A Voice For the Voiceless


The Advocacy Project (AP) recruits students to help marginalized communities tell their story and claim their rights.

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Profile: Clairance Mpawenimana

Laura Gordon | Posted June 26th, 2009 | Africa

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Clairance Mpawenimana
Clairance Mpawenimana

The whole time I’m talking to Clairance Mpawenimana, I’m struggling not to cry. Not because of what she says, but because of what she’s not saying. She has been introduced to me as a survivor of Gender Based Violence, but although we talk at length about the war and her experiences during that period, GBV remains the elephant in the room; as we approach the subject, she looks away, and I can’t push her further.

Introducing herself, she tells me that she has just finished secondary school, and hopes to go to university next year to study humanities. She was only a child in 1993, but children remember things and the images return. She was living in Kinaba at the time, one of the most affected areas, and she remembers seeing people killed because of their ethnicity, something she didn’t understand at the time (this is common in Burundi; many survivors relate that the first time they knew their ethnicity was when they lost relatives in one of the various periods of massacres). Because there was war in the quartiers, they fled to the mountains, and when they were bombarded there, to Congo; you have to be pretty desperate for Congo to seem like a safe haven. Life there was difficult, but they survived, and, eventually, they were able to come home.

On their return, they found that the family was dispersed, with many dead. She felt wounded, angry and defeated, and was depressed about hers and the country’s future. However, through involvement with CEDAC, she was given six months of training by Search for Common Ground. This was vital in helping her heal her body and spirit, and helped her finally to forgive her former enemies. They were trained to promote unity and be a good example in their communities, something she has tried to do through her work with CEDAC,where she participates in peer support meetings and tries to spread CEDAC’s message in her wider community. Turning back to the war, she says that she still finds it hard to understand what happened, but says that the priority must be to ensure that they never return to that position. She says that the future will be better if all Burundians changed their ideas. She has high hopes for the elections in 2010; although there are obstacles, she feels that only a few have bad ambitions and she hopes that the majority will prevail. She hopes to be a part of changing these ideas, and in helping CEDAC’s work of using the forces use for destruction to rebuild her country.

Listening to Clairance share her story and her hopes for the future has been humbling. She is younger than me, but has faced more than I can imagine, and has picked herself up, and is now trying to help others in her community do the same. Talking to her, I desperately want to wave a magic wand and make this whole country better, but, unfortunately that isn’t an option. Instead, I hope that by empowering young people like Clairance to claim peace and rebuild their country, we can contribute to ensuring that no more young people have to go through these things – in this country at least.

Profile: Barnaby

Laura Gordon | Posted June 26th, 2009 | Africa

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Barnaby is a former member of the FAB (Forces Armées du Burundi), having been in the army from 1996 to 2004, when he left as part of the peace process. He tells me that he grew up hearing stories of the threat against the Tutsi people from the ‘maquis’, and joined the army out of a desire to face them down and liberate the Tutsi people. He is the first person to tell me he joined the war because of an ideological belief in the struggle, rather than because of personal factors such as the death of a relative, but now rejects those arguments. He tells me the war was always senseless, and, like so many others, blames its continuation on those in charge, who didn’t try to end the war and instead pushed for it. The victims were those like himself, who fought and, above all, the civilians.

Barnaby quickly grew to dislike army life; he talks of always being on patrol, of a constant lack of sleep, of being so tired that he slept while marching. As a result, when he was offered demobilisation in 2004 he took it. However, like many others, he struggled to adjust. During demobilisation he came into contact with people from the other forces, realising the pointlessness of it all but finding it easier to get on with these people who had had similar experiences to him. Involvement with CEDAC, which started when he was introduced to the organisation by some of his old comrades, has helped further. It has helped him to stay in contact with former fighters through training sessions and sport, and its vision of harnessing the energy of former soldiers to rebuild the country has, he says, inspired him. He is particularly keen to emphasise their work in promoting disarmament and the handing in of small arms, which he sees as vital to a lasting peace, and he works to spread that message in his neighbourhood.

