Monday, December 19, 2011

Mama Great Lakes leaves peace and security abound

Ambassador Liberata Mulamula (Mama Great Lakes) is the outgoing Executive Secretary of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). She was in Kampala to attend the 4th ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Forum of Parliaments for the eleven member States. Esther Nakkazi spoke to her about her five-year term at the helm of ICGLR and how she realized the goal of keeping peace and security in the region.

QN: What has been most challenging in your job at ICGLR?
I was the first Executive Secretary of ICGLR and I had to establish it from scratch. I have seen it grow within its mandate of establishing peace and security.

QN 2; What were your achievements during your five-year tenure in office? The region was very unstable, there was rebellion in Burundi, guns in the Democratic Republic of Congo but we have seen some of this end like Burundi is stable and they had elections. Through this framework we were also able to contain rebel leaders like Congolese rebel leader Laurent Nkunda.
In my tenure, nine countries have undergone elections under the last two years. I had to deploy election observers because as ICGLR we had to see to it that elections are held in a peaceful manner, we bring in politicians and engage all the parties prior.

We have deployed former leaders like Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania. We deploy different people depending on the mandate but people identify themselves with past leaders and they also mobilize political will. Even if we still have challenges of armed groups; what we have achieved so far has given me a lot of satisfaction.

QN 3: What makes ICGLR different from other similar organisations?
The convening power and the ability to address issues which are unique to the Great Lakes region. By convening power, I mean, the Conference brings together everybody; civil society sits on the same table as government; women and youth play an equal role. No body can cry that they are left out.

QN 4. There are concerns that the resolutions you make may not be legally binding. What should be done to enforce them?
We have legally binding resolutions since we operate under a pact but implementation of the commitments is lacking in the sense that Heads of State take decisions but when they go back, it is left to the secretariat to push for implementation.
We also need implementation at the institutional level. There are weaknesses of follow up. For instance we talk about Sexual and Gender Based Violence but there are places with no police stations. Women are raped and they cannot report it. There is a vacuum.
You also need a lot of political will. I have seen it. To get it you have to do a lot and get the political leaders to commit and make resources available so that we implement whatever decision is taken.

QN: How are member states performing in terms of funding ICGLR?
We have had 80 percent contribution, so member States are doing very well and they fund most of our operations. With other funding, partners are earmarked for specific activities.
You know ICGLR is on good track. Countries are here because they believe in corporation, integration, consensus building, dialogue and good relations. It brings me hope that as we continue like this, it will bring us peace and stability in the region.

QN: Isn’t there duplication of efforts with other agencies like IGAD, the East African Community to which member States also belong?
We have a specific mandate as ICGLR, which is peace and stability to enable economic growth for communities. Usually, however, our roles are complementary although that is not what the public see. There is no duplication as such but what happens is organizations make competing decisions, which is where we find problems. Fortunately, we have signed Memorandum of Understandings with other regional organizations.
QN: How have you managed all of this with your family?
It is a balancing act as a mother and wife I have responsibilities. There is also so much sacrifice. You have no life of your own. By now I should be planning a birthday party for my son but I am here. There is a lot of understanding from my two children and my husband.
But my father modeled us in this way. In terms of leadership, he said, you have to be respected but live to your commitments and integrity.

QN: What about as a woman working with Heads of State and rebel leaders- has training and experience helped?
I am a political scientist by training and I have a Masters degree in Governance. I have worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tanzania and Foreign Service.
My relationship with Heads of States has been extremely good, they were all ready for my engagements and there is no single country in the region whose Head, I have not met in their own capital.
I helped build confidence with some rebel leaders. For instance I went to see Nkunda and he listened. When such people see me, they see themselves in me. They said I am not intimidating, they see mama who can listen and carry their message. This has helped build confidence. That is why they call me ‘mama Great Lakes’.

QN: Any departing words as executive secretary?
I am leaving a foundation for achieving peace and stability in this region.

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