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Volume 8, Issue 3, July 2013
Drums of Change is a free quarterly publication produced by the ACTION Support Centre,, providing a platform for all those interested in promoting peace and development in Southern Africa and the continent more broadly. The newsletter invites written contributions from individuals, partners and leading thinkers on current issues of relevance to our networks, and includes perspectives, challenges and developments coming from our global partners and networks. We seek to deliver a balanced view of development happening in our global community.

After the Revolution: Division, Depression and Fear of civil war, Egypt
Exploring the interests of capitalism in conflict
Liberia's journey from war to peace
Sending a message of hope to Syrians
Prospects of conflict transformation in Pakistan
Reflections from the Somali Diaspora of South Africa 


Dear Friends and Colleagues,
We are excited to share the third Drums of Change edition of 2013, and extend our warmest welcome to you.
On 18th July, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela celebrates his 95th birthday. South Africans and many millions of people around the world will come together to acknowledge the great achievements of a man whose courage, strength of leadership, and humility triumphed over racial segregation, an oppressive system and personal repression, bringing the value of unity and our common humanity to the world.  Mr. Mandela’s example in peacebuilding and the promotion of equality speak to a long-term commitment to transform the attitudes and behaviours within our society, all products of an interconnected system responsible for creating divisions and hatred.  
Each of the authors in this issue share their personal experiences, challenges and reflections of working to build and promote cultures of peace and nonviolence in various countries around the world.  Our sister in Egypt reminds us of the fragility of peace and the immense challenges inherent in building a new democracy, whilst our brother in Syria communicates the positive impact dedicated groups of young people have had in uplifting the spirits of a nation embroiled in protracted social conflict.
Our colleague from Liberia captures some of the policies and programmes driving his country forward, highlighting the significant contribution of community-level peacebuilding, whilst recognising the stumbling blocks yet to be cleared.  Our brother in Pakistan reflects on the recent election of Nawaz Sharif and what this might mean for stability and peace in his country and region; and the Somali Diaspora within South Africa send a message to the network, deepening our understanding of the struggles people are facing on the ground and the huge need for solidarity amongst us.  We also include an exploration of the Central African Republic and the competing interests at play in this complex conflict system.
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom.

This unique online platform is a collaboration hosted by the ACTION Support Centre based in South Africa, which seeks to create spaces where community voices can be heard alongside those of policy makers and decision takers, as part of a long term commitment to promoting peace and human development in Africa and globally.
The views expressed in this newsletter do not necessarily reflect the views of the ACTION Support Centre or the ACTION for Conflict Transformation network movement.

Please send your thoughts and feedback to, and we encourage the discussion and debates to continue through our Facebook page.


After the Revolution: Division, Depression and Fear of Civil War 

Many people spend all their lives searching for their identities – trying to understand who they are and what their purpose in life is. I thought I was luckier than many of those people when a few years ago I finally realized my mission in life.   I identified myself as a global citizen who is determined to defend human rights and build peace.  I no longer questioned my purpose or identity, and everyday I had more hope than before.  I felt that serving others is the greatest cause that anyone can live for. I have always been inspired by heroic stories and great leaders such as Anwar Al-Sadat, Gandhi, Malcolm X, and Nelson Mandela. They challenged the chaotic world with their views and they paid with their lives to defend principles and values. I did recognize that the path to change is full of obstacles and that great people walked a long road to freedom. Therefore, despite the violations of human rights during Mubarak’s regime, I still had hoped that things would gradually change for a better future, especially as awareness about human rights spread little by little.

