Projects for Peace and the Kathryn Wasserman Davis Collaborative in Conflict Transformation at Middlebury are pleased to announce the 2024 Projects for Peace Alumni Award recipient: Bienfait Hahozi Mugenza of the Democratic Republic of Congo and founder of the Congo Peace Academy in Goma.

Now in its second year, the award grants $50,000 to support the ongoing peacebuilding efforts of a past Projects for Peace grant recipient who demonstrates innovation and persistence in working for peace and transforming conflict.

Headshot of Bienfait Hahozi Mugenza wearing a black suit jacket, white shirt, and red tie in front of a white background.
Bienfait Hahozi Mugenza

“We are deeply impressed with Bienfait’s creative work and dedication to lasting peace,” said Middlebury President Laurie L. Patton. “His efforts represent the best ideals of conflict transformation. He works to develop multiple capacities, whether those are entrepreneurship skills or the everyday practice of dialogue across difference. This kind of complex perspective, paired with dedication, is the key to successful peacebuilding over time.”

Mugenza was nominated for the award by the University of Rochester, where he was a Bridge2Rwanda Scholar and political science major in the Class of 2021. Mugenza’s 2018 project, “Peace through Entrepreneurship in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” sought to empower youth to drive positive change through leadership, entrepreneurship, and peacebuilding education in Eastern Congo.

“As we know all too well, unresolved conflicts often lead to prolonged cycles of misery and destruction,” wrote Mugenza in his alumni award application. “We encourage cross-cultural dialogue and discourse to break down communication barriers in our communities, while allowing people to generate mutually acceptable solutions to their problems. We believe that by recognizing the relevance of conflict in our daily lives, we can better understand what it is to be fully human.”

Mugenza also established the Congo Peace Academy while still a university student. Its mission is to improve the resilience of local communities against violence by promoting interethnic dialogue, cultural exchange, youth empowerment, and collaborative approaches to conflict resolution for lasting peace. The center’s programs include entrepreneurship, leadership, peacebuilding, conservation agriculture, and a new program in digital literacy.

After graduating in 2021, Mugenza returned to his home country to continue his peacebuilding efforts. His vision has been to bring together young Congolese for training and dialogue so they can identify problems and find solutions. He also helps participants find jobs so they can support their families and chart a positive future. As one of his references noted, youth empowerment and peace are his life’s mission and not a project done on the side. 

The alumni award will aid the development of Tech4Peace, a digital literacy program at the Congo Peace Academy that equips youth to critically assess and counter false information as well as promote transparency, civic engagement, and interethnic harmony online.

“By developing tech skills, Congolese youth can significantly increase their chances of accessing high-quality job opportunities and creating innovative initiatives in the technology and related sectors,” Mugenza wrote. “Our creative approach to integrating technological skills with moral values and a civic mindset is crucial for establishing a firm foundation for lasting peace, reducing harm, and promoting social justice.”

Conflict as Catalyst

“Moving away from destructive conflict requires identifying ‘conflict entrepreneurs’—people who benefit from divisiveness and violence,” said Sarah Stroup, director of the Davis Collaborative in Conflict Transformation. “In his approach to peacebuilding, Bienfait Mugenza reveals the need to also support ‘peace entrepreneurs.’ These are people with the commitment and capacity to build peaceful communities filled with meaningful economic and civic opportunities. Providing a meaningful alternative to investing in war and violence is the first step toward a possible peace in DR Congo and beyond.”

About Projects for Peace

Projects for Peace is a global program that encourages young adults to develop innovative, community-centered, and scalable responses to the world’s most pressing issues. Student leaders have increased their knowledge, improved skills, and established identities as peacebuilders and changemakers. 

Each year 125 or more student leaders from participating institutions are awarded a $10,000 grant each to implement a Project for Peace anywhere in the world, typically over summer break. Projects for Peace are often grassroots activities that address the root causes of conflict and promote peace. 

Visit the Projects for Peace website for more information.

About the Kathryn Wasserman Davis Collaborative in Conflict Transformation

Launched in March 2022, the Kathryn Wasserman Davis Collaborative in Conflict Transformation is the centerpiece of a seven-year, $25 million grant aimed at incorporating conflict transformation skills into every corner of the Middlebury community while building a global network of scholars and practitioners. The Projects for Peace Alumni Award was developed in collaboration with the Kathryn Wasserman Davis Collaborative in Conflict Transformation at Middlebury.