Barnaby is clearly still delighted to be out of the army, and CEDAC has helped those in the colline* adjust to his return and welcome him back. However, he still has enormous problems. He is one of the less educated people I have spoken to (he does not speak French, so is speaking through Eric), and although he was trained as a driver and auto mechanic by CEDAC, he has not been able to find work, and his demobilisation package is long gone. Although he remains optimistic and prays for peace and better times to come, he faces a constant struggle to support his wife and two children. His story therefore demonstrates not only the progress this country has made, but also how far it has to go in terms of fighting poverty and promoting growth that can form the basis of a lasting peace.

That said, I want to end on a positive note. When I have finished interviewing him and Jean-Baptiste, these former adversaries leave arm-in-arm; reconciliation does seem to be working.

*unlike most places in Africa, Burundians do not traditionally live in villages, but in extended family units on a single hill, or colline.

High Heels and Dirt Roads

Laura Gordon | Posted June 26th, 2009 | Africa

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If you’re wondering how to walk in high heels on a dirt road, the answer is: don’t.

If you really, really have to, then the answer is: go in flip flops and change when you get there.

And if you really, really, really have to, then the answer is: lean forward, thus transfering your weight to the balls of your feet, and basically walk on tip toe. Disadvantages: hurts like hell, slow, high risk of breaking an ankle.

As for why I found myself in this awkward position… last night Claver and I went to the premiere of a film produced by Iriba, an NGO started by members of the Burundian Diaspora in Belgium, that aimed to promote reconciliation and explain the work of the (so far hypothetical) truth, justice and reconciliation commission. It did this by showing the story of two families, and what happens when they find the body of a member of one of the families who was killed in the fighting, possibly by the other family. The film showed how they were able to talk to resolve their differences, and eventually allow a the daughter of one family to marry the son of the other (awww…). It was very well done and managed to avoid being too preachy – it was also very funny, if the shouts of laughter from around the auditorium were anything to go by. Unfortunately the subtitles (it was in Kirundi subtitled in French) didn’t really capture the humour, but it was still entertaining. It’s also good to see CSO’s taking on the challenge of educating the population about the Commission and the benefits it can have in terms of reconciliation and writing the national history – I’ve done a bit of reading on the Truth Commission in Sierra Leone, which operated alongside the Special Court, and one of the major problems they had there is that no-one really understood what it was for and didn’t feel comfortable using it. Hopefully initiatives such as that by Iriba and their partners in the Burundian media can avoid a similar problem in Burundi.

In other news, although my French is getting better, I’m starting to think in Franglais all the time (i.e. not just when speaking French) and losing the ability to translate French-English. This is not good.

The Lament of the Demobilised

Laura Gordon | Posted June 25th, 2009 | Africa

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In the last few days I’ve talked to a lot of people who were, in one way or another, affected by the war. Their stories are different and each is deeply affecting in its own way, but one thing I have been struck by is the loss of skills resulting from combat or displacement; many of the people I’ve spoken to have said that, when they returned from war or displacement, they found that they had missed out on years of education that others had had access to, or other skills training. This makes it very difficult to find work, an important way in which these people are vulnerable. Linked with this is the general disdain for the political class who, they say, stirred up ethnic hatred then left others to fight the war while they enriched themselves. This is somewhat unfair in the case of the current President, former leader of the FDD, but regarding many other politicians, many of whom have been members of several consecutive parties in order to ensure access to jobs and the perks of office, they have a point.

This problem is, however, far from unique to Burundi. While listening to all these stories, I have had in my head Vera Brittain‘s poem The Lament of the Demobilised (see bottom of page), in which she talks of the difficulties of returning to civilian life as a student at Oxford after working as a VAD in the First World War, and the resentment she feels to those who have “just got on” while they were away. To give an example closer in both time and space, in his work on child soldiers, mainly carried out in Northern Uganda, Chris Blattman (whose blog anyone interested in Africa should read) has shown that the single greatest long-term problem former child soldiers face results from missed years of education, training and work experience that put them at a disadvantage relative to their peers when it comes to finding employment. In a context where poverty is rife and jobs scarce this is a major problem; especially when guns are widely available, it can easily lead to banditry (which is widespread in Burundi).

