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Briefing Paper No. 5: A PROPOSAL BY SHALOM-SCCRR FOR CONFLICT TRANSFORMATION AROUND THE BUILDING OF THE SAHEL GREAT GREEN WALL

By November 27, 2020 February 26th, 2021 No Comments

(Shalom-SCCRR Department of Research

Director: Prof. W. K. Omoka.

The voice of Peace Practitioners and Researchers)

BUILDING THE SAHEL GREAT GREEN WALL IN THE FACE OF LOCALIZED/CROSS-BORDER CONFLICT: HOW SHALOM-SCCRR’s PEACEBUILDING METHODOLOGY CAN BEAR ON THE CONFLICT{© 2020 Shalom-SCCRR}*

(Proposed Model for Shalom-SCCRR’s Conflict Transformation and Peace-Building Intervention) * *

Introduction

The Great Green Wall initiative in the interest of peace and development is a reaction to a huge environmental challenge stemming from a combination of the vagaries of climate and the activities of humankind, namely the observed southward movement of the Sahara Desert.

Reforestation is one of the key focus areas for the Sustainable Development Goals as envisaged in Goal 15 “Life on Land”. According to the State of the World Forests Report 2020, the past 30 years (1990-2020) have witnessed a 1.7% decrease in forest cover from 32.5% to 30.8% (FAO, 2020). Even though statistics indicate that the rate of deforestation has decreased substantially in the past 3 decades, it is notable that since 1990, the entire globe has experienced a net loss of about 178 million hectares of forested land through deforestation (FAO, 2020). Diminishing forest cover as currently experienced in the world is a key threat to peace, stability and security especially in those regions of the world where human populations mainly depend on rain fed agriculture and pastoralism for livelihood.

The raging loss of forest cover and the resultant effects are even worsening situations in the world’s arid and semi-arid regions such as the Sahel in Africa. The Sahel is a vast semi-arid region stretching a distance of about 8,000kms from the coast of Mauritania on the west to the shores of the Red Sea in the east. The dwindling rainfall patterns in the Sahel have adversely affected both crop production and livestock keeping, yet these are the two major sources of livelihood among the majority of the resident communities.

Environment and Conflict

Despite the interplay between varying governance, economic, socio-cultural and historical factors, climate risks and the resultant impacts are central in the interplay of factors that have causal connection with the rampant and increasing conflict among communities in the Sahel region.

In his understanding of environmental security as the freedom from environmental destruction and resource scarcity, Gleditsch (2007) develops a nexus between resource scarcity and conflict which is applicable in the analysis and understanding of the environment as one of the underlying causes of conflict in the Sahel region. Basically, his perspective contends that there are three main forms of resource scarcity; “Demand induced scarcity which results from population growth; supply induced scarcity which results from the depletion or degradation of a resource, and structural scarcity which refers to the distribution of the resource[1].

The United Nations observes that while the vast majority of people in the Sahel depend on livestock rearing, there is a notable sharp decrease in the land available for pastoralists posing a real threat to pastoralism as a source of livelihood. Similarly, the rising temperatures and the resultant prolonged droughts have led to adverse effects on food production, thus, leading to a significant decline in the supply of food products.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) observes that many Sahelian farmers have been severely affected by the consequences of past droughts. The droughts changed the lives as many continue abandoning their degraded lands and going out in search of more favourable lands and better living conditions (UNCCD, 2016).

The diminishing supply of resources such as arable land, forests, and water has led to a resources’ demand-supply disequilibrium, thus, occasioning high-level competition and conflict among beneficiaries. With the major source of livelihood among people in the Sahel being livestock keeping and crop production, the diminishing availability of resources that support these livelihood patterns remains a major source of inter-communal conflict.

State Fragility and conflict

The climatic risks in the Sahel are further compounded by the widespread regional instability as a result of civil insecurity, displacement of human populations, inter-communal conflicts, and the fast-growing radicalization of the youth. State fragility and the ensuing capture of resource-rich territories by violent insurgent groups have largely decreased the role of governments in ensuring equity in resource governance. Consequently, the widespread conflicts occur over the unfair apportioning of wealth derived from high-value extractive resources such as minerals, metals, hydrocarbons, timber among others (UNEP, 2009).

Violent Ideological Extremism

Radicalization and violent extremism have had a devastating effect on people’s lives and livelihoods across the African continent. Peace, stability and development have been compromised by violent extremists and warlords who operate seamlessly across territorial borders (UNDP, 2015). According to European Union (2016), “violent extremist ideologies are gaining an unprecedented level of traction across the globe, taking root in local communities and controlling territory in a number of fragile states.”

