Contrast in Culture Shared by Zambian Peace Advocate
While preparing to leave the Kootenays after four months of study at Selkirk College, Issa Sadi Ebombolo had a moment that helped illustrate the difference between Canada and the work he does as a peace advocate in Zambia. It happened while he was standing in a bank line in downtown Nelson.
“In the most conflicted countries in Africa, you cannot have a bank without a security guard standing up with a gun,” Ebombolo says. “The gap is just too big, there is no second class. There is just the higher class and poor. The poor have no other option other than use violence in order to have access to the resources. Any business places in these most conflicted countries will need a gun for protection. When I didn’t see a person standing with a gun at the bank in Nelson, this was an important determinant of peace.”
It’s one of many observations Ebombolo is packing home after four months enrolled in Peace Studies on the Castlegar Campus.
Issa Sadi Ebombolo spent four months in the West Kootenay studying at Selkirk College.
A Journey for Understanding
Ebombolo arrived to Canada in August after being selected to take part in the Selkirk’s Mir Centre for Peace exchange program with the African Peacebuilding Institute. The institute offers an annual intense and experiential education opportunity to Africans who are working at the community level across the continent. The Mir Centre has built a relationship with the institute so that Selkirk’s Peace Studies students can take part in this annual program.
Ebombolo works with an organization called Peace Club in Lusaka, Zambia where he is one of the directors. Trained as a mathematics/science high school teacher, Ebombolo switched gears in 2003 when he dedicated himself to peace building and conflict transformation on the African continent.
“I have learned a lot at Selkirk College,” says the 44-year-old. “From the basic training in my peace education in Africa, it’s all about peace at a community level. The four months I have spent at Selkirk, I have had an opportunity to learn peace at a global level and this is very important to me. The knowledge I have acquired at Selkirk College, I will use it in my organization and beyond Zambia.”
Zambia is located in the southern half of the continent. It is a stable and powerful African nation, with the World Bank naming it one of the world’s fastest economically reformed countries. Since independence in 1964, there has never been an armed conflict in Zambia.
This is not the case north west of Zambia where the Democratic Republic of Congo has been devastated by a lengthy and bitter civil war. Ebombolo grew up in Congo and the country remains one of the places he focusses peace efforts on.
While taking part in his studies at Selkirk College and during his discussion in the community, Ebombolo found those he interacted with were very interested in his work and the current situation in the most war-torn countries in Africa. He also discovered many times, those he spoke with had a clouded vision of the reality in Africa today.
“It’s not about Congo alone, but all about the whole continent,” Ebombolo says. “The media has painted the whole continent with a black picture and this black picture has remained in the brain of the people. You can see from the questions I received over the last few months that the picture people have about the whole continent is war, diseases, HIV and AIDS, corruption, the killings, forests, animals… this is what is in the mind of the people.”
To read more about Ebombolo's experience at Selkirk College head to the full feature at selkirk.ca.