states. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a very wealthy country. It has economic potential that is vast and it is a scandal that nobody can really manage the wealth of this enormous country. Paradoxically the people live in the direst poverty resulting from bad governments, unequal sharing of the national income and blatant disregard for any human rights.

There have been two recent wars. The war of 1996, called the War of Liberation, and another in 1998 that people in Congo call the Useless War. The two wars together brought misery to its height. In the war of 1998, the Useless War, there were: massacres; assassination of innocent people; excessive violation of human rights even going so far as cases of cannibalism; rape of both women and men; internal and external moving of populations; full destruction of the socio-economic infrastructure; pillage of national resources including works of art and things of cultural heritage; and the phenomenon of child soldiers. The general situation is extremely serious. Of course the poorest and most vulnerable are the widows and orphans. Very often children have to run whole households and be head of the family. Many people have been traumatized and many people have been displaced. One can no longer count the many people affected. There has been no assistance except from here and there from international NGOS (non-governmental organizations).

During this very troubled period the Annual Conference of the Friends of Congo (CEEACO) made great effort to spread the message of how important it is to live together peacefully and particularly to be examples of this practice in areas that have been most affected by conflict between individual clans. That has been in North Kivu and South Kivu, two areas in the very east of the DRC Together with several other Christian Churches as well as non-Christian groupings and organizations from civil societies love for one’s neighbour and peaceful coexistence was preached in order to try to stem the hostilities and bring the populations together.

Since 2002, because of financial, moral and material support from the Change Agent Peace Programme (CAPP) in Norway Yearly Meeting, the Peace Section of the Annual Conference of Friends in Congo has set up an association called Femme et Famile pour la Paix (FFP) (in English, Women and Family for Peace). FFP is an approach for peaceful resolution of conflicts, for living alongside different community backgrounds, for restoring and maintaining a lasting peace in North and South Kivu as well as in Congo in general. This approach works as follows. One woman passes on the message to four other women – the message being the message of peace and peaceful resolution of conflicts. Each of these women talk to their husbands and to their families. Five families create a peace cell. Ten cells is equivalent to about 50 people. One hundred cells make up a circle, one hundred circles make up a network and many networks make up the movement. FFP has already established 50 cells and drawn up its charter, a solemn commitment, for its members.

Supported by CAPP of Norway, FFP has organized fifty training seminars on the techniques of peaceful resolution of conflicts, non-violence, human rights, and democracy. They have even gone so far as to tackle the epidemic of the century, HIV/AIDS. There is a centre for peace education and also a centre for learning sewing skills. That has been very important for the women. The activity facilitates collaboration between women coming from different ethnic groups. There are eleven sewing machines and we are a bit handicapped because we lack more sewing machines.

The fruits that are being borne from people having subscribed to the points of this charter may now be seen. Since having signed the charter some parents are trying to get in contact with their children who have joined the mai-mai rebels. Children have withdrawn from their mai-mai rebel involvement because their parents have sought them out and have persuaded them to do so.

The Friends in Congo solemnly salute developments in the subregion of the Great Lakes. These are: the functioning of all the transitional institutions in the DRC, the general elections in Rwanda, and the integration withn government in Burundi of the National Committee for Democracy and Development (CNDD) and the National Liberation Force (FNL). We support and encourage the peace process in the three countries of the Great Lakes and call upon the support of all people of goodwill and people who are involved in building peace, supporting the organization of a conference on peace, security, democracy, and good governance for the countries of the Great Lakes in Africa.

On the local level there are improvements and progress being made by former armed groups. They have been coming together as with a meeting on the 25 of September 2003 in Uvira when the National Congolese Army officers as well as the mai-mai rebels solemnly showed the population that war had come to an end. This was in the presence of the United Nations forces. It was a solemn occasion. Efforts are being made to permit freedom of movement of people and goods throughout the national territory. All barriers delineating zones controlled by the Army and the mai-mai rebels have been removed. However, there still is resistance to peacemaking shown by some groups which have not yet found it in themselves to collaborate for peace.

I would like to share personally about this cause of peace.

The head of the village is like a spring of water that flows.

Cows that feed together clash at some point.

Peace must be protected.