For instance, the Sahel has experienced a steady rise in extremist violence since 2018. The Jihadist groups and political militia have committed atrocities against civilians leading to massive loss of lives and injuries. Since 2016, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have largely been in the headlines recording deaths as a result of terrorist attacks. In the recent past, these terrorist attacks have been largely associated with Islamic extremist groups such as the Islamic State (IS).

Religion continues to be significantly associated with the widespread radicalization and execution of violent extremist acts against civilians across the world. Devine (2011, 2017) observes that when religion becomes energized or preoccupied by increasing quantitative institutional membership and control rather than qualitative spiritual transformation, the potential for it becoming a destructive factor generating violent conflict escalates. This is the experiential and theoretical standpoint that informs the linkage between religion on the one hand, and the dynamics and drivers of radicalization and extremism on the other.

When the propagation of religions as institutions becomes the primary focus rather than religion’s core spiritual message, there emerges religious ideological extremism which predominantly fosters exclusivist violent tendencies that violate fundamental human rights. In this respect, religious ideological extremism can be the foundation and driver of radicalization and extremism underpinning the imperial annexation of territory, solely bent on creating theocracies which are intolerant of all other forms of contrary beliefs or freedoms.

Despite the association that has existed between religion and violent extremism, history has demonstrated, and continues to do so, that radicalization and violent extremism are not confined to any one religion or ideological expression. It is, therefore, important to note that as a peace and development actor seeking to prevent and transform radicalization and violent religious extremism, Shalom will ensure that its interventions have a short and long term visionary perspective.  The interventions will be responsive to human security problems that are evidence based, and designed to transform manifest violent conditions of intolerance and terrorism to situations of inclusivity and tolerance.  This form of tolerance will be hallmarked by rejection of all forms of intolerance that have underpinned the radicalization processes in the Sahel. 

The African Union in its second regional steering committee meeting of 2014 underscored the nobility of the Great Green Wall with its focus on the Sahel region. The AU applauded the importance of the project for its aim of environmental restoration as well as social and developmental stability in a region that is negatively affected by a complex of interwoven challenges of climatic risks, chronic poverty, insurgencies, criminality and violent extremism (AU, 2014).

The complexity of issues in the Sahel implies that achieving the objectives of the Great Green Wall requires a far more multi-faceted approach and multi-stakeholder engagement which draws together political, security and development objectives in a holistic manner.

Consequently, conflict intervention becomes a key pillar in the multi-dimensional approach geared to broadening the opportunity for success in the implementation of the Great Green Wall Project.

Shalom-SCCRR has been prolifically involved in resolving various forms of interethnic conflicts emerging from the pastoralist’s way of life in Eastern Africa. Consequently, Shalom has developed a wide range of expertise and learnt an array of lessons which are a valuable resource in terms of input to the implementation of the Great Green Wall Project.

The main objective of Shalom-SCCRR is to attain conflict resolution and reconciliation for all people in Africa, evidenced in sustainable peace and integral human development. Shalom brings to the table a conflict transformation methodology that empowers conflicting communities with peacebuilding skills and conflict resolution techniques which are enablers of cohesive co-existence and mutual concern for the well-being and development of one another. 

Based on Shalom-SCCRR’s vision, mission, core values and objectives, we have developed a multi-dimensional conflict intervention approach. This approach aims at contributing significantly in the prevention and transformation of factors that underlie the rampant criminality, insecurity, inter-ethnic conflict, social injustice and violent extremism that partly characterize the way of life in the Sahel region.

Shalom-SCCRR approach involves empowering antagonists to be the architects of their own interdependent peaceful coexistence, integrated development, ever focused on reconciling differences. The approach will involve creating awareness of the existence, dangers, and underlying causes of conflict among communities while also guiding them towards implementing short and long-term responses to the challenges of this menace. The strategy will operationalize transformative interventions that aim at inculcating a mindset of tolerance, inclusivity, and reconciliation among individuals, communities, cultures, and states as minimum requirements for sustainable peaceful coexistence. 

