Insight on Conflict http://www.insightonconflict.org Mapping Local Peacebuilding Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:10:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Copyright © Insight on Conflict 2011 ruairi@peacedirect.org (Insight on Conflict) ruairi@peacedirect.org (Insight on Conflict) 1440 http://www.insightonconflict.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/IoC14x144.jpg Insight on Conflict http://www.insightonconflict.org 144 144 Insight on Conflict is a resource on local peacebuilders in conflict areas. You’ll find information on how local people are working to resolve some of the longest and bloodiest conflicts around the world. Insight on Conflict is a resource on local peacebuilders in conflict areas. You’ll find information on how local people are working to resolve some of the longest and bloodiest conflicts around the world. peace, peacebuilding, conflict, war Insight on Conflict Insight on Conflict ruairi@peacedirect.org no clean Twenty years on, the Rwandan genocide festers across the border http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/twenty-years-rwandan-genocide-festers-across-border/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/twenty-years-rwandan-genocide-festers-across-border/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 08:45:48 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=37883 Dr Denise Bentrovato looks at how the Rwandan genocide and it's aftermath is perceived across the border in DR Congo.

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Rwandan_refugee_camp_in_east_Zaire

Rwandan refugee camp in east DR Congo, 1994

Twenty years on, the memory of the 1994 genocide, pervasive across Rwanda’s thousand hills, lingers on well beyond the country’s borders. It extends into the surrounding region where it is remembered as a shocking and unforgettable event.
Last April, the world commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the infamous genocide that tore Rwanda apart in 1994. In only one hundred days, hundreds of thousands were brutally killed there in one of the worst massacres ever recorded in human history.

July 4 marked the end of a long mourning period which started in Rwanda three months ago. During the past hundred days, Rwandans have been mobilised, this year as every year since 1994, to participate in a multitude of commemorative activities organised all across the country to remember the genocide and its victims. Throughout this period of remembrance, the old and the young in Rwanda have come together to reminisce on the violent past that deeply scarred the nation. They have shared countless stories of unspeakable violence, of miraculous survival and of heroic resistance.

Twenty years on, the memory of the 1994 genocide, pervasive across Rwanda’s thousand hills, lingers on well beyond the country’s borders. It extends into the surrounding region where it is remembered as a shocking and unforgettable event. “It was the cruellest genocide of all times in Africa and we all have to remember it so it will never happen again,” a young Burundian in Bujumbura affirmed when asked about the tragic events that occurred in neighbouring Rwanda two decades ago.

Across the border, Rwanda is widely admired for having been able to bring to a close such a dark chapter in its history and to move towards a brighter future. “Now the past is behind them,” a young Burundian in the central town of Gitega said. “Rwandans have tried to rebuild their country together in the best possible way, developing at great speed,” a Congolese boy in Goma further explained.

Young people in the region look with astonishment at their neighbours’ impressive progress. Rwanda is seen by many as an example to follow, with a great number believing there is much to be learned from this small nation’s ability to rise from the ashes of death and destruction.

Rwanda’s neighbours respect its visible headway, yet also share the concerns, often voiced by critics of the current government, about “the lack of total freedom” in the country and the perpetuation of simmering ethnic tensions among the population.   

While some praise Rwanda’s current government for having managed to unite the nation by putting ethnic differences aside and by focusing on the future, others denounce an alarming situation of ethnic injustice. Reflecting on the current state of affairs in neighbouring Rwanda, a young Congolese in North Kivu affirmed that, “today, power belongs to the Tutsi, who still treat the Hutu in a demeaning way”. A solution to the ongoing tensions, according to one of his peers, would be the promotion of dialogue and ethnic equality in Rwanda “so that the people who find themselves abroad can finally return home”.

The legacy of the 1994 genocide in the Congo

In eastern Congo, many people see themselves as having borne the brunt of the Rwandan conflict that followed the genocide. They reminisce on the catastrophic impact that the 1994 genocide had on their lives.
The effects of the genocide in Rwanda reverberated across the entire region, especially in neighbouring DR Congo. In the wake of the genocide, hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees, including armed génocidaires now organised as the FDLR, poured into the country to escape the advancing Tutsi-led rebellion that stopped the genocide in Rwanda and took power in 1994. Since then, millions have died in the Congo as a result of war and mass violence.

As Rwanda commemorates the 20th anniversary of the genocide, many Congolese today remember the legacy of this tragic event in their own country. In eastern Congo, many people see themselves as having borne the brunt of the Rwandan conflict that followed the genocide. They reminisce on the catastrophic impact that the 1994 genocide had on their lives. “The genocide in Rwanda touched us as well,” a young Congolese from Walikale said. “It makes us suffer today because of the FDLR who terrorise us and who are pursued here by the Rwandan army”.

Pleading for a peaceful solution to the Rwandan conflict which still deeply affects them, Congolese in the war-torn Kivu region decry the decision of the Rwandan government to continue “its” war against its Hutu opponents on Congolese soil after 1994. A young girl in Rutshuru recounted how, “after having chased their rivals out of Rwanda, they continued to look for them here in our place and they made us suffer too”.

Rwanda is accused of having pursued an aggressive agenda in the Congo by brazenly invading the country during the two Congo Wars in 1996-1997 and 1998-2002, as well as by secretly relying on “brutal” rebel movements, notably the CNDP and the M23, who are widely reported to have committed horrible abuses against civilians along the border. “Rwandans like to invade our country under a false name, but I know that it’s Rwanda that is the main actor of everything that has been taking place here in the Congo,” one girl in Sake pointed out.

Rwanda’s military intervention in the Congo, justified by its leadership on security and humanitarian grounds, is bitterly denounced today by the area’s inhabitants. Its memory lingers in the minds of Congolese living close to the border. In the Kivu region, the Rwandese are often labelled as “aggressors” and “invaders”. They are believed to have demonstrated what a youngster from Masisi described as a “spirit of conquest, expansion and domination” towards the Congo during the last two decades. “Our province of North Kivu has known several wars because we live next to countries that want to expand, especially Rwanda,” one boy in Goma affirmed. “These foreigners tirelessly try to occupy us and to drive us away”. And one youngster in Kiwanja stated: “They have been killing the population, stealing and smuggling the rich resources of the Congo into Rwanda, looking for fertile lands for their cows, wanting to dominate us and to annex the Congo to Rwanda.”

Hostility towards Rwanda seems to be rife among many young Congolese in North and South Kivu.Having grown up knowing little else other than conflict and deprivation, some among them openly expressed their readiness to take up arms to defend their country from a threat of Rwandan domination and occupation. “The Rwandese are my enemies,” one pupil in Rutshuru town declared. “They want to take my Congo and I will fight them if I need to”.

Twenty years after the 1994 genocide, the Great Lakes region remains highly unstable. Rwandan Hutu militias continue to destabilise the region, supposedly with the support of Congolese forces. Tutsi rebellions, recently disbanded, are at the same time believed to be regrouping in Rwanda to launch a new attack into eastern Congo. Earlier this month, tensions escalated as troops from both countries assembled along the border after gunfire broke out.

In the midst of bilateral altercations, people in the Kivu’s continue to suffer and hope for an end to the insecurity to which they have long been subjected. “Enough is enough,” a young Congolese in Rutshuru declared; “it is time for everyone to commit to stopping the violence and restoring peace in our dear country, which has been abandoned to the mercy of unscrupulous profiteers”. This umpteenth call for peace deserves to be heard; it urges an assumption of responsibility and robust collective action for the sake of stability and peaceful coexistence in this war-torn region of the world.