This is why schemes to train former soldiers and give them access to land and microcredit schemes are particularly urgent, work such as is carried out by CEDAC for adult soldiers, and a centre for training former child soldiers, street children, orphans and otherwise vulnerable children that I visited the day before yesterday. Here children aged 14-18 are trained to become auto mechanics, furniture makers, IT specialists, hairdressers, plumbers, electricians, and various other trades, with a mixture of theoretical training and on-the-job experience. The Director tells me that many of the students go on to be employed in the businesses where they worked, and that over 80% of them find work. Eric, who is involved with the centre through CEDAC’s work with child soldiers, tells me that they have plans to expand nationwide, either by expanding in Bujumbura and building a boarding house, or by building centres around the country. Evidence that demobilising people, convincing them to hand over their guns, and sensitising them to reject violence isn’t enough; you also need to give them a choice.

IT class at Bujumbura Training Centre
IT class at Bujumbura Training Centre
Woodwork at Bujumbura Training Centre
Woodwork at Bujumbura Training Centre
Training Centre in Bujumbura
Training Centre in Bujumbura

The Lament of the Demobilised

By Vera Brittain

‘Four years,’ some say consolingly. ‘Oh well,
What’s that ? You’re young. And then it must have been
A very fine experience for you !’
And they forget
How others stayed behind and just got on -
Got on the better since we were away.
And we came home and found
They had achieved, and men revered their names,
But never mentioned ours;
And no-one talked heroics now, and we
Must just go back and start again once more.
‘You threw four years into the melting-pot -
Did you indeed !’ these others cry. ‘Oh well,
The more fool you!’
And we’re beginning to agree with them.

On Burundian Civil Society

Laura Gordon | Posted June 24th, 2009 | Africa

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One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Burundi was the vast array of NGOs and civil society organisations (CSOs to those in the know!) generally, and I have to admit that I was initially sceptical, fearing the ‘NGO circus’ with all the problems that brings – duplication and omission, failing to consider the real needs of the populations, internal brain drain, and so on. However, having spent longer in the country – albeit still only a fairly short time – my perspective is changing quickly. Meeting some of the dynamic Burundians I work with, and talking about the projects they work on, has brought me to the conclusion that much of Burundian civil society may be that elusive thing – a genuinely grass-roots structure that is doing hugely valuable work in promoting peace and reconciliation at a community level.

I have blogged before about the three organisations with which Survivor Corps works (AFJB, CEDAC, and THARS), their history, and the important work they do. However, as I have learnt more about the development of the conflict and the peace process in Burundi, I have become aware of the truly vital role that these and other organisations played in bringing the country to peace and ensuring that is (cross fingers) sticking (H/T Nigel Watt’s excellent book, about which I have already waxed lyrical). He describes in some detail the many organisations that have grown up at a community level to promote peace, healing, and integration.

The nature of the organisations that have done this work has varied, but perhaps the largest contingent has been religious, with religious groups forming to promote contact between ethnic groups, peer support, microfinance, mutual saving, and so on. Particularly active has been the Society of Friends (Quakers), of which David Niyonzima, the founder of THARS, is a prominent member. Many of these organisations have now broken off from their original founding church, a requirement to be registered as an NGO in Burundi, and allowing them to reach a greater constituency.

The work done by this ‘alphabet soup’ of organisations has included both ‘practical’ action such as building youth centres, providing for orphans, and organising inter-ethnic activities, as well as work also carried out by Survivor Corps’ partners such as providing vocational training, and promoting inter-ethnic income generating activities. However, perhaps even more important is the ‘mental’ aspect; promoting alternatives to violence, promoting reconciliation between ethnic groups, and helping people to discuss a shared future. CSOs, particularly religious organisations, have provided a vital service in this regard, in some cases simply by providing a space for interaction, in others by actively recruiting. Some of the most important have been the independent radio programmes, set up following recognition of the role played by Radio Mille Collines in promoting genocide in Rwanda, which aim to do the opposite, using talk shows, news, and soap operas to help people relate to their fellow Burundians and reject violence, also aiming to report accurate news and counter rumours – which, in the war years, often sparked massacres. In the course of these efforts to promote integration and equal opportunities for all, a number of organisations have also formed to try and promote the position of the Twa, and provide them with access to education and a decent footing in Burundian society for the first time.