SHALOM-SCCRR’s Conflict Transformation Methodology

Shalom-SCCRR’s contribution to the Great Green Wall project will focus on four main objectives:

  1. To conduct research into the underlying causes of conflicts so as to inform local conflict transformation interventions and policy direction for advocacy
  2. To empower local community leaders with analytical skills and techniques in conflict transformation as a forerunner to problem-solving, reconciliation and joint development initiatives
  3. To mobilize communities towards self-initiated problem solving strategies for sustainable peaceful co-existence
  4. To strengthen the role of religious organizations, civic organizations, and NGOs within the target region with conflict transformation capacities

The following are the key components of Shalom-SCCRR’s model of intervention that will be contextualized in addressing challenges posed by interethnic conflict, inter-communal conflict and general insecurity in the region targeted by the Great Green Wall project:

  1. Research

Shalom-SCCRR proposes to conduct empirical research amongst conflicting communities on the underlying causes of conflict in order to counteract rumours, conjecture, propaganda and wrong information that are and can be used in fuelling conflict. The research will also help in highlighting the dynamics of the specific conflict in focus. It is imperative that the conflict intervention team becomes aware of the unfolding conflict dynamics as they conduct the conflict management and transformation interventions in order to remain relevant and up-to-date at all times. The empirical research is validated by the community in an effort to ensure the interventions are accurate. Research will also be valuable in informing peace and development policy interventions in the Sahel region.

  1. Empowerment of local community leaders

Successful conflict management and prevention interventions is highly dependent upon established community structures and functional institutions that are well capacitated to steer a community towards a peaceful destiny. A carefully and professionally guided process of stakeholder analysis, leads to the identification of relevant personnel to initially facilitate the structuring of local community influential opinion shapers in readiness for capacity building processes.

In the context of structured peacebuilding workshops, the established groups are equipped with theoretical and practical knowledge on conflict transformation processes, conflict analysis skills and peace-building techniques. This skill based training kick starts the process of personal transformation of attitudes and behaviour of these immediate community members and enables them to begin building a relationship of non-violence and greater tolerance of each other. The skills obtained provide a basis for the leaders to engage their respective communities in problem-solving workshops where interdependent reconciliation rudiments and joint action plans for sustainable development are activated.

There are a series of peacebuilding and conflict transformation training that the community leaders will be taken through and the main ones are outlined here:

a) Conflict Paradigms:

Practices aimed at addressing issues of peace and development, or conflict and under-development, should be comprehensive in terms of the analytical paradigms applied and the existing theories upon which those practices are based. The training on conflict paradigms is essential since it provides a guide through which the trained community leaders can identify and distinguish between underlying/structural, proximate, and trigger causes of conflict and underdevelopment. The resultant awareness and distinction provides the community with a firm foundation for conducting conflict analysis as a basis for accuracy in the identification and implementation of corresponding conflict transformation and peace-building interventions.  This is a prerequisite for anyone engaging in preventing and transforming any form of conflict.

The three main paradigms which dominate the disciplines of peace studies and political science are:

i. Strategist-Realism, which concentrates on the role of power as the dominant variable in achieving one’s security and interests. Zero-sum dynamics of power over the weaker party is operationalized through manipulative control of power and resources, and the selfish use of threats, sanctions, coercion, and insecurity to achieve one’s goals. A win-win mentality is not prioritized in the interactive relationship of the parties involved.  It is the dominant paradigm pervading social interaction in world politics at the ethnic, regional, inter-state, and intra-state levels.  (Hans Morganthau).     

ii. Peace research paradigm focuses on the role of social structures/institutions inhibiting the actualization of people’s potential, as the basis for conflict in society.  Johan Galtung who is considered the expert of this paradigm observes; “Structural violence is present when human beings are influenced so that their somatic and mental realizations are below their potential realizations” (Johan Galtung, 1969).  The structures have to be rejected, transformed, and/or new ones put in place if there is to be sustainable peace and development in a world where equality and equity prevail.

b) Conflict Transformation: is anchored in the world society school of international relations.  John Burton is a founder and champion of this school of thought. The paradigm claims the imperative to war does not arise from the nature of the State or its external relations, but from the way the environment acts on individuals in their interactions and inter-relationships as they endeavour to meet basic human, and ontological (identity, participation, security) needs. Conflict is not considered instinctual or that people need to dominate other humankind; the values that satisfy human and ontological needs are not in short supply

While the relevant perceptions and explanations emerging from the three paradigms are invaluable in identification and categorization, the causes are numerous and have interactive impacts on each other. 

b) Conflict Transformation:

Having acquired conflict analysis skills and obtained clarity on the causes of conflict, the next task is to equip the leaders with conflict transformation skills and peace-building techniques. Conflict transformation entails both the acquisition of skills and establishment of policy guidelines that guarantee availability of appropriate resources for sustainable development. These two aspects are necessary for achieving positive peace, and counteracting any possible regression to negative peace and manifest violence. 

The process of conflict transformation addresses four key areas;

The process of conflict transformation addresses four key areas;

Personal:  The psychological, spiritual, emotional implications on conflict and peace.

Relational: The behaviour, stereotyping/labelling, and communication patterns between parties.

