An international conference on Rwanda took place in Brighton, United Kingdom on June 13-14th 2013 under the auspices of the United Action for Peace with the Theme “Challenges of Sustainable Peace and Development”.
The conference brought together participants from diverse horizons and backgrounds: representatives of civil society, political parties, experts, NGOs, writers and journalists. The conference recognized that successive conflicts that took place in Rwanda in the past decades occurred as people pursued both liberty and security, both private property and distributive justice. So far, the use of violence (an attempt to do justice or undo injustice) to pursue the human needs and rights of one group has gravely harmed and obstructed the rights of others and levels of violence fell along a continuum of structural violence. So, time is overdue to increase the number of nonviolent options that could help Rwandans choose and use the least violent options.
The conference is of the view that peace in Rwanda will be built when people take great care in their decision-making to plan for the long term, anticipating potential problems, engaging in ongoing analysis of the conflicts that have affected the Rwandan society and the subregion in past decades even centuries, and coordinating different actors and activities at all stages and at all levels of society. Therefore, it is important to support the development of relationships at all levels of society: between individuals and within families; communities; organizations; businesses; governments; and cultural, religious, economic, and political institutions and movements.
The conference reaffirmed that Rwandans, as other humans, have material needs and rights that include food, shelter, water, healthcare, land and resources to meet physical needs. This requires the protection of economic rights through distributive justice or a fair distribution of wealth, education, and employment opportunities for all people.
The conference reaffirmed that Rwandans, as other humans, have social needs and rights that include a sense of human dignity, belonging and predictability in relationships, security from attack, participation and influence in decision-making that affect their life, and the ability to earn respect and recognition from others. They require society to protect social, civil, and political rights through procedural justice. This includes democratic structure, the enforcement of the rule of law, and social justice programs of empowerment and education that foster national reconciliation.
The conference reaffirmed that Rwandans are interdependent; the unmet human needs or rights of any individual or group ripple outward and affect the whole country. When Rwandans will be aware of and value interdependence with all the components of the society, they will coordinate efforts to meet human needs and rights so that they don’t harm others. So far, a dominated-or-be-dominated worldview has always been the foundation of violence in Rwanda. Hence, there is a need to offer the value of partnership as an alternative to domination. Because when relationships are egalitarian and based on the values of partnership rather than domination, people cooperate with and empower each other to meet their needs and rights.
The conference underscored the necessity of making a clear distinction between need and greed. The latter being the desire to accumulate excessive amounts of material resources, decision-making power, and respect.
The conference commended the steps realized by the current government of Rwanda as well as the previous ones in achieving peace and development. But it also recognized that the achievements are still fragile, as long as they are not supported by solid pillars. The pillars of a strategic peacebuilding in Rwanda are: Good governance, national reconciliation, democracy and human rights, justice, security, trauma healing, economic, social and political development, social action and humanitarian assistance, education, research, diplomacy and good neighborhood policy.
In order to mobilize the Rwandan community and the international community for the imperative of consolidating the pillars of strategic peacebuilding in Rwanda, the conference recommended a certain number of actions including but not limited to: participants committing to further pursue this initiative, conduct researches and organize public debates on the roots causes of successive conflicts and violence in Rwandan as well as their ramification in the subregion of African Great Lakes, run a radio station on peace, unity and national reconciliation in Rwanda, use all kind of forums and media to vehicle the pillars of strategic peacebuilding in Rwanda.
On behalf of Participants,