Yasmine Fakhry is a humanitarian 
and activist living in Alexandria, Egypt

I thought my dream came true when Egyptians finally united against a tyrant President in an unprecedented movement to revolt against dictatorship. The revolt in Egypt was more than just a movement for political freedom. The lack of basic human rights and dignity triggered this uprising. Poverty had become pervasive across all aspects of life and encompasses a range of issues, including health, housing, education, nutrition, and life expectancy. Egypt’s terrible infrastructure, horrible road conditions, and endless traffic jams had gone from worse to worst in recent years. The garbage piled up in the streets of the city and the broken sidewalks covered with dust and trash became unbearable. Protesters also demonstrated against the massive income gaps, with the rich living in newly designed verdant cities while the poor lived in slums under extreme and inhumane conditions. Corruption, oppression, and torture all played a role in bringing discontented Egyptians to the streets. Thousands sacrificed their lives asking for “Bread, freedom and social justice.” Fearless of death, people stood up to the brutality of the security forces and the hired thugs who attacked protesters with weapons, cars, Molotov cocktails, and snipers.
On February 11th 2011, mass celebrations of Mubarak’s departure expressed the spirit of unity, camaraderie, solidarity, harmony, warmth, and above all, optimism. For the first time, Egyptians felt that they are free and have a will. Dreaming that democracy and sustainable development will follow, we thought the dark days were over and we had witnessed an unprecedented historical movement that overthrew one of the worst dictators in history. Dreams of social justice, better standards of living, access to public services, and prosperity were shared by all people. However, optimism was soon replaced by the fear that the Muslim Brotherhood (the most organized opposition group) and Islamists would come into power. The situation became more complex because their unity was broken into different identities: Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, Jihadiis, liberals, socialists, old regime supporters, etc. Dissent, mutual accusations, distrust, and suspicion revealed by all media channels were early warning signs that the elections would serve to further divide Egyptians and possibly create future internal conflict.
While many people found their identity with the Revolution – and they quickly labelled themselves as Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists (Islamists), or liberals, many others, like myself, feel they have lost their identity and every sense of who they are and what they believe in. This is mainly because the media have already made up identities for people and being unable to fit into one of the existing labels might put one in the position of suspicion. There is no middle ground. One does not dare to defend the other rival party, claiming to be objective or analytic, because the rule is ‘If you are not with us, you are against us.’ I recall a few incidents when I was harshly criticized and ridiculed because I tried to defend the right of the Muslim Brotherhood to freedom of thought and conscience, although I stressed that I am against Islamist political ideologies. I was only denouncing hate speech and the dehumanization of others. Regrettably, defending the ‘enemy’ backfired on me and I was humiliated every time I met with anti-Islamists. Even when I stayed quiet, I was blamed for not joining the public attack on Islamists. The same happens when I meet supporters of Islamists, as I am criticized for not being on the side of Islamists and even accused of having lost my faith. The hatred between the two sides grew gradually and the situation developed to the extent that the mention of Muslim Brotherhood has become taboo in certain places, and supporters of Muslim Brotherhood have to keep their identities secret in public.

Photo taken just after the announcement of the first elected
President, as people marched in the streets to celebrate the
historic moment.

Disunity and rivalries have replaced the spirit of unity and solidarity in this post-revolutionary phase, and politicians compete to grab political power. The media have played a major role in breaking people’s unity and fuelling the conflict, which may be gearing Egypt up for a future civil war. The liberal party and their supporters conducted a vicious propaganda campaign against the political force that ‘threatens’ their identity, blaming Islamists for all Egypt’s ills and backwardness.
The propaganda campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood resembles the Nazi propaganda assault that started a few years before the Holocaust. The Nazi propaganda began with theological anti-Judaism, which resulted in the desire to eliminate the Jews from within Christian lands. It all started with the wide spread of the weekly Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer  (The Attacker), which proclaimed, “The Jews are our misfortune!” and regularly featured cartoons of Jews as apelike and hook-nosed. For two years, right after the Revolution in Egypt, all the media channels were deployed to divert anger and hatred towards Islamists by dehumanizing and caricaturing Islamists. On the other side, Islamists have deployed all their media channels to fire back at the liberals and blamed them for the disability and insecurity of Egypt.

Liberals accuse Islamists of being undemocratic, and some have gone so far as to describe Morsi as the new Pharaoh. While this may be true, this also applies to everyone else. Dictatorship has long been a facet of our society. People were born into dictatorship and the history of Pharaohs has become interwoven in the fabric of our culture. People are not only used to dictatorship as a system that rules their lives, but everyone practices forms of dictatorship in their own circle of influence. Whereas to be a liberal is taken to be democratic, Egyptian politicians claim liberalism has been making obvious betrayals of democratic principles.  Instead of campaigning and preparing for future elections, liberals have sought all means to plot and turn people against Islamists because despite everything, Islamists overwhelmingly won the majority of seats in the parliament. In order to illegally end the term of their democratically elected Islamist president almost before his term started, the once divided opposition quickly formed a new bloc – the National Salvation Front (NSF). Since the NSF lined up against Morsi, Egypt has been rocked by a wave of violence. The bloc’s main concern is to fiercely criticize the ruling Islamist party, and they offer no alternative options except protest. As protests escalated and violence flared, the majority of people have become depressed that the opposition has simply become ‘Anti-Morsi’ and nothing further. Running short of plans for a new and thriving Egypt, liberals occupied themselves with conspiracies to exclude the strongest political force in the country and to spread the culture of hatred and violence by rallying protesters and thugs to attack Muslim Brotherhood offices and headquarters.