Cultural: Conflict sanctioned and legitimized by culture, such as traditional violent customs, negative ethnicity/ethnocentrism.         

Structural: Institutional weaknesses which need urgent remedial and development interventions to counteract their impact on structural and manifest violence interrogated vis-à-vis negative impacts on the actualization of peoples/community’s somatic and mental potentials.

As all parties in conflict need training in processes of conflict management and transformation, implementation of peacebuilding policy guidelines remain critical. Policy needs to be the signpost for sustainable development interventions constantly impelling the peace progression forward and providing a conducive space where justice and human rights can be enjoyed.

The Sahel states as well as regional and continental bodies such as Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), ECOWAS and the African Union become central to the establishment of a policy framework that is supportive of sustainable peacebuilding and development interventions. Shalom-SCCRR recognizes the invaluable role played by local, national and regional government institutions in supporting peace and development policy frameworks. Consequently, the organization will be readily available to conduct empowerment forums to these institutions.

c) Reconciliation:

A sustained shared future of interdependent co-existence depends on reconciliation being processed and operationalized.  In order to foster reconciliation among the affected communities there are four essential elements, at a minimum, that have to be addressed in a holistic mutually supporting manner, namely,

a) Peace

b) Truth

c) Justice

d) Mercy

c) Reconciliation:

A sustained shared future of interdependent co-existence depends on reconciliation being processed and operationalized.  In order to foster reconciliation among the affected communities there are four essential elements, at a minimum, that have to be addressed in a holistic mutually supporting manner, namely,

A) Peace

B) Truth

C) Justice

D) Mercy

Reconciliation Figure

Adopted from Lederach, J. P. (1995), and Devine, P. R. “Preventing and Transforming Radicalization, Religious Ideological Extremism, and Terrorism in Eastern Africa” Methodology for Achieving Tolerance, Inclusivity, and Positive Peace”, (Jan. 2020)

Reconciliation is fundamentally a process that commences in the transformation of manifest conflict to negative peace towards positive peace. This process is achieved through attending to the truth regarding the actual or perceived factors that caused the conflict. Key to the process also is the examination and acknowledgement of injustices that have been committed and which have deepened the wounds of hatred among adversaries. Acknowledgement and restoration of justice becomes key to the operationalization of mercy which is perpetually applied and experienced at inter-communal levels. These four elements of reconciliation are so linked to each other that treating any of them in isolation reduces the value of the other three.

3. Integrative Problem Solving Workshops

Positive peace requires the practical engagement of conflicting parties in order to have a joint agreement on a mode of relationship that will bring mutual benefits in terms of peaceful living.  

At this stage, it is presumed that all the stakeholders to the peacebuilding process have sufficiently acquired the necessary conflict analysis skills and peacebuilding techniques and have significantly improved in their level of tolerance towards each other. Consequently, they are now ready to come to the table and engage in a healthy dialogue with a previously perceived adversary group in order to jointly solve the problems that have persistently made the conflict intractable.

It is through the problem-solving workshops that reconciliation, institutional arrangements and action plans for a sustained shared future of interdependent co-existence are agreed on. Tolerance and inclusivity are imperative minimum requirements for the success of reconciliation. The springing up of inter-communal institutions, infrastructural projects impacting on basic human needs and communal actualization of potential are all essential in any sustainable peace building. Engagement in practical problem solving sessions is key to the realization of this.

4. Strengthening of relevant non-government institutions/structures & Religious organizations

Shalom-SCCRR recognizes the role that middle-level stakeholders play as strategists and policy advocates especially in bridging the gap between community and government leadership. Consequently, Shalom-SCCRR will strengthen the role of religious organizations, civic organizations, and NGOs in peace and development theory and practitioner proficiencies.  This will be done through a series of conflict transformation and peacebuilding workshops to enhance their capacity and proficiency as strategists, policy advocates, and operatives in the conflict-prone areas.

Conclusion

The Great Green Wall project provides a great opportunity for the Sahel region to initiate and experience conflict transformation, peacebuilding, prevent religious ideological extremism and progress socio-economic-political development. In order to maximize on the opportunities that this initiative brings, stakeholders need to blend interventions from all the 3 levels of society i.e. bottom, middle and top.

Empowerment of stakeholders in all these three levels and the resultant synergies between them provides a solid foundation to generate a society of tolerance and inclusivity.  Human agency and governance has an immense role and responsibility to ensure all citizens that their basic human needs can be met, and that they are able to actualize their potential free of structural and manifest violence.

