Nigeria’s Imam and Pastor: Faith at the Front

Adversaries Became Friends and Devoted Their Lives to Easing Muslim-Christian Tensions

By: USIP Staff

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In Northern Nigeria, where clashes between Christians and Muslims have claimed thousands of lives and torn communities apart, two prominent clergymen believe religion can also be a way toward peace.

Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye are both from Kaduna and fought on opposite sides during religious violence in 1992 that left thousands dead. Ashafa lost two cousins and a teacher in the conflict. Pastor James lost his right hand.“Most of us as youth, we went wild for vengeance,” says Ashafa. “We took revenge on innocent Christians who were living in our own communities.”

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Ashafa and Wuye came out of that experience determined not to let it happen again. Introduced several years later, they eventually began working together to bridge differences and cool tensions between Nigerian Muslims and Christians. They established the Interfaith Mediation Center  and, working with USIP, mediated a lasting peace agreement in the area of Yelwa-Shendam in Plateau state in 2004-05 after more than a thousand people were killed in religious violence. With seed funding from USIP, the center grew it into an institution that has gone on to  train others  in their own country as well as in Kenya, Iraq, Sri Lanka and elsewhere in strategies to resolve conflict without violence.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and largest democracy. With its oil reserves and agricultural sector, it is a crucial economic engine for the continent, and its position in the Lake Chad Basin and along Africa’s Sahel region makes it strategically valuable in the fight against global extremism.

But Northern Nigeria is riddled with political, economic, religious and social fissures that can turn deadly and destabilize the area. Interreligious and interethnic violence has erupted in Kaduna and Plateau states and elsewhere, leaving thousands dead, hundreds of thousands displaced and millions of lives changed forever.

Militancy and Radicalism

Militancy and radicalism also are on the rise in the region, most notably with the emergence of the Boko Haram terrorist group, which conducts attacks on civilians, including schools. Northern Nigeria’s crises, including the Boko Haram insurgency, have forced more than 2 million people from farms and villages. The resulting turmoil has destabilized other countries in the Lake Chad Basin and most recently triggered a famine.

Although the violence is fueled by such factors as land disputes, corruption, political inequality, and climate change that turns agricultural land into desert, the fighting is often couched in the form of religious disputes, pitting the huge Christian and Muslim communities against each other.

“Religious leaders are in especially strong positions to connect local communities and their concerns with wider political discussions and initiatives to address problems such as corrupt, ineffective, or exclusionary government,” says Susan Hayward, USIP’s senior advisor on religion  and inclusive societies.

“For more than 25 years, we’ve been committed to understanding and engaging religious actors and factors in zones of conflict,” she says.

In Nigeria, USIP works with a range of Christian and Muslim leaders, including Roman Catholic Cardinal John Onaiyekan, who is the Archbishop of the capital, Abuja, and the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, Nigeria’s highest authority in mainstream Islam. The two are well-known for their Interfaith Initiative for Peace, which seeks to defuse conflict over issues ranging from elections to land use.

Female Religious Leaders

USIP also assists interfaith and peacemaking efforts by female religious leaders such as Pastor Esther Ibanga, the late Bilkisu Yusuf and Sheikha Khadija Gambo Hawajah. Ibanga, a civil society leader from Plateau state, is founder and president of the Women Without Walls initiative and recipient of the prestigious Niwano Peace Prize honoring her efforts to promote women’s empowerment and peace. USIP worked with her as part of its Women Preventing Extreme Violence Project. Yusuf was a pioneering Muslim journalist, presidential advisor, and advocate of interfaith society. And Hawajah is chairperson of the Plateau State Muslim Women Peace Forum.

“These interfaith meetings build relationships between communities and security forces to prevent violence, and simultaneously help heal divisions that have resulted from decades of violence and conflict,” says Hayward.

A review of the Interfaith Mediation Center’s 2004-05 project in Plateau state found that dialogue was a critical tool in establishing the conditions that led to the signing of the peace accord. The agreement successfully ended hostilities, built trust and laid the foundation for social cohesion among the diverse ethnic and religious groups in the area.