The uprising against the tyrant Mubarak, who ruled the country for three decades, has been termed  a “white” revolution. It was a peaceful movement, and the only blood spilled was at the hands of the regime and its cohorts. To the contrary, the movement against Morsi, the first elected President, who has been in power for just one year, has been marred by Molotov cocktails, knives, stones, and white weapons. In several governorates across Egypt, thugs – backed by National Salvation Front supporters – attacked and burnt the Freedom and Justice Party headquarters. Feeling discriminated against and oppressed, supporters of Islamists engage in bloody interactions with the anti-Morsi protesters and their thugs. Fighting over identities has dragged Egypt into the dark tunnels of savagery and violence. Egypt is bitterly divided between Islamists and liberals on one side and the rise of the black bloc, the ultras and thugs on the other side, and they are bringing Egypt to the brink of a civil war. Egypt has witnessed massacres in the last few months, and protests that were once called peaceful are now associated with bloodshed. All the groups are fighting each other in the name of one cause – ‘democracy’ – all the while unaware that democracy cannot be the outcome of blood and violence.

The history of all the Revolutions has taught the common knowledge that governments do not transform overnight. Regimes are not confined to one man, especially in a context where at the time of change, corruption was deeply rooted in all formal and informal institutions, corporations, associations, networks, public servants, partisans, technocrats, teachers, individuals, etc.  Thus, the work of transforming Egypt to a democracy will be a difficult and frustrating process that could take a generation or more. While the liberals and Islamists are occupied in a political war, the frustrated population is fed up with electoral reform and parliamentary democracy. The economic conditions have deteriorated beyond belief and the Egyptian pound is slipping against the dollar. Poverty is increasing and daily injustices are not addressed. People expected the revolution to bring them dignity, adequate healthcare, decent shelter, decent education, better wages and standard of living. Instead, the revolution has brought violence, turmoil, conflict, insecurity and political vacuum. The unity of groups, families and friends was broken by post-revolutionary identities.


Exploring the role of capitalism in conflict 

On the 24th March 2013 news broke that thirteen South African soldiers were killed and twenty-seven were wounded after being attacked by an armed group of 3000 Seleka ‘rebels’ in the outskirts of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR). Disputed reports of several hundred youth killed in the same battle on the side of the Seleka fighters compounded the tragedy. This announcement raised many questions about the 200 South African troops that were sent to CAR in January 2013 after the signing of a ceasefire agreement in Libreville, Gabon between then president, Francois Bozize and the Seleka coalition. Media reports suggested that the killings of the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) troops arose as a result of the role they were playing in protecting commercial interests of South African The thirteen South African National                  business in the CAR.
Defense Force troops killed in the
Central African Republic

The popular narrative places blame on South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), accusing them of pursuing extractive interests and enticed by the scent of diamonds and other profitable deals in CAR. This comes in the wake of allegations that South Africa has neo-imperialist intentions to dominate the continent economically and politically. These accounts complement the Realism school of thought, which submits that states are driven solely by the pursuit of their own national interests. It is our contention however that a far more complex web of intentions drove the involvement of South African troops in an ongoing context of protracted conflict that has its roots in a deep history of colonial domination[1].

The costs of conflict are devastating for ordinary citizens caught in the crossfire of violence, including costs associated with displacement and the destruction of property; however, for a small group of stakeholders conflict is a source of profit. 
This article explores a variety of civil conflicts in Africa, highlighting how and where stakeholders are capitalising on corporate interests associated with the extractive industry. Many current conflicts within African states centre around the control and exploitation of natural and mineral resources.  One does not have to look far to find examples of elites lining their pockets at the expense of social, economic, environmental and human security.

Natural resources generate profits that are much higher than the minimum level of costs required to keep activities going, a phenomenon economists have termed ‘rents’. Several critical factors explain how rents heighten the likelihood of the emergence of violent conflict, relating them to the political economy. Government elites and well connected local business people are frequently discovered to have dipped into the ‘honey pot’ of resources– propagating corruption within state institutions and weakening the political economy. As elitist factions within governments become increasingly detached from their electorates, and less dependent on tax generation outside of rents, or in countries where the tax revenue system is weak or non-existent, the risk of civil conflict increases. Rents from natural resources and extractives therefore contribute to a dangerous cocktail of dysfunctional politics; instability becomes the self-serving paradigm of elites who are detached from the concerns of ordinary people.

In addition, natural resources also provide an obvious source of financing for rebel groups who become trapped in war economies[2]. These war economies are cycles of violence and instability that use illicit resource accumulation to finance armed conflict that uses armed groups to secure access to and control over lucrative resource opportunties that are made more lucrative under unstable conditions.

