Community led justice
Chirezi Foundation and Baraza
Fondation Chirezi and some organizations in Burundi and East DR Congo are working in peacebuilding and conflict prevention and resolution. With students and local communities we are experiencing a renewed system of conflict prevention/resolution/transformation thanks to the structure of peace called Baraza. Baraza is a Swahili word meaning Gathering. it is really a gathering because every one in the community is invited to take place, to have a voice and to have a say in every thing pertaining the village. It is a space where voices can be heard. Not only voices of conflict and failures but also voices of success and breakthrough. it is a space for local community, runned by the local community for the interest of local community.
Community Peace Courts
These Barazas have what we call Community peace courts which are not punitive, have nothing to do with penal cases but resolve peacefully conflicts and disputes of people. Where poor people were not access fair justice, because of corruption in DR Congo and Burundi, local, poor, rich and wealthy all of them are not able to come under one village community court which is there to fairly resolve their conflicts.
Positive trends of Baraza
These Baraza are not only resolving conflicts but also challenging other matters of community such as community development to enable every one in the community to contribute towards the development of their area. Talking baraza means talking the whole community life engaging all the community. It is there fore positive to see how people donate their times to go arounf the village to see where there is problem and how the village can resolve the problem, in their internal way ,using their local means.
Why structure of Baraza?
This structure is imported from our ancestors system of gathering people under a big tree of the village to attend their problems and conflicts. It was a place where everyone was coming to contribute for the advancement of their community. A decision which was taken during hearings was engaging everyone and whoever did not accept the verdict was contracting the whole village and was seen as an outsider. This was also an alternative system of equitable justice were poor and rich were under one umbrella: the community.
Why coming back to the system
We have seen that justice and conflict resolution today is almost between the hands of modern justice and modern infrastructures which are not fair, accessible by all and properly managed. The experience of South Kivu and Burundi were we are trying to implement the Baraza is showing the imperfection or failure of the judicial and conflict resolution system of today wwhich is bringing more problems than it is resolving them. With the help of Peace Direct and Tiri, two UK organizations we have now seen that a local structure of conflict resolution, prevention and transformation, a system of fair justice is possible. After one year we have resolved more than 200 conflicts which could have brought vibrant tensions and taken away life of people.
Many people do not go to police stations to get solutions to their problems and don’t go to district magistrate any more. This is bringing the police to have more flictions with the Baraza.
The cost of running those community courts and encouragement for volunteers of peace and courts responsible.
It is important that such structures be in places in areas with high risk of conflicts in order to help people resolve peacefully themselves their disputes rather than imported means of conflicts resolution, prevention, transformation.
“We have the ambition of continuing help local population to resolve their problems in the community thanks to the community. We have established the forums but we need donors who can help in funding work of those Baraza” Floribert Kazingufu