Diasporas in Dialogue: Lessons from Reconciliation Efforts in African Refugee Communities

Published date01 December 2014
Date01 December 2014
C R Q, vol. 32, no. 2, Winter 2014 177
© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. and the Association for Confl ict Resolution
Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) • DOI: 10.1002/crq.21111
Diasporas in Dialogue: Lessons from Reconciliation
E orts in African Refugee Communities
Barbara Tint
Vincent Chirimwami
Caroline Sarkis
is article presents the African Diaspora Dialogue Project (ADDP),
a fi ve-year capacity-building project that conducted needs assessment,
dialogue groups, dialogue facilitator training, and community-led
peace-building processes for multiple refugee communities from Africa.
ADDP, conducted in the United States, was created to address his-
torical grievances that had traveled with community members into
the diaspora. Particular challenges facing refugee communities were
addressed, culturally congruent peace-building models were developed
and implemented, and participants were trained to become commu-
nity facilitators. A framework for dialogue was developed as well as
lessons learned so that other communities may consider embarking on
similar processes.
We have so many problems in diff erent African communities. For
instance, we have confl ict between diff erent Somali clans, and then we
have a confl ict between Somalis and Ethiopians. We have problems in
the Great Lakes community. We have a problem inside the Congo where
we have diff erent groups, and at the same time we have the Congolese
confl ict with Rwandese because of war in Eastern Congo. With the
Liberians: between the Americo-Liberian—the descendants of former
slaves—and original or native Liberian. So there are a lot of problems in
the African community; for each refugee group there is a problem. And
they bring those problems with them to the United States. It makes it
hard to organize the community when there are those confl icts. And we
C R Q • DOI: 10.1002/crq
are so scared to tackle this issue because it is very sensitive and we don’t
know where to start. (ADDP participant)
So began the African Diaspora Dialogue Project (ADDP), a fi ve-year
capacity-building program in Portland, Oregon, that created oppor-
tunities for engagement, reconciliation, and community building in mul-
tiple immigrant and refugee communities from Africa. Predicated on the
awareness that historical confl icts from home regions were traveling with
migrant populations and aff ecting resettlement eff orts and cohesion in the
diaspora, ADDP saw the need and the opportunity to provide a safe forum
for community members to come together to address their fractured past,
their diffi cult present, and their uncertain future.  ese refugees from the
genocide in Rwanda, the civil war in Liberia, the communal disputes in
Ethiopia, the ongoing confl icts in Burundi and Congo, and the civil unrest
in Somalia and other parts of the region arrived in the United States with
great trauma behind them and great challenges ahead.
is article addresses capacity building, reconciliation, and dialogue
processes in diaspora communities and shares lessons learned and recom-
mendations from our eff orts. We hope to add to the literature on diaspora
communities by addressing the unique dimensions of interdiaspora con-
ict.  e article proceeds in three sections.  e rst provides a theoretical
framework underpinning ADDP design and objectives.  e second sec-
tion off ers a detailed explanation of ADDP, inclusive of project design and
methodology. It ends with a discussion of the project outcomes and how
they relate to the existing literature.
Diaspora Communities
When the music changes, so does the dance.
African proverb
Background and Resettlement Issues
Diaspora populations around the world present an ever-growing global
force. While our work focused specifi cally on communities from Africa, the
regions of the world represented by heavy migration are many and always
shifting.  e increase of migration is rooted in various issues comprising
vestiges of colonization, civil wars, ethnic confl icts, famine, rural under-
development, lack of opportunity, and political complexities. Migration

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