In this series of African’s peaceful means, we will explore through structural research on violence and peace, we shall try to comprehend the conception of conflict in Africa, its cultural roots, its development and its current psychological and physical consequences on African societies.
Humankind seems to have cultivated for thousands of decades an uncontrolled thirst for violence. However, human needs, whatever their background, are similar; we constantly seek peace while the drums of war beat strongly in many parts of the planet.
The deep human nature is to compete, dominate, and control, and these are the natural predecessors to aggressiveness and violence. On the other hand, the Augustinian tradition of peace, synthesized as“Tranquilitas Ordinis”, reflects immobility, silence, kindness, wisdom, and stagnation. Tranquilitas ordinis means that Peace is not merely the absence of war, but the preservation of the right order.
However, Tranquilitas Ordinis also tries to defend the theory of a just war. St. Augustine argues in the City of God that “Pacifism may be a desirable and, in certain circumstances, a compelling individual response to violence or the threat of violence, but it cannot suffice as the governing moral criterion for a magistrate, who owes a duty in charity and justice to his subjects to protect them against the designs of evil men”. The Tranquilitas Ordinis is therefore a theory that defends the Just-violence or the Just-war. Today, world states are still inspired by the Just-war ideology that labelled others adversaries to be evil, outlaw nations.
Peace may be impossible in an imperfect where men and women are conscious of their direct connection with their environment. Actually, in the four Kingdoms (animal, vegetable, mineral, and human) that compose our nature, only one element troubles the harmony of the others: The human kingdom. Humans produce war, environmental extinction and other catastrophes.
The promotion of a new global order promoted by superpowers shows that peace could never simply mean a state of tranquility. Those superpowers that try to exercise unchecked power in the global arena tend to grow up and become evil empires themselves. This confirms that seeking tranquility in peacetime may be unrealistic, although tranquility is certainly an essential component of peace. To assume that conflict should be avoided is purely a utopia or an evasion from social reality. The wrong idea of peace that has been globalized and imposed by certain powers is rooted in the foundation of a self-definition of “ends and means.”
Traditions of Conflict Transformation
The Just War School:
It is a group of thinkers who support the idea of a world of perpetual confrontations as healthy for human revolution. Heraclites said, “War was the father and the king of everything.” In the same vein, Hegel asserted, “war is the motor in the progress of Humanity.” Until now, the church and many other religions specially the Abrahamic tradition; have sustained the thesis of a “Holy War” as acceptable. There are, again, more extreme theories, such as “The wish of power” theory of Friedrich Nietzsche or the “exalted militarism” of Heinrich Von Treitschke. According to the writer Friedrich Von Bernhardi, war is a unique way for ‘civilized nations’ to manifest their superiority and vitality.
In Africa as any other traditions, exalting heroes and warriors is a common cultural characteristic. The exploits of Shaka (Zulu), Sundiata Keita (Mali), and Lianja (Great Lakes) are often praised.
Another type of thinking about peace is pacifism, which presupposes that violence is always and everywhere wrong. In a practical sense, it is usually manifested as an opposition to war and other forms of state-sanctioned violence against people. In the early period of Stoicism, or in Christianity before the church developed into a militarist power, non-violence was usually preached and promoted. But while religion played this role in traditional society, the doctrine of peace (and peace research), later was advanced, structured, and promoted by intellectuals and artists.
Jean Jacques Rousseau proposed the creation of European states , which would ensure the stability of all the European countries. Kent presented a similar solution in “Zum Ewingen Frieden”. Kent explored ways to eliminate the causes of war and create friendly relations between nations.
Peace being associated with harmony but human beings are inherently in a state of disharmony with different aspects of themselves. This new tradition explores the problematic from the human level to the macro/micro level, best rooted in non-violence. People such as Martin Luther King, Jr, (USA), Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela (South Africa) are the embodiment of the non-violence movement in the 20th century. Inspired by the non-violence movement, Professor Johan Gatling develops the TRANSCEND method as a new dimension in dealing with conflicts; it brings peace study as a science discipline. He defines peace as “The capacity to handle conflicts with creativity, non-violence and empathy.”