The assessment also concluded that such efforts need to be accompanied by work to make government more effective and legitimate, to help address conflicts before they become violent.

“Grassroots dialogues are important for reducing violence, but we’ve found they need to be complemented by changes in governance,” says Oge Onubogu, a USIP senior program officer for Africa.

That’s why USIP also works withNorthern Nigerian Governor , who have outsized influence in pivotal areas where Boko Haram operates. Also, a year-old USIP-supported working group of eminent  civic leaders has pledged to support the governors in developing strategic, long-term plans for improvements. One of the working group’s projects, for example, is to examine a new peace building organization established by the governor of Plateau state to see if it’s a model that other northern states could use. The governor was speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, representing Shendam, in 2005 and worked with Pastor James and Imam Ashafa on their peacemaking project.

Ultimately, the aim is to build a larger community of grassroots activists and senior government officials in Nigeria with the tools and skills to effectively mediate and address grievances and disputes before they turn violence.

“We need to replicate ourselves,” says Pastor Wuye about his work with Imam Ashafa. “More imams, more pastors, more young women and community leaders to carry this banner.”

Source :USIP

About Behaviour                           About Attitude

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Preventing Election Violence in Liberia

By: Jonas Claes; Inken von Borzyskowski

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Liberia will hold presidential and legislative elections on October 10. The run-up to the vote has been primarily peaceful, and the country has engaged in ongoing efforts to prevent election violence. This Peace Brief, based on USIP research, assesses the risk of election violence and the scope of violence prevention efforts, and provides recommendations for ongoing prevention.

Summary

  • There is reason for optimism as Liberia prepares for its October 10 elections. Thus far the run-up to the vote has been calm and peaceful, with few instances of hate speech and property damage reported and no intimidation or physical attacks. A peaceful transition of power would be an impressive achievement considering Liberia’s brutal civil wars ended only fourteen years ago.
  • Despite the cautious optimism there is no room for complacency as tensions could escalate rapidly. Most concerning are budget gaps and the lack of institutional strength that, even with significant international investments, could prevent the Liberian National Police and National Election Commission from providing adequate election administration and security.
  • Ongoing efforts to prevent election violence, including domestic and international election observation and peace messaging efforts, may help the country achieve this important milestone in its recovery from civil war.
  • In the coming weeks, international diplomats should coordinate with African leaders in the region and encourage the leading candidates to call for restraint and live up to their commitments to avoid violence.

Introduction

On October 10, the people of Liberia will participate in critical presidential and legislative elections in what may become Liberia’s first post-war transition between democratically elected governments. Considering the overwhelming development challenges Liberian institutions face, peaceful elections cannot be taken for granted. Elections often present significant challenges in countries that recently emerged from violent conflict, but Liberia may be defeating the odds. Civil society, the police, the electoral commission, international diplomats and—above all—leading Liberian politicians will further determine whether the country’s fragile peace will hold.

Sources of Conflict

Liberia remains one of the least developed countries worldwide. Roughly the size of Virginia, the country was battered by two civil wars (1989–2003) that claimed the lives of 250,000 Liberians, and experienced an Ebola crisis (2014–2015) that killed another 4,800 people. Liberians appreciate the political stability of the past fourteen years but remain cognizant about the risk elections pose to peace. A nationally representative survey indicated that a majority of Liberians (61 percent) were convinced that election disputes could reignite violent conflict.1

As provided for by the country’s constitution, current Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf will leave office in 2017 after two terms (2005, 2011). The 2017 presidential race is quite competitive, with two major and several other presidential candidates, and almost one thousand candidates for the 73 seats in the House of Representatives. About half of all voters (49 percent) are undecided, according to a recent poll. One of the current frontrunners is Joseph Boakai, who also served as vice president under Sirleaf, from the president’s Unity Party. His main challenger is George Weah, leader of the opposition Coalition for Democratic Change.2 Weah ran for president in 2005, for vice president in 2011, and remains popular among the growing youth population. His vice presidential candidate is Jewel Howard Taylor, the former wife of warlord Charles Taylor, who maintains a broad support base. Other contenders include Charles Brumskine, leader of the Liberty Party, Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party, Senator Prince Johnson of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction, and Alexander Cummings of the Alternative National Congress.

