FECCLAHA Great Lakes forum call for coordinated approaches to issues of Peace and security in the region
In a communiqué issued by the Great Lakes forum on peace and security on 13th April 2022, the forum called for coordinated approaches to issues of peace and security in the region informed by a multi-sectoral stakeholders and actors mapping in the area of regional peace.
The forum under the theme “Consolidating the role of the church in the regional stabilization agenda” and convened by FECCLAHA in Nairobi –Kenya from 11th -13th April 2022 was attended by 40 participants amongst them: senior church leaders, women and youth drawn from the FECCLAHA member councils and churches in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania Kenya and Uganda.
Also present in the forum were delegates from partner organizations such as the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) , Africa Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the World Council of Churches (WCC).
The forum also committed to amongst others: develop and implement mechanisms for peaceful resolution of conflicts and spearhead shuttle diplomacy toward that goal and to be diligent; and to collaborate with Governments and States in advancing social and political issues.
It called upon religious bodies to reinforce a culture of mutual tolerance and strengthen women and youth participation and contribution to the peace agenda in the region and appealed to the inter-state bodies to increase their collaboration with faith leaders and faith actors to contribute to advancing peace and security in the region through the creation of platforms for faith-based leaders to have such engagements; and to support member states of the Great Lakes Region to fully implement existing policies and legal frameworks that can aid in the prevention of social and political violence and SGBV inter alia, Goma Declaration on Eradicating Sexual Violence and Ending Impunity in the Great Lakes Region (2008) and the Protocol relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council (2002).
The forum addressed issues related to modalities of increasing spaces for Church leaders and other stakeholders regarding peace and security and provided a space to address matters related to increasing the church’s advocacy for protection and prevention of Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in the region and to deliberate on the role of the Church leaders in responding to violent conflicts.
ICGLR Executive Secretary’s key note address to the forum
In his keynote address during the official opening of the forum, H.E Ambassador Joao Samuel Caholo, the Executive Secretary of ICGLR, noted that religion is the cornerstone of communities in the Great lakes Region. He added that religious leaders hold people’s trust and have authority and influence where state and local officials do not.
“Religious leaders, as history from the Great Lakes Region has shown us, may play important roles in instigating or preventing violence, and in either sustaining bad feeling or attempting to prevent a re-occurrence”, he said.
He challenged the Church to actively participate in negotiation and de-escalation of conflicts as well as in influencing post-conflict situations and recovery. He also reminded them of the need for serious and meaningful involvement in addressing issues of poverty, youth unemployment, and equitable distribution of resources, women empowerment, and illegal exploitation of natural resources.
He also emphasized that religious leaders, as part of the civil society and with great influence in their communities, still have a very important role to play in building peace and stability through promoting peaceful coexistence and reconciliation among communities; fighting extremism and preaching tolerance.
The Ambassador noted that despite undergoing significant positive political developments in the recent past, the Great Lakes region still faces emerging threats. These includes: complex political transitions; unconstitutional changes of Heads of State and Government; terrorism and the public health security challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic which impacts negatively on the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political unity in the Member States.
“The Central African Republic (CAR), the Republic of the Sudan, Republic of South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are undergoing very complex transition processes that are threatening the very foundation of their statehood”, he observed.
He lauded FECCLAHA for organizing such a forum and urged that in a bid to install the spirit of tolerance in the region and giving hope for a better future, such forums should also be held at national levels.