Collier’s and Hoeffler’s greed versus grievance debate, together with Ted Gurr’s relative deprivation theory posit that in cases where states do not hear the grievances of its citizens there is a high correlation with outbreaks of civil war. Often however these contexts are also vulnerable to external forces intent on gaining access to resource opportuntiies. Ironically states engulfed in civil war are also often the first to call for intervention by external powers. In the case of many African conflicts, such as Libya or Mali, these external interventions are usually delivered under the guise of altruistic humanitarian intent; or as military interventions seeking to stabilise or end violent conflict.  On one side the actions maybe perceived as benevolent, and on the other side the reality of ulterior motives loom.

The link between military interventions and corporate interests is the subject of much scholarly research, which draws attention to some of the underlying issues requiring deeper understanding as they relate to the prolonging of many civil conflicts.

Reviewing the recent escalation of conflict in Mali, it is important to note the series of events that led to the country’s collapse in 2012 which included; a military coup, the threat of sanctions by the US and UN, and suspension of Mali’s membership to the African Union, among others. Nearly one year into Mali’s growing instability, and seemingly out of the blue, Mali became the focus of global media attention.

France, Mali’s former colonial power, claim they were asked by the Malian government to intervene militarily and drive Jihadist terrorists out of large parts of the country. In trying to understand why NATO powers led by France would launch what is being called by some, a new Thirty Years’ War Against Terrorism, one cannot ignore strong indications that the French agenda in Mali is anything but humanitarian. 

Mali, like much of Africa is rich in mineral resources. It has large reserves of gold and uranium and most recently, though Western companies try to conceal the fact, significant deposits of oil. In an article titled ‘Mali and AFRICOM’S Africa Agenda: Target China’[3], author William Engdahl argues that the establishment of AFRICOM by the United States, was an intentional strategy to solidify US military presence within Africa, as a method of securing Africa’s oil and other natural resources for its benefit. America has portrayed AFRICOM as a mechanism to fight the “war-on-terror”, however, past events have shown that Mali, for the Pentagon, is but the next building block in the militarisation of the continent of Africa by AFRICOM using proxy forces like France to do the dirty work. Viewed through this lens the Mali intervention, using France upfront, is but one building block in a project seeking the total militarisation of Africa, whose primary goal is not only to capture strategic resources like oil, gas, uranium, gold and iron ore, but to target China and prevent the rapidly growing Chinese business presence across Africa. A key goal of AFRICOM is to squeeze China out of Africa, or at least to severely inhibit independent access to African resources.

The need for political reform in countries headed by dictators and repressive governments, within Africa and globally, is a point easily argued from an humanitarian, economic, social or environmental perspective. However, the involvement of NATO forces in the military invasion of Libya in 2011 illuminated more covert motives on the part of western forces, less aligned with humanitarian intention.

The United States, and NATO, with its own economic and security interests in mind, invaded Libya with the primary purpose of profiting from the fallout of war and bringing to an end an outspoken critic of Western involvement on the continent. Further examples of the Pentagon’s profit-seeking interests remind us of former US Republican Vice President and Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who were involved in many of the companies that profited from the US led war in Iraq[4].  Libya, a country with the sixth largest oil reserves in the world, became a likely target for destabilisation, especially in consideration of the competition for access to African resources between China and the United States.

To make matters worse, Libya’s checkered history with the West, worsened by the involvement of the country’s secret agent in the Lockerbie plane bombing over Scotland in 1988; Gaddafi’s aborted nuclear weapons programme and his penchant for nationalisation schemes; it came as no surprise that Gaddafi was deposed at the earliest opportunity. The uprising against Gaddafi created ideal conditions in which to install a client regime that would serve US interests going forward.

Gaddafi’s strong Pan-African agenda, and his powerful support for the African Union, which seeks also to protect African states against foreign interference and manipulation, adds another layer of complexity to the debate. As the AU seeks to build an African Peace and Security Architecture, that will strengthen national, regional and continental capacities to respond to civil and social conflicts, making African states less vulnerable to external intervention, western powers run the risk of losing the opportunties that arise while these states remain vulnerable and dependent. Despite the rhetoric of support for African solutions to African problems a strong independent and functional Africa does not serve the immediate interests of western interests intent on pursuing short term profits.

The nature of war has taken on the characteristics of business transactions. Many actors including states, warlords, rebels and so forth have found various ways to capitalise on conflict. Africa is a continent that is rich in natural resources, and has become a playground in which states and organisations can assert their powers under the façade of “humanitarian intervention” or “military intervention” while filling their pockets. Divisions and competition between African states serve to enable this behaviour. The need for unity, regional cooperation and the assertion by Africans of their intention to control their own destiny has never been more critical. The time for a Pan-African agenda that reverses current practice and ends the cycles of instability, illicit resource accumulation and violence is now! .