In its previous post-conflict elections (2005 and 2011) Liberia experienced limited violence despite significant administrative flaws and heated rhetoric. The memory of civil war was still fresh, the international community endorsed the elections, and the political elite generally kept their cool in the face of technical challenges, urging restraint among their supporters.

Despite optimistic expectations for peaceful elections, important sources of conflict remain that could escalate into violence. Primary concerns are budget gaps and institutional weaknesses that can prevent the election commission and Liberian National Police from guaranteeing adequate election administration and security. Any technical mistakes or delays by the National Election Commission, any real or perceived fraud, and a close or tense race may encourage candidates to mobilize their supporters and challenge the election result.

Moreover, the recent enforcement of a national Code of Conduct has raised tensions among political candidates and their supporters. Section 5.2 of the Code requires ministers and other officials who want to run for an elected office to step down at least two years prior to election day. Presidential appointees with tenure positions are required to resign three years prior. The rule is designed to prevent the use of state resources to fund campaigns, but was heavily contested as it could block several lead candidates from participating in the 2017 elections.

Elections often present significant challenges in countries that recently emerged from violent conflict, but Liberia may be defeating the odds.

Whether the elections are a democratic success or precipitate a return to violence is to some extent determined by the efforts taken to prevent election violence—first and foremost by the leading candidates, but also by election observers, the election commission, police, international diplomats, and civil society. Currently, various efforts are ongoing to prevent election violence, including engaging youth constructively, restoring popular trust in the Liberian police, and ensuring the ability of the National Election Commission to hold credible elections.USIP research in Liberia aims to assess the risk of election violence in carefully selected counties and the effectiveness of the most common and promising tools to prevent its outbreak. The findings will help identify ways to prevent violence with demonstrated impact, prioritize efforts in the upcoming months, and develop more effective remedies for future elections in Liberia and other countries.

The Road to a Critical Election—Will Prevention Work?

With the support of the Liberia-based Center for Democratic Governance, USIP conducted a survey in 150 communities across Montserrado, Nimba, Lofa, and Bong counties, interviewing 1,050 community representatives. The communities were randomly selected from a larger pool of towns at risk of election violence, as they are all voter-rich and have some history of local conflict. The baseline data gathered through USIP research offers an initial indication of the risk of violence and the scope of violence prevention efforts, and may help inform ongoing prevention efforts. The same respondents will be interviewed again after the election to assess the impact of prevention activity.

The scope of violence prevention programming in Liberia has varied. The USIP survey indicated that election monitoring, peace messaging, and—to a lesser extent—civic and voter education are widely used to promote credible elections and prevent violence. Respondents valued the role of monitors in helping to reduce violence and prevent fraud. Peace messaging efforts were praised for their inclusive character: 91 percent of respondents indicate that peace messages usually reach all members of society. Civic education finds a fertile environment in Liberia, since most Liberians already demonstrate strong civic attitudes, recognizing the value of democracy and the importance of peaceful participation in elections.

Despite several ongoing initiatives, including a youth debate series and leadership trainings held by NAYMOTE,3 the survey revealed a striking need for youth programming outside Monrovia. Youth are important because children were heavily recruited during the civil wars, particularly by the army of Charles Taylor. Without appropriate education, training, or employable skills, today’s youth (ages 18–34) could be easily mobilized by charismatic politicians.

Citizens consider the police a trustworthy security provider. However, Liberian respondents also indicate that police are rarely present to prevent election violence and do not have the necessary resources to guarantee election security. Building a capable police force remains a priority given the gradual withdrawal of the UN Mission in Liberia, which helped provide election security after the civil war. Despite significant capacity-building efforts, the budget and equipment of the Liberian National Police does not match its increased responsibilities for election security, especially in the communities outside of Monrovia. A majority of Liberian respondents (57 percent) have not communicated with police officers about election security, and most (82 percent) think that police officers do not protect all voters and candidates equally.

