Today, ferocious conflicts and deadly wars have spread beyond borders in Africa. Tensions mainly fuelled by unequal economic opportunities, ethnic hatred, mass corruption, governance failures or political discrimination have unceasingly been escalating, leading to bloodshed and dividing Africans at a time when they need the most to be united.
Many African nations from Nigeria and Somalia to South Sudan and Libya are dismally mired in the fog of civil wars and insurgencies, thereby unable to tackle the challenges they’re grappling with or achieve any social or economic progress. The question, then, arises: How would we bring a halt to this horrendous violence? It’s time to connect the dots between the continent we’re aspiring to and the steps that we, as African citizens or civic leaders, have to make forward. I strongly believe that bringing an end to conflicts in our continent requires a deeper look into the underlying causes that made it more vulnerable and prone to violence. Therefore, if I were a leader in Africa I would firstly focus on implementing efficient and feasible ways to deal with the issues leading to conflict onset. In fact, corrupt governors and decision makers in many agitated African nations have been illegally exploiting the natural resources and siphoning the public money for their private use with a blatant disregard for the laws. Let’s not forget the poor governance and weak political action of many leaders who are turning a blind eye to their communities’ matters including high unemployment and deep poverty. On top of that, human rights violations are alarmingly noticed. Citizens are oftentimes tortured, marginalized, have limited freedom and are deprived of the right to participate in the social and political life of their countries.
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Such encroachments increase the risk of armed conflicts and hinder peace-building. Ensuring the rule of law is henceforth crucial to diminish inequalities and abolish human rights abuses. As a leader, I would collaborate with other leading members and development practitioners of our nation and together, we would work on creating legitimate and nationally recognized institutions whereby we implement effective laws and regulations to uphold people’s dignity, restore order, and ensure justice, transparency as well as good governance.
Such policies will put an end to impunity and re-establish the balance of powers between different socio-economic classes, hence preventing conflicts initiated by socially advantaged people or those economically deprived. We would also carry out political, economic and social reforms that address the society’s grievances such as lack of education, low life chances, mounting poverty and discriminating practices. For example, creating new job opportunities, ensuring a good quality education and an equitable distribution of incomes and funds, once established, will certainly improve people’s living conditions and, consequently, mitigate tensions. However, building a climate of trust between the citizens and their leaders is of a great importance if these initiatives are to be effective. Moreover, one of the striking features of our motherland is its ethnic and cultural diversity. Each ethnic group is splendidly endowed with specific religions, languages, backgrounds, customs and lifestyles. This diversity, however, is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can broaden people’s perspectives and spur innovation and creativity, thus enhancing the nation’s development and forging a powerful spirit of tolerance and unity.
On the other hand, it may generate hatred and hostility, as is currently the case in many African nations such as South Sudan where ethnic conflicts between the Dinka and the Nuer have claimed thousands of lives and caused tremendous human suffering. Accordingly, leaders have to draw peace-building initiatives and organizations where constant dialogues and negotiations with representatives of the conflicting ethnic parties would be held, with the aim of reaching a compromise and ceasing the fighting. Within such organizations, leaders would be the neutral party which will listen to all the opposing groups, help them communicate peacefully with each other and try to persuade each faction to stop using violence while finding mutual agreements. This negotiation and persuasion process can indeed play a key role in solving, ending and preventing conflicts but remains ineffectual until it rests on a strong legal basis. Similarly, the enforcement of laws without any communication procedure isn’t optimally efficient. For instance, despite the regulations recently enforced in Libya, the civil war continues to plague the country. Leaders have, therefore, the peculiar challenge of establishing meaningful dialogues, while at the same time creating and effectively enforcing peace-building laws.
Nevertheless, ending the ongoing wars and conflicts is not only what we’re seeking. Our biggest challenge lies in creating a lasting and sustainable peace. In other words, we have to work on eradicating violence from our land by warding off new hostilities or renewed conflicts between old foes.
In order to do so, as a leading member of the nation I would empower my people’s engagement in peace-building. I will run constant workshops within which we discuss openly and thoroughly the problem of violence that hinders our continent’s progress but also threatens our safety. I would demonstrate to my people how much beneficial and propitious our differences are while encouraging them to be open and to adopt more inclusive identities and ethnicities, which is, I believe, the everlasting solution for all ethnic conflicts. I would as well work on developing their negotiation skills and persuade them that using violence is always a wrong decision. Even if we’re the ones being oppressed, fighting each other will only make things worse.
Alternatively, there are various peaceful ways to protest such as sit-ins, strikes or marches. Moreover, a mass awareness-raising campaign should be conducted by African leaders, activists, artists and athletes from across the continent throughout print, broadcast and social media to call for peace and unity. To broaden this initiative and enhance their participation in building peace, citizens must as well be engaged in passing the message along.
Finally, since education has the extraordinary potential to build positive attributes, I would ensure an educational curriculum that sharpens the critical thinking of African youth and children and, most importantly, develops peaceful values and attitudes without which ending conflicts remains a mere aspiration. One of the key values that we, as Africans, have to hold dear is forgiveness. Instead of initiating more conflicts, we must be willing to forgive, but also to ask for forgiveness and recognize our mistakes. I would like here to tell the inspiring story of Alice Mukarurinda, a Rwandan genocide survivor who made peace with Emmanuel Ndayisiba, a soldier who “killed her baby daughter, cut off her right hand and left her bleeding and unconscious in a swamp to die” after a machete attack.
Despite her trauma, Alice forgave him and “now she is the treasurer and he the vice president of a group that builds simple brick houses for genocide survivors”, according to Daily Mail. If Mrs. Mukarurinda can forgive the man who attacked her and killed her child, then I’m sure every one of us can do so. We can overlook the flaws of the past and set the path towards a prosperous and peaceful Africa. To conclude, I would say that bringing an end to violence in our continent is not an easy challenge. We can acknowledge that when we would wake up the next morning, the next year or even the next decade, conflicts will still be there.
We can admit that wars are going to shatter the dreams and claim the lives of many more Africans but we still have to strive and work for peace and security. Every one of us is somehow responsible for ensuring a safe and non-violent nation because, as the saying goes, “a war can perhaps be won single-handedly, bur peace -lasting peace- cannot be secured without the support of all”.