What is a peace committee?
The peace committee is a grassroots organizational model, composed of volunteers coming from all social categories (bahutu, batutsi, batwa, displaced persons, repatriated persons, residents, “bahingantahe” (elders), demobilized combatants, freed political prisoners), struck by different cycles of violence that engulfed their homeland, Burundi. They are reunited around common values and strongly determined to assure peaceful cohabitation in their localities through engaging within a framework of dialogue, reconciliation, memory, unity, peaceful conflict management and mediation, mutual aid, solidarity, supporting the vulnerable, warning, protection, expression, promotion of women, morality and civilization and reconstruction.
As a structure that has a vast experience, peace committees are among the most effective ways to bring back peace, build peace and successfully restore broken relationships.
The peace committee does not duplicate the existing State structures. Peace committees are structures that are known by the administration to do what they can to guarantee expected change namely, reestablishing peace and relationships in the community and transforming our society into a society characterized by the values of non-violence. Mi-PAREC calls the peace committee members; CHANGE AGENTS.
Function of peace committees:
The peace committee functions in the community to:
- Lead a reconciliation process in a divided community
- Establish dialogue between members of a divided community
- Encourage morally those in despair
- Support, morally and materially, vulnerable persons
- Mobilize the community to rehabilitate the houses of vulnerable persons (repatriated persons, displaced persons, orphans and others)
- Advocate for vulnerable persons to the appropriate authorities
- Mediate conflicts
- Lead in a change of behavior and attitude in the face of conflicts
- Promote peace
- Establish “restorative justice” in community members
Mi-PAREC encourages community members to express themselves and to be heard, to negotiate their interests, to organize themselves, to transform conflict, to take responsibility and to have a culture of citizenship.