Civilian and Military Participants in Living Peace Share Their Experiences of Change on Congolese TV

Living Peace - DRC

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Living Peace – DRC

The Living Peace Institute (LPI), Equimundo’s affiliate in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), works to promote gender equality, prevent gender-based violence, and restore peaceful family and community relations in post-conflict Congolese society. Through psychosocial support and group education for men and their partners, coupled with community campaigns and outreach, LPI aims to help couples and families rebuild their relationships and to encourage broader social change.

As part of its campaign in North and South Kivu, LPI uses local television broadcasts to disseminate Living Peace’s messages. On March 30, 2016, two participants from the Living Peace program took part in a broadcast on Hope Channel TV in Goma: Mr. Abby Yafali, a civilian participant in the pilot project in 2013, and First Sergeant Tchabu Kaseke, a military participant in the project in 2015.

In DRC, relations between the military and civilians are often violent, due to legacies of conflict in the country. Through awareness-raising campaigns by Living Peace, the two groups have begun to interact as ambassadors of peace.

Below is the interview in full:

Journalist: Hello dear viewers and welcome to the Living Peace broadcast. Living Peace is a project of the Living Peace Institute, which works in post-conflict contexts to target vulnerable populations including youth, men, and women affected by war and violence.

Living Peace was established to end cycles of violence against women through the engagement of men. Group therapy sessions help men who were exposed to various forms of violence develop constructive, nonviolent coping strategies and healthy, gender-equitable relationships.

We have already met a couple of people involved in Living Peace during previous broadcasts. The first broadcast featured the instructors of the Living Peace Institute, the second broadcast featured the facilitators, and on this third broadcast, we are here with two participants in the Living Peace groups. Today, we are with Abby Yafali, a civilian participant and father of three children.

Abby (civilian participant): Hello!

Journalist: We are also here with First Sergeant Tchabu Kaseke, a Living Peace military participant. Hello and welcome.

Mr. Tchabu, you are a father. What should our viewers know about you?

Tchabu (military participant): Thank you for the question. I want to thank the Living Peace team, because it is through Peace Living that we men have changed by adopting new behaviors.

Journalist: Mr. Abby, you are a father. What should our viewers know about you?

Abby: I am participating in the Living Peace therapy groups. I was part of the pilot project, even before the military began to participate, but I am pleased to see that our dear soldiers are also participating.

Journalist: In the last broadcast, we were with the facilitators and they explained the method of identifying participants. So tell me, when you were chosen for the Living Peace groups, how did you feel?

Abby: When I was asked to join the Living Peace groups, to me it felt normal. I was used to being in groups of different people; I thought this group would be constructive for me.

Tchabu: For me, I’ve always been in the military. I lived in the military world, so one day former members of Living Peace who had become facilitators came to me. They told me that the Living Peace groups could help me to change my behavior, so I agreed to join the Living Peace groups.

Journalist: In a group where you did not know anyone, how did you come to share your life experiences?

Tchabu: For me, when I came to the group, I found other military members; some were higher ranked than I: captains, sergeants, whom I did not know. Through the Living Peace groups, we met and we helped each other with our experiences. Living Peace taught us how to have mutual trust in groups. Trust has grown among us, and we have become friends through the Living Peace groups.

Abby: In the group, there were rules of conduct. Among those rules, there was confidentiality. This rule prohibited us from mentioning the experiences of other participants outside the therapy groups. Confidentiality was among the pillars of the Living Peace group. Through this established trust, we felt comfortable talking about our problems.

Journalist: In the Living Peace therapy groups, are the military and civilians mixed?

Abby: At the beginning it is difficult for the military to join the civilian groups. Military groups and civilian groups are separated. But there are civilian facilitators that conduct the military groups. At the end of the sessions, civilians and members of the military meet and can interact.

Journalist: On this point, the military and civilians become united in the Living Peace therapy groups. We generally know that civilians and military do not live together peacefully in our region ­– how do you manage it in the groups?

Tchabu: I would say that it is through the concepts learned in the Living Peace groups that the military feels changed. For me, before Living Peace, I considered civilians to be subhuman. They had no value to me. I was suffering from a superiority complex with regard to civilians because of my weapon. Following the concepts learned in Living Peace, I realized that civilians are not the enemy of the military. Both are necessary to live together to build a peaceful nation.

Journalist: Despite the lessons learned from Living Peace, military members are known as being brutal men, and people are often afraid of the military. Since you are characterized by all of this, how do you change to become peaceful men, as recommended by Living Peace?

Tchabu: What differentiates me from a civilian is my uniform and weapon. But before I was a member of the military, I was a civilian. Change is a process, and today through the advice from Living Peace, I see a civilian as a brother.

Journalist: Mr. Abby, there was always a fear of the military and a complex between the military and civilians. Has Living Peace resolved this problem? Do you feel that relations between the military and civilians have improved?