[1] Ceasefire Campaign and ACTION Support Centre, Richard Smith “Mercenaries and Millionaires: A closer look at Central Africa” PowerPoint presentation (slide 4). 14 May 2013
[2] Paul Collier, “Natural Resources and Conflict in Africa” retrieved from p.3-4.
[3] William Engdahl, “Mali and AFRICOM’S Africa Agenda: Target China”, retrieved from, 31 January 2013
[4] Ronald Chipaike, “The Libya Crisis: The Militarisation of the New Scramble and More” in International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, Vol. 2, No.8, April 2012, p. 44-45I 

This article was written by Lerato Mohlamenyane and support staff at the ACTION Support Centre.



 Liberia's journey from war to peace 
William F. Saa, Liberian conflict transformation and peace building practitioner reflects the lessons and experiences from Liberia of re-building a country fractured by civil war…..

In this brief article I am summarising some of the breathtaking postwar rebuilding happening in Liberia and some of the ongoing challenges for the fragile peace in the country. I have had the privilege to interact with thousands of citizens all over the country, presenting seminars on peacebuilding and conflict transformation, and provide these reflections as a result of those conversations and my own personal experiences and knowledge of some changes that are taking place in Liberia.
While most civil wars tend to be exceptionally brutal, Liberia’s was particularly so between the period 1989 and 2003. The most horrific acts of violence were committed, including the use of thousands of children as fighting forces.  The civil war resulted in the complete breakdown of law and order in the country, claiming the lives of more than 250,000 citizens; there were well over 1 million refugees and uncountable numbers of internally displaced persons – from an overall population less than 3 million.  Citizens became grossly traumatized as the entire country was fractured. I find that many Liberians cannot easily, vividly describe what the country looked like in the long past; we are quicker to remember and describe the experiences of recent destruction of properties and social infrastructure that horrified everyone.

Core factors related to conflicts in Liberia, and in many respects, the larger West Africa, are broadly linked to political, security, social and economic factors.  Unemployment and a lack of economic opportunity are major concerns. Economic instability and weakness creates a social context where tensions over land, ethnicity and religion manifest in the concerns and widespread dissatisfaction of citizens.  There is a strong sense that good governance is lacking.

Liberia’s journey from war to peace may be far from over, but a number of remarkable developments are taking place in the country. While elections may not be the only valid indicator of peace, Liberia has held two successive elections since the end of the civil war in the country; the first in 2005 and the second held recently in 2011. Both elections were hailed as transparent, free and fair by Liberian development partners and the international community. These elections ended the long period of fighting among the country’s warring factions and signaled from Liberians that, they want a new beginning based on democratic principles, respect for the rule of law and order and time to mend broken relationships and rebuild the country.  

On assuming her first term in 2005 as first female president of Liberia and on the African continent, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf promised to ‘govern differently, decisively breaking with the past’ from conflict to development, and to work to transform the country’s broken institutions and reunite the Liberian people.

Anyone who has visited Liberia since 2005 will agree that there has been visible progress on infrastructure development and a general sense of safety and optimism in the country. Liberia is no longer labeled a ‘failed state’ and has regained her image as a sovereign, developing  nation. In December 2012, Liberia launched the Agenda for Transformation (AfT), the Liberia Development Agenda(LDA) which holds an ambitious development package to complement the proposed Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy (IPRS). The AfT has been lauded as a well-informed  plan, but with the socio-economic situation remaining very difficult, the country is still  in a state of social and economic recovery.