The Transcend Method presents new approaches on conflicts transformation. It does so more realistically, since, according to the TRANSCEND method, we must accept that conflict exists and cannot be avoided.
I will explore some dimensions in the development of conflict:
a. Conflict can be constructive when it gives us the opportunity to create new solutions to problems, to learn about ourselves and become closer to each other.
b. However, conflict can be destructive when it harms one or both parties. When we are talking about conflict, we must avoid including violence directly in the picture. Violence is the external expression of conflict. In addition, in all cases, violence is destructive, hurting one or both parties.
c. Conflicts can exist at the inter-personal level; for example, between friends. Conflict can also exist within communities or at the international level.
d. Conflicts can involve a number of interconnected or intertwined levels: a conflict between friends can also involve a conflict between families, between political or cultural differences, and even between nations.
The mainstream in avoiding open cruelty and prior violence is our capacity to handle creatively a crisis before it becomes a catastrophe. Then, the conflict becomes constructive because the relationship between both parties improves, and the atmosphere is comfortable.
The TRANSCEND method does not only focus on the simplistic method of “le retour a l’ordre etablit,” following the centurial “Tranquilitas Ordinis” (“tranquility of order”) of Augustinian tradition, or the famous Roman dictum: “Si vis pacem, para bellum”( “If you want peace, prepare for war”)that has been applied by most of the states and powers for almost two thousand years. Rather, through The TRANSCEND method we develop the capacity to transform conflicts constructively and without violence. “Si vis pacem para pacem” (Who want peace prepare for peace).
Violence is here defined as the cause of the difference between the potential and the actual (See Galtung J. 1969). Violence …when human beings are influenced so that their actual somatic and mental realizations are below their potential realizations.”
Peace studies are about creatively resolving conflicts and calling the parties involved to see the conflict itself as creatively challenging; to focus on underlying needs instead of positions; to use non-violent techniques whenever possible, considering and knowing that violence is unethical and ineffective. “There’s only one way forward, and that is Peace” – Mandela Long Walk to Freedom
Let us consider the wisdom of the Shi’s (Eastern- DR Congo) which classifies the structural source of violence as follows:
– The U-Mugoshe aspect (Violation or breach of the moral order)
Shi’ people consider U-mugoshe as resulting from a violation of U-muziro. U-mugoshe is compatible with the meticulous calculation of self-interests, a constant evaluation of actions for which the truth is meaningless, giving way to egocentrism, crimes, and lies. These aspects justify the notion of “the means justifies the end, corresponding to the depraved morality that constitutes more than anything else the syndrome of cultural violence in Africa.
– The U-Muziro aspect (Taboo or non-violation)
U-Muziro corresponds to the morality concept of Ubuntu (from the Sub-Saharan region), that is the undisputable sublime side of the African culture in general and implies the respect of human dignity, the nobility of the heart, goodness and wisdom, responsibility, respect for one’s own person and for others (Ubushingatahe in Burundi). Umuziro is the bacon of a culture of peace in region. It is the equivalent of Ubuntu, an African term meaning “humanity towards others.” The Zulu version can be found in the sentence “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” translated as «a person becomes a person through other persons” (Ramose, 1999:49f; Shutte, 1993:46)
Violence …when human beings are influenced so that their actual somatic and mental realizations are below their potential realizations.”
Next, we see how the TRANSCEND Method applies to Sub- Saharan Africa: cosmology, ethnic relations, cultural violence, colonization, and cultural peace. Our challenge will be to suggest a path to cultural democracy and the “Amani na salama” as a final draft for the culture of PEACE in Africa.
Rais Neza Boneza is a poet and author. he is Member and Convener for Africa of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment.