My trip to DRC was an emotional one. The picture of DRC is that of so much conflict, so much pain in the most humble village yet i found the people of DRC from the places I went to, to be truly friendly and social, we were made to feel welcome wherever we were, there is so much African hospitality, and music that you end up absorbing it. I have read a lot about DRC, I had read that Kinshasa is the third largest city in Africa after Lagos and Cairo, I had read about the conflicts, the huge natural resources, the exploitation, the rape, the poverty… it was not my first trip to DRC- I have been there several times as a voracious reader. Completely understanding something that i read, or heard makes traveling so worthwhile. Whenever i am in a new territory, i probe- new ideas, curiosities – what the native customs are, what is unique about the people, country, if any. When I travel what often strikes me is that I find out that we are all one people, Of all of the benefits of traveling, I think that this is the most far reaching and the most significant. I am always happy as a traveling peace maker because i know that people are our most treasured gifts on earth. Traveling and communication with other people can help us in actively promoting harmony and ending prejudice, only if we see each person for who they really are. We are often unseeing because of stereotype, prejudice, and prejudgment. A visit to the Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary in DRC, got me thinking – is there anything we could learn from the peaceful apes? Bonobos are found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between the Congo River, and the Lomami River in Lac Ndombe region. The bonobo often called man’s cousin is one of the closest relatives of humans with 98% of similarity in its genetic material. The bonobos are called the “make love, not war” apes since they seem to resolve the majority of conflicts through sexual activity. Can we actually learn a thing or two from them? These apes we are told don’t victimize each other in many ways— no rape, murder, infanticide, warfare between groups—No aggression among bonobos, known to use sex to avoid violence- more sex equals less conflict. Hmmm. What are our close primate cousins teaching us? I’ve learned lessons i don’t think would have taken hold in me if I hadn’t experienced them by diving out of my comfort zone and traveling and interacting with new people, in a new environment . It gave me a better understanding and turned my curiosities into discoveries. What I think we could learn from the bonobos is that the female bonobos have a very strong bond, their sense of solidarity and sisterhood is powerful, it explains why they dominate their males by sticking together. If a male gets out of line or get in the way of a female; all the other females will team up against him. This sisterly solidarity tends to keep the males in good conduct. Within the bonobo paradise, it’s the females who are in charge and this ensures better quality of life for the group. When females are in charge, all bonobos live better. Feminism can be really powerful! I watched the bonobo apes on the top of a hill in Congo living like a family. I could see that every baby bonobo demands love and was loved and admired. I realized more than ever before the need to love, the need to overlook faults so that everyone can pull together. Again, i learnt that love and understanding is the key to our survival as a human species.
A lot of people live their lives by keeping their heads down, any conflict they have, they are soaked in it, and some seem to do everything they can to avoid the person they are conflicted with. They are afraid to talk. They are afraid to ‘offend’ etc. The results are often unresolved issues, unconstructiveness, misperceptions about another person’s intentions, escalated negativity, and internal stress etc. Personally, I am not afraid to talk when I am engaged in a conflict because I know that real communication is the key to conflict resolution. Not talking holds us back. I believe in –person conversations based of course on good intentions because the only way to resolve an issue permanently is through a real, open conversation, a face to face conversation in which you can listen not only for voice tone, you listen to the heart and watch for body language. Negotiation and Mediation is certainly the key and the most peaceable means of settling differences. So please Think, Talk, and Mediate!
– Ayo Ayoola-Amale