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The case for Responsibility to Protect principle in Nigeria http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/nigeria-responsibility-to-protect/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/nigeria-responsibility-to-protect/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 09:56:37 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=37249 Can civil society actors in Nigeria ensure the government upholds the Responsibility to Protect resolution?

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Michelle Obama holds participates in of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign against Boko Haram

The number of people living under constant threat of armed conflict and massive human rights abuses in Nigeria is stunning. Local communities in northern Nigeria are drawn between the Boko Haram insurgents (who attack them on a daily basis) and the state security agencies in the pretext of searching for fleeing suspected terrorists. Recently, there has been unprecedented international attention on the activities of Boko Haram, largely spurred by the appalling kidnapping of 276 girls from a college in Chibok, northeast Nigeria in April 2014, and the ensuing online campaign – Bring Back Our Girls.

Boko Haram activity has grown over time in terms of the number of targets and nature of its attacks. The group has launched hundreds of coordinated attacks across the northern region since July 2009 that have resulted in the deaths of thousands and displacement of tens of thousands more. The frequency and sophistication of attacks has steadily grown; signifying enhanced planning and funding. Targeting the symbols of Nigerian state as well as schools, places of worship, motor parks, recreation centres etc. Furthermore, the violent activities undertaken by the radical group signify uncertainty as well as increased insecurity in Nigeria and the sub region.

In response to the insecurity and prevailing activities of violent extremist groups in northern Nigeria, which culminated in the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls; various civil society organisations, women groups, religious leaders, community elders, and the media have protested and issued statements. These groups have condemned the insurgents’ actions and the Nigerian federal government inaction, calling for concerted and collective efforts, at all levels, in rescuing the girls from their captors and ensuring security of lives and properties in Nigeria.

Among the groups are: Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), a network of 46 civil society organisations in Nigeria that gave recommendations for a multidisciplinary approach to dealing with terrorism, including the need to restore public confidence and cooperation with police/security forces and for the government to address the socio-economic root causes of crime and corruption.

Human Rights Agenda Network (HRAN), comprising civil society organisations working on human rights issues in Nigeria, reported to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in March 2014 the increased cases of extra judicial killings; the use of torture as well as a repressive counter-terrorism administration resulting in increased gun violence and insecurity in Nigeria.

From a regional standpoint, the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) organised a 5 day training programme for the civil society actors and media personnel in West Africa on the norms and advocacy for Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in Accra, Ghana. WACSI calls on all relevant civil society organisations in the West African / ECOWAS sub-region to pull together and add their mobilisation and advocacy weight in the search and rescue of the schoolgirls. The group also called for urgent action by the Nigerian Government to act within the context of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and to take necessary actions.

A volunteer with a civilian militia to fight terrorists walks through Maiduguri, a stronghold of Boko Haram. Image credit: Jordi Bernabeu Farrús

The norm and principle of R2P

In October 2005, world leaders unanimously adopted the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) principle in paragraphs 138–140 of the UN World Summit Outcome Document. In April 2006, United Nations Security Council reaffirmed the principle in Resolution 1674. The principle has also become part of the working language of international engagement with political crises such as in the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and the diplomatic efforts to resolve the post-election conflict in Kenya. As defined by the UN, the R2P is limited to the four crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes. As agreed by member states, the R2P rests on three pillars.

Firstly, each state is to use appropriate and necessary means to protect its own population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity, and from their incitement.

The second pillar calls on the international community to provide assistance and capacity building to states that are under stress and unable to protect their civilian population from mass atrocity crimes.

The third pillar refers to the international responsibility to respond through the United Nations in a timely and decisive manner when national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their population from the four crimes identified above. In 2007, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon identified translating the R2P from words to actions as one of his main priorities and appointed a special advisor on the matter.

All have a role to play in defusing potentially catastrophic situations from happening
However, it is not enough for governments and the global community to agree that mass atrocities be punished. Policymakers and governments must be convinced that preventing mass violence is possible. Preventing mass atrocities and protecting civilians from violence requires collective efforts and actions of governments, civil society groups, and international organisations – all have a role to play in defusing potentially catastrophic situations from happening.

Governments, endorsed by the United Nations World Summit in October 2005 have a responsibility to prevent and curtail genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing. The principle of R2P occupies a central place in Africa’s new peace and security architecture as stated in article 4(h) of African Union’s Constitutive Act.

Therefore, civil society organisations should support efforts to raise awareness and implementation of R2P principles at national levels by incorporating the R2P principles into their work and to hold the government accountable for protecting the civilian populations.

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Working safely with communities: how to mitigate risks? http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/working-safely-communities-mitigate-risks/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/working-safely-communities-mitigate-risks/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 11:44:04 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=37684 Aditi Gorur highlights the risks facing researchers and research participants working together in conflict-affected communities.

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A Stimson Center workshop for civil society organisations in Goma, DRC. Image Credit: Stimson Center

A Stimson Center workshop for civil society organisations in Goma, DRC. Image Credit: Stimson Center

But how can these organisations avoid inadvertently putting communities in danger in the process?
Organisations working on conflict prevention and peacebuilding increasingly understand the importance of making their programmes responsive to the communities with which they work. That means that they need to engage with those communities to understand their priorities and perceptions. But how can these organisations avoid inadvertently putting communities in danger in the process?

Since 2012, the Stimson Center has explored how UN peacekeeping operations can engage with conflict-affected communities, safely and effectively to develop strategies to protect civilians from deliberate violence. If UN peacekeeping operations don’t have the ability to engage directly with conflict-affected communities or their engagement would create a risk to the community, we recommend that they work with civil society organisations that have long-standing relationships with communities and understand the context better than external actors.

In May 2014, the project held workshops for civil society organisations in the eastern provinces of the DR Congo in partnership with a Congolese NGO. All the participants at the workshops were members of local- or national-level civil society organisations who worked with conflict-affected communities on a regular basis, and used information gathered from those communities to advocate to DR Congo government and the international community. Part of the workshops focused on the risks involved in collecting information from conflict-affected communities.

The workshop participants had plenty of experience to draw on when it came to the risks of working with communities. The dangers faced by civil society workers in DR Congo can be considerable, and several participants shared stories of being personally threatened, attacked or arrested as a result of their work. However, many of the civil society organisations had not received training to develop strategies to mitigate risks to the communities that their work might inadvertently create.

The workshops offered an opportunity for participants to collectively brainstorm ideas for managing risks to communities. The following strategies are straightforward, but demonstrate the importance of creating space for risk assessment and planning.

In a country like DR Congo where violence often has an ethnic component to it, inadvertently provoking these tensions is a major risk. Some participants talked about the potential dangers of conducting focus group research in communities where different ethnic groups feel hostile or distrustful toward one another. For example, it is important for members of a focus group to feel comfortable speaking openly in front of each other; in an ethnically divided community that might mean that members of different ethnic groups shouldn’t participate in he same focus group. On the other hand, participants warned that openly dividing people into different groups on the basis of ethnicity could prompt suspicions about the real motivation for the research and aggression between people of different ethnicities.

