Project Partners Meeting in Nairobi

The Great Lakes Region has witnessed some of the direst conflicts on the African continent. Rwanda's 1994 genocide shook the world, but at the time little was effectively undertaken to stop it. In Uganda the decade long rebellion of the Lord's Resistance Army fuelled by uneven developments and the push back by the army left ghastly wounds throughout the region. Burundi has faced ongoing struggles since before its independence and is currently in a deep political turmoil. And more than 5 million people have died as the result of the conflict in the DRC, Africa's World War. Those cycles of conflicts are rooted in tensions over ethnicity and citizenship, grievances over access to resources, in poverty and inequality and in unregulated population movement among others.

To address some of the challenges the region is facing, to strengthen existing structures and to consolidate peacebuilding in the region, GPPAC, ACCORD and NPI embarked on a 3,5 year project, the Great Lakes Project. The main aim of the project was to enhance the regional peacebuilding capacities among non-state and state actors and strengthen the channels and infrastructures through which underlying causes of instability and conflict in the Great Lakes Region of Africa can be addressed. To achieve this, the Great Lakes Project worked with intergovernmental, state and civil society actors in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, particularly in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.

As the project is coming to an end, at the end of this month, the project partners met in Nairobi, Kenya 16-17 June for a final partner meeting. During these two days, a number of topics were discussed, including the evaluation of the project, reflections, lessons learned and finalising the implementation of the final activities. There were also strategic discussions on how to build on the work of the project after it comes to an end in June.

One of the main achievements during the 3,5 years of the project is the facilitation of the formal establishment of the Regional Civil Society Forum that is linked to the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in February 2016. This was the final step of a process which led the project partners to support the setting up of ICGLR National Civil Society Fora in 5 countries in close cooperation with the Chairperson of the Regional Forum, the ICGLR secretariat, the representatives from the member states. This provides a formally recognised platform for engagement between Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), the ICGLR and its member states. This platform allows CSOs from the region to strategize, engage their respective governments on important peace and security issues in an organised manner and raise their points directly with the Heads of States during their summits. This opportunity now must be seized by the CSOs throughout the region and the project partners will seek to popularise the Forum further through a joint handbook for CSOs.

Other achievements include:

  • Lobby and advocacy to increase the support for CSO-RIGO engagements and the RCSF in particular,
  • Training to women peacebuilders in Uganda in cooperation with UN women (March 2016) as part of UN Women's "women's situation room" initiative to address tensions before/during and post-election times,
  • Production of policy paper on the ICGLR, analysis of regional trends and responses and the development of a CSO Handbook on how to engage with the ICGLR to capture the experiences, learnings and insights of the Great Lakes Project.

GPPAC, NPI-Africa and ACCORD reaffirmed how the project built on their respective strengths and experiences. It connected capacity-building, establishing infrastructures for peace and facilitating platforms for collaborative actions with the provision of avenues for influencing political developments at local, national and international level. Building on this successful collaboration the three partners are looking at furthering their joint work in the region and on the continent.