Nonviolence, Peace, UN Report

Securing peace through Nonviolent Peaceforce accompaniment

by Mary T. Yelenick, Main Representative of Pax Christi International to the UN and Harley Henigson, Nonviolent Peaceforce, South Sudan

At the core of “peacekeeping missions” by the United Nations—the preeminent international organization dedicated to global peace—lies a fundamental contradiction:  the reliance on armed actors to build peace.  UN peacekeeping missions consist of soldiers from troop-contributing countries, deployed pursuant to a UN peacekeeping mandate and rules of engagement. Yet, the logical fallacy of using the threat of violence as a deterrent to violence is being increasingly questioned, with the international community slowly coming to the realization that the use of violence begets only more violence. Even if a peacekeeping intervention succeeds in the short term, the inherent threat of violence will only perpetuate more violence. Peace cannot be won; it must be built.

While UN peacekeeping missions remain the de facto conflict-resolution tool on the ground, there do exist a number of viable and effective alternatives to armed conflict resolution. Among the most compelling and innovative approaches is that of unarmed civilian protection (UCP), as practiced by civilian peacekeepers in some of the most violent regions of the world.  Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP), www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org, and Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), www.cpt.org are two of the foremost international nonprofit organizations employing UCP as a conflict resolution strategy. (Over the years, several Pax Christi USA members have been unarmed civilian peacemakers with CPT.)  Both NP and CPT send unarmed civilian peacekeepers to live within, and engage with the people in, communities affected by violent conflict.

During an event on conflict resolution strategies in New York, NP civilian peacekeepers highlighted the effectiveness of UCP in countering violent conflict through the simple act of being present and engaging with affected communities. One of the most insightful accounts of the power of UCP was given by one of NP’s civilian peacekeepers, who explained how protective accompaniment provided to women on a regular basis significantly decreased those women’s exposure to the risk of sexual violence when they ventured outside of refugee camps…

Read the rest of the article at this link.

Peace

South Sudan: A glimmer of hope

by Eva Gerritse, PAX

A diocese needs a bishop. In the beginning of March, a new bishop was finally installed in Torit, South Sudan, after the city had been without one for five years. Five years in which a lot has happened. Let’s go back a bit in time.

September 2017. The renewed violence in Juba, which broke out less than a year after the first peace agreement to end the civil war, had quickly spread to the south of the country. Torit, southwest of Juba, was turned into a ghost town within a few weeks. Many people fled to the camps in Uganda or into the bush. The market was deserted and the roads into and out of town were impassable.

High wall

For months, people in Torit hardly dared to walk the streets anymore for fear of violence, committed both by armed individuals and groups, by people in or out of uniform. When I was there in the fall of 2017, it was still very quiet. Together with our partner, Father John Opi of the Diocese of Torit, I was there to evaluate how the projects were going, to go through some administrative matters, and to discuss what it would take to continue the work. He had arranged a hotel close to the airplane landing strip, with a high wall around it, where we could have meals so that we didn’t need to go outside much. In the car, he pointed out the places where people had been shot a few weeks earlier. Fortunately nothing happened during my visit and the situation has improved since then. But at that moment the desolation and silence were prominent…

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Peace, Refugee Stories

Stone soup for hungry children

by Tony Magliano

Do you remember the childhood story Stone Soup?

It’s an old folk tale about a couple of hungry travelers who creatively entice hesitant villagers to fill their large cooking pot with delicious soup ingredients.

After the initial refusal of the villagers to feed the hungry travelers, the two men fill their pot with stream water, light a fire under it, and then add a large stone to the water.

A curious villager asks what the men are doing. The travelers tell her they are cooking delicious stone soup, and that they would be happy to share it, except that it has not reached its full potential yet. They explain to each inquiring villager that with just a few spices and some vegetables the soup will be ready.

So, desiring to enjoy the delicious stone soup, one by one each villager is happy to give up a vegetable and a smidgen of spice.

After cooking is complete, the stone is removed, and all of the gathered villagers, along with the travelers, enjoy together a wonderful helping of stone soup.

This delightful moral tale teaches that when we share what we have with those who have little or nothing, there is indeed enough good food, and other basic necessities, to go around for everyone. And that the act of sharing has the potential to bring us together as a village and even as a global community.