Unlike the Liberian National Police, the National Election Commission is perceived by Liberian respondents as well prepared to organize free, fair, and credible elections, and received praise for its voter registration drive. That said, the National Election Commission has sizeable shortages in budget and equipment to organize smooth elections during the rainy season and is often confronted with impassable roads and a poorly informed electorate. Respondents’ preferred point of contact for complaints about the election is security forces or community authorities rather than the National Election Commission4, and only about half of Liberian respondents know their local National Election Commission magistrate.

Given the limited institutional capacity in Liberia, international efforts are mainly focused on technical election assistance.5 The European Union, the UN Development Program, and the US government fund the majority of programs and materials needed to ensure a credible election process. International donors seem to be focused on the right priorities, emphasizing support for both the election and security authorities as, according to prior USIP research, these are often critical in mitigating election violence.6 Internationals also engage in preventive diplomacy, but only 17 percent of Liberians interviewed think foreign diplomats can influence local leaders. The UN Mission in Liberia is considered the most influential diplomatic presence to engage on election security, followed by the US Embassy and the Economic Community of West African States.

Risk of Violence in the Months Ahead

The election process has been calm and peaceful thus far, with few instances of hate speech reported between parties and some damage to posters and banners at the start of the campaign period. While the risk of violence remains low in the coming weeks and months, promising indications should not lead to complacency as significant capacity gaps remain.

Domestic and international election observers play a valuable role in detecting technical deficien-cies, but should also report on intimidation, gender-based violence, hate speech, and other forms of election violence. Support for youth programming and the build-up of a capable police force should not end on election day, but carry forward across several election cycles.

While international prevention efforts can help, Liberian politicians and institutions hold the keys to peaceful elections. International diplomats should coordinate with African leaders in the region and encourage the leading candidates to call for restraint, and live up to their commitments to avoid violence. So far, there is reason for optimism. The election process will not be perfect (it rarely is), but Liberia seems well on its way to a historic election.

Notes

  1. “State of Peace, Reconciliation, and Conflict in Liberia,” Catholic Relief Services Report Brief, (2016): 8, www.crs.org/sites/default/files/tools-research/state-of-peace-reconciliation-liberia_0.pdf.
  2. The Coalition for Democratic Change includes the Congress for Democratic Change, National Patriotic Party, and Liberia’s People Democratic Party.
  3. NAYMOTE–Partners for Democratic Development is a grassroots organization promoting democracy, peacebuilding, and human rights by empowering community representatives and youth leaders in Liberia.
  4. The NEC and local magistrates are mandated to hear and investigate complaints.
  5. Inken von Borzyskowski, 2016, “Who Seeks and Receives Technical Election Assistance?” Review of International Organizations, 11, no. 2 (2016): 247–82, http://www.borzyskowski.net/wp-content/uploads/Technical-Election-Assistance.pdf.
  6. Jonas Claes and Geoffrey Macdonald, “Findings and Conclusions,” in Electing Peace, ed. Jonas Claes (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2016): 200–01.

About this Brief

Through evaluative research the US Institute of Peace aims to identify what works to prevent election violence in Liberia. This preliminary analysis is based on baseline findings from Montserrado, Nimba, Lofa, and Bong counties, and offers insight into the risk of violence and the scope of prevention efforts. Jonas Claes is a senior program officer at USIP, where he conducts research and analysis on the prevention of election violence. Inken von Borzyskowski is an assistant professor of political science at Florida State University. Her research focuses on international organizations and their effect on domestic conflict and elections.

Source : United States Institute of Peace

Troops, Reforms, Regional Role Define Afghanistan Plan

U.S. Officials Brief at USIP to Fill in Details of Trump Announcement

By: USIP Staff

Along with military pressure to coax the Taliban into a peace process, the new U.S. plan for Afghanistan will support government reforms such as tackling corruption, economic development to make the country less dependent on foreign aid and diplomacy to persuade Pakistan to help—rather than hurt—the cause, top U.S. officials said in a briefing at the U.S. Institute of Peace today.

Farmers working in a field in the Shibar Valley in Bamian province, Afghanistan.