In situations like this, the workshop participants emphasised the importance of having a trusted local partner who lives in the community, who can warn of potential dangers and offer advice.
In situations like this, the workshop participants emphasised the importance of having a trusted local partner who lives in the community, who can warn of potential dangers and offer advice. The local partner can identify if there are ways to select focus group participants that will have the effect of keeping ethnic groups separated but without putting the focus on ethnicity. For example, participant selection could be based on profession, if different ethnic groups tend to have different livelihoods, or on geography if different ethnic groups tend to live in different parts of the town. The partner can also offer temperature checks from the community on how the researchers are being perceived, so that they can stop the research or correct misperceptions if tensions are becoming elevated.

Another significant danger is the risk of reprisal attacks against the community for participating in the research. In an environment like DR Congo where dozens of armed groups operate and where state security forces can be just as predatory as non-state actors, information about who participated in the research and what information they gave can easily fall into the hands of perpetrators.

Human rights training for SOS FED field workers in the DRC. Image credit: The Advocacy Project, https://flic.kr/p/acfFCF

Human rights training for SOS FED field workers in DR Congo. Image credit: The Advocacy Project

Again, relying on a local partner can be critical to avoid recruiting members of groups that perpetrate threats or their affiliates. Researchers can also use other methods, like avoiding recording identifying details of research participants, using codenames to refer to specific perpetrators, ensuring that outsiders do not have the opportunity to observe the research participants or overhear the conversation, and storing the collected data securely, to mitigate this risk. Researchers should also think carefully about the potential impact that publishing specific pieces of information could have for the communities – if necessary, they should share the information privately with trusted protection actors instead of publicly.

Risk doesn’t have to come in the form of threats or violence. Simply participating in the research can be dangerous for some members of conflict-affected communities. Some individuals may have been traumatised by the violence they have experienced or witnessed, and asking them to participate in conversations about security threats in their community may trigger a traumatic reaction. Researchers should be trained to recognise the symptoms of trauma and to react appropriately in the moment, and they should be able to refer trauma-affected individuals to appropriate services where available. They should also make sure they have obtained their informed consent and avoid deliberately recruiting victims of traumatic violence as research participants unless they have appropriate skills or training to work with victims sensitively.

Finally, there is the risk of raised expectations, which can be hazardous if the community expects and plans for support that never arrives. Researchers should make sure that they have clearly explained the purpose of their research and what they hope will result from the research to participants before recruiting them, and return to communities after the research to share the results and how the information was used.

For organisations who want to make sure that their programs and interventions are responsive to the communities with which they are working, conducting research to understand the communities’ needs and perceptions is a vital first step. Relying on trusted members of the community who understand the complex dynamics, triggers and effects of conflict in the community and working with them to develop mitigation strategies, can help us to become more responsible researchers.

Aditi Gorur is a research associate at the Stimson Center. Visit Stimson’s Civilians in Conflict project page.

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Nigeria: beyond the silence of guns and bombs http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/nigeria-beyond-silence-guns-bombs/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/nigeria-beyond-silence-guns-bombs/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 12:27:30 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=37561 Charles Kwuelum looks into the need for the Nigerian government to have an extensive, coordinated approach to sustainable peace, and how this can be achieved.

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Two Nigerian boys copy passages from the Koran in a refugee camp in Niger. Image credit: UNHCR

Our efforts should be anchored on the holistic peacebuilding synergy that is available, and must go beyond the silence of guns and bombs in order to attain wellbeing.
The emergence of insurgency in the northeast of Nigeria, such as Boko Haram and its activities, has generated heated discussions in both internal and external governance structures and policies, leadership and polity. The abduction of over 200 female students at Chibok in April 2014 has led to to greater attention being place on the situation, from both civil society organisations in Nigeria, and from the international community with the Regional Security Summit at Paris and the presence of US special forces in Chad.

Following the Democracy Day celebration in May, Nigeria’s President, GoodLuck Jonathan, unveiled opportunities for a possible dialogue and reconciliation with members of Boko Haram to renounce terrorism and embrace peace:

For our citizens who have joined hands with Al Qaeda and international terrorists in the misguided belief that violence can possibly solve their problems, our doors remain open to them for dialogue and reconciliation, if they renounce terrorism and embrace peace.

Mr. Boni Haruna, Minister of Youth and Development in a media brief also disclosed that a “series of integration programmes have been lined up for the members of the sect who would surrender their arms and embrace peace.” He was governor of Adamawa State (1999 - 2011), during the formation of Boko Haram, when political thugs joined the membership of radicalised Islamic fundamentalists, who were attracted to the charismatic Islamic preacher Yusuf Mohammed. This portrays the twisted ideological formation of the group’s identity who believes that the Nigerian government is being corrupted by western ideas and who also wanted to Islamise Nigeria; and till this day remains a mixture of perspectives.  Prioritising interventions by the federal government might be a challenge, as the needs, interests and positions of victims and perpetrators are contested.

Interestingly, peacebuilding efforts by both international stakeholders and local actors are geared towards attaining peace, meaningful development and a deliverable democratic governance. Prior to the various interventions and strategies, there has been in some sense a disjointed and uncoordinated implementation of particular interventions by the executive structure of governance. Billions of Nigerian Naira was expended as various forms of donations to religious bodies and various groups that were attacked and had structures and lives destroyed during succession of bombings by Boko Haram.

Politicians, state and federal government constantly made these donations, and one would think of such actions being better utilised when the resources have a single competent coordination. The complicated dynamics and incidents of violence in the northeast posed difficulties to accurate conflict and process assessments, owing to corruption at various levels of governance, lack of cohesion among government machineries and lack of agency from the civil society organisations and the grassroots. Though such an un-anticipated conflict ripples, peacebuilding organisations’ efforts seemingly bind the common dream for peace and possible reconciliation through their various skills and strategies.

It is almost inevitable to acknowledge the disruption of already existing systems and structures/institutions in Nigeria, especially with particular focus on the effects in the northeast. Prior to the Boko Haram shootings and bombings, the main struggle of the country was to control diseases, including HIV/AIDS and to improve health delivery. Mental and physical health concerns are also strongly visible. Beyond the call for the members of Boko Haram to lay down their weapons for dialogue and reconciliation by the president; lies the greater task of meeting the needs of the citizens of the country who have either been directly or indirectly traumatised as victims.

Besides the loss of lives, and economic resources; trauma related effects on people and massive displacements of inhabitants have occurred in the northeast (over 200,000) with about 100, 000 migrating to the Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroon. Lessons drawn from history should be the guiding framework to a holistic response to restoring peace, security, trust and wellbeing to all. The response of the government should be foundationally proactive to include efficient medical aids and to provide humanitarian and psychosocial trauma healing assistance to the internally displaced. Ensuring the security of the communities and individuals, alongside credible justice system and good governance, are necessary antidotes to the entire reconstruction process.

A best-case scenario is to establish a credible peace, reconciliation and justice commission in which every affected group/person’s voice is heard (perpetrator or victim). Through active, inclusive participation harms are acknowledged, properly processed and addressed. Breaking the cycle of violence and reprisals transcends the presidential call for peace and reconciliation. Our efforts should be anchored on the holistic peacebuilding synergy that is available, and must go beyond the silence of guns and bombs in order to attain wellbeing.

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ICTs in conflict early warning – possibilities and challenges http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/icts-conflict-early-warning-possibilities-challenges/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/icts-conflict-early-warning-possibilities-challenges/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 08:45:56 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=37362 How are organisations using communication technology (ICTs) for conflict early warning and prevention? The article looks at three models being used on the ground in Africa to better understand good practice when using ICTs for peacebuilding.

