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Top>People>Organizing support for rebuilding citizens' lifestyles and disarmament in war-torn Afghanistan and Sudan


Organizing support for rebuilding citizens' lifestyles and disarmament in war-torn Afghanistan and Sudan

Ms. Rumiko Seya
Specified Nonprofit Organization Japan Center for Conflict Prevention (JCCP) Director

Entered the Faculty of Policy Studies wanting to find a solution to the main causes of conflicts

The Professional Job Methods program broadcast on NHK General on April 21, 2009 was titled Goodbye guns and hate. It was a documentary following the relief activities in southern Sudan of Japan Center for Conflict Prevention (JCCP) director, Rumiko Seya, who graduated from the Faculty of Policy studies in 1999.

This program presented a close up view of Seya supporting former soldiers to return to normal society. Before that, Seya went to Afghanistan as a Foreign Ministry official on a disarmament mission called DDR. DDR is short for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration. Seya's task is to put everything into disarming soldiers in countries (and regions) involved in conflicts, and through returning former soldiers to civilian life, support a return to peace for all citizens.

Seya was made aware of countries involved in conflicts as a 3rd year student at high school when she saw a photo from the genocide in Rwanda (1994).

"It was a photo of children desperately trying to wake their dying mother at a refugee camp. On one side of the world there were these children in a refugee camp with a dying mother, and here in Japan, was me looking at that photo while having a snack. I wondered how this situation came to be," Seya comments. She continues, "I also wanted to find out what the world is made of to be so different in each region." It was with that, that she decided to enter Faculty of Policy Studies to study about problems occurring throughout the world.

Winning the Yutaka Akino Award through investigations in Bosnia and Croatia

Seya became a non-governmental organization (NGO) intern during her university days. In the summer holidays of her 3rd year she travelled to Rwanda. But it was to be a bitter experience, and as Seya puts it, "it only amounted to a home stay with a Rwandan family.

Seya found out that she lacked the skills to offer any support. In addition to an aid worker needing language skills for communication, one must have the ability to decide what aid is necessary for the area and how to successfully deliver that aid. So in September 1999, Seya enrolled in the conflict solving Master's course at Bradford University's graduate school in England.

"There were about 60 students from all parts of the world and all walks of life. Former Cambodian soldiers, former UN PKO personnel, Red Cross doctors and so on. Studying alongside these people and having numerous discussions, I felt a glimmer of confidence that I too, could work in an international society." (Seya)

To compile research for her Master's thesis, she went to Bosnia and Croatia in July 2000. Her theme was the Bosnia-Herzegovina conflict (in 1991, Croatian military police and the Yugoslavian Union Army clashed over Croatia's declaration of independence. After that, confrontations between Muslims, Croats and Serbs deepened the conflict, resulting in a civil war that continued until 1995) and how to reconcile the opposing factions.

"On the surface it appeared calm, but I could feel the deep roots of conflict. Even in the same town I saw many instances of groups divided only by a road avoiding each other."

Seya's involvement relating to conflicts led her to being given the Akino Yutaka Eurasia Fund's Akino Yutaka Award (established by people who shared the same enthusiasm toward peace and conflicts as the late Yutaka Akino who was shot and killed while working as an official for the UN monitoring mission to Tajikistan in July 1998).

NGO is not working as a volunteer, but as a professional

Since then, she has spent time in Rwanda working for the NGO she completed her internship at in her Chuo days, 15 years as a UN volunteer in Sierra Leone, and in Afghanistan for 2 years from 2003 doing DDR, including negotiating with militarist commanders. She joined JCCP 2 years ago and started her activities in southern Sudan in February 2009. In the television program, the support she provided Michael, a young soldier hoping to be discharged from service and attend school, was particularly striking. Seya meets Michael's superior officer many times to try to persuade him to let Michael go. After finally winning him over, Seya's words to Michael with an uncertain future were as follows. "This is your life, not mine. You must think for yourself from now on."

"This is your life, not mine. You must think for yourself from now on."

The aim of JCCP aid is to make people independent. Since July, on request of the UN development planning office in Somalia, they have been involved in conflict solving at a community level by training police and maintaining the judicial system.

Seya stresses, "In relation to NGOs like us, in Japan there are aspects which are seen to be volunteer activities, but that is not the case. As conflict solving professionals, we are working on-site, and at times doing work the UN is unable to do."

Because of this professional awareness, they are able to go into war stricken regions such as Sudan and Somalia, regions with endless dangers, and pursue their aid activities.

(Offered by: Chuo Daigaku Gakuin Jiho Volume 459)
Photos courtesy of Japan Center for Conflict Prevention

Ms. Rumiko Seya
Graduated from Faculty of Policy Studies, Chuo University in 1999. Awarded with a Master's degree in conflict solving from Bradford University in England. Worked for UN PKO, the Foreign Ministry and NGOs etc. Recipient of the 2nd Akino Yutaka Award. Has worked in Rwanda, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire etc. Specializes in post-conflict reconstruction, peace-building, security sector reform (SSR), soldier disarmament, demobilization, reintegration (DDR) etc. Also works at the African PKO center, developing training curriculum for soldiers, police and civilians, as well as being a lecturer.