The Creation of IPHR
A bedtime story that inspires and reignites a passion for life*
November 2001. School work continues to grow more intense as students anxiously anticipate their upcoming inter-semester break.
Elvis Mbembe Binda, Yves Sezirahiga, Raymond Ngamage, Paulin Muhozi, and Tom Mulisa have just begun their first year of Law School at the National University of Rwanda. As classes march on, these soon-to-be IPHR leaders frequently find themselves involved in intense debate.
“What is the meaning of justice?”
“How do you enforce due process?”
“What is peace?”
These are just a few of the questions ardently discussed by the lawyers-in-training.
In order to ensure that these debates are fully exploited, Elvis, Yves, Raymond, Paulin, Tom, and others decide it’s best to move the discussion from the classroom to the common room.
Every other week, these inquisitive students get together and talk. Their talks span a range of topics — from human rights to peace to democracy. Every member has his/her own opinion on the issue being debated. This safe space allows each student to both express their thoughts and to learn from their fellow classmates – classmates who will one day work together within Rwanda’s legal forces to promote the realization of justice in East Africa.
– Phase 1: TPD –
As time passes, the student discussion group grows larger and larger, incorporating many students from surrounding countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The group grows so large, in fact, that it has to be officially registered as a student organization by the National University of Rwanda. And so, Tous pour la Paix et le Developpement (TPD) (English translation: All for Peace and Development) is created.
After just being established, TPD quickly begins to thrive. Local leaders and university lecturers frequent the meetings, making presentations and leading discussions. However, with the inclusion of more students and professor-led presentations, TPD somehow begins to change. It no longer focuses on human rights as it once had in the past.
In response, the to-be-members of IPHR search for another outlet to discuss human rights. They begin a partnership with Rwanda United Nations Association(RUNA), which lets them use RUNA as a platform for informally organizing any event they feel to be relevant.
– Phase 2: FECS –
As the end of their four-year long Law Program nears, students began making arrangements to move out. Some are headed to Kigali and others to DRC or Burundi. However, despite the ever-present pull of diverging life paths, the members of the student discussion group are not ready to sever their ties. Thus, Forum d’Echanges pour la Cohesion Social (FECS) (English translation: Exchange Forum for Social Cohesion) is born.
FECS creates a platform where young adults in Burundi, DRC, and Rwanda can share their experiences about peace. And, because of the region’s ongoing recovery from The Great War of Africa (which involved nine African countries — Zimbabwe, Angola, Chad, Sudan, Namibia, DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi), the platform proves very relevant and readily accepted. However, like TPD, FECS also quickly begins to part from its focus on human rights, leaving a void to be filled.
– Phase 3: IPHR –
In 2007, Initiatives for Peace and Human Rights (IPHR) is formally established by the Nyarugenge district. Four years later, IPHR also receives government authorization to operate as an International Non-Government Organization (INGO).
As has (hopefully) been clearly communicated in past blog posts, IPHR is a human-rights focused non-profit with a mission: “To equip communities and individuals living in Africa’s Great Lakes Region with the Human Rights knowledge and Good Governance skills needed to build a global culture of peace.”
In order to accomplish this mission, IPHR actively provides free legal defense tovulnerable populations, offers free education on human rights, and provides basic training to local leaders on the principles of good governance.
The idea is to create a system of accountability – one where citizens in Africa’s Great Lakes Region are educated enough to insist upon legal defense of their rights and where local leaders are trained on how to properly uphold the law.
– Phase 4: The Future –
IPHR has big dreams for the future.
IPHR hopes to organize a Youth Camp where it will teach youth ages 20 and below on how to solve conflict without the use of violence. Using this Youth Camp as a spring board, IPHR also hopes to establish peace clubs in secondary schools.
In addition to training youth on non-violent conflict resolution, IPHR is currently working to establish a Mobile Legal Aid Clinic. This Mobile Legal Aid Clinic will provide advice to poor individuals living in rural areas – individuals who otherwise would not have the means to gain access to legal advice or defense.
A Mediation Center is also high on IPHR’s list of priorities. This center will allow citizens to solve their own disputes with the guide of a mediator and the legal authority of a court judgment. Additional positive side effects of establishing a Mediation Center include both a reduction in the backlog of cases awaiting court trial and faster dispute settlements — which correlates with happier, more productive citizens.
– Phase 3.5: Getting to Phase 4–
Of course, in order to accomplish these visions, IPHR needs help.
Specifically, IPHR needs three things: Money, Volunteers, and Partnerships.
At present, IPHR does not have a central office nor does it have any paid staff. All members of IPHR work pro-bono. However, to really get IPHR on its feet and working at full capacity, it needs an office in which to get organized and at least two permanent staff members to handle daily administration needs and follow-up on projects. IPHR also needs money to buy a car for transportation in order to transform the much needed Mobile Legal Aid Clinic from idea into reality.
In addition to money, IPHR need volunteers. IPHR needs willing souls with large hearts who have some expertise to offer in law, human rights, conflict resolution, communications, organizational development, and/or technology. IPHR needs international ambassadors that will help them promote their cause so that they can effectively implement their mission.
Lastly, IPHR needs partnerships. IPHR knows there is a great deal of strength in relationships – both personal and professional (though, let’s be honest, in human rights work that which is professional is also most personal). Thus, IPHR needs other organizations that it can team up with and that will, together, work towards a future defined by justice and peaceful coexistence.
– How to Help –
If you would like to help IPHR increase its capacity by donating money, please do so by selecting this link. At the bottom of the page you will find a Donate Button with a yellow box positioned to the left of it. Within the yellow box, please enter any amount you would like to donate. Once you feel comfortable with your donation sum, please select the Donate Button and follow the proceeding directions. All money submitted through this mechanism will go straight to IPHR.
Furthermore, if you would like to volunteer or partner with IPHR, please feel free to send an email to me (email@example.com) or to firstname.lastname@example.org (or both!). We will be happy to respond to your email as soon as possible.
–Photo Flashbacks –
IPHR Then: Founding members of IPHR, circa 2002
IPHR Now: Founding members of IPHR, circa 2012
Elvis, Paulin, Raymond, Yves, and Tom (from top-left to bottom-right)
Founding Members Elvis, Paulin, Raymond, Yves, and Tom (from top-left to bottom-right)
* This blog entry is entirely based on fact, although some sort of artistic license has been taken regarding the story’s composition. Actually, I wanted to add an element of love to make this post all the more captivating, but that would have been a complete fabrication and I decided it best to uphold the integrity of history.
Posted By Mallory Minter
Posted Aug 2nd, 2012