But in the village of Riimenze, in South Sudan, stone soup is not a charming moral tale, it is a tragic reality!…

Click here to read the entire column.

Peace, Refugee Stories

Over 20 million people facing starvation – and we should care!

by Tony Magliano

Think to a time when you were hungry. Remember how it felt, a bit uncomfortable, right? You may have even said, “I’m starving!” But you knew that in a short time the next meal would be there for you. Knowing that a good meal was awaiting you allowed your slight hunger to actually whet your appetite.

Now imagine that you are very hungry and have no idea where the next meal will come from for you and your family. In this case your hunger is physically painful and terrifyingly stressful.

Imagine now that there is no work to be found, the drought has dried up your crops. Your livestock is dead. And you and your family have eaten the last seeds that were meant for next season’s planting.

Now how are you feeling?

This is how many Africans are feeling, especially those in South Sudan, Somalia, Northeast Nigeria, and nearby Yemen. In these nations over 20 million people are facing famine and starvation. Armed conflict and severe drought are the main engines driving this emergency – the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II…

Read the entire article by clicking here.

Refugee Stories, Young Peace Journalists

Refugee Stories: “One day we will go back and offer good leadership to the people of South Sudan”

The following interview was done by Martin Githome and Margaret Njeri Mungai, members of the Young Peace Journalists. It is the latest entry in the Young Peace Journalists project featuring the stories and voices of refugees. 

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This is an interview with Daniel Majok (not real name) from South Sudan and currently a refugee in Kenya. He agreed to share his story with us.

Daniel is currently a student in one of the private universities here in Kenya. Nostalgically he says his life was okay before he became a refugee. He misses his former days spent with his playmates whose whereabouts he does not know. His worry is that he does not know whether they are alive or dead. Although he cannot quite remember the precise details of life since he left South Sudan at a young age, he relies on what the older people describe as ‘their old life’ in South Sudan. However, in his heart he feels that he was happy, carefree and comfortable in South Sudan before the protracted conflict started. To earn a living, his family, as most citizens from the South Sudan region practiced agriculture and pastoralism. When the conflict started, they were displaced and lived as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Eastern part of South Sudan where they later entered Kenya in December 1996. Although his parents are also here in Kenya, they did not come together as a family as they were initially separated. Sadly he recalls that he arrived in Kenya accompanied only by his cousins and sister. In Kenya refugees especially from South Sudan are accommodated in a camp known as Kakuma, which is located in Turkana County which is in the Northern part of Kenya. Daniel pursued his primary and secondary education while still based in the Kakuma camp.

When we asked Daniel what the major reason was for fleeing, his answer was a definite:

“We fled out of fear of being killed in the war that was ongoing.

The initial war was between the North and South Sudan after the then-President Gaafar Naimery declared the whole of Sudan an Islamic state and under sharia law even in the non-Islamic region; that is, the South Sudan region. John Garang formed Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) movement to oppose this decision, which resulted into a civil war. Currently the ongoing war in South Sudan is said to be between the government forces and the opposition after president Salva Kiir accused his vice president Riek Machar of organising a coup against his government. This civil war has brought with it human rights abuses and killings which has forced many South Sudanese to flee.

With sadness in his eyes, Daniel tells us how it feels to leave the familiarity of one’s home. Equally, that being a refugee is not an option but rather a condition that one finds themselves in. On a psychological level he says it is discouraging and heartbreaking having to be termed as a refugee. In addition, he does not enjoy the stability he was enjoying back in South Sudan as the joy of being in a family, living with his family was interfered with.  He also shared that as a refugee there are certain things that he cannot freely enjoy as when he was in his country. Being a refugee also separates people as some go to different countries and they no longer get to meet or even communicate. Daniel also points out that majority of the refugees are isolated by the citizens of Kenya. This isolation makes the refugees feel that they are seen as not part of them. His greatest challenge as a refugee is hostility that he experiences at the Kakuma camp where most of the refugees are settled. The local community there feels that they have invaded their space. At other times they lack basic needs for example, food, water and clothing. The aid that is supposed to be offered to the refugees does not get to them on time because of the poor infrastructure. Not to mention that the shacks are very congested. This means that some refugees are forced to bear the harsh weather conditions for example the shacks will be leaking when it rains and when it is hot – Turkana is very hot – they will be forced to endure the scorching sun. Refugees also get their movements curtailed plus they are required to carry documents from one point to another.

