The New Times (Kigali)

14 November 2012

Central Africa: Regional Clerics Set Up Forum to Promote Peace

A conference of religious leaders from the Great Lakes Region has agreed to set up a permanent forum that will enable Faith Based Organisations (FBOs) to promote peace in the region.

A communiqué issued at the end of the one-day inter-faith regional conference that took place in Kigali, yesterday, noted that African countries need to embrace home-grown solutions in dealing with internal conflicts among other factors.

It attracted over 100 religious leaders from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Organised by Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), the conference aimed at engaging FBOs representatives in effectively contributing to sustainable peace in the region.

The clerics also agreed to conduct rotational meetings and study tours, to share experience and best practices or initiatives developed in member countries, to curb conflicts.

"Unless we come up with our own means as Africans, to deal with conflicts in our countries, we shall not be able to achieve the development we ought to," said Uganda's Mufti, Sheik Shaban Mubajje.

Giving Rwanda as an example, Mubajje said the stability the country enjoys is a key factor that has enabled quick recovery and development that has been realised after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

He observed that for any country to develop, all parties including religious and opinion leaders, the local population and politicians must have the will and commitment towards working for the country's development.

"I was here in 1996, and I know very well what this country looked like; but the rate at which it is developing is evident, and can be attained by any other country provided there is stability and peace," he said.

During the conference, participants discussed causes of conflict and limitations to realising peace.

The meeting committed to support peace efforts spearheaded by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and other regional or bilateral peace mechanisms.

Rt. Rev. Nathan Kamusiime Gasatura, the Bishop of Butare Diocese, said the forum will create linkages between FBO's, something he said has not been in existence.

"This approach will bring us together, and I am optimistic that it will play a coordinated role in promoting, owning the responsibility for any believer to contribute towards stability in their respective countries," he told The New Times shortly after the conference.

Rev. Kisanga Mutekulwa, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, said that the initiative is a wake-up call for religious leaders to take on their expected responsibility in their communities.

"The conflicts in the region today call for dialogue to make sure that governments work together simply because, the unrest in one country will automatically affect the neighbours either economically or politically or both," he said.

He called on political leaders to work together and join hands with the church, saying this will bring about peace even beyond the region.

Prof. Prof. Anastase Shyaka, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Governance Board, highlighted on the expectations of the new development, saying there is no doubt that the population has trust in FBO's, especially in promoting unity and reconciliation.

"As RGB, we believe that it is stability that will enable good governance not only in Rwanda, but even beyond," he said.

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