Transformative Mediation in East and Central Africa
Shortly after Alternatives to Violence (AVP) was introduced in East and Central Africa, people began asking the AVP facilitators to mediate. This was because, once the AVP workshops were finished, many participants still had festering conflicts that needed resolution. The AVP facilitators declined because they felt that they did not have the skills to handle this.
Then in 2006 Judy Friesem, a mediation trainer, and Kim Bush, her husband, spent a month in each of four countries - Rwanda, Burundi, Eastern Congo, and Kenya, introducing mediation approaches. Bridget Butt from Change Agents for Peace International followed this up with training in transformative mediation.
In transformative mediation it is the interaction between the disputants that matters. The mediator’s job is to first pull out the many layers of conflict and dispute that may underpin the current conflict and then have the participants themselves work out and agree upon a solution. Just as in AVP and HROC (Healing and Rebuilding Our Community) work, participants’ own input is vital.
Transformative mediation takes a considerable amount of time – hours if not sometimes days – to uncover the many layers of “the broken relationship” which might go back years or even to previous generations. Since a dispute affects everyone in a small community, many bystanders – both family and neighbours – observe the proceedings. Since the disputants themselves have to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution, it is more likely that they will abide by the agreement with the many witnesses observing the agreement.
Here is the story of a mediation in Rwanda:
A mediator called Edith mediated between two neighbours who were fighting for a path to their houses. They have spent long time in different courts in Rwanda. The wife of one man in conflict took the case to Edith, and Edith asked her if was possible to ask the men in conflict for mediation. She went and convinced her husband to try mediation and she asked as well the other man. Both agreed for mediation and Edith started mediating with them. She spent five sessions listening and doing mediation. By the end, they agreed on what to do and not to continue go to the courts. They regretted that a lot of money was spent in the courts with lawyers and travel. They asked forgiveness of each other and went to testify in their families with Edith. Now they are good neighbours but before mediation, they were enemies with no greetings from one another. Their children and their wives were in conflict. Now Edith says that their wives talk and the children play together.
Recently a new version called “Transformative Dialogue” is being developed. This brings opinion makers from communities in conflict together in order to listen to each other and to come to a mutual understanding of the causes and consequences of their conflict.