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Alumni News

News from and about MPI Alumni

A Small Peace Story During the MOA-AD Crisis (1)

A Small Peace Story During the MOA-AD Crisis (1)

Very few people from the non-government and peacebuilding sector get to engage in peace discourses with soldiers, let alone build good relationships with them thereafter. I would like to think that I was one of the fortunate few. I believe that experience allowed me to share with the soldiers how the narratives of conflict in Mindanao are seen from our eyes, as well as get a glimpse of how soldiers see these same narratives from their eyes.

This experience started when I got the chance to enroll in the Fundamentals of Peacebuilding (FPB) course of the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) in the 2008 Annual Peacebuilding Training. At that time, I was attending as a staff of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), Inc. If memory serves me right, I was one of three or four from CBCS who attended that year.

Technology – fear no more during the time of COVID: A reflection on MPI’s online Facilitation Skills Training of Trainers

Technology – fear no more during the time of COVID: A reflection on MPI’s online Facilitation Skills Training of Trainers

Cybertechnologies were among the first to deliver to the world the fearful news about what many of us dubbed as “the worst disaster” ever recorded in the history of humankind when the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that COVID-19 should be classified as a pandemic at the onset of 2020. For more than one year after the reported outbreak, different technologies delivered news of death tolls and infection statistics and how nations and communities had responded differently, and to some extent, uniquely to the pandemic. Countless times we opened our mobile tech gadgets to go online and find few feature stories on the positive and alternative practices and what leaders learned who successfully reduced or abated the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was in the middle of this pandemic that the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute Foundation, Inc. (MPI) attempted to make the most out of these technologies and invited peacebuilders from conflict areas to participate in an online Facilitation Skills Training of Trainers (FSToT) during the first quarter of 2021. The purpose of the FSToT was to better equip local mediators and peacebuilders from across the globe. The course provided the participants with a holistic and complete overview of online training facilitation and how to design it. It included what a peace training is about, what are the SMART objectives, what is it for, who is it for, what is the approach to use, what is in the toolbox, what knowledge and skills are needed, who is the trainer, what are the required resources, and what are the important considerations.

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

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?

Participatory methods: Let us give it a go and see what magic it offers

Participatory methods: Let us give it a go and see what magic it offers

Image: FST0T participants trying to stand up during an activity with Uka Pinto in the maroon shirt.

I was one of the participants in the Facilitation Skills Training of Trainers for Peacebuilders workshop in Davao City, Philippines, from November 25 to 29, 2019. The workshop was co-facilitated by Inke Johannsen from Germany and Carino “Rockrock” Antequisa from the Philippines. It was a fascinating five-day learning journey where we learned and practiced how to design and facilitate training. MPI organized this workshop to equip MPI alumni and staff with knowledge and skills in facilitation. These are my reflections on some of the lessons learned from this workshop that I have applied back in my country, Timor-Leste (TL), some feedback from the participants, and the challenges I faced when doing something different.

Through this workshop, I learned new methods that improved my facilitation skills and how to actively engage participants during a training session. At the same time, I was able to deepen my understanding of other facilitation methods that I used previously. During the five days of the training process, I was impressed that the facilitators did not use a single PowerPoint presentation, computers, or projectors. Instead, the facilitators used meta-cards, flipcharts, blu-tack, markers, crayons, and colored pencils. All the sessions were planned carefully in advance and delivered by using various exciting methods. I must admit that it was one of my “aha!” moments. This workshop led me to believe that I can facilitate a training session like this one, too.

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

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.

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