All in all it has become clear that civil society in Burundi played an enormous part in bringing peace and is likely to be vital in promoting continuation of that peace and ethnic reconciliation in Burundi – as well as ‘traditional’ NGO motives such as promoting education, public health, and growth.

The Confederations Cup and Pan-Africanism

Laura Gordon | Posted June 23rd, 2009 | Africa

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Those who follow football will know that the Confederations cup (the winner from each of the 6 regions, plus the world champions and the host, I think) is currently taking place in South Africa. Those of you who know me will know I have no interest in football, but Brian who I live with does, which means I’ve watched more football in the last month than in pretty much the last five years combined. However, it has given me an opportunity to ruminate on Pan-Africanism.

Those of you familiar with African history will be aware of the Pan-Africanist movement, and its incarnation in the Organisation of African Unity and its successor, the African Union. Watching the football here I have been struck by the way the entire city is gripped by South Africa’s and Egypt’s matches, feeling that those teams represent the entire continent. This is particularly striking in the case of Egypt; Westerners are not used to seeing Egypt as part of Africa, but Africans themselves certainly do – though with the caveat that when a Sub-Saharan team meets a North African team ‘they are black’ (if you’re interested, when a Francophone team plays an Anglophone team they are French-speaking, and when an East African team plays another African team they are East African. Burundi doesn’t often play anyone). However, even more impressive has been the pride that Burundians feel in the Confederations cup being held on African soil, and the prospect of the World Cup next year. They say that this is something they never dreamed they would see, and dream of travelling to South Africa to see it, hoping that its success will change the view of Africa in the eyes of the world. In other words, there is a strong sense of supporting South Africa in their endeavours, and hope of sharing in their success. Moreover, it is clear that this is not unique to Burundi; features on DSTV show fans across the continent expressing similar sentiments.

What I also find surprising is that I have taken so long to notice this, because it seems so natural – it’s something that I do myself as a very-slightly-African (though obviously only once England/GB have been knocked out!). But thinking about it, I wonder how widespread it is – it certainly doesn’t exist in Europe, and I can’t really see how it would work in Asia, which anyway seems too divided. There is certainly solidarity within subregions (see Eurovision Song Contest voting patterns, if nothing else!), but for such a feeling to exist across as continent of 53 countries seems unique – can anyone with knowledge of other parts of the world (Latin America, Oceania?) give any further insight? It suggests to me that a type of African solidarity persists that is unusual, if not unique, across the world.

This has caused problems in the past, with leaders unwilling to criticise each other and banding together against criticism of their own by outsiders. However, it may have contributed to the relative lack of interstate wars in Africa (although they have made up for it in intrastate wars), and Africans are generally prepared to learn from each other, and see themselves as sufficiently similar for it to be worth doing so. When I make comparisons between Burundi and some of the other countries I have knowledge of, they are not rejected as they might be in other parts of the world, and when I talk about the importance of the peaceful elections campaign (on which more later), my colleagues reply not only in terms of its importance for Burundi, but also their hopes that if successful it could be a model for the rest of the continent. It is, therefore, also a strength, and I hope that in this blog I will be able to place Burundi in its African context, not only in terms of the ‘bad neighbourhood’ problems that it brings, but also in terms of the positive intellectual trends.

Profile: Eric Uwimana

Laura Gordon | Posted June 23rd, 2009 | Africa

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Talking to Eric Uwimana

Eric Uwimana
Eric Uwimana
is at first disconcerting. He was in the FNL, the last rebel group to join the peace process and the most aggressively pro-Hutu, for eight years, rising to the rank of Commander. He was studying for his first candidature when he joined the rebels, something he admits was a free choice, resulting from a gradual and considered decision, because he was tired of being “menacé*” and discriminated against by the government.