Currently, threats to national security are principally derived from internal grievances emanating from poverty and human hardship. Improvements in the economy, governance, rule of law and the creation of employment opportunities for thousands of citizens’, are all critical elements for enhancing national security in the country.  In 2013, a serious concern is the vulnerability of the country’s younger generation of youths and teenagers (35yrs and below) who constitute a majority (about 60%) of the country’s current population (est. 3.5 million). The majority of these youths and teenagers were born and grew up during the country’s brutal fighting; many are without opportunities for marketable education or jobs, and their future is uncertain. So too therefore, is the future of the country. A memorable moment was in December 2011 when the Monrovia City Corporation failed to organise payment for vacation job students, resulting in hundreds of young people taking to the streets within the shortest time, attacking cars in the city, setting roadblocks and throwing rocks and damaging objects, holding the city hostage for days.  The security situation remains precarious as there remains potential for such public unrests and demonstrations, as long as there are high employment levels and inefficiencies in the country’s governance, justice and the rule of law systems.  Corruption remains widely spread in public and private sectors of the country and prosecution of corrupt practices is not implemented to the fullest.  The judicial system is still very weak so that corruption and slow pace in the administering of justice is a major contributor to human rights violations in the country.
The downscaling and drawdown of United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) personnel is another serious concern to Liberians. While progress is being made in security sector reform, it is widely argued by Liberians that the current national army and police do not have the capacity and capability to respond to national uprising when it occurs – there are currently 2000 trained army personnel and about 5000 trained police officers to replace UNMIL. The civil war in Liberia dismantled security institutions, resulting into many former officers becoming factional fighters. This made a good argument for dissolving the entire armed forces and beginning the difficult task of rebuilding a new army that matches with professionalism. Liberians are concerned that the contingents of police and army personnel currently trained cannot effectively protect the lives of over 3.5million population against various crimes and abuses, as well as protecting the country from any potential incursions that may happen at border points which are very porous between Liberia and neighboring countries of Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Guinea - countries that have all recently experienced internal uprisings and thriving to recover from the debris of their own wars.
In the end, one challenge facing Liberia is the need for reconciliation and healing.  In the past, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was set up but was seriously undermined because its report implicated several current government officials and former warlords. In 2007 the President declared reconciliation as top of the country’s agenda to which a reconciliation roadmap has been designed.  The reconciliation roadmap for Liberia defines reconciliation as “a multidimensional process of overcoming social, political, and religious cleavages; mending and transforming relationships; healing the physical and psychological wounds from the civil war, as well as confronting and addressing historical wrongs including the structural root causes of conflicts in Liberia”.
As recently as December 2012 through April 2013, I conducted series of training of trainers in alternative dispute resolution and reconciliation for staff of over 50 civil society and community-based organizations working to help rebuild peace in many parts of Liberia. These organizations are contributing significantly to the broader peacebuilding agenda including; services in income generation  and micro loans for less fortunate people, health and sanitation, mentoring and education for less fortunate youths, adult literacy and numeracy, human rights education and protection, media development, conflict resolution and, the list goes on. In all of those trainings, I asked participants to role play a dialogue between government and civil society on the social (society) and political (state or government) perspectives of conflict and reconciliation. It was a deadlock and counter-claims, each blaming the other for not doing much for the wellbeing of society. True to the fact, there is poor level of collaboration and cooperation between the government and civil society groups in the country on the whole peacebuilding agenda. Imperatively, all Liberians and our development partners must come together with a common vision, a collaborative strategy for rebuilding the country.  Until then, our journey from war to peace is still far from over. 


Sending a message of hope to Syrians

Bombarded buildings, towns and villages burnt and ravished, people in misery, masked fighters, fighter jets roaming on residential buildings, dead bodies, sometimes body parts... These are the images of Syria we see on TV news headlines every day.
These images are very true.
However, despite of all the hardships and lack of any reasonable standards for living, Syrian citizens are demonstrating an unprecedented resilience and daily struggle for survival.
On April 22, over a dozen youth, cultural, Christian and Islamic nongovernmental organizations, with thousands of volunteers organized a huge cleaning campaign in the streets of Aleppo, which are still not affected by total destruction and damage.
Public services were halted in Aleppo due to more than nine months of violence in the city. Garbage was piled up in the streets attracting different kinds of germs, insects and spreading diseases, especially Leishmania.
The shell of a bombed building in Aleppo

The one day campaign was a living proof of how Syrian youth are still striving to keep the pulse of life beating in the streets. As much as there are fighters, soldiers, terrorists, perhaps also opportunists and thieves in Syria shown on international TV channels, there are so much more ordinary people, normal citizens, men, women, children and youth of different political, social and confessional backgrounds, who can come together for a positive cause, to help protecting their city, their bigger home.
For decades, Syrians were tamed and they were not the owners of their environment, their city and their streets. Liberty and ownership were limited inside the doorsteps of their homes and sometimes even that was too much. For over half a century, any form of demonstration of ownership, leadership or free will outside of that line, which was drawn by the consecutive authorities, was problematic at least, not to say fatal in many cases.
This was a rare event, where citizens could come out of their homes, putting all their differences aside, to work hand in hand to reclaim their ownership of their city. Despite of all the destruction in Aleppo, finally, the city returned to its right owners, the people, who really adore each stone and each detail on an abandoned wall in this city.
However it is difficult to resonate with, but analysts are predicting an even more difficult period awaiting Syria. Some of them are warning that the region might fall victim to religious extremism or international terror organizations. History is full of examples of countries falling in long periods of grabbling until they find their right path of rise and development.
Most Syrians are well aware of this fact and very few people expect a quick renaissance after so much violence, war and destruction. However, what Syrians need today, more than anything else, is appreciation, encouragement, understanding and compassion.
After two years of conflict, so many people around the world, who followed news of Syria, were affected by a compassion fatigue and the ordeal suffered by the Syrian people no longer constituted a part of their interests. This is exactly what the world has to fight against it. This must be the message of the world to Syrians, that humanity is not lost forever. Hope, that it is still possible.