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A journalist photographs the police during the 2007 Presidential elections in Kenya. Image credit: https://flic.kr/p/4k18mV by Demosh

A journalist photographs the police during the 2007 Presidential elections in Kenya.
Image credit: Demosh

Information and communications technologies (ICTs) and mobile phones in particular can be an aid in early warning and violence prevention at the local level, where both the knowledge and the desire to prevent violence are available.
Conflict early warning, traditionally the preserve of large multilateral efforts and statistical modelling, has taken a local turn in the last seven years. Some of this is a recognition of the inherent problems with using country-level data to try to predict the outbreak of local violence. Another problem is the capacity of large multilateral entities to act quickly to stop violence.

Information and communications technologies (ICTs) and mobile phones in particular can be an aid in early warning and violence prevention at the local level, where both the knowledge and the desire to prevent violence are available. To be successful though, ICT supported programs must start with a reliable analysis of local conflict dynamics. Peacebuilders also have to be aware that these tools can be used for organising violence, and be prepared for these possibilities. Fortunately, we have a number of cases where NGOs and communities are collaborating to leverage mobile phones to help prevent violence at the community level.

Last year I published an article in Stability on why mobile phones can be useful in preventing violence, with a focus on Kenyan elections. The key theoretical issue I discussed was that violence is often the outcome of a lack of communication, and that too little information about the intentions of a potentially competing group or community can lead to conflict. Thus, the outbreak of violence is often a mistake, where one group misjudges the intentions of another. In fact, groups of people prefer to cooperate, as James Fearon and David Laitin pointed out in an important article on inter-ethnic cooperation in 1996.

So if we understand violence as the outcome of a lack of information, or an information space where rumours of violence or hate speech predominate, then mobile phones can play a critical role in helping people share information that can defuse violence before it starts.

There are good examples of using mobile phones for violence prevention this way. The main attributes of these programs is that they operate at the local level, and focus on information sharing and narrative change in areas affected by violence.

Una Hakika, run by the Sentinel Project, a Canadian NGO focusing on preventing genocide and atrocities, is a new violence prevention program that leverages mobile phones to prevent conflict. The project, based in Kenya’s Tana Delta region, focuses on preventing rumours of violence from spreading by training communities to use mobile phones to verify information with each other.

Another Kenyan NGO that uses mobile phones and SMS in a similar way is Sisi Ni Amani. They do community trainings on peacebuilding, but also have a network of community members who can choose to receive SMS text messages that reinforce the peacebuilding lessons taught during the in-person trainings. This network also receives and can share information about potential violence, helping to get information into communities so that they can prevent violence before it starts.

A young man charges phones at a UN IDP camp in South Sudan. Image credit: https://flic.kr/p/ndpFQb by Tom McShane

A young man charges phones at a UN IDP camp in South Sudan.
Image credit: Tom McShane

In both cases what makes the programs work for preventing violence is the information sharing component. People who would otherwise have to make decisions with a lack of information now use SMS text messaging to check in with neighbouring communities, verifying information and preventing the spread of rumours that can spur violence.

While these are both direct intervention models, there is also participatory research being done that uses mobile phones to crowdsource data about violence risk. This data is then provided to the community so that they can use it for their own violence prevention strategies. Pamina Firchow and Roger MacGinty are leading a project called the Everyday Peace Indicators Project which uses community-level mobile phone-based crowd sourcing to elicit local perceptions of violence risk. The communities then review the aggregated information that they shared via SMS. This information then becomes useful to both the communities who use it to identify tensions before they build up to a violent level, and researchers who use it their academic work.

There is always a potential risk of using SMS text messaging for negative purposes, and indeed mobile phones can easily be used to organise violence more efficiently. Pierskalla and Hollenbach recently published an article on the role of mobile phones in helping organise violence. Mobile phones make it easier to pull a crowd together and lower the costs associated with organising large-scale violence. This is why it is critically important that peacebuilding professionals understand the context in which they are using these technologies. Any project that uses mobile phones needs to start with the basic principles of conflict management and peacebuilding, then add the technology appropriately.

We still have a great deal to learn about how people use these technologies, and how patterns of socio-technical behaviour affect the impact of using mobile phones for violence prevention. What we have seen from programs like Sisi Ni Amani and Una Hakika is that the potential is there, and that violence is more likely to be prevented when communities have the capacity to identify, share information about, and address risks before they turn into active violence.

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Top broadcaster joins search to find the best local peacebuilders http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/bridget-kendall-local-peacebuilders-search/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/bridget-kendall-local-peacebuilders-search/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 13:10:01 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=37625 We are delighted to announce that the BBC broadcaster Bridget Kendall has joined the panel of judges for our global competition, Tomorrow’s Peacebuilders

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Image credit: BBC World Service

Image credit: BBC World Service

We are delighted to announce that the BBC broadcaster Bridget Kendall has joined the panel of judges for our global competition, Tomorrow’s Peacebuilders. Regular host of Radio 4’s ideas programme The Forum, Bridget made her name reporting on the break-up of the Soviet Union and the wars in Chechnya and Afghanistan. In 1992 she was the first woman to win the highly prized James Cameron Award for journalism, and in 2001 she interviewed President Putin live from the Kremlin.

Bridget will be helping to judge our new competition which aims to find the best emerging local peacebuilders. Four winning organisations will receive an award of $4,000 each plus an invitation to the prize-winners’ event in London in November. Entries are still open, with a deadline of July 21 for applications. The winners will be announced on Armistice Day, 11 November 2014. To enter go to http://www.insightonconflict.org/tomorrows-peacebuilders

The international panel of judges includes former First Minister of Scotland and UK Peacebuilding Representative Lord Jack McConnell, Sri Lankan peacebuilder Dishani Jayaweera, American academic Bridget Moix, Liberian peacebuilder Nat B. Walker and Peace Direct Chairman Michael Ryder.

The competition launched in 2013, when it received 244 entries from 54 countries. The winners worked on issues including child soldiers and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, narco-wars in Colombia, and Muslim-Christian prejudice in the Philippines.

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Sarajevo, one hundred years later http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/sarajevo-one-hundred-years-later/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/sarajevo-one-hundred-years-later/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 08:16:29 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=37527 Last month commemorations were held to mark 100 years since the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand - and the beginning of the chain of events that led to World War One. Mirjana Kosic, Insight on Conflict's local correspondent for the Western Balkans, looks at how, a century later, the events of 1914 still cause division in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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The Latin Bridge, Sarajevo. The site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Gavrilo Princip in 1914. Image credit: Jaime Silva

The Latin Bridge, Sarajevo. The site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Gavrilo Princip in 1914. Image credit: Jaime Silva

28th June was marked not by the expected “closure of the circle” of a century of conflict, but by clashing narratives that have only served ethno-centric politicians on all sides to mobilise support
After months of speculation and anticipation about the nature and purpose of commemorating the centenery of the symbolical beginning of World War I in Sarajevo, 28th June was marked not by the expected “closure of the circle” of a century of conflict, but by clashing narratives that have only served ethno-centric politicians on all sides to mobilise support ahead of October’s national elections.

On the very same day, exactly one hundred years ago, the course of history was irrecoverably changed by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by Gavrilo Princip. Princip was a member of the revolutionary group, “Young Bosnia” (“Mlada Bosna”), that fought for the liberation of south Slavs from Austro-Hungarian occupation; and though a Serb from Bosnia, Princip considered and declared himself Yugoslav.

