The award, which comes with a travel and tuition grant to attend a session of the Summer Peacebuilding Institute, had already helped the cause of peace that he works for. Nkundwa is executive secretary of Burundi Citizen Synergy, a collaborative group of movements, media leaders and labor union groups working on joint advocacy and communication strategies for peace in Burundi.
The travel grant that brought him to CJP enabled advocacy with politicians and peacebuilders: Prior to the ceremony, Nkundwa was in Washington D.C., where he participated in briefings with the National Security Council and the U.S. State Department, and met with Senator Christopher Coons (D-Delaware) and Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey).
The CJP Peacebuilder of the Year Award is given annually “to CJP alumni who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to CJP’s mission of supporting conflict transformation, restorative justice, trauma healing, development, organizational leadership and peacebuilding efforts at all levels of society,” according to CJP Executive Director Daryl Byler.
Nkundwa is the third recipient of the award. Other recipients are: in 2015, Ali Gohar MA ’02, founder and executive director of Just Peace Initiatives in Pakistan, and in 2016, Tammy Krause MA ’99, an expert in restorative justice. All alumni who have earned master’s degrees or graduate certificates in conflict transformation from CJP are eligible.
In his acceptance speech at a luncheon in his honor, Nkundwa said that the award was for “involvement, not achievement,” and promised to work to bring about change in his country and the region.
He acknowledged fellow Burundi citizens in exile such as Pierre Claver Mbonimpa and those citizens who remain in Burundi who continue to protest human rights abuses. Nkundwa also noted deceased peacebuilding colleague M.J. Sharp ‘05, a fellow EMU graduate whom he had never met but heard many stories about while working in Africa’s Great Lakes region. Sharp, a U.N. official, was killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo while on a factfinding mission.
“I accept this award in the names of all those people I respect so much,” Nkundwa said.
He also praised the academic and practical preparation provided by his conflict transformation coursework at CJP. Now, when confronted with people who say, “It is not possible,” he says, “we must make it possible.”