I’m writing this special brief to highlight for you an exceptionally important event in the history of the Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation and how vital it is to our vision and mission for peace.
Shalom has signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with the Intergovernmental Agency for Development (known as IGAD), which is comprised of eight nations in Africa: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda. Without doubt, the people in these states face tremendous stresses in terms of conflict, hazardous social progress and underdevelopment.
The agreement follows two days of meetings I had in Djibouti in March with the Executive Secretary of IGAD, His Excellency Ambassador Mahboub Maalim, and with the directors of the Peace Security, Agriculture and Environment, Gender, and Economic Cooperation departments, during which the core issues and general substance of the proposed MoU were discussed and agreed on. Fundamentally, Shalom is about addressing the root causes of conflict, social injustice, abuse of human rights, religious intolerance as well as dealing with many of the associated dreadful symptoms in the process. Shalom is very grateful to Ambassador Maalim and the various Directors for their welcome and collaborative spirit during the deliberations.
On June 15, we signed the new Memorandum of Understanding with IGAD at a ceremony in Nairobi. This new MoU expands the operational partnership between IGAD and Shalom. Both partners are challenged to extend their research capacities and peace-building activities in the region.
We believe this new agreement will be transformingly productive.
For example, Article Four of the MoU spells out the specific objectives that will be the core of this cooperative work plan and implementation. These include specialized training of IGAD’s conflict early warning mechanism personnel (CEWARN), the engagement of Shalom with the peace-building and reconciliation process in South Sudan, addressing the issues of gender in conflict environments, and the introduction of the meticulously researched Shalom Peace Syllabus into the educational systems as a highly effective formative tool for young people.
Expressing his gratitude and appreciation to Shalom for our partnership, the IGAD Executive Secretary accentuated the contribution to the well-being of the population of people in the horn of Africa. He pointed out how this MoU would focus on conflict early warning and mediation, as well as gender development and research collaboration.
“The peace and security landscape in the region and the world over has drastically changed,” said Ambassador Maalim, adding that the cooperation between the two organizations would therefore be beneficial to the people and governments of the region “as they tackle emerging challenges, such as terrorism, migration, radicalization, and human trafficking….There is therefore a need to have governmental, non-governmental agencies and communities, work together. In order to see this happen, there needs to be a connecting road between governments and the community. SCCRR provides that link between these communities and the government.”
During the signing ceremony in Nairobi, I outlined how our relationship with IGAD has become more dynamic not only in word but also in deed over the past four years. In respect to IGAD and its dedicated leadership, we are inspired by their policies for peace and security in the region which are similar to those of Shalom. Shalom, while ever alert to persistent ethnic conflicts between pastoral communities, conflict potentialities during national election processes, is also very sensitive to conflict issues in South Sudan and Somalia.
Addressing the assembled body at the ceremony, Prof. Omoka, SCCRR Director of Research, recalled a former African head of state from Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, who emphasized that thought (theory) without practice is empty – and practice without thought is blind. The need for the communication of continuous quality research as a basis for policy is critical in the relationship between IGAD and SCCRR. Dr. Agol M. Kwai, an expert at the IGAD Center for Pastoral Areas and Livestock Development, highlighted the importance of the initiative to allow the partners to achieve our targeted goals. It is a great opportunity and we look forward to see it being put into practice.
Dr. Robert Mudida, SCCRR Board Member, spoke of the changing realities in the IGAD region, saying that Shalom and IGAD complement each other very well because it gives an aspect of civil society which is more resolution oriented, which leads to solutions based on civil society and involvement of states. He said that IGAD is the best partner to have in Eastern Africa to settle and resolve conflicts in the region as a whole. Rosaline Serem, MBA, SCCRR Board Member, who specializes in Educational Peace Projects and Logistical Support, spoke on how the MoU increases our capacity to work holistically in a more integrated way. She reiterated Shalom’s tremendous respect for Ambassador Maalim, “for walking with us over the years.” In acknowledging the vision and leadership of both organizations she also thanked the entire Shalom team in the field, working in the trenches to ensure that our mandate is fulfilled, under the able leadership of Fr. Oliver Noonan, SCCRR Country Director. She expressed appreciation for Dr. Michael Comerford, SCCRR Board Member, presently working in South Sudan, who was unable to attend the function, who also contributed substantially to the formulation the MoU. [Click here to download the MoU].
The road ahead is going to be challenging, “hands on” and precarious for all our personnel in the front line. Even so, as long as we are augmented with sound theoretical paradigms, technical mastery and methodology, supplemented with advocacy based on empirical research, substantiated with constructive interethnic educational projects we are confident of transforming many conflicts to situations of enduring positive peace.
As we thank IGAD our appreciation goes to you – our supporters around the world – for being instrumental in the peace-building process with us. Shalom’s mission depends on the generosity and assistance of visionary people like you who believe that human beings can co-exist without conflict and war; moreover, that they can live together with respect, understanding, tolerance and a commitment to mutual interdependence.
This is what we call positive peace.
Fr. Patrick Devine
Shalom Executive Chairman