Home | Comment & Analysis    Thursday 16 May 2013

The misapprehension of peace in the context of conflict resolution


By Ngor Arol Garang

May 16, 2013 - Political leaders and citizens with an interest in politics within the Bahr el Ghazal region will come together for a one week conference on Wednesday, where they are expected to share thoughts and ideas on how to consolidate peace not only in the region but also how they could be a role model for the rest of the Republic of South Sudan.

The conference, initially planned to have taken place on May 8, was postponed to May 15, because the chief guest, previously thought to be president Salva Kiir Mayardit, was held up by other commitments. Because of his workload, the president reportedly asked the speaker of the national parliament, James Wani Igga, to attend in his place.

Since Wani returned from South Africa, where he attended an African parliamentary union summit, there have been indications that he accepted the invitation. The speaker is one of the most admired personalities in the region, known for cracking jokes to keep his audience’s attention. He is also admired for being cool headed and avoiding trouble by taking calculating decisions. The best example being when he accepted, in 2002, to happily vacate his seat as third deputy chairperson of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, to allow for Riek Machar - the country’s current Vice President - to be welcomed back into the SPLM fold following his 1991 split from the movement.

This decision was widely regarded as a demonstration that Wani cares about peace and stability over personal ambition. For this reason president Kiir makes him one of the leaders within the party that he can trust. He is no harm to him.

With this being one of the reasons for his nomination by the president to represent him at the conference, many expect that his speech would be loaded with talk about peace, unity, agricultural activities and addressing corruption. Wani can also be expected to call for the Bahr el Ghazal region to endorse Kiir’s bid to retain the chairmanship of the SPLM, once his nomination has been endorsed by the party’s leadership, to which Wani belongs.

Yes I have heard the street talk about Wani’s interest to put his hat in the ring for the chairmanship. contest the same seat for which the group organizing the conference wants their man to be given another chance, but which I can’t pick until I hear it from himself.

What I would like Igga to articulate is how the SPLM plans to reconcile the internal differences to achieve communal peace in the country and how it would convince her memberships and the dwindling popularity at the grass root to trust them of honour of the promises to the electorates. This is my first concern. The other concern is about misconceptions of peace we enjoy today. Many people seem to simply link peace to the total absence of conflict. Developments since coming to towns after the war in 2005 tell me that peace is not necessarily about the absence of war. It is about dividends and as a human the benefits of peace comes with a lot of challenges including conflicting rights over desires.

People want safety yet they relish exploration; they aspire to individual freedom yet they demand social equality. Societies or a nation is no different, and it is important for us to recognise that many of these tensions that we sometimes fear as being a danger or a threat to peace are present in every society, especially those which are democratic. How the address them is what the leadership of this country should copy and apply correctly.

This is because it is important for us to know how to manage conflict because it is something that we have to always live with. We should understand that a central paradox exists between conflict and consensus. Even the democracy that we admire so much about is in many ways nothing more than a set of rules for managing conflict. The conflict, that we can’t do away with, that we don’t have a permanent cure for, must be managed within certain limits and result in compromises, consensus or some other agreements that we all accept as legitimate. And as I have repeatedly stated before, an overemphasis on one side of the equation can threaten the entire undertaking. If individuals, groups perceive peace forums as nothing more than a forum in which they can press their demands, seek power, undermine others, humiliate their opponents, our society can shatter from within. And if those who are relatively powerful, those in charge of things, those running government exert excessive pressure to achieve consensus, stifling the voices of the people who do not sing the same song as they do, our society can be crushed and for us to remain a peaceful nation requires that all of us respect each other and that we all in turn recognise and respect the government as a legal institution.

