Jun 25, 2010

More foreign aid needed to build peace

I have been granted a chance to meet someone whom I wanted to meet for so many years.  Finally I managed to meet her in her office in Tokyo on Tuesday.  She is the president of JICA, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Ms. Sadako OGATA. 

In April 1995, I was in Bukavu, Zaire as a coordinator for Caritas Japan team working in one of more than 30 Rwandan refugee camps in the area.  It was exactly one year after the beginning of genocide in Rwanda.  On 11 April at 10 pm, our camp, situated in a village called Birava, was attacked by several armed soldiers coming from the lake Kivu which was the border between Zaire and Rwanda.  They managed to cross the lake by 3 boats, according to several eye witnesses. The Birava camp was facing against to Rwanda where refugees, Futu people, came from.  Officially, no one knows who were these soldiers who attacked the camp that night.  Rumor among refugees said they were RPF from present Rwanda.  No one knows.  What I remember is 2 hours of exchange of fire and sounds of bomb blasts.  What I remember is more than 30 dead and more than 150 injured people.  I was shaken.  I can not forget the experience of that night.  Still as at now, whenever I pass by the construction site and hear the sound of jackhammer, I immediately recall that night.  At that time, we could not rely on the Mobutu's army since they were not paid enough or at all.  So we wrote a letter of appeal among Caritas members in the area to Ms. Ogata who was the High Commissioner of Refugees of UN at that time.  The local representative of UNHCR in Bukavu was Mr. Patrick D'souza who used to work for Caritas before.  He immediately took action and negotiated with the UN to hire Zaire soldiers as their own security force to protect camps.  So I wanted to thank Ms. Ogata for quick response at that time.

Now working for Japanese government as the president of the Government foreign aid agency, she shared a lot on foreign aid policy of Japan and peace building.  This meeting was organised by the publisher, Don Bosco and will appear as their article on the September issue of "Katolikku Seikatsu", a Japanese Catholic monthly magazine.  Ms. Ogata is a practising Catholic.  She emphasised that Japanese people have to realise that Japan can not survive by itself alone but only in cooperation with other countries.  To secure world peace, development aid to poorer countries is a must for Japan.

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