One can feel the sadness in Daniel’s voice as he describes the turmoil and hardship they endured at the camp. They were times when they were forced to walk long distances to look for water; and when they did it was not very safe for drinking and cooking.

His eyes light up as he tells us,

“I strongly believe that with the education my colleagues and I are receiving now, we will one day be able to go back and offer good leadership to the people and country of South Sudan.

Having lived in Kenya for almost 20 years he still holds onto the faith that he will one day be able to go back to his home country when the situation is stable. His message is that people should never take their freedom and peace for granted and see refugee life as desirable at whatever cost. Daniel has a message to his government of South Sudan and the rebels. He reminds them that,

“There can be no government without people; a nation without people. The government should respect the opinion and the rights of their people. The government should also make efforts to stop the violence and address the human rights abuses so that the country will not be deserted. The people from South Sudan are still fleeing and they are based in many different countries.”

He also advocates for peace and urges all people not to look at tribal differences but seek for what unites them, respecting the policies of their individual country. Equally, he cautions the citizens not to use violence as a way of resolving minor disagreements when they occur. Daniel hopes that the government of South Sudan will be committed to bringing peace and to realise that “war brings no benefits and it is their own people who are suffering”. Daniel also shared what he would like to see happening in South Sudan in the following words:

“Tribalism and abuse of human rights should be condemned and democracy encouraged. The youth should also be educated on the importance of being citizens of a country through peace education, respecting human rights and living together in unity and cohesion.”

His advice to people who are taking peace for granted is that they should not ‘play with fire’ as the peace and freedom they now enjoy can easily be taken away through violent conflict.

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Martin Githome and Margaret Njeri Mungai are members of the Young Peace Journalists. They are students in Peace and Conflict Studies at St Paul’s University in Kenya.

Nonviolence, Women and Peacemaking

Nonviolence as a tool for empowering warring communities to be agents of their own change

By Elizabeth Kanini Kimau

Note: The following story was submitted to the Nonviolence and Just Peace conference in Rome in April 2016. Conference participants were invited to share short reflections on their own experiences of nonviolence and peacemaking.

In 2009, I began my peace mission in South Sudan (Sudan by then) and Northern Kenya, which is characterized by armed conflicts among pastoralist communities which inhabit that region. In Northern Kenya I went to live at the grassroots (Leyai IDP-camp) with the people who were badly affected by the Rendille-Borana conflict. In South Sudan I teach in RECONCILE Peace Institute which trains key persons, mobilized from all corners of South Sudan, on peace and trauma healing. For the last five years I have met participants who were born, lived, married, and are now aging, in war. Most of them have been in and out of refugee camps. In February 2015 I started helping a Catholic diocese in the western part of the country in establishing a Peace and Trauma Healing Museum. This region has also been affected by war — and worse, by the atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army or LRA, a rebel group from Northern Uganda which has abducted many women, girls, young men, and boys, and maimed and killed many. The language of nonviolence helped me transform myself and empowered me to be able to live and work in these hostile environments and among people who are violent as the result of protracted conflicts. Nonviolence has also been key in transforming the Rendille-Borana conflict in Northern Kenya.

This paper will only focus on my experience in Northern Kenya and how nonviolence was very powerful in changing violent relations to peaceful relations.

Experience of Violence in Leyai Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp

The Peace and Justice Commission (CJPC) of Tangaza University College, where I was a member, visited the Marsabit Diocesan CJPC to help in peace activities for one week. I learned that the conflict situation in the region has subjected many people to live in dehumanizing conditions. I resolved to participate in building a culture of peace in the region by empowering people to be agents of their own change. The ten pastoralist groups in Marsabit County were fighting each other. I decided to focus on the Rendille-Borana conflict which was claiming many lives at that time.

I went to live in Leyai IDP Camp to create a rapport with the people, understand their culture, build trust, allow the people to know me and deeply understand the violent conflict. I saw that Leyai primary school was closed several times due to insecurity and had just reopened with only three teachers. Therefore, as I lived with the local people, I started teaching their traumatized children in the school.

Leyai IDP Camp was inhabited by the Rendille community. While there, I observed that the Rendille and Borana communities were deeply divided and never interacted. Each community used its own source of water, means of transport and never traded with each other. They perceived each other as an enemy and whoever killed an enemy was praised and termed a hero. I witnessed situations where people were killed and cattle were raided. The pain of loss, bitterness and anger was temporarily ‘relieved’ after revenge.