Even though WWI did not start until a month later, when Austria declared war against Serbia, it has been generally accepted that the shot in Sarajevo was the war’s trigger, and that Princip was the man who pushed the world into one of the largest human catastrophies.

In the Balkans Princip remains a controversial figure, described either as a terrorist or a freedom fighter. Throughout different historical periods, interpretations of Princip have varied depending on the ideology and political needs of given regimes. According to Dubravka Stojanović, a prominent Serbian historian, “In socialist Yugoslavia, members of Young Bosnia were celebrated as socialist heroes, as freedom fighters for the workers and for the oppressed…..Every regime has misused him – in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia it was conveniently forgotten that he was a left-wing anarchist. Under socialism, it was forgotten that he was a nationalist, albeit a Yugoslav. And then with Milosevic, Princip becomes – wrongly – a Serbian nationalist. Then in the 1990s, he starts to be seen as the father of the fight for Republika Srpska in Bosnia.”

Bosnia and Herzegovina today

The idea of organising commemorations in Sarajevo emerged around 2004, with the EU keen to see the completion of the Western Balkans accession into the EU by 2014. Instead of a supposed “return” to the family of European nations, however, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) could not be further from that well-meaning objective.

Gripped by political impasse due to the endemic absence of political will on the part of ethno-centric leaders (particularly when it comes to amending its constitution to allow minorities such as Roma and Jews to run for the highest offices), a cumbersome institutional structure (the country is divided into two Entities, one of which is further divided into ten Cantons)  and a prevalent denial of responsibility for war crimes committed during the 1990s, BiH is mired in overwhelming frustration and feelings of helplessness.

This was particularly evident during recent floods that devastated parts of BiH, leaving thousands of people – many of whom were refugees or internally-displaced during the war – once again homeless and losing almost everything they possessed. The local authorities’ response was belated and inadequate, revealing its impotence and lack of willingness to act responsibly. In addition, civic protests that spread throughout BiH in early February – resulting in citizens’ plenums in Tuzla, Sarajevo and Mostar demanding the resignation of current political elite – are a strong reminder that BiH urgently needs political and social transformation. October’s elections may not, however, bring the change that many desire.

With Croatia becoming an EU member on 1st July 2013 and Serbia starting negotations, BiH is increasingly lagging behind. Instead of focusing on necessary reforms, BiH’s politicians have wasted time, energy and resources on creating narratives fitting their ethno-national interests.

Contested interpretation of history

The drift between those narratives and interpretations was manifested through two simultaneously organised events
The drift between those narratives and interpretations was manifested through two simultaneously organised events – one in Sarajevo and the other in Višegrad, a town in eastern Bosnia, now mainly populated by ethnic Serbs as a consequence of ethnic cleansing of its Bosniak population in 1992.

As it became clear that competing narratives amongst Bosnia’s political elites rendered a joint commemoration impossible, the French and Austrian Government, together with several other EU member states, took the initiative and gathered a host of historians, political scientists, artists and diplomats who discussed the causes and consequences of WWI from different perspectives.

The initiative was conceived as a reminder of the importance and fragility of peace – not only for the peoples of BiH, but for the entire world – and the messages of peace and reconciliation were to be sent from Sarajevo, with its recognisable image of war-time destruction and suffering finally replaced by a vision of a peaceful and prosperous future.

According to the Mayor of Sarajevo, Ivo Komšić, “In the past 100 years, Sarajevo always reminded people of war and tragedy. It gave people a sad and deep impression. Now it is a good opportunity to give people some different impressions. Through these events, we hope to show everyone a peaceful Sarajevo, a more inclusive, ever-changing Sarajevo.”

The key event was the concert of Vienna Philharmonic orchestra, performing in the City Hall, that was only recently renovated after its destruction in 1992. Whilst the concert was broadcast on a large outdoor screen so to be available to broader audience, it did not go unnoticed that it was exclusively organised for selected few, i.e. BiH’s political elites and international dignitaries solely.

In general, the majority of Sarajevans remained indifferent to various events organised in the city and chose to either ignore them completely or simply describe them, as one elderly Sarajevan did, as yet “another circus of the international community”.

The event was boycotted by Bosnian Serb leadership, with Nebojša Radmanović, the Serb member of the tripartite Bosnian Presidency, stating that the Sarajevo city government had abused the commemoration and “subordinated its meaning to the context of the 1990s civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

Such a statement was prompted by the inscription on the City Hall which refers to “Serbian criminals”, which both Bosnian Serbs’ and Serbian leader interpreted as provocation and attribution of collective guilt for war crimes to all Serbs. Prior to that, Sarajevo city authorities announced that the monument to Franz Ferdinand was going to be re-erected in Sarajevo, which additionally provoked Bosnian Serbs who saw this as an attempt of blatant historical revisionism.

Therefore, an alternative event was organised in Višegrad, a small town in eastern Bosnia, that was the scene of atrocities against Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s. Famous for its bridge, which – owing to the literature of Ivo Andrić – became the epitomy of Bosnia’s idiosyncratic position of a bridge between eastern and western civilisations, Višegrad is now an impoverished town, scarred by the horrors of recent war and stifled by ethnic contestation.

The event took place in Andrićgrad, an artificial village modelled on Serbian tradition and customs, that was built by famous film director, Emir Kusturica. For him, Gavrilo Princip is Serb hero, who fought for liberation of Serbs and other southern Slavs from Austro-Hungarian terror. Just a day before the commemoration, Serb authorities revealed the monument to Princip in East Sarajevo, i.e. the part of the city that is now in the Republika Srpska, thus ’misappropriating’ Princip’s legacy and trying to rewrite the region’s history.

Making Peace

Amidst those contestations, an exhibition entitled “Making Peace“ was organised in Sarajevo by the International Peace Bureau (IPB), the largest peace federation in the world and a Nobel Peace Laureate.
Amidst those contestations, an exhibition entitled “Making Peace“ was organised in Sarajevo by the International Peace Bureau (IPB), the largest peace federation in the world and a Nobel Peace Laureate. The aim of Making Peace is to inform and educate the general public, especially young people about peace, and what five key elements are necessary to create a ‘sustainable peace’.

This concept was developed by Ashley Woods, exhibition curator, who explaines that those five elements are: disarmament & non-violence; conflict prevention & resolution; social & economic justice; human rights, law & democracy; and environment & sustainable development

Ashley, who was in Sarajevo at the exhibition opening, said “Sarajevo is the first post-conflict city to present Making Peace. Knowing how much emphasis will be put on commemorating the Great War … and while it is important to pay tribute to all the soldiers but also civilians who died, we believe that it is hugely important to show how much is being done to try to make the world a more peaceful place. In doing so we hope that the exhibition will motivate and inspire young people to get involved themselves in what is now a global movement”.

According to Ashley, the response of locals people to the exhibition was significant. “We had huge media attention even weeks before the actual opening … many people got to hear about the show and turned up for the opening. Not only were they able to participate ‘freely’ in the opening – unlike some of the commemoration activities taking place that weekend – but they also were able to participate in the youth workshops organised in conjunction with the OSCE and Youth Development Initiative Kult”.

The exhibition will be up for a minimum three months to allow schools and people from around BiH to visit.  After that, it the exhibition will also be shown in other cities in BiH.