Farmers working in a field in the Shibar Valley, July 2016. The farmers’ unions in Afghanistan help ensure a more reliable/diverse food supply, while also empowering its female leadership. Photo Courtesy of The New York Times/Adam Ferguson
“We’re not looking at nation-building or economic development as an end in itself,” said one of four senior administration officials who briefed two dozen policy experts from a range of research institutions to explain and respond to questions about the plan President Trump announced in a prime-time television address on Aug. 21. But support to Afghanistan is “necessary to protect the ultimate goal of a stable Afghanistan, where the government is in control of the territory and terrorists cannot set up shop there.”

The briefing aimed to add details to the military, political and economic plan the new administration will pursue to achieve the goal, which one official described as “a political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban that protects vital U.S. national security interests.” The officials spoke on condition they not be identified by name, to allow a more candid discussion.

The plan calls first of all for increasing military pressure on the Taliban to reverse some of its gains in recent years, as the militants have retaken parts of Helmand Province in the south and briefly twice seized control of the major northern city of Kunduz. ISIS, too, has made inroads, prompting the U.S. to drop its largest non-nuclear bomb for the first time in combat in April, to destroy a system of bunkers and tunnels the group was using in Nangarhar Province in the country’s east. The influence of ISIS also is turning more Taliban members to further extremes, one of the senior officials said.

The heaviest burden … will still be borne by the Afghan people.

U.S. senior administration official
Trump’s announcement this week didn’t specify the number of American troops that might be added to the current contingent of 8,400, down from a peak of 100,000 in 2010-2011, but news reports say the Defense Department has authorization to add as many as 3,900. The U.S. will work with Afghan forces to step up counter-terrorism operations and to increase training, advising and assistance, the senior officials said. NATO allies and partners also will continue their contributions to the mission, they said.

“We believe this will send a clear message to the Taliban that you can’t wait us out,” one official said. “The heaviest burden, though,” another said, “will still be borne by the Afghan people and their security forces.”Afghanistan lost some 6,700 soldiers in the fighting last year alone, another official noted, adding, “I don’t think we can doubt the commitment of Afghan security forces.”

‘Kabul Compact’

Government reform will be a key element to sustaining a more stable Afghanistan, the officials said. One outlined a recent “Kabul Compact” initiated by Afghan President Ghani and co-led by his governing coalition partner, Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, as well as U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens and U.S. Army General John W. Nicholson, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan. The four met this week to discuss the compact’s four lines of effort on governance, economic development, the peace process and security.

“The Afghans have already made significant progress on some of its elements, including replacing 150 ineffective or corrupt generals and filing corruption charges against prominent business people,” one official said. “The Afghans have to build their own nation; we can’t do this for them. But we can work with them as friends and encourage the kinds of reforms that we think are necessary.”

One official expressed confidence that the Trump administration will have the funding needed for a range of effective assistance to Afghanistan, considering its requested budget for fiscal year 2018 and remaining funding for longer-term projects such as infrastructure. “There’s no dearth of assistance to be working our objectives over the next several years.”

The U.S. also will revive regional peace efforts to persuade the Taliban to negotiate, including pressure on Pakistan to eliminate safe havens for the group across the border, and measures to cut off other supply lines. The officials didn’t specifically mention Russia and Iran, but reports have surfaced in recent months that the Taliban are getting weapons and other new support from those sources as well.

The officials repeated several times that the U.S. considers Pakistan an “important partner” that shares many common interests—and enemies—and that the U.S. recognizes the sacrifices Pakistan has made in the fight against certain terrorist elements.  The officials said they aim for a “mature, constructive relationship” with Pakistan even as the U.S. develops strategic ties with India and encourages India to support democracy and economic development in Afghanistan.

Nuclear Weapons

Pakistan and India have fought repeated wars and skirmishes along their disputed border, and Pakistan’s security establishment supports the Taliban to maintain influence over Afghanistan as a defense against being encircled by hostile forces. The fact that both Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons continues to concern the U.S., too, the senior officials said.