Harout Ekmanian
Syrian lawyer and journalist



 Prospects of conflict transformation in Pakistan under Nawar Sharif
Elections in Pakistan are over, with Nawaz Sharif having emerged as the next chief executive of the country for five years. Undeniably, these were the most violent elections in electoral history of the country, claiming hundreds of lives in its wake by the Taliban led election centric violence almost in all major urban centres of Pakistan. A unique and empirically somewhat unparalleled feature of violence was the targeting of the political left while the right was completely spared by the terrorists, ostensibly to reap full advantage of the void left dormant electioneering by the latter. 
In many ways, this scenario could be likened to a form of non-state civil war where one side employed violence to impose its agenda tacitly shored up by sizeable constituencies of political conservatives, whereas the other was defending itself solely by reliance on rhetoric. The state and government machinery remained a silent spectator on pretext of being ‘interim’. The outgoing government in its parting mood, not only wittingly lost the opportunity to initiate a peace process with the Taliban howsoever elementary, but also in so doing left the threat intact, which later boomeranged with full force to deny them fear free campaigning for elections. 
Muhammad Feyyaz 
School of Governance and  Society
University  of Management & Technology
Lahore, Pakistan
Engagement and isolation of militant organisations has both costs and dividends. Since governments are inherently bound to adhere to legal stipulations and political considerations which constrain them to openly engage with terrorist groups, apathy or muted isolation is considered a preferred option to marginalise such elements. In reality, such contemplations have effect to the contrary. The extremes within militants’ leadership cadres emerge stronger whereas moderate and compromising voices are subdued. The past government by design or default appeared to have followed this approach. Despite media hype and advices by civil society even by a part of the ruling colaition, the government somehow eschewed from materialising any action to that end. The result of this neglect has been twofold; first, unifocused hate narrative of terrorists found further territorial and ideological spaces, and second their internal cohesion as well as  linkages with sister collectivities has been strenghtened to the advantage of their higher leadership.

A woman voter displays her inked thumb for a photograph after marking her ballot paper, before casting her vote at a polling station in Karachi May 11, 2013.

If the past is a guide, the pragmatic review would say that in Pakistan, the state’s responses to extremism are generally limited to easily available cosmetic solutions rather than addressing the deep-rooted problem – the social environment for violence and radicalization. Apart from lack of political will, more importantly an endemic capacity issue is the major determinant that has been plaguing public entities to systematically examine and counter religiously inspired violence.

Nawaz Sharif and his chief rival cricketer turned politician Imran Khan, are known to have a soft corner for the Taliban, and have repeatedly vowed to resolve the conflict through dialogue and engagement. Sharif in particular despises use of force, and is inclined for transformation of conflict through peaceful means. He has several times stated that the Taliban’s offer for dialogue would be taken seriously, each time with a positive rejoinder by the Taliban hinting also at a possible cease fire and halting attacks on assumption of talks.  The scenario raises both hope and despair for a meaningful engagement. For example, the Taliban have previously termed the democratic system as un-Islamic and its supporters as the arch adversary. In showing willingness to talk with the government, they  implicitly accepted existence of the political structures and institutions including the processes which have empowered Sharif to the office.  Besides, Nawaz Sharif’s accent to premiership with requisite majority in parliament provides him a robust mandate, unlike his predecessors, for making major decisions to steer a consequential peace process. At the same time the Taliban retracting from peace overtures following killing of their deputy by a drone strike on 29 May, and announcement to accelerate spate of violence, dampens hope for a complication free environment for talks. How Sharif responds to the changed conditions will be a test of his statecraft prowess.  

At this stage, it is not the intent of this writer to outline possible responses to  the militants’ demands; suffice it to say that the challenge needs to be converted into an opportunity. Later however, for a negotiated settlement, it will be imperative that dialogue is underpinned on  working out guiding parameters for the talks informed by popular content and security dynamics. Out of the commonly advocated options i.e., power, bargaining or interest based approaches, latter is suggested to initiate this process by balancing out contending interests of the parties to the conflict. This when settled, will provide a framework for sustaining a phased negotiation process involving engaging discussions on substantive as well as componential aspects of the Taliban demands for which experts in the field can be harnessed. A deeper and more nuanced issue for the stake holders will be whether after the loss of over 40,000 human lives during the last ten years, can the conflict be really transformed into a restructured paradigm of empathy, peace and reconciliation among and between the affected strata of security establishment, militants and society at large. This will call for a long term planning, designing, establishment, institutionalization and operations of processes and mechanisms in a graduated manner to eradicate lingering  symptoms of hate, apathy, pain and injury. Tentatively, non-traditional civil society structures can prove to be highly effective in starting the reconciliation programme at the grassroots level. Even though a hazardous course to traverse,  contingent to tying up a cohesive team of specialists and drawing up a comprehensive transformational architecture, Nawaz Sharif with his experiential faculties and all the state organs onboard can and ought to do it. 

Reflections from the Somali Diaspora in South Africa 

Somalis started arriving in South Africa from 1993 due to civil war that plagued their country. The central government of Somalia collapsed long before South Africa became democratic which led to the lack of diplomatic relationship between the two countries. The formation of a voice for the community became an obligation; SASA was then established out of necessity in June 1996.
Somali Association of South Africa (SASA) was founded by a group of Somalis residing in Johannesburg. They were mainly professionals, business people and community figures. Soon the mobilisation spread to other provinces of the Republic. Today SASA is not only the oldest and largest organisation within the migrant communities but also the most effective. It has 13 fully functional offices and huge network of individuals across the country. In line with its mandate SASA proudly pronounced with limited resources, it has represented the Somali community with persistent work.
Somali migrants live and make their livings in the most impoverished segments within the country; they make their businesses in under developed, poorly planned and highly populated townships. Due to the economic climate and poor service delivery, when the locals get squeezed they vent their anger on the foreign migrants and they start looting the foreign owned business which may turn to violence and sometimes lead to losses of life.
Crime is a prominent issue in South Africa. The country is exposed to high level of crime and foreigners are the most vulnerable people that can be easily targeted. The two major challenges foreign migrants face in the townships are common crimes and the racial discrimination (xenophobic attacks). The common crime is part of the criminal activities that happens within the country and the foreign migrants share the same grievances with the locals. When the crime rates in the country drops the attacks on foreigners also drops.

When it comes to xenophobia and racial discriminations subjected to the foreign national, I personally think that the efforts given by the government and NGO’s to ease the tension is not directly channelled to the right areas. Due to business competition between the local traders and foreign business owners, during service delivery shortages local traders and criminals take advantage to vandalize and loot foreigners shops. Even though the local community members do not necessarily want to participate in such kind of crime, when they see shops getting looted instead of stopping they will also take the little they can due to economic strain.
More effort and focus should be given on how to create integration between the locals and the foreign traders.  We encourage the foreigners to take part the welfare and community activities (especially during community funerals) and cooperate with the community they are making business with. In order to create common understanding between the locals, we need to educate the foreigners about the do’s and doesn’t of the community they are trading with and also on the other hand the community should be taught as well the background of the foreigners who are trading with them.
The final solution for the Somalis in the Diaspora that I believe will bring durable solution is to help Somalis help themselves and rebuild their nation. After the civil war broke out in Somalia the central government collapsed and many tribes were massacred. Somalis need more effort on reconciliation in order to find lasting solutions for the ongoing war in Somalia. I am very much delighted with “Somali Solidarity campaign” that basically highlighted on reconciliation method for the Somalis. I think Action Support Centre’s effort on “Somali Solidarity Campaign” is more worthy than the whole mission of African Union Misssion in Somalia (Amison) troops in Somalia. The Somali people need reconciliation and healing process, once love blossoms within the Somalis they can liberate themselves from any force and join their hands to live peacefully. 
Under the slogan of Somali Solidarity Campaign, reconciliation effort will be fruitful, I recommend on the idea of bringing Somali individuals from all Somalia regions for idea sharing in order to bring common solution for their problems.

Reys Osman
Somali community activist,
Somali Association of South Africa

In recognition of the need to strengthen the voice of women in the Somali diaspora a small group of Somali women have begun organising in preparation for the launch of the South African Somali Womens Network SASOWNET. With the support of the ACTION Support Centre discussions have taken place in Johannesburg and Cape Town, with a further meeting scheduled to take place in port Elizabeth in the next few weeks. SASOWNET will be launched early in the second half of 2013. SASOWNET has been featured in previous issues of Drums, and more information on this initiative is available on our website

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