Ashley added that “a number of people commented on how important it was that Making Peace be presented in Sarajevo, not only because it is the first time that such a large exhibition has been shown outdoors, but that for many Bosnians the word Peace is empty or has no real meaning, as it is often used out of context and because people don’t really understand what it signifies. Importantly, Making Peace put this into context with ‘Economic and Social Justice’ section playing a central role, which is the subject that speaks to many Bosnians right now due to so many stories of corruption within government and private enterprises”.

These issues, indeed, are more pertinent than ever – in BiH, as well as throughout the region and across Europe – and one can only hope that the lessons from the past will be a reminder to us all that peace is not something that can be taken for granted, but rather something that needs to be constantly strived for.  All those who are willing to critically analyse the causes and consequences of WWI and subsequent conflicts that plagued 20th century understand that simplistic dichotomies and glorification/vilifying of individuals or peoples do not produce necessary answers, nor do they teach human kind how not to repeat the past mistakes.

Instead, we need to look at current challenges and think about peace beyond its traditional understanding as constituting the absence of war. As this exhibition reminds, “there are international treaties and declarations that define economic justice, international law and human rights, however, there is no simple explanation as to what peace is or how it is made.” Therefore, the message of the exhibition is that “for peace to prevail all five elements need to be present. If one is missing then peace will remain fragile”.

Building peace in BiH will require the forming of narratives that will bond together, not divide; that promote reconciliation, not revisionism.

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Toxic footprint of Syria’s War http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/toxic-footprint-syrias-war/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/toxic-footprint-syrias-war/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 09:01:36 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=37416 Pieter Both and Wim Zwijnenburg, from PAX, discuss the long term health and environmental impacts of Syria's civil war.

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Image credit: Christiaan Triebert

Image credit: Christiaan Triebert

Syria’s ongoing civil war has already resulted in over hundred-and-fifty thousand casualties and has brought enormous destruction in cities and towns all over the country. Apart from the direct impact of the armed conflict on the lives and livelihoods of Syrian citizens, health and environmental impacts are emerging as problems that deserve immediate as well as long term attention.

This war leaves behind a toxic footprint resulting both directly and indirectly from military origin contamination, such as by heavy metals in munitions, toxic residues from artillery and other bombs, the destruction of buildings and water resources, the targeting of industrial zones and the looting of chemical facilities. The scale of military activity in Syria over the past three years suggests that contaminants and indirect pollution will have a long-term toxic legacy for the environment and can contribute to widespread public health problems for years to come.

Amid prolonged violence, it is too early to assess the full scope of hazards to human and environmental health across Syria formed by toxic or radiological substances that result from munitions and military activities. However, early mapping as part of PAX’ new desk-top study on Syria already reveals a range of problems in certain areas.

Certainly, the intense use of large calibre weapons in the prolonged siege of cities such as Homs and Aleppo has dispersed a variety of munitions with known toxic substances such as heavy metals, explosive residues from artillery, mortars and home-made weapons containing known carcinogenic materials such as  TNT and RDX, as well as toxic rocket propellants from a range of missiles launched by both the Syrian army and opposition forces.

The best known example, the so-called ‘barrel bombs’, contain hundreds of kilograms of TNT, RDX, or other energetic materials, which often don’t explode and could result in local contamination if not properly cleaned-up. Similarly, the improvised manufacturing of munitions in rebel-held areas involves the handling of a range of toxic chemical mixes, which requires professional expertise and safe working environments mostly absent in the DIY weapons workshops of the Free Syrian Army. The involvement of children in collecting scrap materials and in production processes poses significant health hazards to this particular group.

Add to this the risk of exposure to pulverized building materials, which may contain asbestos and other pollutants. Toxic dust particles can be inhaled or ingested as they often end up inside homes, in water resources and on vegetables. In areas such as the destroyed Old City of Homs, where displaced civilians have begun to return, building rubble and toxic dust from explosives is widespread, exposing the local community and aid workers to potential health hazards. Furthermore, the absence of waste management in violence-stricken urban areas across Syria prevents communities from ridding their neighbourhoods from toxic substances could have a serious impact on their well-being.

At the same time, an environmental and public health catastrophe is visibly in the making in Syria’s oil-producing regions, where an illegal oil industry is now booming, resulting in unskilled rebels and civilians working with hazardous materials. Primitive extraction and refining processes by local factions in rebel-held areas are causing the spread of toxic gasses, water and soil pollution, thereby affecting local communities. Through the smoke and dust that is spread by the unregulated, unclean extraction and refining operations and leakages that pollute the scarce groundwater in what is traditionally a region of agriculture, the crude refineries’ pollution is spreading to the surrounding desert villages.

Already, reports from local activists warn of oil-related diseases spreading in Deir ez-Zour. According to a local doctor, “common ailments include persistent coughs and chemical burns that have the potential to lead to tumors.” For the foreseeable future, civilians in the region affected by these problems face serious risks of exposure to toxic gasses while vast areas may be becoming unsuitable for agriculture.

Still unclear in this early stage of our research are the potential humanitarian and environmental consequences of the targeting of industrial and military sites and stockpiles. The Sheikh Najjar industrial city for example, until recent clashes home to thousands of Internally Displaced Persons from nearby Aleppo, has seen heavy fighting between government and rebel forces. The risk of civilian exposure to stored toxic substances in such an area is a cause of concern, be it by the targeting of on-site facilities or by refugees being forced to stay in a hazardous environment. impact of conflict on health and the environment urgently deserves a more prominent role in assessing the long-term consequences of wars, both from a military perspective regarding the toxic footprint of certain conventional weapons and from a post-conflict assessment point of view, which should include more awareness on securing and monitoring of health and the environment.

As partners in the TRW NetworkPAX intend for the current study to help contribute to this by laying the groundwork for field investigations and helping identify the environmental and health hazards faced by Syrian civilians.

 

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The road to peace in Mali: political roadblocks and other obstacles http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/road-peace-mali-political-roadblocks-obstacles/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/road-peace-mali-political-roadblocks-obstacles/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 09:42:26 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=37448 Civil society organisations are doing good work in Mali. But their job is being made more difficult by the need to address the root causes of conflict, especially the discontent of those in the north. Peace Direct’s Mali Correspondent, Daniel Ozoukou, surveys attempts at political peacebuilding in Mali’s post-independence history, and discusses the challenges the country faces.

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Image credit: UN Mission in Mali

Image credit: UN Mission in Mali

There needs to be a culture of inclusive, participatory and constructive dialogue between all segments of society, in north and south, instead of the language of guns.
Mali is suffering from instability and political unrest because of rebellion, a coup d’état and the proliferation of non-state armed groups. The country has signed three major peace accords in its history, but none has led to peace. It is impossible to understand what is happening now without looking at the historical context. Here we begin with Malian independence, in 1960.

Chronic instability: resentment in the north, unrest in the south

After achieving independence from France, the first Malian president, Modibo Keita, declared a one party state. Kéita withdrew Mali from the African Financial Community (CFA) in 1962, the same year in which a rebellion broke out in Kidal, in the north-east. Kéita also began fiercely to repress the Tuareg population of the north. That repression provoked an important exodus of the Tuareg community to neighbouring countries, and polarised the situation both in the country and on the international scene. Army Lieutenant Moussa Traoré seized the opportunity of that deep division to overthrow the president in 1968.

He would go in to reign for 23 years, reintegrating Mali into the CFA, but ultimately establishing another authoritarian regime. He sentenced to death nine people accused of corruption in 1987, and under his rule there was a massacre of the Tuareg population in 1990. The Tuareg had launched an armed attack against the Malian army to liberate a Nigerian Tuareg fighter arrested in the town of Menaka in the region of Gao. Moussa Traoré sent the army north and more than 200 people were killed. A huge demonstration against Traoré’s dictatorship was organised in response in the capital, Bamako.

