Albert Atama lives in Aru, a territory in Ituri province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, bordering Uganda and South Sudan. The region has long been affected by the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), which moves between the porous borders of the three countries. Albert is the coordinator of peace and reconciliation activities in Aru, and supports young people to find paths away from violence.
Jjumba Martin/Conciliation Resources
I became a peacebuilder because my country and my home is a victim of armed groups, violence and war. A lot of people, displaced by conflict, came to Aru to look for peace. I saw how they were crying, and afraid and that affected me. It made me want to support victims of conflict, when armed groups attack.
I was working in the Church when fighting began in 2008, and when the bishop and the other religious leaders decided to work for peace in the region, they chose me to be the leader of the peace programme.
I have helped create nine peace committees in Aru and Faradji territories. Their role is to stabilise the population, alert people when there are attacks by the LRA, and show them where to run to and how to protect themselves. They also help to resolve conflicts between community members and displaced persons – those who are refugees or are retuning to their homes after fleeing conflict.
We also help to support young people in this region, including those who have escaped from the LRA. Those who have been in the bushes for a long time, have a lot of trauma. We provide councilling and work with the community to help them return to their homes and families. We then work with these young people to help them become peace actors – to help their community accept other returnees, and to encourage other young people not to join the LRA.
It is so important to work with these young people, because the LRA target them to become fighters in the bush. We want to give them entrepreneurial skills and opportunities so they are less likely to join the LRA.
For a long time young people have been ignored by the peace actors in their communities. We are training young people in mediation, reconciliation and human rights to help them take responsibility for the future, to become the next peace leaders.
Peacebuilding is important, because no one can improve the situation on their own. Conflict and insecurity are enemies of the development of communities, families and individuals. We have to work together. I hope in the future that the communities, young people and religious leaders I work with have the skills and information to be able to resolve conflict by themselves.
Today I am very proud because I have spent nine years working for peace in my community, and the skills I have gained from Conciliation Resources have been very important to me. When the community consult me to help resolve conflict, to advocate for change or to help build their capacity, I am playing an important part in helping my community to live in peace.