In the shadow of large-scale conflicts such as those in Somalia, Darfur and eastern DRC, and the international peace processes that have attempted to resolve these conflicts, Africa has a rich experience of local, indigenous peacemaking that is seldom reported in Western media. Fjallraven Kanken Pas Cher These peace processes usually revolve around consensus-making, truth-telling and restorative justice, and have a strong focus on rebuilding community relationships. Oftentimes traditional authorities, such as chiefs or elders, lead these processes and serve as mediators. There are also many examples of civil society groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) playing important roles in local peace processes. Local conflict resolution initiatives become particularly important in cases where the state is weak or when conflict erupts in very remote areas. For instance, local peace processes have played key roles in creating peaceful zones in some regions of Somalia, which has been virtually without a functioning state since the early 1990s. Similarly, local peace processes have been important in dealing with communal conflicts in countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Nigeria, where the state has lacked the capacity to intervene in remote areas. New Balance Femme A number of case studies and anthropological accounts have documented traditional conflict resolution practices in different parts of Africa, and how they have been used to address conflict within and between communal groups. These practices often have a long tradition of constructively dealing with conflicts so that local livelihoods and community relationship can go on or be restored. At the core of these processes is a focus on maintaining community harmony and social bonds, and for this reason they tend to rely on reintegration and restorative justice rather than on punitive measures. Mediators act as facilitators and help the conflicting parties negotiate an agreement rather than trying to persuade and manipulate through the use of incentives and punishment. A person or persons with high status and legitimacy in the community, such as chiefs or elders, usually play the role of the mediator. Deliberations are allowed to take the time necessary to reach an agreement that is acceptable to all parties, and followed by offerings of forgiveness and compensation. Peace is often sealed through symbolic rituals, such as sharing meals and drinks. While such processes are perhaps best suited to deal with small-scale intra-community conflicts, they have also been used in situations of violent conflicts between communal groups, sometimes in the form of massive peace conferences stretching over many days, with participants from a large number of neighbouring groups. One example is the inter-clan peace process in Somaliland in Northern Somalia in the early 1990s, which created relative peace and stability in this region while the rest of the country succumbed to violent conflict. Similarly, from 2004 to 2009, elders from the Borana and Gabra clans of the Oromo, an ethnic group mainly residing in Ethiopia and Northern Kenya, held several peace meetings based on customary conflict resolution procedures. The process, aimed at ending recurring violent conflicts between the pastoralist groups, culminated in a peace declaration which was based on customary Oromo law, and which was then endorsed by the local authorities. adidas y3 pas cher Another illustrative example of successful local peacebuilding took place in the Wajir district in Northeast Kenya in the 1990s. The district is located next to the border with Ethiopia and Somalia, and is mainly inhabited by ethnic Somali. In the early 1990s, intense violent conflict broke out between the major clans in the district. The fighting was ignited by competition over local political power as the country held its first democratic elections in late 1992. Background causes of the conflict included severe underdevelopment and marginalisation, further aggravated by a series of droughts as well as an influx of refugees and small arms from the conflicts in the neighbouring countries. air max homme pas cher As the violence escalated, local clan leaders and elders mobilised militias and enlisted mercenaries from across the border. The local administration lacked both capacity and willingness to intervene and uphold security, and the whole district became unsafe, with banditry and looting thriving in the destabilised situation. What eventually turned the tide of the Wajir conflict was a locally driven peace process that began with an initiative by a group of women who tired of the continuing violence and insecurity. After meeting with other market women who similarly felt it was time to do something about the conflict, they approached other community members and eventually local clan elders. The group, which became known as the Wajir Peace Group, then enlisted leaders of the minority clans in the area to act as neutral mediators between the feuding majority clans. In late 1993, a peace meeting was held which led to the adoption of a declaration for peace. The group also attempted to involve the district administration and state officials in the peace process, and succeeded after a new District Commissioner (DC) was appointed in 1994. The new DC took strong steps to improve the security situation and deal with the lawlessness in the area. Mochilas Fjallraven Kanken By the late 1990s, stability and peace had been restored, and thereafter, recurring peace festivals have helped manifest the peace and reinvigorate intercommunity relations. The peace group became institutionalised under the name Wajir Peace and Development Committee and its relation to state administrative structures formalised. oakley pas cher The success of the Wajir peace process hinged on a number of aspects. First of all, the process was inclusive, with all parts of society – women, youth and local businessmen as well as clan elders – taking part in the peace process and the ensuing peacebuilding and demobilisation work. Second, and relatedly, the process was locally owned and locally driven – its legitimacy derived from the usage of indigenous, traditional practices and authorities, and money for peace meetings was raised locally, which gave a certain pride in the process. Third, the complexity of the conflict and the multiple actors and interests involved were acknowledged, and the conflict resolution process was allowed to take the time necessary for dealing with this complexity. Finally, the constructive cooperation of the authorities with the local group and their shouldering of the responsibility of upholding security aided the peace process and helped ensure that it was not derailed by isolated events of cattle raiding or banditry. This constructive cooperation has meant, among other things, that Somali traditional justice systems have been allowed to function alongside Kenyan law, and the two have been recognised as complementary rather than contradictory. These brief examples illustrate the existence of vibrant traditions of local peacebuilding in Africa. While customary conflict resolution mechanisms have many limitations – for instance, the groups involved need to share the same cultural traditions and worldview, the practices can be elitist and exclude women and the young, and traditional leaders and institutions may be manipulated by national politicians – it is clear that they have the potential to constructively resolve local conflicts and are an important complement to state institutions, especially in remote areas and weak states. Furthermore, the core principles of consensus-making, reintegration and rebuilding relationship are applicable far beyond local African communities, and may serve as an inspiration for conflict resolution around the world. Key sources/ for more information, see: Boege, Volker, 2006. “Traditional Approaches to Conflict Transformation – Potentials and Limits”, Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation, HYPERLINK “http://www.berghof-handbook.net/” Farah, Ahmed Yusuf, 1999. “Roots of Reconciliation: Local Level Peace Processes in Somaliland”, Alliances for Africa Bulletin, November 1999 Ibrahim, Dekha and Janice Jenner, 1997. “Wajir Community Based Conflict Management”, Paper presented to the USAID Conference on Conflict Resolution in the Great Horn of Africa, June 1997 Menkhaus, Ken, 2008. “The rise of a mediated state in northern Kenya: the Wajir story and its implications for state-building”, Afrika Focus 21(2) Ndegwa, Stephen, 2001. “Peace Building among Northeastern Pastoralists in Kenya: The Wajir Peace and Development Committee”, in Beyna, Larry S., Michael Lund, Stacy S. Stacks, Janet Tuthill & Patricia Vondal (eds.), The Effectiveness of Civil Society Initiatives in Controlling Violent Conflicts and Building Peace: A Study of Three Approaches in the Greater Horn of Africa. Washington DC: Management Systems International Scott-Villiers, Patta, Hussein Boru Ungiti, Diba Kiyana, Molu Kullu, Tumal Orto, Eugenie Reidy and Adan Sora, 2011.

 

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