In the middle of that political polarisation, in March 1991, the army arrested Touré and removed him from power. Lieutenant Amadou Toumani Touré (popularly known as ATT) established a transitional government and presidential elections in 1992, which were won by Alpha Oumar Konaré. He served for two terms before ATT won Mali’s third presidential election in 2002.

The failure to properly address the concerns of all Malians, but especially those living in the north, has repeatedly led to problems in the north, and in January 2012 violence erupted once again
The failure to properly address the concerns of all Malians, but especially those living in the north, has repeatedly led to problems in the north, and in January 2012 violence erupted once again. Armed groups, claiming affiliation to Al Qaeda, joined forces with the MNLA, a group of Tuareg, and took control of several northern regions, including. Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal. Many have seen this as an isolated incident, but it has happened before, and a true settlement has never been reached.

Failed peace agreements: security over development

Mali has signed three major political agreements with the rebel Tuareg movement: the Tamanrasset agreement of 1991, the Pact National signed in the 1990s, and the Algiers Accord in 2006.

The Tamanrasset Accords, the Pact National and Algiers (1991-2006)

The Tamanrasset peace agreement was signed on January 6, 1991 when president Traoré realised that he would be unable to eliminate the Tuareg rebel movements entirely. At that time, he was facing two main threats: a rebellion movement in the north and social pressure in Bamako.

In Tamanrasset, in the south of Algeria, Traoré signed a peace deal with Tuareg fighters that envisaged a substantial reduction of the Malian army in the north. The agreement, which focused on military issues, provided for the disengagement of the Malian army from running the civil administration, the suppression of certain military posts, and the confinement of the army’s role to that of defending Mali’s borders. In addition, it created the framework for Tuareg fighters to be integrated into the Malian Armed Forces (FAMA).

Ultimately, Tamanrasset failed because of a lack of confidence between the parties, and because the army was deeply frustrated at the concessions made to the president. The coup d’état of March 1991 – just two months after the signings of the accords – sealed their fate.

The Pact National

Amadou Toumani Touré, elected after the period of transitional government, initiated a dialogue under the auspices of Algeria. The Pact National was signed on April 11, 1992 between the Malian government and Unified Movements and Fronts of Azawad (MFUA – Azawad is the Tuareg name for their ancestral lands across northern Mali and the other countries of the Sahel).

The overall objective of the Pact National was to address the historical roots of conflict in Mali and pave the way for peace and development. It, and the other accords, pay wide attention to military and security aspects – but neglect the developmental needs of the population, which is one of their problems.

The key provisions of the Pact National included the establishment of commissions to investigate abuses, prisoner exchanges, the disarmament and demobilisation of combatants and their integration into Malian civilian and military structures, the reduction of the military presence in the north, the return of refugees, the construction of infrastructure, new administrative structures and local, regional and inter-regional assemblies.

The military requirements had some success, 2,140 ex-combatants being integrated in the army and 150 in civil services from 1990 to 2006. In addition, 12,181 Tuareg rebels received around $650 for 866 projects focusing on livestock thanks to a UN Trust Fund.

Algiers Accords

The Algiers Accord signed in 2006 included further provisions for DDR and the development of the northern regions. But very little was done to implement them. In 2010, in an attempt to revive the Algiers accord, the EU initiated the Special Program for Peace, Security and Development in Sahel (PSPSDN), and in 2011 gave the Malian government €50 million.

But the programme had a heavy focus on security, and doing so has done little to reassure northern Malians that they have the trust and support of the government in Bamako, according to Helen Wilandh from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It was mainly an opportunity for the Malian army and police to reinforce their presence in the north, at the expense of school and road building and the socio-economic development of the region in general.

Accords for what? Political will and the need for a debate on the state

Securing the end of some elements of the conflict does not mean providing for other aspects of building stability and peace.
Securing the end of some elements of the conflict does not mean providing for other aspects of building stability and peace. Great challenges remain, not least in terms of the political will necessary to deal with all of Mali’s problems. The government should demonstrate its commitment to dialogue and reconciliation with action.

There is a feeling among Malian officials that dialogue with the MNLA has been imposed on them by the international community, led by France. Malijet, a Malian newspaper, has reported the president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK), saying that Mali needs support, not imposition.

Nine months after his election, the government’s promise of dialogue with the Tuareg movements had still not started, with each side wanting talks to be held in a different place; the government in Algeria, the Tuareg in Burkina Faso.

But IBK and other senior politicians have rejected any possibility of discussing federalism, which does not bode well for building a sustainable peace. This is the real issue. High-level officials may not want to engage in that debate, but at local level it has already started. The Tuareg are not seeking secession but greater self-determination for Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal as part of a federal state.

More and people are talking about federalism. Aliou Hamadoun Yonfo, a Malian scholar in Canada, argues in favour of a federalism that would properly take into account the differences between and needs of all groups in Mali while respecting their fundamental rights and not changing Mali’s territorial arrangements. Some of the victims of the current conflict agree. Ag Doho, a Tuareg refugee at the Sag-Nioniogo camp in Burkina Faso, told the IRIN news service that the government in Bamako is in danger of repeating mistakes from the past.

Federalism need not mean separation or independence. But it does mean a shift from a unitary state to one in which provinces have real power to govern themselves. And the constant refusal even to discuss the idea in Mali will do nothing to solve the country’s problems.

The time has come to engage seriously with those debating the establishment of a federal state in Mali.
The status quo is not working; the polarisation of groups within Mali over the last 50 years has led to instability and semi-permanent revolt. The time has come to engage seriously with those debating the establishment of a federal state in Mali. Part of that will mean addressing the thousands of Malians who are not in Mali.

Return of refugees/ IDPs and social cohesion

More than 160,000 refugees remain in countries neighbouring Mali, including Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Algeria and Niger, victims of the recent conflict. The few Tuareg who have returned have generally not gone back to their homes in the north but stayed in Bamako, fearing reprisals. Many have been accused of supporting the enemy, and risk being stigmatised.

Image credit: Oxfam International

Image credit: Oxfam International

At a recent reconciliation forum in Assongo organised by the government, some community leaders, claiming to be ‘authentic natives’ of the region, refused the return of the Arab community from Ayorou in Niger. Other worrying stories have been reported, such as the death threats made to a young Arab man after his arrest and then released by the armed forces. Ethnic and community tension in Assongo are the symbol of deep community cleavages. Fostering social cohesion is going to be one of the major challenges, in Mali in general and the north in particular.

Fostering social cohesion is going to be one of the major challenges, in Mali in general and the north in particular.
Violence in Kidal in May 2014 has highlighted the fact that situation is still volatile and fragile. Banditry, sporadic attacks and ambushes around key northern cities like Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal continue. Traders and famers face difficulties.

The return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their communities remains a big challenge for civil society, the government and the international community. Without their proper reintegration there could be serious consequences. And even before that, refugees must actually cover the distance. The UNHCR has said that a tripartite agreement must be signed by the governments of Burkina Faso, Mali and UNHCR before any serious repatriation programme can be set in motion.

Development for peace

Tibuktu, Gao and Kidal are very underdeveloped. There are no good roads, and infrastructure including clean water and access to health care barely exists. Kidal has 62 schools and only one secondary school, and youth unemployment is 80%. People in the north think that the government in Bamako does not care about them. The first and second presidents of Mali, Modibo Keita and Moussa Traoré, allocated hardly any money to the north.