“We are particularly concerned by the development of tactical nuclear weapons that are designed for battlefield use,” one of the administration officials said. “We see these as more susceptible to terrorist theft and also increasing the likelihood of nuclear exchange in the region.”

As a result, the U.S. will urge India and Pakistan to take confidence-building steps and re-engage in dialogue about their points of tension.

But the U.S. reserves the right to use “more punitive, more disruptive, persuasive” measures if needed, and American officials will take up most such issues with Pakistani counterparts “in private,” one official said. U.S. talks will “mark a change in how we approach the challenge of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan,” and likely will play out over time, rather than immediately, the officials said. One reiterated Trump’s warning, saying Pakistan “has a lot to gain” by working with the U.S. and “a lot to lose if it fails to take adequate steps.”

The gains would include close involvement in any peace process for Afghanistan, as part of regional groupings. “We understand Pakistan has legitimate interests in Afghanistan and what happens there.”

The losses might involve, for example, U.S. security assistance, which already has fallen in recent years.

China could be key to “encouraging better behavior” by Pakistan and giving it the confidence “to engage in a more constructive fashion,” one official said. The  Chinese “want to play a bigger role. We’ve seen the foreign minister do shuttle diplomacy between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Source : United States Institute of Peace

How to End the War in Ukraine

With a New Envoy, U.S. Can Energize Peace Efforts Based on Sovereignty, Regional Stability

By:Willima B. Taylor ; Viola Gienger

The recently expanded U.S. sanctions against Russia, preparations for a massive Russian military exercise next door to NATO allies in September and a spike in casualties this year on the battlefields of Ukraine are powerful reminders of the threat posed to European and U.S. security of a conflict now in its fourth year. But the sanctions, together with a new envoy from Washington, set the stage for the U.S. to invigorate what has been a stalled peace process to end the war between Russia and Ukraine.

The damaged roof of a residential building hit by artillery fire near the front lines in Avdiivka, Ukraine.

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Terrorists Should Be Sentenced to Death-Israeli PM

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu  has declared that the time has come for terrorists to face the  death penalty, when caught.

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Netanyahu made this declaration, when himself and his wife  paid a condolence visit to the Salomon Family home in Elad.

“My position as prime minister, in the case of such a lowly murderer, is that he should be executed, so that he will smile no more” Netanyahu said, referring to the testimony of Tova Salomon who was wounded in the attack, who said that the terrorist smiled before he started stabbing her and her family members”, the Prime Minister stated.

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South Sudan: Friendship Over Fear

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A civil war that has plagued South Sudan, the world’s newest country, over the past four years verges on ethnic genocide and has left half the prewar population in need of humanitarian aid. As the international community tries to help end the violence, the U.S. Institute of Peace brought two of the country’s promising young leaders—one from each side of the divide—to Washington to pursue research on ways to heal the rifts. By the end of their stay, they may have learned just as much from each other.Read more……

 

 

Allies Under Attack: The Terrorist Threat to Europe

Georgia Holmer testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade.

By: Georgia Holmer

I testify before you today as the Director of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) at the United States Institute of Peace, although the views expressed here are my own. USIP was established by Congress over 30 years ago as an independent, national institute to prevent and resolve violent conflicts abroad, in accordance with U.S. national interests and values. Violent extremism and terrorism pose significant challenges to peace and security in our world today, and understanding its causes and finding ways to address it are priorities for USIP.  Read more……..

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Defusing Violent Extremism in Fragile States

Cases in Sahel, Lake Chad and Other Regions Illustrate What Works

By: Fred Strasser, United States  Institute of Peace

In Nigeria, a radio call-in show with local Islamic scholars provided an alternative to extremist propaganda. In Somalia, training youth in nonviolent advocacy for better governance produced a sharp drop in support for political violence. In the Lake Chad region, coordinating U.S. defense, development and diplomatic efforts helped push back Boko Haram and strengthened surrounding states. Such cases illustrate ways to close off the openings for extremism in fragile states, experts said in a discussion at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Three men who defected from the al-Shabab militant group stay at an undisclosed location in Somalia in June of 2014.

