Quakers have been acting as election observers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo this week, where violence and allegations of widespread irregularities have been made about the poll. Observers from the African Union were calling for calm while reports about the problems were gathered.
Kinshasa Monthly Meeting, in the capital city of Democratic Republic of the Congo, trained and prepared 100 of their neighbourhood peace committee members to be election observers in the presidential election. They met under the motto of “Our Peace Work is Our Evangelism”. In a show of international Quaker solidarity, Canadian Friends Service Committee has also sent 5 Canadians (from Nova Scotia and Ontario) to join Kinshasa Monthly Meeting’s team. The team has official standing through the Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante.
Kinshasa Friends say that this is a major achievement for them, and though tensions are high in their community, and they are very uncertain about the future, they are glad to have had so many people showing their commitment to peace working beside them.
Kinshasa Monthly Meeting was founded in 1993, after some of the group attended a course on conflict resolution presented by Simon Fisher of Responding to Conflict, a Birmingham-based non-government organisation. There they learned about the “unprogrammed” form of worship (as practised in Britain) and the peace testimony. Then they organised their service committee, named Muinda Project for Peace, and its two sisters, Action pour la Jeune Fille and Association Femmes pour la Paix (AFP). Since 1995, Project Muinda has coordinated “Peace Cells” (les cellules de paix), one in each neighbourhood of Kinshasa. Along with AFP, they were active in democratic education of the neighbourhoods during the transitional government and election period of 2003 to 2006, and they are active in the Quaker Peace Network Africa (QPN). “Muinda” comes from the word for “Light” in several languages used in Kinshasa. It has grown from the light of hope in each of its members, who are all Congolese determined that their city and their country can be a peaceful home. It was with QPN’s encouragement that they took up the idea of election observation for the current election period. Election observation has been a motivating activity for QPN since 2004.
Kinshasa Friends’ current work is partly funded by the sales of the hand-crafted handbags, shoulder bags and back packs produced by Action Jeune Fille, and partly by grants from Canadian Friends Service Committee, Ottawa Monthly Meeting, and Change Agents for Peace International. Kinshasa Friends have stated that by being involved in election monitoring they hope to reduce the opportunities for violence during and after the presidential election. Their team is not only trained in the technical knowledge of election observation, but also in conflict de-escalation and resolution. Some members used these skills five years ago, and several incidents that might have led to injuries were calmed.
Kinshasa Friends as for your prayers and your moral support.
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