By:

Prof. W.K. Omoka, PhD – Shalom-SCCRR Director of Research

Rev. Oliver Noonan, MA – Shalom-SCCRR Executive Director

Mr. Godfrey Okoth, MA – Shalom-SCCRR Director of Programs

Rev. Dr. Patrick. R. Devine, PhD – Shalom-SCCRR Chairman


[1] Gleditsch, Nils Peter, (2007), “Environmental Change Security and Conflict”, in Chester Crocker et al. eds., Leashing the Dogs of War, Conflict Management in a Divided World. (Washington: United States Institute of Peace Press), p. 178.

* This document is copyright to Shalom-SCCRR and cannot be reproduced without permission. Quotations from it should be acknowledged to Shalom-SCCRR

** First shared at a consultatory meeting convened by Mr. Don Mullan in 2020, whose work on the Great Green Wall Project has consultative links with the United Nations, the African Union, Religious Organizations, and other stakeholders

REFERENCES

African Union (2014). The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative, 2nd   Regional Steering Committee meeting, https://au.int/fr/node/14000

Devine, P. (2017). “Radicalization and Extremism in Eastern Africa: Dynamics and Drivers” in the Journal of Mediation and Applied Conflict Analysis, Vol. 4, No. 2

Devine, P. (2011). A critical analysis of the role of religion in fuelling or healing conflict.   Tangaza Journal of Theology Mission, (1), 52-69.

Dollard, J. (1939). Frustration and Aggression. New Haven: Yale University Press

Food and Agricultural Organization, (2020). http://www.fao.org/3/ca8642en/ca8642en.pdf. The State of the World’s Forests, Forest, Biodiversity, and People, Rome

Galtung, J. (1969). Violence, Peace, and Peace Research.  Journal of Peace Research, 3, 167- 191.

Gleditsch, Nils Peter, (2007), “Environmental Change Security and Conflict”, in Chester Crocker et al. eds., Leashing the Dogs of War, Conflict Management in a Divided World. Washington: United States Institute of Peace Press

Moody Jessica, (2020), “The Sahel’s uphill battle to halt the expansion of Islamist extremism in    2020 – Part I” in the Africa Portal (https://www.africaportal.org/features/sahels-uphill-  battle-halt-expansion-islamist-extremism-2020/)

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). (2016), The Great Green Wall, Hope for the Sahara and The Sahel, https://www.unccd.int/sites/default/files/documents/26042016_GGW_ENG.pdf

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). (2015). (Third Expert Consultation, Addis Ababa,) http://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/Democratic%20Governance/Local%20Governance/UNDP-RBA-Preventing-Extremism-2015.pdf

UNEP, (2009), From Conflict to Peacebuilding, The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment. Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme

RELEVANT SHALOM-SCCRR PERSPECTIVE DOCUMENTS

Kenya: Shalom Centre receives UN Accreditation by Matt Moran

‘Conflict transformation, Radicalization and Extremism in Eastern Africa’ by Rev. Fr. Ferdinand Lugonzo, Outgoing Secretary General of AMECEA

SUBMISSION TO PUBLIC CONSULTATION ON THE IRISH AID WHITE PAPER by Patrick Devine, Ph.D, Chairman, Shalom-SCCRR, Kenya.

SOME IMPACTS OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS CAUSING CONFLICTS IN NORTHERN KENYA by Ms. Asha Awed Said, MA, Shalom- SCCRR Program Assistant.

AFRICA’S GREAT GREEN WALL by Ms. Esther Njeri Kibe, MA, Shalom-SCCRR Program Officer.

SHALOM – SCCRR CHAIRMAN’S REPORT FOR 2019 Patrick Devine, Ph.D, Chairman, Shalom-SCCRR, Kenya.

SHALOM-SCCRR CHAIRMAN’S REPORT FOR 2018 by Patrick Devine, Ph.D, Chairman, Shalom-SCCRR, Kenya.

ICN Press on the 4th Lt. Gen. Dermot Earley Memorial Lecture in Maynooth University: MEDIA RELEASE ON REV. DR. PATRICK DEVINE’S LECTURE ON ‘‘PEACE, SECURITY AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN EASTERN AFRICA’’

TACKLING AFRICAN DROUGHT PROBLEMS AT THEIR VERY ROOTS  by Susan Gately, The Irish Catholic.

How about a Great Green Wall? Fr Patrick Devine and the Shalom Center: Living out the ‘Church Without Walls’ in Africa by Gladys Ganiel

IGAD(Africa) Honours Fr. Patrick Devine and Pays Tribute to the Work of SCCRR by Dr. Michael Comerford:https://www.shalomconflictcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Newsletter_mar_2014.-1.pdf

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