Eric is strongly critical of the reintegration of the army, saying that although there were 21,000 members of the FNL, only 3,500 were integrated into the national army – and only 5,000 have been through official demobilisation processes, meaning that there are another 12,500 running around with guns and no means of making money. Not a comforting thought; Eric confirms that many of them have become bandits. He also tells me that relations in the newly-integrated army are poor, with soldiers who were former members of the other factions accusing him of not working, and is resentful of his loss in status from Commander to Sergeant-Major. Eric also displays the heightened masculinity common among soldiers; he seems almost boastful when talking about his past, and when Eric (Niragira, director of CEDAC) asks us to pose for a photo, he tries to feel me up. Considering his rebel past and army present, I decide against punching him in the face.

At this point in the interview, I was not optimistic. However, when we began to talk about CEDAC, my view changed. Eric talks about how group meetings with members of the other factions, organised through CEDAC, have helped him to open up and talk about his past. He is still in contact by phone with some of the other people he met through these sessions, and expresses a strong commitment to CEDAC’s vision of a peaceful Burundi, with former soldiers integrated and setting the example for peace. Growing sober, he says that war makes you do things that you would never otherwise do because they seem normal, and that talking to fellow members of CEDAC helped him see the damage done to those who did nothing – the civilians. Asked if he would do the same again, he is adamant that he would not; indeed, he is keen to leave the army and is searching for other opportunities. Finally, he expresses his hope that no other rebel group with emerge now that the FNL has laid down arms, and emphasises the importance of talking about what they did so that Burundi will not go to war again.

Talking to Eric was fascinating; in many respects he embodies the problems faced by Burundi; young, radicalised, accustomed to violence, and embodying the aggressive masculinity that is so dangerous. However, the sentiments that he expresses once he stops trying to show off are encouraging, and suggest that he is genuinely committed to peace. In many ways, he therefore demonstrates the success that CEDAC can have in reconciling even those who were genuinely committed rebels, with high positions, and the importance of the peer support model in achieving this.

*Francophones: I am unsure how best to translate this? Harassed? Any thoughts?

Profile: Fabiola Nshimirimana

Laura Gordon | Posted June 23rd, 2009 | Africa

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Meeting Fabiola Nshimirimana, I can barely believe her past. Beautiful, smiling, and very pregnant indeed, she welcomes me into the room where her microproject is based, renting out glasses and chairs for events and making baskets and gourds. Her demeanour changes only slightly when I ask her about the war, telling me that she was a member of the FDD (Hutu rebels, at first led by a former Minister of the Interior angered at the Army’s attempt to sabotage the democratic government, then led by current President Pierre Nkurunziza). She tells me that in 1997, when she was 17 and in secondary school, she was taken by force by the rebels, and from then on did what the others did to survive. Although she thought of deserting, she feared that she would face problems if she returned home and risked being abducted again; later, however, Eric tells me that she was highly ranked in the rebels and was one of their most fierce fighters.

Talking about the war, she grows more sober, with fewer nervous laughs. Speaking through Eric as she is uncomfortable in French (I have heard some reports that among the rebels those speaking French or English risked being killed) She tells us that the conditions through the whole period were horrible, and that she found it hard to live, and that as a woman – one of about 200 in her brigade – she found it especially hard to adapt. There were many things they needed in combat that were not available. Later, as I am about to leave, she shows me her legs, covered with scars from her time in the bush.

Fabiola Nshimirimana
Fabiola Nshimirimana
Demobilisation, coming in 2002, was also hard; although the moth of demobilisation training was welcomed; they were provided with food and medicine for those who needed it, as well as education on how to cope with civilian life. But adjustment was difficult; she needed to begin again, in a new career, when others had been working in the mean time. She also needed to learn to live in a different way, and to adjust to life in the commune, something that she found difficult.

