African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI)
In 1999 the US Friends Peace Teams sent a delegation to Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, to find out what peace-building work Quakers were doing, and to see if FPT could give any support.
The context was the conflicted communities in several of these countries, in areas where many Quakers live. The 1994 Rwanda genocide (when Hutu killed Tutsi), and the Hutu-Tutsi conflicts in Burundi, dating from 1972, were prime examples.
The outcome was AGLI, based in Kenya, and coordinated by David Zarembka, who led the original delegation. It works on peace building activities in Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda, with its many partners in those countries and beyond. It has a small staff team, plus a few people on short-term contracts (often to facilitate workshops), and a regular stream of volunteers. A wider consultative group gives guidance.
AVP (Alternatives to Violence) workshops are a key tool, helping many people learn to manage their violent feelings. In Kenya AVP has been used in many ways, including in the large refugee camps near the Somali border. It has also been a key tool for an AGLI partner, the Kenya Friends Church Peace Team, which works to reconcile communities torn apart by the post-election violence in 2008. In Rwanda, AVP was used to train the judges working in the gacaca (community) courts, in the aftermath of the genocide. There are many other examples in all five countries, and there is a large cohort of trained AVP facilitators.
HROC (Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities, pronounced He-Rock) is a newer tool. Developed by Rwandan and Burundian Friends, to help to reconcile their Hutu and Tutsi communities, it addresses the deep trauma experienced by both groups. 10 Hutu and 10 Tutsi participate in each workshop. Each of them is helped to express their own trauma, and listens to everyone else doing the same. It is a profound learning and healing experience that releases some of the hurt. Since 2010, AGLI and others have helped to extend HROC to other countries, and have trained many facilitators (or Healing Companions, as they are called). HROC is now being used in Congo and Kenya, as well as in Burundi and Rwanda.
In 2006, AGLI helped develop another new tool – transformative mediation. It is a process for resolving local conflicts over all manner of issues. Two mediators ask questions and listen to the protagonists, but do not propose ‘solutions’. Those involved must do that. Members of their community also listen: hence they are witnesses to the ‘solution’ and can help it be implemented. AGLI has introduced transformative mediation into Eastern Congo and Kenya, and more than 200 mediators have been trained.
AGLI is also taking an interest in an additional tool - workshops on nonviolent direct action.
AGLI has three other projects. It supports Bududa Vocational Institute, which provides skills training in Uganda. It supports the Friends Women’s Association clinic in Bujumbura, Burundi, which helps HIV+ women, and also provides basic medical advice to others. Thirdly, it sponsors needy students, often orphans, to enable them to study.
AGLI raises funds in two ways. One is through donations arising through speaking tours that bring African partners to the US, Canada, and the UK, to explain their work. The other is through an extensive system of volunteering. Every summer there are five-week work camps for international participants. They come for a rich learning experience, and to contribute, so freely give their skills and efforts to a variety of projects: in addition they pay to participate, and cover all their own costs. Some volunteers come for much longer, on the same basis.
AGLI has many African partners - Friends Churches, Quaker Peace Network – Africa, HROC Centres (Burundi and Rwanda), the AVP Trust (Nairobi), Peace House (Kigali, Rwanda), and many others. It also collaborates with many international agencies - AFSC (American Friends Service Committee), which has an office in Nairobi), QPSW (Quaker Peace and Social Witness, British Quakers), CAPI (Change Agents for Peace International, based in Nairobi) and FUM Africa (Friends United Meeting African office, based in Kisumu, Kenya), among many others.
AGLI worked with several partners to prevent outbreaks of violence during the 2013 elections in Kenya. these elections passed off very peacefully, thanks to the efforts of AGLI and other organisations. Election observing was an important part of this work.