What is inhibiting peace in the Greater Horn of Africa?

What is inhibiting peace in the Greater Horn of Africa?

Research on peace in the Greater Horn of Africa demonstrates a complete lack of recognition of the role of non-violent means and techniques to address conflicts.

 Suggested Reading Conflict Background GCCT

By Kisuke Ndiku

In an encounter at a local peace forum, an elder remarked that:

the problem is that peacemaking has become highly commercialized in our locality, just like the conflicts. The government, NGOs and foreigners (meaning local external persons including non citizens as well), and also some of our own local respected people come to us with few short-term activity projects that only focus spending money for peace and this spoils our peace.  But if they leave us alone, we can deal with this (conflict) and there will be peace you will see but they don’t want to leave until their money is finished!”

(Council Elder speaking to author in an interview Mandera County, 2013)

This was very instructive in that it underscores what undermines peacemaking in the Greater Horn of Africa. It is local steps towards peace that would assure sustainable peace (Thich Nhat Hanh, 1991), and it is local peace that shall ensure a strengthened culture of peace based on definitive knowledge, values, beliefs, attitudes, behaviours and choices (Adams D. (2000) pg. 1).

Factors inhibiting peace in the Greater Horn of Africa

The diversity of root causes of conflict in the Greater Horn of Africa is widely reported on. What seems not to have been fully-explored, however, are the key factors inhibiting peace in communities in the region, which can be clustered into several inter-related categories.

A central factor is an over-emphasis on community diversities, its manipulation and exploitation by incumbent leaders, external peace dealers (e.g. law enforcement agencies as outsiders to a community setting), and compromised internal peace makers (UNDP (2011) Draft Discussion Paper pg. 3-5; 8-9;15-17).  Interactive peace dialogues and the real peace makers are hindered from creating socio-environmental contexts capable of fostering resilient means for sustainable peace. The result has been fractured local relations due to externally-structured peace processes that ignore local wisdom and techniques. This seems to have contributed to the inappropriate use of proper means for peacemaking that negate the functions and roles of the most-affected persons to address the real issues towards forgiveness, healing and restorative justice.

The continued existence of unresolved historical injustices – beginning with pre- and post-colonial factors related to land, politics and inadequate access to justice – has been persistently raised by community groups. Closely-linked to this is institutional and policy marginalization, where the state deliberately ignores or withdraws the delivery of services to particular communities and locations, fueling discontent. Socio-politically exclusive dimensions, meanwhile, hinder inclusive representation by gender and marginalized groups (indigenous minorities, youth, women, ethnic, etc) (ACHPR & IWGIA, (2012) pg 37- ff & pg. 50 also UNDRIP RA #8371).  Dispossession of land and local productive assets materialises through exclusive acquisition of land by governments, extractive-based conglomerates, multinational corporations, private sector entities, wealthy individuals and politicians. Vested interests of external governments – operating through formal and informal structures – from time-to-time enforce regimes that favour instability to create opportunities for the exploitation of natural resources.

The impact of economic projects on communities and the local environment – whether for infrastructure, reforestation or other public goods – have caused communities to lose their productive resources, leading to deeper levels poverty. Radicalization and easy access to arms (cultural, political or sectarian), meanwhile, has become a significant threat (Ncube & Jones, (2013). Africa Economic Brief Vol. 4, Issue 5, pg. 4-5 ).  The fact that strategies of externally-supported peace actions tend to have inadequate local links and often lack legitimate institutional foundations meant such efforts had a short-term impact. The short-term nature and narrowness of externally-supported peace initiatives carry the hallmarks of shallow ownership and limited scope to deal with peace needs and priorities, ultimately leaving the local context in a vacuum.

Shifting Paradigms on Community Solidarity and Peace

In the Greater Horn of Africa, pre-independence activism united communities. After independence, however, the models of leadership, governance, political, administrative and service delivery structures created discontent within communities.  Discontent led to dissent and new opposition to the governments formed after independence.  In response, most newly-formed governments used repressive means, while others sought external support to quell discontent.  In some cases, government law enforcement agencies adopted inappropriately unjust responses against civilians (Mandrup, (2012) pg 5-7).  External supporters were influenced by relative affinities to power blocks defined in the lines of communists versus capitalists (ISS; (2011) Monograph 178,).  Repression often led to human rights abuses and institutional marginalization, often disfranchising whole communities (Ncube & Jones, (2013) Africa Economic Brief Vol. 4, Issue 5; pg. 4).  Local discontent often grew into orchestrated conflicts, with one community against another supported by the big powers directly or indirectly (Human Security Report (2010) pg 20).

In the Greater Horn of Africa, deep-rooted causes of conflict and unhealed wounds have led to discontent and intolerant vengefulness. Such issues have, however, not been sufficiently addressed. Instead, more visible elements such as land, mineral wealth, administrative and political borders, actions of political expediency and shorter-term responses have been given more attention.  The motivation behind shorter-term responses to peace seems to be linked to the desire to attain quick wins in the political sphere.  Politics in and of itself is not a bad thing, but it has often been misused, causing hitherto undeserved harm.

Reverting to Local Peacemaking

Research on peace in the region demonstrates a complete lack of recognition of the role of non-violent means and techniques to address conflicts (IPSTC (2013). Issue Briefs # 1 April 2013).  In addition, there is an unpreparedness about how to tackle and make peace.  Peacemaking is also undermined by the insensitivity to the need to profile peacemaking processes with values focused on local people; their peace needs and priorities.  Underpinning these factors has been the tendency to exclude the most affected groups from safe peacemaking processes (Vjeran Katunarić, 2011).  Socio-cultural changes have also tended to limit local indigenous and endogenous peacemaking engagement techniques and forums, thus peace efforts degenerate.

Frequent occurrence of conflict in many communities of the Greater Horn of Africa calls for a practical re-discovery of local peace mechanisms and pillars through which restorative justice, transitional justice and sustainable peacemaking dialogue can be re-founded.  Practitioners and researchers alike need to re-think non-violent peacemaking from within (Funk N.& Said A.A, 2010).  There is a need to embrace new skills and recognize that internal functionaries in communities have crucial roles and responsibilities in peacemaking (de Rivera J. Culture of Peace, 2012). It is time to put down externally-designed tools and embrace more locally-crafted techniques that resolve root causes of conflict, whilst strengthening local peace pillars, thereby providing the basis for lasting peace (Steve Killelea, 2013).  A resolutely long-term perspective in addressing peace is needed if peace dialogues and initiatives will be resilient to yield sustainable peace.

Kisuke Ndiku is based at PRECISE, a regional agency involved in organizational development, strategic management of change, leadership development and planning in Africa.

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