And If peace is to be maintained in our country, the primary requisite is to manage and as far as possible eradicate the cause of dissention among us. Peace is the fruit of honesty, truth and solidarity. This means that we have to be honest in our dealings with each other; we have to eradicate lying and deceit from our politics. Peace cannot be built and maintained on hatred, denigration and deceit. There is no placidity or order that can be built on dishonest dealings and utterances. To guarantee peace in our homeland, all should show sense of maturity, tolerance and responsibility. And we should avoid paying exaggerated attention to accidental differences among us. All our people have a right to peace. But the enjoyment of this right to peace requires an active commitment against any form of injustice. Any form of injustice lays a foundation for the erosion of peace.

Biblical meaning of peace should be up held on what we should do to inherit the reward promised by the Lord when he said: "Happy are the peacemakers: they shall be called children of God" (Matthew 5:8). We should also bear in mind that a way to the enjoyment of our right to peace is not paved by simplistic solutions, arising from a narrow view of the root causes of conflict. Conflicts are complex phenomena, arising from multi-faceted causative factors. There are many causes of conflict. Prejudice and stereotyping that breed contempt, scorns and shutting oneself off is a recipe for conflict. Many conflicts have been caused by excessive ethnocentrism and particularism arising from pride, jealousy, greed and selfishness; superiority complex resulting from ignorance and domination; manipulation of the outlook of ethnocentrism in order to gain or retain power.

Our enjoyment of the right to peace is also frustrated by institutional intolerance. Institutional intolerance arises from a desire to retain and consolidate the status oppressive and unpleasant to the masses. Often such a status includes a systematic violation of human rights. As the violation of human rights usually stands at the roots of conflict, the enjoyment of the right to peace, therefore, requires a promotion of the human rights culture and structures. The issue of power - political and economic power - is often an underlying factor behind many tensions, leading to the erosion of peace. The issue of power, and the abuse thereof, therefore needs to be addressed if the right to peace is to be realised.

A complete conversion of heart and a thorough reform of society are needed and must be attempted soon. The use of intimidation or of physical violence by anyone, or any group will achieve nothing permanent and good. Our nation, our homeland can be saved only by a genuine revolution of love, by violence to our selfish interests. Peace, as recent world events remind us so vividly, is a very weak and fragile possession. So much in us and about us conspires against peace and unity. Progress would be destroyed by greed for power. The forces of discord that unleash themselves in the blood and destruction of conflict are hidden in every human heart. Too often they surface, to the great distress of others, in the frequent lamented evils of greed, exploitation, tribalism, nepotism, injustice in all its sordid and selfish guises.

The enjoyment of our right to peace will be realised in our homeland when we realise that peace is a daily struggle. Peace for the nation is possible if there is peace inside our hearts and inside our families and homes. The path to peace is first and foremost paved at the grassroots level of daily living: in individual hearts, in our homes, at the place of work, in the structures of our political parties.

It is pointless to deplore the disorder in our country, to insist that peace is the work of justice, if we fail to pinpoint the part each of us individually plays in the campaign for peace. The battle for peace - and it is a daily struggle - is fought and won on the threshold, in the homesteads of parents who live together in mutual loyalty and love, in the factory where an honest day’s work is done and is justly rewarded, in the business premises where the owner puts service to one’s fellows before profit to oneself, in the classroom where teachers are aware that they fulfill the role of Christ, who identified himself with children and threatened dire punishment those who would scandalise them.

Clearly, each of us is called to build and maintain the fabric of peace. The enjoyment of the right to peace requires an interior disposition of love. If peace is to prevail, love, not hatred and revenge, should motivate political decisions. Love builds up peace. Hatred and revenge destroys peace. For us to live together peacefully and harmoniously as citizens of the same country, we must learn to tolerate the differences that exist everywhere. Only love unites. Unity is the deep desire of all who seek to walk the path of peace. A nation united in purpose, in the pursuit of true ideals such as justice, truth and self-reliance, cannot fail to enjoy the blessings of peace.

