ADDIS ABABA Feb. 23 | “The peace message must be delivered to all the stakeholders, including the opposition," urged Adama Dieng, United Nations special adviser on the prevention of genocide, during opening remarks at a consultation of church leaders from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi opened in Addis Ababa on Feb. 23.
The aim of the meeting was to reach a message of peace, he said. “What is happening today in Burundi is something we have to consider as situation to not allow to escalate," he said. “The future of Burundi belongs to Burundi and no one can save Burundi but the Burundians themselves.”
He also pointed out that the participants will need to identify viable solutions, as “church leaders have the capacities to succeed where others have failed”. He emphasized that the meeting is in line with his increasing engagement with religious leaders. He finished his speech by inviting participants to challenge each other, to hold frank talks and to be open to have united voice.
The gathering was organized by the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect and the World Council of Churches (WCC), and was sponsored by the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC). Participants discussed the role of the church in stabilizing the Great Lakes region of Africa, with a special focus on Burundi and DRC, and on finding a peaceful solution to the current situation in these countries based on the moral and Christian imperative to promote sustainable peace among peoples and nations.
The Great Lakes region – which comprises comprises Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – faces political and social instability. United Methodists in the DRC and Burundi have been working to foster peace in their respective regions.
As the implementation of the 2000 Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement has failed, Burundi is witnessing worrisome sociopolitical instability despite efforts by regional and sub-regional organizations including the Great Lakes Region Commission, Eastern African Community, and African Union to resolve the crisis. In DRC, the exit plan for the conflict resolution between the majority and the opposition parties has led to a January 2017 agreement but implementation has yet to reach a consensus.
AACC general secretary Rev. Dr Andre Karamaga gave a brief background of the consultation, and Dr. Nigussu Legesse, WCC programme executive, outlined the objectives of the meeting.
Legesse invited participants to deeply analyze the current situation in Burundi and DRC, including the risk factors for atrocity crimes and the link between hate speech, incitement and atrocity crimes.
He also highlighted the need to examine the role of Christian religious leaders and faith-based organizations in fueling or preventing hate speech and incitement to violence in Burundi and DRC. The meeting served as a platform for sharing knowledge and good practices on past successes of religious leaders’ participation in the prevention and the fight against incitement to violence in the wider Great Lakes region.