GIZ is supporting efforts to stabilise the Great Lakes region in Central Africa and is working to promote peace there. To this end, it is training mediators and encouraging the legal extraction of resources in the knowledge that conflicts in the region are often financed by the ruthless exploitation of minerals and precious metals.
What do mediator Jerome Tanzi and jewellery maker Beatrice Mukamurenzi have in common? Although they do completely different things, they contribute to the same goal: stability and peace in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa. Both were trained for their current jobs by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH under a project funded by the German Development Ministry and the European Union.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the state has often kept its distance from conflicts. ‘In cases where justice was not done, my fellow citizens took the law into their own hands,’ explains Jerome Tanzi. The result was a spiral of violence. As a trained negotiator and arbitrator, Tanzi now ensures that disputes in his area are resolved fairly and without violence. There were tensions, for example, between the municipality and the Congolese authority responsible for nature conservation and national parks. Tanzi’s training helped him to mediate successfully: ‘The techniques I’ve learned are very useful,’ he says. They enabled him to convince both sides of his impartiality – and to succeed in defusing the conflict.
Diverse conflicts, non-violent resolution
Local mediators are used to resolve conflicts across the Great Lakes region. The conflicts can be very varied: they might be over land rights or involve tensions between ethnic groups, for example. Violent clashes regularly occur between armed groups and government forces. Women and girls are particularly affected by these crises; they are frequently victims of sexual violence or other forms of gender-based violence.
Conflicts in the region are often financed by the sale of illegally extracted natural resources. As a result, the conflicts can be more intensive and last longer. However, there are also disputes over the legal extraction of resources, namely between extractives companies and worker cooperatives. Trained and established mediators are also used there – with success.
Properly regulated business practices, under which poorer people also earn money, reduce the potential for conflict. Promoting formalised and legal extraction of resources is therefore another building block for peace in the region. This kind of approach, which thinks about conflicts and resources as part of the same nexus, helps bring about widespread prosperity and peace in the Great Lakes region. This creates opportunities for large swathes of society.
One of these new opportunities has emerged for Beatrice Mukamurenzi, a single mother of two sons living in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. She works in a factory making jewellery from gemstones. ‘You need patience, passion and creativity to do this work,’ she says. Before she learned to make jewellery, Mukamurenzi had had no training and struggled to make a living through a series of casual jobs. The training provided by GIZ changed all that: ‘Now I have a sustainable way of earning my own living.’
Mukamurenzi also dreams of having her own workshop where she can pass her knowledge on to others. Because the jewels are processed locally, a good portion of the profit remains with the people who live there: ‘I used to think that the jewellery business here was only for wealthy foreigners – from the Arab world, for example,’ recalls Mukamurenzi. Now she is benefiting from it herself.
Last update: February 2023