News / Africa

African Conference Discusses Peacebuilding

Rwandan President Paul Kagame speaks to leaders and dignitaries in Kigali, Rwanda, Nov 9, 2011
Rwandan President Paul Kagame speaks to leaders and dignitaries in Kigali, Rwanda, Nov 9, 2011
Heather Murdock

Leaders and diplomats from nine African countries, Haiti and several international organizations gathered in Rwanda this week to devise ways to build lasting peace in countries ravaged by war for decades.  

Seventeen years ago last spring, Rwanda was the most violent place on earth.  Today, Kigali parks are neatly manicured and people travel safely at any time of night.  This week in Kigali, leaders from Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burundi, Central African Republic, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Haiti, South Sudan and Timor Leste traveled to Rwanda to learn how it’s done.

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza said that before peace can be sustainable, a country needs to maintain stability on the streets.  Hundreds of thousands people were killed in the Burundian conflict that ended more than six years ago.  Burundi remains one of the poorest countries on earth, and conflict remains a threat.

"A multitude of Burundians were killed," said Nkurunziza. "Others were forced into exile.  Property was looted, stolen.  Infrastructure was destroyed and the government was also not spared."

But security, he said, is only the first step.  At the end of the two-day Kigali conference, leaders read a statement to present to the United Nations.  Its purpose was to communicate to the international community what Africa thinks it needs to maintain peace in its many post-conflict countries.

The communiqué recommends the U.N. support programs that make sure aid gets into the hands of the people in the villages, rather than remain in the hands of non-government organizations or unaccountable governments.

It also calls for improved educational systems, and the utilization of community-based justice systems, like the Gacaca courts in Rwanda that have tried about a million suspects since the 1994 genocide, in which about 800,000 people were killed.

Leaders also agreed that legal rights for women are a key aspect to building a healthy, peaceful society and spurring economic growth.  United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Peace Building Judy Cheng-Hopkins says post-conflict societies should use temporary affirmative action laws to kick start this growth by incorporating women into public life.

"Women's role in peace building is not about women’s rights," said Cheng-Hopkins. "It’s not about women’s rights.  It’s about good peace building.  It’s about good, durable sustainable peace building and missing out the gender element is peace building is usually a formula for failure."

These leaders also say international aid is necessary for recovery but post-conflict countries in Africa run the risk of becoming an “aid orphan” or an “aid tsunami.”  

Aid orphans like Burundi have to scrap for any help at all, while aid tsunamis, like Haiti, can become overrun with uncoordinated non-government organizations that create a culture of dependence.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame says African countries should be wary of international aid that is not managed at least in part by people on the ground.

"Nationals are best placed to coordinate financial and technical support because they know what opportunities to seize and constraints to overcome," said Kagame. "When countries and their development partners work together along these lines the outcome is more positive and sustainable."

President Kagame has been a leader since Rwanda since the end of the genocide.  Supporters hail the stability he has brought to the country, while critics say his government has become intolerant of opposition or dissent.  Despite that criticism, the president continues to enjoy broad international support.  

At the conference this week, Burundian President Nkurunziza said his country and neighboring Rwanda are united in working to prevent further conflict from engulfing their societies.

"The suffering of Rwandese and Burundians, as we are brothers and sisters sharing almost the same history must serve as a lesson to humanity so that we can rise as one and say “never again. May God bless you and thank you," he said.

Mr. Nkurunziza also congratulated Rwanda in its successful establishment of peace and order, and said the country has shown the world how to recover from genocide and civil war.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid