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Small arms on a table and bullets

PEACE IN AFRICA: The advent of small arms and improvised explosive devices

Preamble

The quest for peace in Africa has become more complex now than ever before. Some world-renowned initiatives have been tracking through research, the advent, and trends of trade in small arms, improvised explosive devices, and light weapons. The war in Libya; the insurgence of non-state actors in Mali; the uprising in some regions of Ethiopia and the perpetual internal conflict in South Sudan; the radicalized extremist violence occurring in Nigeria, Cameroon, Somalia, and Kenya all depict that it has become easier to conduct actions that lead to gross destruction of lives. There is an increased level of formal and informal schemes that have enhanced access to small arms. There are more possibilities now than ever before to improvise explosive devices using unconventional means and chemicals. All this has complicated the peace space.

A cursory look at reports on small arms, explosive devices, and security reforms provides some thoughts. Some reports on small arms and explosive devices include The Sentry under The Enough Project and the Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA) for Sudan and South Sudan under the Small Arms Survey series. There are reports by various security reform and stabilization missions by the United Nations (UN) and the European Commission as well as reports by peace agencies. 

The reports such as the Sentry Reports on South Sudan indicate that there are numerous actual gains to be made from trade and improvising small arms and explosives.1 The review also points out that the actual identities of beneficiaries are not always brought to the attention of the public The reports further indicate that at the core of local conflicts there seems to be an apocalyptic surge in the number of small arms, improvised devices, and light weapons. 

However, the reports have barely raised solutions that can work to create peace. The effort to address the space of small arms and improvised devices has relied on the use of power and position of authority as the basis for "control, restriction, prevention, to deny access and right to small arms" as indicated by the Small Arms Survey, Saferworld, the UN Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) and other agencies and protocols.2

All the reports do not directly address the following questions: Who is benefiting, who is gaining, how much? To what extent is peace increased or decreased by the access to small arms and improvised devices? How are security reform and stabilization missions contributing or inhibiting this state of affairs?

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Shifting in Camouflage-Trends and patterns of change among sections of al-shabaab

We note that the al-shabaab as a body operative, is slowly metamorphosing from the older narrative of an Islamo-organon, with aims of creating an Islamic constituent domain or state, for extending Islam. It seems to be moving out of its ideology in radicalizing for extremism, towards becoming an informal out-of -the-book type of economic-dragon with new aims. This shift also seems to be in some of its sections or factions within its leadership.

In that connection, some al-shabaab factions seem to be shifting their actions as means for wealth, resources, and broadly, economic benefits, among others of its economy-led objectives. This indicates that the al-shabaab imperative has moved over and beyond religious determinants of radicalized extremist violence, to a camouflage of radicalized economic violence.

Veds Kali and Karin Widmer on video call

Transforming feelings of conflict into feelings of solutions

Peacebuilders might enjoy positive and inspiring impressions due to their courage, commitment, and discipline to practice peaceful and non-violent ways of living: spreading positivity, kind gestures, and love. Yet, little might people know that at the back of that is a less known story of audacious steps to winning tiring and exhausting struggles in life. A conversation between Veds Kali and Karin Widmer from the CPS team Philippines.

Heart to heart talk with Veds…

Veds Kali, a Mindanawon peacebuilder and youth leader, admitted that he felt happy and warm thanks to the conversation, yet this could not take away his feeling of insecurity in how to cope with the situation. It’s not only that he had been in home office already prior to the pandemic – the CPS office had been closed months earlier due to a series of earthquakes and the need to comply with German standards for earthquake proofed buildings. But also, he is staying far from his family, whom he misses a lot.

“The holy month of Ramadan was so far the hardest struggle for me, as it came together with the pandemic. It was hard to connect with myself”, he revealed. He needed to embrace his vulnerabilities: “It’s important to recognize the feelings and to accept being vulnerable. We should not pressure ourselves on ending our day productive, but we should work at our own pace.” He looks at it as a long process of endless quest on redefining his own comfort zone in the “new normal”.

… and with Karin

“This is the time where recognizing our feelings is vital for self-care,” this is what Karin emphasized as she reflected her roller-coaster peace journey over the past 4.5 years. Wearing her multilevel hats as a friend, peacebuilder and advisor in a partner organization, she shared her enriching story of hope, recovery and resilience she faced in an unusual environment.

Currently stranded in her home country, Karin remained hopeful about the situation. However, she cannot take away the fact that the uncertainty brought by the pandemic is challenging. She admitted that she feels worried mainly for her local partners and friends in Mindanao. She offers spaces for conversation as a form of support. While she felt connected with her local partner organisation, she still feels “disconnected” as some partners especially in the communities have no access to internet. This adds up to the challenges that made her feel helpless about things she has no control over, such as her return to the Philippines.

Myanmar Landscape, temples and forest at sunset

How does COVID 19 affect us and our work as peacebuilders in Myanmar?

On 13 July 2020, MPI organized its first Myanmar MPI alumni online meeting. 

Since the coronavirus pandemic has turned the whole world upside down, MPI has started to virtually reach out to its alumni as a way to reconnect and as a sign of solidarity in these very challenging times. In one of these alumni meetings, in April 2020, the idea was born for MPI to conduct participatory research with its alumni, taking advantage of the vast network of MPI peacebuilders representing different layers and sectors of society around the globe.

By engaging with MPI alumni in different regions of the world through participatory research*, MPI wants to better understand how COVID-19 affects peacebuilders and what challenges we will likely face in its aftermath.

With this intention, MPI was able to gather six out of 42 peacebuilders from Myanmar who had attended MPI’s Annual Peacebuilding Training from 2000 to 2019 for an exploratory meeting and discussion. MPI facilitator and Board member Myla Leguro gave a brief input on how we can look at the implications of COVID-19 on peacebuilding work on different levels and how to define types of research questions in that context. However, it became obvious that COVID-19 is not the issue on which the alumni peacebuilders in Myanmar want to focus. One of the alumni said that more than 160 people have died in the ongoing civil war compared to six who have died due to COVID-19 during the same period. Even though all shared their experiences and observations on the effects of the pandemic on their personal lives, work, and society, they want to primarily focus on what is happening with the peace process and the ongoing conflicts in the country.

Bangsamoro Youth Peacebuilding: Empowering the Youth, Multiplying the Peacebuilders

Bangsamoro Youth Peacebuilding: Empowering the Youth, Multiplying the Peacebuilders

In the prevalence of violent extremism and child soldiering, youth and children are at high risk. In a Rapid Assessment done by International Labour Organization-International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (ILO-IPEC) Philippines on child soldiers in Central and Western Mindanao, there were estimated that 10.0 to 30.0 % of children in any given community are influenced by non-state armed groups or drafted as soldiers. Youth are easily ignored by the authorities after a conflict and excluded most of the time from decision-making processes and structures. They are now vulnerable to violence. This in turn starts a cycle of poverty and frustration that makes youth vulnerable to criminality and re-recruitment into armed forces and groups. We cannot afford to let other youth and children be in another insurgency involving them and using their vulnerability in terrorism and other personal interests. Capacitate them as peacebuilder to be on the frontline in preventing and transforming violent extremism. …

The Bangsamoro Youth Peacebuilding (BYP) intends to capacitate and empower the youth leaders from orphanages, schools, and youth organizations both religious-based youth organizations and from IP communities. They are called Bangsamoro Youth Peacebuilders. It involves capacity building program, online discussion and posting in a Facebook group, online/offline conversation and the actual tasks of applying of each training module. This intensive and consistent training design for young peacebuilder prepares the youth leaders of the context and in maximizing the available assets in the community. The learning of each session will provide space for creativity of each youth leader in creating advocacy work that is relevant and timely in the context they are in and in taking full advantage of the social media in promotion and information drive per se specifically on PTVE issues in the community. We will not just lessen their vulnerability in the recruitment of VEOs but we capitalize them as frontline for PTVE.

You may pdf download and read the entire update here (4.68 MB) .

You may find the Bangsamoro Youth Peacebuilding on Facebook here.

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