The lack of communications means the region has been near completely isolated, and the people there feel like the government has abandoned them. This is why they have little attachment to the concept of the Malian state.

There are many obstacles on the road to peace in Mali. Political instability has led to issues of security being privileged over other developmental needs. The priority challenge is to tackle the question of which the form the state should take and how it can incorporate and support all of Mali’s people. The return and successful reintegration of refugees and IDPs is vital to restarting community life. And behind all of this should be a clear strategy to support the socio-economic development of Mali’s northern regions.

It should be clearly understood that the major obstacles to building a sustainable peace in Mali are the political turmoil in the south and semi-permanent revolt in the north. But these are symptoms of a wider problem. There needs to be a culture of inclusive, participatory and constructive dialogue between all segments of society, in north and south, instead of the language of guns.

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July 2014 http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/july-2014/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/07/july-2014/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 12:53:26 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=37386 A monthly selection of the best new research and resources on local peacebuilding worldwide, as chosen by Insight on Conflict. This month’s edition features articles gender and early warning, peace and environmental governance, and more. Sign up here to receive the newsletter by email each month.

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Research this month

Relationships and resources: Environmental governance for peacebuilding and resilient livelihoods in Sudan

This approach requires rebuilding trust and relationships between stakeholders and communities that have been impacted by violence. It also calls for improving technical capacity of decision-makers and communities to advance new approaches for environmental governance and views local ownership and innovation as foundational to such efforts. Over time, improving cooperation over natural resources can have important “spill over” effects, often leading to cooperation in other domains and establishing a basis of trust for continued joint action.

Relationships and resources, from UNEP, describes projects undertaken by UNEP and it’s partners to develop inclusive and participatory approaches to environmental governance. The projects sought to restore cooperation and trust between communities in conflict over resources, and in so doing benefit both resource governance and peacebuilding.

Developing relations: political parties and civil society in Myanmar

In these early stages of the transitional process, relations between civil society and political parties in Myanmar can be characterised as limited, informal and based on personal relations.

Developing relations, from NOREF, examines how the opening up of the political space in Myanmar is affecting the relationships between civil society and political parties. The paper provides an overview of the situation, emerging relations between political parties and civil society, and the legal and social constraints.

Engaging Afghan religious leaders for women’s rights

If they are equipped with more knowledge and resources on women’s rights from sources they trust, they can serve as positive agents of change in Afghan society. The right message coming from the right person makes all the difference.

Engaging Afghan religious leaders for women’s rights, from USIP, looks at how religious leaders can be encouraged to become promoters of women’s rights in Afghanistan. The paper stresses the importance of respecting the values and opinions of religious leaders, and involving them directly in processes of change.

The road to reconciliation: A case study of Liberia’s reconciliation roadmap

The lack of implementation of reconciliation processes in Liberia underscores the significant challenges faced by post-conflict states in developing and aligning coherent and locally-owned peacebuilding processes to achieve tangible, measurable and manageable progress.

The road to reconciliation, from ACCORD, looks at Liberia’s 2013 Strategic Roadmap for National Healing, Peacebuilding and Reconciliation. The roadmap was intended to serve as a basis for future reconciliation initiatives in the country. However, one year after it’s introduction, little progress has been made toward implementing it. This paper looks at why.

Gender and conflict early warning

Much remains to be done in terms of clarifying concepts, developing the evidence base and putting theory into practice if the prospective benefits of integrating gender perspectives into early warning systems are to be fully realised.

Gender and conflict early warning, from Saferworld, reviews research and guidance on integrating gender perspectives in early warning systems. The paper looks at some of the differing approaches that have been tried, and offers recommendations for how best to ensure early warning systems are gender sensitive.

Educate for peace

If you are work at the intersection of education and peacebuilding, sign up for the newly formed Education for Peacebuilding M&E (Educate for Peace) community. Educate for Peace is a community of practice formed to provide monitoring and evaluation specialists, and education and peacebuilding practitioners with an interactive space for sharing best and emerging practices on how to monitor and evaluate peacebuilding programs. Educate for Peace is a project of UNICEF launched in partnership with Search for Common Ground as part of the Peacebuilding Education Advocacy Programme. It is hosted on the DME for Peace online hub for peacebuilding evaluation.

State of civil society report 2014: Reimagining global governance

The State of civil society report 2014, the latest edition of the annual report on global civil society from CIVICUS, highlights the contribution of civil society around the world. This year there is a particular focus on the relationship between civil society and global governance frameworks.

From the blog

Can we leverage empathy to stop Boko Haram?

By Kirthi Jayakumar: Kirthi Jayakumar argues that empathy and dialogue, not force, are the keys to ending the Boko Haram’s campaign of violence and terror. Read more »

Across the Line of Control: the real stakeholders of peace

By Ashima Kaul: Ashima Kaul looks at the Impact the border between Indian and Pakistani administered Kashmir has on communities. Read more »

Omission of gender: Sri Lanka’s “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission”

By Harshadeva Amarathunga: Reflecting on the gender perspective in Sri Lanka and the lack of gender sensitivity in the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. Read more »

What can Burundi learn from peacebuilding in Liberia?

By Jean Baptiste Niyongabo: Burundian peacebuilder, Jean Baptiste Niyongabo, looks at what lessons Burundi draw from Liberia’s peacebuilding process and methods. Read more »

Beyond political indifference: dealing with past wrongs in Uganda

By Otim Denis Barnabas: Ugandan peacebuilder Otim Denis Barnabas looks at recent developments and progress in transitional justice in Uganda. Read more »

Tomorrow’s Peacebuilders & Build Peace 2015

By Insight on Conflict: Entries in this year’s Tomorrow’s Peacebuilding competition that use technology in an innovative way may win a scholarship to ‘Build Peace 2015’. Read more »

Security provision in rapidly urbanising contexts: evidence from Nepal

By Jaideep Gupte and Subindra Bogati: Fighting crime: how understanding security for an increasingly young, urbanising Nepal is important for peace. Read more »

The rising gap between Shias and state institutions in Pakistan

By Jaffer Abbas Mirza: With Shia mistrust of state institutions growing, what does this mean for the future of Pakistan? Read more »

Cocaleros: a photo essay of the Colombian coca production process

By Hasan Dodwell: Catalan activist & photographer, Andreu Vilardell Salles, spent months living with Colombian coca farmers to produce this photo essay of the production process Read more »

Unique early warning project in northern Nigeria

By Elspeth Macdonald: In Northern Nigeria a locally-led early warning project is preventing violent conflict. Read more »

Creating space for women as transformers of conflict

By Laurel Stone: How important are local women in peacemaking? Laurel Stone explores the role that women can play in achieving lasting peace. Read more »

How technology can shape the future of peacebuilding at the local level

By Helena Puig Larrauri: Helena Puig Larrauri considers the role of technology currently as well as into the future in locally led peacebuilding. Read more »

Breaking the silence surrounding war rape in Bosnia

By Tim Bidey: Almost twenty years on from the end of the war, a new campaign aims to increase understanding and decrease stigmatisation of survivors of rape in Bosnia.Read more »

Peace Journalism and Boko Haram

By Kirthi Jayakumar: Kirthi Jayakumar takes a close look at Peace versus War Journalism in relation to finding solutions for the issues concerning Boko Haram. Read more »

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