In this position, the support she gained from CEDAC was vital. She was able to meet with other former combatants, including women, who could share experiences and ideas. Exchanging experiences and problems that they had faced allowed them to find solutions together. Through this organisation, she has had contact with many women, and now has a number of close friends from other forces, something that has changed her attitude as she now feels more able to relate to them and relax with them. CEDAC also helped her in establishing her microproject with other women, using the money that came with their demobilisation packages. Although the other women were later forced to leave the project, Fabiola is continuing to work and hopes to make it a success. Again, the support she has received from Eric and her peer network at CEDAC has been vital, and she hopes that by participating in these meetings she will be able to help other women in Burundi who are struggling to adjust to peace.

Introducing Survivor Corps’ Partners: Centre d’Encadrement et de Développement des Anciens Combattants (CEDAC)

Laura Gordon | Posted June 22nd, 2009 | Africa

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CEDAC is an umbrella organisation for former combatants’ associations led by the dynamic Eric Niragira, who founded the organisation with little more than a hope and a prayer in 2005. Although this is a period of his life about which he is reticent, Eric is himself a former combatant with the FDD, experience he brings to his work with CEDAC’s members, and after demobilisation he had the idea of founding an organisation in which former combatants from all sides could come together, promoting mutual understanding and reconciliation. Since he felt that former combatants were the most likely to restart the war, he saw this as a crucial step towards establishing peace. CEDAC now has 20,000 members across the country, working together in microfinance projects, support groups, and campaign groups, and receiving livelihoods training, something particularly important for former child soldiers, who have missed much of their schooling during the war.

Eric Niragira
Eric Niragira

Survivor Corps will be working with CEDAC on their work on Gender Based Violence, where they seek to prevent Gender Based Violence by providing healing services and support to survivors, as well as attempting to tackle its causes by educating those who spread it as a weapon of war to become advocates against it. This work has many aspects; the ubiquitous support groups and microfinance groups, as well as provision of legal assistance (in collaboration with AFJB), but also campaigns to hand in weapons, and anti-GBV campaigns targeted at men and aiming to address views of women and definitions of masculinity that contribute to GBV.

CEDAC also works on a dynamic project, in which Survivor Corps will also be partnering them, in which they are harnessing former combatants to engage with other former combatants to promote peaceful elections in 2010. It is hard to overstate the importance of this; former combatants are involved in widespread violence and banditry across the country, are often armed, and are liable to take up arms when the political struggle goes against them. Almost every Burundian I have spoken to has told me that they are afraid of what might happen during and after the elections – but that the elections remain the focus of their hopes for peace. CEDAC are working on demonstrations for peace, the first to be held this Sunday, organising public meetings of former combatants to educate them on the importance of peaceful elections, and working the Radio Publique Africaine to produce radio programmes promoting peace. Many of their members are even standing as local candidates, promising to be conciliatory and moderate in their rhetoric. In line with Survivor Corps’ traditional focus on disability rights, they will also be campaigning for accessible polling stations.

I will be contributing to Survivor Corps’ work with CEDAC by profiling Eric and several of his members, drawn from different rebel groups, as well as some of the survivors of Gender Based Violence involved with CEDAC projects, and some of the former child soldiers in CEDAC training centres. I will also be helping Eric to develop CEDAC’s web presence, and covering events such as weapons collections and the demonstration for peace.

Introducing Survivor Corps’ Partners: THARS – Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services

Laura Gordon | Posted June 22nd, 2009 | Africa

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David Niyozima, a former professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, and himself a survivor of war, whose experiences are discussed in his book ‘Unlocking Horns‘ is the director and founder of THARS, standing for Trauma, Healing and Reconciliation Services. Believing that unaddressed trauma sows the seeds for future conflict, they aim to provide a ‘holistic approach’ to pyschosocial healing and resolutions of differences. They approach this by providing counselling sessions to victims of war, including victims of torture (in which definition he explicitly includes rape, including marital rape, and domestic violence), and setting up self-help groups including different ethnicities to provide peer support, collectively save money, and invest it in microprojects. They believe that this approach can effectively address trauma, as well as fostering reconciliation and peaceful dispute resolution.

