Great Lakes: Trade unions' conference on peace building opens

United Nations IRIN Report, 24 May 2004

NAIROBI, 24 May 2004 (IRIN)—A conference of trade union representatives from the Great Lakes region opened in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday, on the role of labour unions in conflict resolution and peace building.

Facilitated by the Africa Regional Organization of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU-AFRO), the conference is being held ahead of an international conference on peace, security, and development in the Great Lakes, organized by the UN and the African Union (AU) on the region.

The general-secretary of ICFTU-AFRO, Andrew Kailembo, said the objective of the Nairobi conference was to ensure that trade unions can be brought on board in conflict resolution and to evaluate the strategies and steps or actions that have already been taken by trade unions in the Great Lakes region.

Kenya's foreign affairs minister, Kalonzo Musyoka, presided over the opening of the conference. He said trade unions would play an important role in the management of conflict and peace in the Great Lakes region.

Unions will help cultivate an environment of tolerance and dialogue that will be beneficial to the entire great lakes region, he said.

He added that union representatives had valuable experience in negotiation and compromise, a resource that could prove useful during the AU-UN conference.

The conference ends on Wednesday, with the drafting of a statement to be presented to a summit of regional heads of state scheduled for November in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Civic, economic and religious organizations drawn from the Great Lakes region have been holding preliminary meetings ahead of the AU-UN conference.

On 10 May, the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa (FECCLAHA) facilitated a conference of religious leaders from seven countries.

The concept of an international conference on peace, security, and development in the Great Lakes region was brought to the attention of the UN Security Council following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, FECCLAHA said.

It added that the objective of the conference was to bring together the leaders of the countries in the Great Lakes region to reach an agreement on a set of principals and to launch programmes of action to end the cycle of conflict and violence; and ensure durable peace, stability, security, democracy, and development in the whole region.

Other recent GREAT LAKES reports

Religious group opts for traditional methods of conflict resolution, 12/May/04

Religious group prepares for regional conference, 10/May/04

Civil society groups lobby for participation in regional conference, 29/Apr/04

Kigali denies massing troops on Burundi border, 22/Apr/04

Displaced in Bujumbura, 15/Apr/04