As I interacted with the children, I learned that the enmity and hatred had been passed down from generation to generation, leaving the conflict in a vicious cycle. Whenever I asked the children to draw, they all drew guns, people killing each other and cattle being raided. I asked different questions at different times. What will you do when you grow up? “I will go kill Borana and take back our cattle.” Who created your parents? “God.” Who created the parents of Borana children? “The Devil.” When I bring Borana children, what will you do with them? “We will kill them.” My interaction with the pupils informed me of an urgent need to cut the chain of enmity and hatred.

Overcoming Violence with Excessive Violence

The hatred and enmity between Rendille and Borana communities was a big obstacle to any dialogue attempt or to solving disputes constructively. I heard from the local communities that many peace meetings had ended in violence. In addition I observed that any act of violence was reacted to with excessive violence. If cattle were raided and a person killed, revenge was immediate and it was doubled in many cases. Many victims of revenge were innocent people, especially from Songa and Jaldesa locations who live at the border of the two communities. The revenge mission escalated the violence to a very high magnitude, leaving the area very insecure.

Introducing Nonviolence as an Alternative to Solving Conflicts with Bloody Violence

The deep rooted culture of violence and revenge could only be transformed if people changed the way they perceived each other and communicated. Consequently their violent actions will change. I met Imtraud Kauschat from Germany and her team who were training in nonviolent communication. In collaboration with Irmtraud, we introduced nonviolence between Borana and Rendille communities. We began by training the elders who are the key decision-makers. They were taken away from the violence zone to a peaceful area (more than 600 km). The elders started to interact, listen to each other, and perceive each other as human beings. They were able to sit and discuss the violence which has enslaved them. The elders went back to Marsabit as a team, and when people saw them together in Marsabit town, they asked, “When did Rendille and Borana elders start talking together?” These elders visited various villages to ask people to unite and take responsibility to build their own peace.

Secondly a team of Morans/warriors (key perpetrators to the conflict) were trained in nonviolent communication. Some confessed how they were to kill each other during several violent attacks. They decided to remain friends. When they went back, they resolved to preach peace to their peers and keep them from raiding or killing.

The women whose children and husbands had been killed by the bloody conflicts were also trained. All these people became agents of peace in their region.

The Opportunities Created by Nonviolence

The language of nonviolence changed the perception of an enemy to a human being whom they can collaborate with in developmental activities. Consequently the elders, who are key decision-makers, started holding dialogues and resolving disputes before they escalated to violence.

Incidences of killing and raids have been greatly reduced. People living in IDP camps like Leyai have gone back to their farms and resumed agricultural activities. In May 2014, they contributed 5,000 kgs of maize to areas affected by drought in Marsabit County. There was enhanced communication where each community started alerting each other in case they sensed any danger. The two communities started trading together and using the same means of transport. Some Rendille started working as casual workers in Borana farms. Elders started tracking raided cattle and return them to the owners. Criminals are punished with no regard from which group they are. The elite youth took responsibility for promoting interaction between Rendille and Boran youth through sports and parties which have promoted good relationships among the young people. Consequently, the Rendille and Borana have now lived in a peaceful environment for the last three years after many years of bloody conflict.

Conclusion

My experience of using nonviolence to myself first and then communities at war with each other has motivated me to gain deeper understanding. Nonviolence is the solution to the protracted conflicts which have resulted in the loss of meaning for the preciousness of life and subjected many people to live in dehumanizing conditions. However, many people — especially those working for peace — do not have a deeper knowledge of the practice of nonviolence. This is why many negotiations have not yielded fruits due to eruptions of violent communication which worsen the situation.

The Catholic Church is very well-placed in the society. It is connected with people all over the world from the top, middle, and to the grassroots level. Therefore the Church can be a good channel of active nonviolence. Jesus is an icon of nonviolence, therefore if active nonviolence is taught at all levels, it will become a language which can overcome the violence being experienced in many parts of the world. Through the Council of Justice and Peace, a manual can be developed which can be used to train people at the national level, hence spilling over to the grassroots. Finally there is a need to document successful stories of nonviolence which can help others to learn.