by Ben Mussanzi wa Mussangu
The Centre Resolution Conflicts (CRC) is a community-led peace-building and conflict resolution training centre, founded in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1993. It now has two branches, one working in risky security conditions of Ituri and North Kivu in the east of the DRC and the other in the relatively peaceful environment of Bradford in the UK. The main focus of CRC’s work is conflict resolution training and peace education, but in the DRC it also works to rescue child soldiers.
We run workshops covering different aspects of conflict resolution and prevention, including topics such as ‘how people respond to conflict’, ‘how to reduce prejudice’ etc. However, topics vary depending on the context and whether there is ongoing conflict or a time of peace. In the DRC we look at practical topics such as hospitality for returnees, democratic and transparent elections, and the reintegration of ex-child soldiers. The main impact of CRC training sessions in the DRC is resolving inter-community conflicts.
We use what we call ‘facilitation-model mediation’. We invite both parties in conflict to a training session. During the course of the training, many realise that they have done wrong and seek forgiveness from others. Sometimes, when we run workshops for church leaders or students in Christian colleges, participants request a special session to focus on forgiveness and reconciliation with their neighbours.
Our work has challenges for both participants and trainers. The first challenge is making sure that participants put into practice what they have learnt at the workshops. Those who come to be trained are often Internally Displaced People (IDPs) who have suffered trauma, lost all their belongings and are currently living without enough food. This makes it difficult for them to focus on learning, because they are worried about the future. The second challenge is to provide good conditions for workshops, including refreshments and some money to cover participants’ transport and accommodation. However, participants and trainers have benefited from the training both in DRC and in the UK. Participants gain conflict resolution skills. Trainers and radio presenters also benefit because they have to learn in order to pass on that knowledge. This helps them to grow.
After the workshop, participants choose members for a Local Peace Committee (LPC). The LPC model is at the core of CRC’s vision. The committee has seven people (inspired by the story in Acts 6), including a leader, a secretary and counsellors. They do not charge for their advice. When CRC trainers leave a village, the LPC will take over the conflict resolution work and will help to manage any new conflict in the area. This enables CRC to move to other villages and to only give support when it is most needed.
CRC also supports participants by providing legal advice for those who need it. In many cases one of the parties in a conflict wants to go to court, but very often they are disappointed by the justice system. The LPCs can then help by providing mediation between the two parties.
The idea of setting up CRC in the UK came to mind following the terrorist bombings in London in July 2005 when we noticed that vulnerable young people were involved in this sad event. We committed ourselves to contributing to peace by focusing on educating young people, as well as helping asylum seekers and migrants to integrate into society.
Peace on the airwaves
One of our most successful projects is our ‘Peace Music’ radio programme, developed at CRC in Bradford. The idea is to use music as a tool to communicate our peace message to our city but also, through the internet, we are reaching out to the world. We do not write our own music, because there is so much good music already! Instead we are like chefs in restaurants. Chefs don’t need to be farmers. They just go to the market and buy food to make a nice meal which their clients can enjoy. But alongside the music, we deliver an educational message. People can listen on the internet. We have received positive feedback from corners of the globe where we have never been and perhaps will never go!
In the DRC, we have two radio programmes, called ‘At the school of wisdom’ and ‘Peace and development’. The second programme features interviews with special guests, who are invited to talk about development issues such as security, healthy eating etc.
Conflict may look different in the DRC or in the UK but the principles of resolving conflict are the same. It takes determination, forgiveness, listening and understanding but we are blessed when we take part in making peace in the world in which we live.
Ben Mussanzi wa Mussangu, the founder of CRC, was nearly killed in the DRC by child soldiers from his own ethnic group. Released miraculously, he co-founded CRC in 1993 with his wife Kongosi. Today, 20 years on, CRC is working in ongoing instability in eastern DRC and in Bradford in the UK. We thank CRC members in Beni and Bradford for their valuable contribution. For more details about CRC, please go to www.cr-conflict.org and
In one of the national parks in Lubero Territory, which is set aside for gorillas, neighbouring communities and the park’s managers had a tense relationship. MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) recognised that this was a complex situation. They called for CRC’s expertise. After several facilitation-model mediation sessions, CRC succeeded in resolving the conflict. It was amazing to see the two parties who had been in conflict sitting together around a table signing a peace agreement, publicly giving up thoughts of revenge and instead resolving the conflict with their former opponents.
Advice on setting up a conflict resolution training programme
Conflict is part of our earthly life. But we want to bring unity, peace, harmony and cohesion to our communities.
To those who are inspired to start from zero, as we did, and pursue the dream of bringing about change in their own communities, we offer the following advice:
- Find out what the local community needs in terms of conflict resolution.
- Select the conflict resolution approach or style which suits you as trainer and will benefit your community (eg direct intercommunity mediation, mediation-facilitation model, alternatives to violence etc). There is more than one way to run things successfully.
- Recruit and select trainers.
- Start from the simplest definitions in your training.
- Focus on the essentials rather than giving participants too much information in one session.
- Remember what is called the ‘principle of three pillars’:
- Many people may book a place but the right people will turn up.
- Start when you feel that participants are ready to start.
- Stop when you feel that they are tired.
- If possible, provide a very simple handout.
- Remember people around you may not understand your vision or may persecute you.