Abby: When we talk about change, we refer to the change of men’s attitudes. In our culture there is a division of tasks by gender. For example, washing kids, washing dishes, and cooking are considered work for women. Men who do housework are discredited and criticized. Men have sex with their wives whenever they want, without their consent – it is considered a right reinforced by the dowry the man gave to his wife’s family. I also thought and acted this way before my integration into the Living Peace groups. My wife was an instrument of pleasure for me; I would do everything I wanted to her, whenever I wanted. However, Living Peace has convinced us that women are partners and not property; we have to help each other in our relationship. Women are human beings – they deserve respect and consideration.

Journalist: Mr. Abby, you learned all this in the Living Peace groups; do you practice it?

Abby: I attest to it. I help my wife with the housework – she is following us right now, I am sure she can also testify to it, and she has publicly confirmed it several times.

Journalist: Mr. Tchabu, after your participation in the Living Peace groups, what is the change that has occurred in your behavior?

Tchabu: I have changed a lot from before my involvement in the Living Peace groups. I was an aggressor. I would wear the military uniform and gun at night and situate myself in a corner to wait for people passing by, and I used force to take their money and phones. In short, I was a bandit. I considered myself the strongest of humans; but after the group therapy sessions, I started to realize that the military uniform and the weapon I carry are to protect the civilian population. I realized that in attacking civilians, I was not a model soldier.

When thinking about it, I regret my actions very much. Regarding my home, my wife was very afraid of me and called me “a small man with a hard heart.” My wife was very afraid of me, because when I got angry I used to beat her. She and the kids ran away from home. Through Living Peace I became a peaceful man, I stopped beating my wife and children, and today I no longer assault anyone. My wife and my children are now fulfilled.

Having peace in my home helped me develop, with the help of my wife. I’ve learned to save, and we built a house in the camp. In the military camp everyone pointed fingers at me as I passed and said that I was an alcoholic, a gangster, and that I beat my wife. They said a lot about me, and what they said was true. Through advice I have received from Living Peace, I am a changed man and I am respected by my neighbors who encourage me and congratulate me on the progress that they notice.

Journalist: How do your friends, neighbors, or family members support you in your change?

Abby: During the therapy groups, my wife saw me coming back with homework and I asked her to do it with me because, in fact, after the sessions we were given homework to do at home with them. My wife began to understand, and she supported me. The problem I had was with my neighbors and friends. When they saw me in the process of helping my wife draw water and wash the children, they nicknamed me “the man dominated by his wife” and they said my wife had bewitched me, but I know I’m not dominated or captivated by my wife. These are the results of the exchanges of experience that we learned in Living Peace. When I hid money from my wife, it was not helping either of us at all. Now that we share decisions, we live in a beautiful harmony, and trust has been established in my home.

Journalist: Mr. Tchabu, you claim to be a changed man due to the Living Peace therapy groups. What are the testimonies of your wife or your friends about this?

Tchabu: The evidence is visible. My wife was uncomfortable because of my bad behavior. I am a soldier; I have a salary of 108,000 Congolese francs with a first sergeant rank. Before Living Peace I was hiding my salary from her, I gave her no explanations. Since participating in the Living Peace therapy groups, when I get my salary, we plan everything together. My neighbors keep asking me how I am changing like that. I said it’s Living Peace that has helped me, so they ask me to bring them and want to participate in the therapy sessions too.

Journalist: We know that Living Peace has 15 themes discussed during the therapy groups. What is the theme that has most affected you?

Tchabu: Of the 15 subjects, the theme that touched me the most and that we talk about the most is “violence.” I was having sex with my wife without her consent – I thought it was my right. When I learned this in Living Peace is when I realized that I was violating her.

Abby: There were many themes developed in Living Peace groups. The one that touched me the most is a game where one person is blinded and another person guides him; it taught me that I can receive orders from another person and trust them.

Journalist: Considering you are men who have changed through Living Peace, what do you do to refrain from relapsing?

Abby: After Living Peace groups, we stay in touch with the facilitators. So, if I need help, I can contact them for guidance.

[Many participants go on to guide new groups and become facilitators. They often report that it helps them to focus on the positive changes in their behavior, because when they are facilitators they have to guide new participants in the groups and be role models for them.]

Journalist: What message can you give our viewers?

Tchabu: I am very pleased to have participated in this program. I ask men who are concerned about the harmful behavior of which we have spoken here to please join the Living Peace groups, and they will receive assistance. I hope this program continues, as many other groups could be created in all provinces of Congo and throughout the world. This program will help many men around the world. I support the Living Peace program.

Journalist: Thank you very much for your participation in the Living Peace show, and viewers, I will see you soon for a new episode.

Learn more about how the Living Peace Institute is using radio and television to promote change here.

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