These African proverbs show that our ancestors were true builders of peace within the community. Every community traditionally had a chief who was not elected. He was the oldest of the community and was given legitimacy and absolute power as such. This chief worked with his advisor who came from different parts of the community. They met together in the “lubunga”. In the traditional African community:

- The chief and his advisors laid great weight on insuring that the communal integrity was practiced and always laid weight on certain carefully defined limitations.

- The chief and his advisors guarded the honour of the entire community.

- There was respect for human rights.

- Community spirit was very widely developed and everyone had the right to life.

- A neighborly spirit existed between the different communities. This was a most important element as it helped maintain a durable peace and respect for human rights.

- The peaceful resolution of conflicts between citizens took place in the “lubunga”. Once forgiveness was granted, it was always rewarded with some material gift – like paying a fine to maintain the peace and good relations between all those involved.

- The chief was the guarantor of peace and protected the human rights of the traditional community.

With the arrival of Christianity the head of the traditional African community lost all his legitimacy. The new head of the community was selected by missionaries. They had certain criteria: the person’s knowledge, eloquence, respect toward missionaries, esteem and position in the eyes of the missionaries. They thought that those who were converted to Jesus Christ had to leave their communities to go and live in Christianized communities. Contrary to the traditional community, Christianity set up a system of mutual forgiveness without requiring any compensation or fine. Christianity came with the Bible in which Jesus Christ is known as the Prince of Peace and Jesus Christ alone can give lasting peace. Anyone who receives Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord does so in peace.

Peace is the third fruit of the Holy Spirit after love and joy according to Galatians. If we live by the Spirit, if we walk by the Spirit, we must be bearing peace which is the fruit of the Spirit of God in us. Quakers believe firmly in the Inner Light, the Seed, a Spark of God in each and every one. It is this force and this power of God within us that made it possible for the first Quakers to resist the scourges of their time. They were under the guiding force of the Light Within, the Light of God. They came to the convincement that it was necessary to abolish slavery, to refuse violence, and to promote the equality of each and every one. These principles were not easy to champion at the time. The Quakers protested against injustice, with the written word and action. They spoke out in public places just like the Apostles after they had received the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). It was this Inner Light which brought the Quakers to discover that bearing arms is a bad thing and to the decision not to do so themselves.

Peace is life itself. In our country we should protect this sacred life. If we don’t believe in this principle we will just fall into a deeper spiral of misery. Material damage can be compensated for and can be reconstructed but even the United Nations can never bring a lost one back. The situation that the countries of the Great Lakes are living through is comparable to the deep sleep of Eutychus who fell from the third floor and touched death. Paul rushed down to embrace him and took him up in his arms saying “don’t worry because his spirit is still with him.” (Acts 20:10) This is a long litany of what is going wrong in the countries of the Great Lakes. I know that you are concerned about it. Shed your pain. There is still life and there is till hope in the countries of the Great Lakes in Africa.

Great progress is being made on the path leading back to peace in the DRC. The road is still long and there are many obstacles to overcome. In Genesis 1:2 we read that the earth was a great waste, darkness covered the deep and yet God’s spirit hovered over surface of the water. Despite wars, despite injustice, despite violence which are acute in the countries of the Great Lakes, which everybody knows are the countries of great problems, the spirit of God still hovers over the surface of the waters.

For those who want to have lasting peace for the DRC and the wider region of the African Great Lakes it is more than urgent to do the following:

- Embark upon a program for bringing the refugees back home and to return the displaced peoples back to their regions.

- Assure that economic development and reconstruction take off.

- Support conferences that speak about peace, security, good government, and democracy in the countries of the Great Lakes.

- Support a kind of Marshall Plan for the DRC, if possible for the whole of Africa.

- Support the promotion of the traditional methods of resolving conflicts

- Encourage the promotion of the principles of human rights, democracy, civic society in order to rebuild true values replacing values that should not actually see the light of day.

- Support the radio program “Peace for All” (La paix pour tous) to spread messages of peace for all the countries in the Great Lakes.

We need a very strong AVP program and we need healing of trauma in the Congo. We could also do with some volunteers to help us and support us in this very onerous task.

Without action the same problems will passed down from one generation to another. The same problems will be experienced by the children as well as the parents. The difficulties will move from this point in time to another point in time. Traditional elders may not have all the replies and responses to the problems, but we are all in this together because we are empowered ,each and every one of us, by an Inner Light. With the Inner Light we will be empowered to move towards peace.

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