Yesterday I watched South Sudan Television (SSTV) and I was able to see president laughing with those rebel leaders who had just returned after years of fighting his government in Unity State and in other parts of the greater Upper Nile region. They were all happy and gave assurance of having returned for the sake of peace and stability of this country and the generation to come. Their return underlined the need to embrace peace since the legacy of war had done us nothing, a par from reminders of the loss of our dear loved family members, relatives or friends.

We shouldn’t forget that in our communities, there are structures of dialogue and participation in the process of decision-making in order to find peaceful solutions in cases of social conflict. Equally, our right to participation in governance today requires participatory democracy. And this requires not only democratic structures but also the reign of democratic values in the hearts and minds of the people.

Democratic structures without corresponding democratic values in the hearts and minds of the people are rootless. We must hold on to some values and norms, some expectations and aspirations. In this regard, persistent constructive criticism of the performance of the government should not be considered or equated to intentions aimed at undermining anyone, humiliate anyone or subordinate anyone. It is simply out of a belief that this is the environment, the atmosphere that makes democracy work. This is the culture people feel necessity in this country if multi-party democracy is to succeed.

The fundamental value we must have is the respect for diversity and acceptance of pluralism. Gone are the days when everyone was supposed to think the same way, belong to the same political party, and support the same programme. True believers in multi-party democracy welcome dialogue and debate over views contrary to their own because they realise that they themselves may not always be right. They recognise that there is a specific role to be a played by each different organisation in a spirit of unity amidst diversity. This value of respect of diversity and dialogue means a realisation that political parties are important but that they are not the only actors in democracy.

A real democracy has to be built on the basis of justice and moral values and has to look to the common good. We should be more interested in a lively spirit of democracy that will give full meaning to the structures we have created or are creating and ensure their success in fostering the welfare and progress of our country. We can only build a society with the free co-operation of all its members.
The road to social peace must necessarily pass through dialogue, sincere dialogue that seeks truth and goodness. That dialogue must be a meaningful and generous offer of a meeting of good intentions and not a possible justification for continuing to foment dissention, mistrust, and suspicion etcetera.

The author is a Sudan Tribune journalist and can be reached via ngorgarang8@gmail.com

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  • 16 May 2013 12:16, by Paul Chadrack

    This article need to be read by Paul Malong Awan,Riziek Zakeria and those greedy political personalities who came from that part of our nation. days for dictatorship are gone. it is now good that,there are voices calling a spade using it’s right name from that region where this greedy president came from.

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    • 16 May 2013 15:21, by Lotodo Awino Odug

      Thank Mr Garang for this great articl,But i have to mind you that our country will go through Somali-like route before final peace can be forge.like for instance,if Yauyau won,then those who will be left out of his administration will take up arm.the same can be applied to Riek’s too.by then consensus will be chosen by majority as the only viable mean of conflict resolution.tribal wars will

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      • 16 May 2013 15:32, by Lotodo Awino Odug

        have to fought first.look at the nature of our army now,they are disintegrating and nobody is willing to fight the rebels.When a contigent is send in to the battles.some surrendered and the rest deserted,leaving the general with nobody to protect him.The new recruits who came resently from Khartoum were forced by conditions to enlist,and as the war began,they have shown signs of unwillingness to

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        • 16 May 2013 15:35, by Lotodo Awino Odug

          sacrify their lives for the war they knew nothing of or of coruptions to be exact.

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    • 16 May 2013 15:28, by Manyok

      This is a great article, brother Ngor. Now we are seriously thinking. Logical debate is the only way to go.

      repondre message

      • 16 May 2013 17:23, by emily.bronte

        all the blogs would end up getting spammed eventually
        ????? ?????

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        • 16 May 2013 21:47, by Lotodo Awino Odug

          Is it your job to spam blogs or is your brain dead.

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  • 19 May 2013 01:06, by Ito

    Thank you brother Ngor for the wonderful article but I interpret Wani igga as a weak person. conceding third position to Riek was mistake. First is Dinka, second is Dinka why not second to Riek and wani keep his position for the sake of regional representation. Why others don’t concede, does it mean they are greedy?

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