2015 Bearing Witness Retreat in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo

This Retreat is Temporarily on Hold. No dates set yet.

Limited Attendence

24 Spaces Available



The retreat will be multi-faith and multinational in character, based on the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets: Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Loving Action.

Your Fee includes a scholarship for an African Participant. There will be an equal number of Africans and Internationals participating in the Retreat. We have space for 25 Paying Internationals.

The following ZPO Bearing Witness Retreat Spirit Holders will be in attendence: Bernie Glassman (USA), Eve Marko (USA), Grover Genro Gauntt (USA) and Frank De Waele (Belgium) and several African Elders. There is room for 25 Africans, 25 Paying Internationals and 10 staff (5 Internationals and 5 Africans.)

Short History of DRC

DRC is a large country in central Africa, consisting of eleven provinces. It is a country rich in diamonds, gold, cobalt ore, mercury and other natural resources, which are distributed in the provinces. Natural forests and parks form a habitat for a number of animals and birds found nowhere else in the world. It is a country of great cultural diversity. There are over 450 local dialects. This cultural diversity is a major challenge for development. Conflicts resulting from different ethnic interests have brought adversity throughout the country.

DRC has been repetitively thorn apart by wars such as those of AFDR, RCD, CNDP, FRF, M23 and those of MAI MAI that persists to this day. All these events have left a legacy of hatred and revenge which continues generation after generation.

Thus the country became fragile. In the management of public affairs, impunity caused widespread corruption, to the point where the victims of rape and sexual violence are not assisted and their rights are not respected despite the legal regulations.

Today, after the collapse of the M23 rebellion, public security begins to recover in almost all provinces of the DRC with the exception of South Kivu – where armed groups continue to operate, oftentimes controlled by the government. In the current framework, the political party in power wants PPRD revise the constitution, which the opposition is refusing to do. This creates doubt and indecision and often panic among Congolese politicians who do not have a direct impact on the population.

Short History of Bukuvu

Bukavu is part of the ancient territory of Bushi Kingdom, the main ethnic group of South-Kivu. It was governed by a “Muluzi” Nyalukemba, when the first Arabs, then the European arrived in Bushi at the end of the 19th century. (“Muluzi” or “Baluzi” in the plural means « the nobleman or nobility to Shi. It is equivalent to Watutsi or Tutsi in Kinyarwanda. Before the Europeans came in Bushi Kingdom, Bukavu was called “Rusozi”. The name Bukavu comes from the transformation of word ‘bu ‘nkafu ‘ (farm of cows) in Mashi, the language of Bashi. Bukavu was established in 1901 by the Belgian colonial authorities. Originally named “Costermansville” (in French) or “Costermansstad” (in Dutch) until 1954, it had a prominent European population under colonial rule. They were attracted by the subtropical climate (Lake Kivu is 1,500 metres above sea level) and scenic location (Bukavu is built on five peninsulas and has been described as “a green hand, dipped in the lake”). Many colonial villas have gardens sloping down to the shore.

By contrast, the main residential district for ordinary people, Kadutu, climbs up the hillside inland. The surrounding hills reach a height of 2,000 metres. Formerly an Administrative centre for the whole of the Kivu region, the town lost some of its status as result of the growth of Goma.

Following the Rwandan Genocide refugees and many members of the former Hutu-led government fled as part of the Great Lakes refugee crisis. The refugee camps around Goma and Bukavu became a center of the insurgency from the camps against the new Watutsi government of Rwanda. In November 1996 at the start of the First Congo War, Rwandan government forces consequently attacked the Hutu camps, and forces of the then government which allowed the insurgency. The Rwandan government supported rebels in Zaire led by Laurent Kabila who overthrew the Kinshasa government with their help, and then fell out with them, leading to the Second Congo War. Rwanda supported the rebel Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) against Kabila. The RCD was dominated by the Banyamulenge, and Bukavu which with the rest of Sud-Kivu was held by the RCD saw sporadic fighting between rebels and government forces and their proxies, including the Mayi-Mayi, especially in 1998 and 2004.

On June 3, 2004, protestors in several Congolese cities took to the streets to demonstrate against the United Nations for failing to prevent Bukavu from falling to Rwandan-backed RCD forces led by General Nkunda. About 16,000 women were raped on a single weekend after General Nkunda told his troops “This city is yours for three days.

In September 2007 Nkunda, who had been persuaded to fall in line with the peace accords which ended the war and re-integrate his troops with the Congolese government forces, again rebelled and started attacking government troops north of Goma.