THARS was founded in 1999, and was originally linked with the Society of Friends (Quakers) in Burundi; David Niyonzima is himself a Pastor and former General Secretary of the Burundi Yearly Meeting. However, he is keen to emphasise that they are a secular organisation who help everyone, regardless of faith. They began by training community Listeners in how to listen, the stages of trauma, strategies to overcome it, and avenues of further assistance, such as further psychological help, or legal options. These Listeners went to work in ‘Listening Centres’, around the country, where people suffering from trauma could come and tell their stories. Severe cases from the Listening Centres could then be referred to specialised psychologists. These Centres were accompanied by ‘support groups’ of survivors and communities who could help those people with the slow process of overcoming trauma, as well as promoting peace and reconciliation in their districts.

THARS also works on issues to do with torture and sexual violence, providing shelter houses for women who have been raped. Here they can access medical and psychological assistance, while THARS staff work with their families to encourage them to welcome them back – without which intervention, these women often have few options and have a high risk of further assault. They receive further support while in their communities through support groups, and participation in the ‘peace through pieces’ project.

As well as practical work to aid trauma survivors, THARS has a campaign element, promoting the importance of mental health to the authorities, by advocating for its inclusion in the national health strategy. This is an issue of much importance that is far from being confined to developing countries; even in the developing world, mental health advocates complain that their problems are treated less seriously than problems of physical health. Their campaigns, using the radio, television and public meetings, also target the population at large, educating people to be aware that they need not suffer in silence, and services are available to help, and that breaking silence, for example about rape or domestic violence, can be an important means of healing, and a crucial first step in overcoming the problem. They also campaign for peaceful dispute resolution through the Alternatives to Violence Programme (AVP), pioneered in US jails, and adapted for use in a post-conflict African country. Finally, they document all of their interventions and the survivors who visit them, providing a rich source of information for those studying trauma in countries emerging from conflict, that, it may be hoped, will allow programmes such as THARS to be gradually improved and duplicated in other countries.

For anyone further interested in THARS’ work, I would strongly recommend reading the ‘stories of healing‘ section of their website. The section closes with a quote that sums up for me the importance of grass roots work:

“Often it feels as if our progress is small in comparison to the size of the problem. But we now have files full of cases where a huge difference has been made in the lives of individuals. We are beginning to see changes in the communities where we work. It is difficult work, but all of us feel good about doing it.”

Survivor Corps will be partnering THARS to train some of their survivors in Survivor Corps’ Peer-to-Peer support method. I will be assisting with this project by adding to THARS’ stock of profiles, photographs and film, aiming to link together their aims and work with that of Survivor Corps, and show how Peer-to-Peer support can complement THARS’ other interventions.

Fellow: Laura Gordon

Survivor Corps in Burundi


advocacy project AFJB Africa AP blogging bujumbura Burundi CEDAC Congo DDR demobilisation development disarmament displacement drummers elections ex-combatants FDD FNL former combatants gender based violence genocide gisenyi history Hutu Kigali kinaba Laura Gordon lorgy Marginalisation Microfinance peace post-conflict reconciliation reconstruction Rwanda survivorcorps survivor corps THARS the advocacy project tourism Tutsi Uganda war women




2013 Fellows


Benan Grams
Meron Menwyelet
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2012 Fellows


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Walter James


Amanda Lasik
Chantal Uwizera
Chelsea Ament
Clara Kollm
Corey Black
Lauren Katz
Maelanny Purwaningrum
Maria Skouras
Meredith Williams
Ryan McGovern
Samantha Syverson


Beth Wofford
Julia Dowling
Quinn Van Valer-Campbell
Samantha Hammer
Susan Craig-Greene

Latin America

Amy Bracken
Catherine Binet

Middle East

Nikki Hodgson

North America

Sarah Wang

2010 Fellows


Abisola Adekoya
Annika Allman
Brooke Blanchard
Christine Carlson
Christy Gillmore
Dara Lipton
Dina Buck
Josanna Lewin
Joya Taft-Dick
Louis Rezac
Ned Meerdink
Sylvie Bisangwa


