Training Seminar on Early Warning and Early Response Mechanisms in Kinshasa

On April 15-17, the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) joined with the National Committee for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and All Forms of Discrimination of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRCNC) to hold a Training Seminar on Early Warning and Early Response Mechanisms for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention. The three-day event, which was supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung, was held at the Elais Hotel in Kinshasa and worked towards four primary objectives including: (i) an introduction to the field of prevention, (ii) the development of core skills and competencies, (iii) the provision of technical assistance for early warning, and (iv) the advancement of the Committee’s institutionalization process.

Following a welcoming dinner, the first day of the seminar opened with an introductory session and opening remarks made by Felistas Mushi, Chairperson of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region’s Regional Committee on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and All Forms of Discrimination, Ambassador Thomas Terstegen of the German Embassy in Kinshasa, and Colonel Pierre Bossale, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s National Committee. Ms. Mushi congratulated the DRCNC on reaching the historical milestone represented by the inaugural training seminar, while Ambassador Terstegen highlighted German support for preventive work in the region and Colonel Bossale relayed a message from the Minister of Justice of the DRC, highlighting the government’s commitment to furthering peace and stability.

Dr. Ashad Sentongo, Director of AIPR’s Africa Programs, then delivered the seminar’s opening keynote address. His remarks raised the national and regional context within which the event was taking place and underscored the importance of good governance and cross-sector stakeholder engagement in the prevention of mass atrocities. Dr. Ashley Greene, Academic Programs Officer at AIPR, then led an introductory module that reinforced participants’ understandings of core concepts in prevention. Next, Dr. Samson Barigye, a Conflict Prevention and Reconciliation Advisor with USAID’s SAFE Program, delivered a module entitled “Developing a Community-Based Early Warning and Response Mechanism.” To conclude the first day, Professor Raphaël Nyabirungu of the University of Kinshasa led a module on “Education and Atrocity Prevention” before Dr. Sentongo returned to close with a segment that reflected on the day’s work.

The second day of the program opened with a module entitled “Institutionalizing Mechanisms for Genocide & Mass Atrocities Prevention,” led by Dr. Sentongo and Ms. Mushi. This module focused on challenges and lessons learned with regard to the operation and continued integration of National Committees into their domestic structures of governance. Ms. Laura Anyola Tufon, the Northwest Regional Coordinator of Justice and Peace Service in Cameroon, then led a module on gender mainstreaming in the field of prevention. She was followed by Aloys Mahwa, Country Director at the Living Peace Institute, who shared a case study on combatting sexual violence in the DRC before Dr. Sentongo closed the day with a second reflective session.

The seminar’s final day began with a module by Justice Lydia Mugambe of the High Court of the Republic of Uganda covering legal instruments for atrocity prevention. This was followed by two extensive planning sessions for the DRCNC, during which short, medium, and long-term objectives were identified and enshrined in work plan to guide the body’s work moving forward. In accordance with the National Committee’s priorities, the plan emphasizes the development of mechanisms for early warning and early response. Finally, Dr. Sentongo and Colonel Bossale returned to the podium to deliver the event’s concluding remarks, thanking participants for the three days of intense and productive work.