Finding peace amidst a legacy of conflict and resolution
The 20:15 train to Birmingham, 15 September 2010 — As I look around, the familiarity of being back in the United Kingdom makes the last two weeks seem surreal. Had I actually spent them in Rwanda, exposed to the stark realities of conflict, raw and uncensored? I flick through the photos on my camera and am quickly reminded of just how real the past fortnight had been, as I consider the deep effect it would have on me for the rest of my life.
In May of last year, I was fortunate enough to have been selected as a member of the Steering Committee for the Royal Commonwealth Society’s Nkabom International Youth Leadership Programme. Founded in 1868, the Royal Commonwealth Society is an international educational charity whose mission is to support and promote the modern Commonwealth, its culture and core values. Mawlana Hazar Imam is a Vice President of the organisation.
Naveed Somani with local school children at an environmental conservation project in Rwanda. Photo: Courtesy of Naveed Somani
Nkabom (pronounced ink-a-bom) means ‘coming together’ in the Ghanaian language of Twi, and the international leadership programme was first held in Ghana in 2004. It aims to equip young people with conflict resolution and peace building skills, recognising the capacity of youth to contribute to this important area.
At our first meeting we selected 38 young leaders from over 500 international applications for the interactive 10-day programme. The participants came from widely different backgrounds, comprising an astonishing array of races, religions, nationalities, and cultures — but they were united by a desire to become agents of peace.
Rwanda proved to be the ideal setting. The country’s history of conflict is well known — but it also offers a model for conflict resolution. It is the Commonwealth's newest member and a remarkably young country – the median age of Rwandans is 18.6. The necessity, therefore, for young Rwandans to be agents of change is greater than elsewhere.
With our participants and location selected, the Steering Committee spent a sweltering summer putting together a programme that could both stimulate and inspire our young participants. Despite our hard work and planning, we could not predict the profound effect the programme would have on all of us.