Adrienne Henck
Karie Cross
Kerry McBroom
Kate Bollinger
Lauren Katz
Simon Kläntschi
Zarin Hamid


Laila Zulkaphil
Susan Craig-Greene
Tereza Bottman

Latin America

Karin Orr

North America

Adepeju Solarin
Oscar Alvarado

2009 Fellows


Adam Welti
Alixa Sharkey
Barbara Dziedzic
Bryan Lupton

Courtney Chance
Elisa Garcia
Helah Robinson
Johanna Paillet
Johanna Wilkie
Kate Cummings
Laura Gordon
Lisa Rogoff
Luna Liu
Ned Meerdink
Walter James


Abhilash Medhi
Gretchen Murphy
Isha Mehmood
Jacqui Kotyk
Jessica Tirado
Kan Yan
Morgan St. Clair
Ted Mathys


Alison Sluiter
Christina Hooson
Donna Harati
Fanny Grandchamp
Kelsey Bristow
Simran Sachdev
Susan Craig-Greene
Tiffany Ommundsen

Latin America

Althea Middleton-Detzner
Carolyn Ramsdell
Jessica Varat
Lindsey Crifasi
Rebecca Gerome
Zachary Parker

Middle East

Corrine Schneider
Rachel Brown
Rangineh Azimzadeh

North America

Elizabeth Mandelman
Farzin Farzad

2008 Fellows

Adam Nord
Annelieke van de Wiel
Juliet Hutchings
Kristina Rosinsky
Lucas Wolf
Chi Vu
Danita Topcagic
Heather Gilberds
Jes Therkelsen
Libby Abbott
Mackenzie Berg
Nicole Farkouh
Ola Duru
Paul Colombini
Raka Banerjee
Shubha Bala
Antigona Kukaj
Colby Pacheco
James Dasinger
Janet Rabin
Nicole Slezak
Shweta Dewan
Amy Offner
Ash Kosiewicz
Hannah McKeeth
Heidi McKinnon
Larissa Hotra
Hannah Wright
Krystal Sirman
Rianne Van Doeveren
Willow Heske

2007 Fellows

Johnathan Homer
Adam Nord
Audrey Roberts
Caitlin Burnett
Devin Greenleaf
Jeff Yarborough
Julia Zoo
Madeline England
Maha Khan
Mariko Scavone
Mark Koenig
Nicole Farkouh
Saba Haq
Tassos Coulaloglou
Ted Samuel
Alison Morse
Gail Morgado
Jennifer Hollinger
Katie Wroblewski
Leslie Ibeanusi
Michelle Lanspa
Stephanie Gilbert
Zach Scott
Abby Weil
Jessica Boccardo
Sara Zampierin
Eliza Bates
Erin Wroblewski
Tatsiana Hulko

2006 Interns

Laura Cardinal
Jessical Sewall
Alison Long
Autumn Graham
Donna Laverdiere
Erica Issac
Greg Holyfield
Lori Tomoe Mizuno
Melissa Muscio
Nicole Cordeau
Stacey Spivey
Anya Gorovets
Barbara Bearden
Lynne Engleman
Yvette Barnes
Charles Wright
Sarah Sachs

2005 Interns

Eun Ha Kim
Malia Mason
Anne Finnan
Carrie Hasselback
Karen Adler
Sarosh Syed
Shirin Sahani
Chiara Zerunian
Ewa Sobczynska
MacKenzie Frady
Margaret Swink
Sabri Ben-Achour
Nitzan Goldberger

2004 Interns

Ginny Barahona
Michael Keller
Sarah Schores
Melinda Willis
Pia Schneider
Stacy Kosko
Carmen Morcos
Christina Fetterhoff
Stacy Kosko
Bushra Mukbil

2003 Interns

Erica Williams
Kate Kuo
Claudia Zambra
Julie Lee
Kimberly Birdsall
Marta Schaaf
Caitlin Williams
Courtney Radsch