Andrea Lucia was stationed in Rwanda on the border to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Having been sent by the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Entwicklungshilfe (AGEH), she was working with the Civil Peace Service, a program financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Here she outlines what it's like to work as a peacebuilder. Andrea is currently based in Jordan.
- The field of peacebuilding entails work in various areas such as Rule of Law, Human Rights, Conflict Management, Education, Livelihood and Health. The complexity of transforming a society from war to peace includes establishing formal systems, as well as new social norms.
Background to the Conflict
It takes decades for a society to recover from the deep hatred that was actively fostered between the two main ethnic groups in Rwanda, the Hutus and the Tutsis. In 1997, the JPC was re-established in Cyangugu in order to assist the Rwandan society in overcoming the horrors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis.
After the genocide, which left around 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead, the country has managed to foster two decades of unprecedented development and recovery. Nevertheless, tensions remain in the border regions, as the DRC faces wars and a general state of instability, Burundi struggles with its own past of ethnical war and Uganda tries to find its stony way to become a modern democracy. The interconnectedness of the four countries is only deepened by the continuous movement of their people, due to perpetual eruptions of violence throughout the different regions in the last century.
The long-standing cooperation between the AGEH and the Rwandan JPC is part of the continued assistance in recovery and development, in order to strengthen the sustainability of the peace in the great lakes region.
A Day in the Life of a Peacebuilder
The field of peacebuilding entails work in various areas such as Rule of Law, Human Rights, Conflict Management, Education, Livelihood and Health. The complexity of transforming a society from war to peace includes establishing formal systems, as well as new social norms. In the Civil Peace Service – one of the contributions to peacebuilding by Germany – we work on social cohesion, non-violent conflict resolution and education. As Integrated Advisors, we sit in Rwandan organisations to support and strengthen their peace work. We work with different organisations ranging from youth NGOs, survivor organisations or faith-based organisations.
My responsibilities as Advisor to the Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) are threefold.
What does a typical peacebuilder do?
- Contributing to organisational development. For example, establishing a professional way of doing monitoring and evaluation for all activities.
- Assisting the mediation initiatives in the field, which includes initiating a regular system of supervision for the mediator.
- Helping the JPC to connect and present themselves well by for example, developing PR materials or doing actors mapping.
I see myself as the invisible helper who is catering to the region’s needs, to help the JPC reach its full potential and carry out its vision. I try to bring in an outside perspective and assist in coming up with creative new ideas and approaches.
My days normally start quite early. I get up around 6am and go for a morning run. I use this time to get my thoughts together and to get my body and mind moving. Nature here in Cyangungu is simply breath-taking and I’m sure the beauty of my duty station helps me to stomach many other shortfalls or difficult moments.
In addition, the continuous availability of electricity and running water, together with the high level of security, make Cyangugu an excellent place to work. When work allows, I love to go to the market, go rowing on the lake or travel around. I am in the lucky position that my boyfriend is also working and living in Rwanda and he is not only a very important source of support and inspiration, but also my companion in exploring the region and discovering new places.
My day at the office starts with a round of hellos and chats. Personal interaction is still very much valued and is the most effective way of being updated about programs, challenges, new developments or activities.
"To build trustful, open and transparent relationships with my colleagues is key in order to be able to assist and initiate change in a cross-cultural and multi professional work setting."
The coordinator of the JPC, Philipp, is my direct counterpart with whom I work with the closest. Together we strategize new ideas, initiate changes and develop programs.
As the JPC, we cover the geographical area of the Dioceses, which covers about 1/8 of Rwanda. This means we are often driving through the country to visit different Justice and Peace committees.
These committees are the ones implementing the programs at the community level. Our mandate is to support and assist them. I am mainly working with the mediators to reinforce their capacity, develop tools and manuals for them, which ensures that their work upholds the values of human rights, non-discrimination and international/national law. During long discussions and storytelling on small, uncomfortable wooden benches, we try to find out what they need from us in order to be able to do their work better.
Another focus of our work is to address the trans-border tensions between the population of Rwanda and DRC. We meet with the Cyangugu group of our COSPAX program, which brings together women vendors from the border region of DRC, Rwanda and Burundi. Programs like COSOPAX try to re-establish positive relationships and connections. With the COSOPAX Mamas, we develop small-scale economic initiatives. For example, the Rwandan Mamas collect and store second-hand clothing, which they then bring to the DRC Mamas, who can sell them for a profit because of the large demand for clothing in the DRC. Through their shared business endeavor, they get to know one another and their knowledge of business is strengthened. The program also fosters social cohesion through workshops and trainings.
The evenings in Cyangugu are incredibly impressive, with the sun setting over lake Kivu and Bukavu, which makes it easier to stay a little longer to finish up some office work and prepare for the next day. Which will - more likely than not - turn out completely differently from what I expected. "Work “in the field” demands a high level of independence and pro-activity, mixed with enough flexibility to adjust and change plans when necessary."
But that’s one of the beauties of working as Peace Building Advisor. You keep being surprised. All the time. And as long as I keep the ability to be excited and happy about the unpredictability of my work, I’m exactly in the right place!
About Andrea Lucia
Born in a sleepy town high in the beautiful Swiss mountains, Andrea Lucia Arnold holds an undergraduate degree in social work. After completing her studies, Andrea Lucia worked as a social worker in Switzerland and France, mainly working with autistic individuals and drug addicts. She then moved Berlin, Germany to study Intercultural Conflict Management at the Alice Salomon Hochschule. The interdisciplinary Master’s program covers topics such as Human Rights, International Relations, Conflict Management and Mediation. It brings together individuals from a variety of nationalities and provided Andrea with an overview of the relevant topics in the field of peacebuilding.
After obtaining her M.A., Andrea Lucia worked with swisspeace in Bern, where she specialized in Mediation. She then returned to Berlin and received insights to international peace operations with the Centre for International Peace Operations (ZiF), until finally venturing off on her first “field” assignment as a UNV with OHCHR in Northern Uganda. Since early 2014, she has been working as an Advisor for the Justice and Peace Commission (JCP) of the Dioceses of Cyangugu in Western Rwanda. The JPC is an institution of the Catholic Church, with the mandate to foster a society guided by peace, justice and human dignity and is active in many countries in Africa, as well as in Europe, Asia and South America.
Andrea Lucia is currently stationed in Rwanda on the border to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Having been sent by the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Entwicklungshilfe (AGEH), she is working with the Civil Peace Service, a program financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Originally published August 27, 2014