Noor, Bashir and Ahmed, men who defected from the al-Shabab militant group, stay at an undisclosed location in Somalia. Photo Courtesy of The New York Times/Daniel Berehulak
For 15 years, the annual rankings of the Fragile states Index  have prompted the question of what works and what doesn’t in improving governance, enhancing stability and, increasingly, in reducing violent extremism, said Patricia Taft, programs director at the nonprofit Fund for Peace, which produces the Fragile States Index.From the Sahel to North Africa to South Asia, fragility generates the political grievances, social alienation and economic failure that fuel extremism, the panelists said at the event, part of the regular Conflice Prevetnion and Resolution Froum . Fragility, as defined last year by the USIP-led Fragility Study Group , is the absence or breakdown of a social contract between people and their government, with institutional weakness and a lack of political legitimacy.

The impact of fragility—and the openings it provides for extremist influence—surfaces throughout a society, the panelists said. Read more…….

 

Afghanistan: Is Peace Possible Without Justice?

By: Belquis Ahmadi

When Gulbuddin Hekmatyar returned to Kabul on May 9 after two decades in hiding, the former warlord received a hero’s welcome by authorities who had struck the peace deal that ushered him back. His convoy was escorted by helicopters and armed police. His supporters gleefully marched through the streets of the Afghan capital and drove pickup trucks showing off their machine guns and grenade launchers. In the presidential palace, a red carpet was rolled out for Hekmatyar, along with other former mujahedeen leaders accused of war crimes.

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Longtime Afghan faction leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar speaks in one of his first public appearances after nearly 20 years in hiding as he returned to Kabul in recent weeks following a peace deal with the government. (Tolo TV screenshot)
But the warm embrace by government officials does not necessarily extend to the people of Kabul. Many remember the havoc, bloodshed and devastation Hekmatyar inflicted on the city during the inter-factional fight for control of Kabul among militant groups in the 1990s.

Hekmatyar has factional supporters, and indeed many other mujahedeen warlords have much blood on their hands and have avoided any accountability. But to many Afghans, Hekmatyar remains a particularly notorious warlord who assassinated hundreds if not thousands of intellectuals in Afghanistan and Pakistan during that time. His militia, Hezb-e-Islami, which is being normalized today as a political party, was responsible for such atrocities as throwing acid at educated Afghan refugee women and raining rockets down on Kabul, killing thousands of people and internally displacing many more.

Kabul residents remember Hekmatyar’s group blocking the supply road to the capital city, forcing women and young children to walk for miles just to buy a sack of flour or cooking oil. Many men who tried to make the journey on foot through Hezb-e-Islami’s stronghold in the Char-Asyab district, approximately eight miles south of Kabul, never made it back alive.

But now the Afhgan government’s peace deal with Hekmatyar, in which he renounced violence and pledged to abide by the country’s constitution, is being hailed as a historic achievement by local authorities and foreign diplomats. As recently as 2003, the U.S. State Department listed him as a terrorist, accusing Hekmatyar of participating in and supporting attacks by al-Qaida and the Taliban.

To reach the deal, Hekmatyar’s name was taken off the United Nations terrorist list. He and his men are getting free accommodation and security in Kabul. But instead of expressing remorse for his crimes against civilians, or asking forgiveness, Hekmatyar is urging people to forget the past.

Is that even possible? Would an effort by Afghans to simply erase Hekmatyar’s war crimes from their memories bring the necessary closure to allow the fragile country to develop long-term democratic institutions?

Hardly. Unless past crimes are addressed in a fair manner in accordance with Afghanistan’s laws and the country’s obligations under international treaties, the future cannot be stable and the violence will spill into future generations. Research by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission as well as international human rights bodies has uncovered ample evidence of atrocities on all sides of the conflict that victims want addressed.

That’s why an Afghan citizens’ group recently sent a petition  to the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) requesting justice for the victims of crimes allegedly committed by Hekmatyar and his group.

In response, the head of UNAMA said, “Afghan citizens and others who have been victims of atrocities must not be deprived of their right to judicial redress.”

Any attempt by the Afghan government or the international community to strike a peace deal with those responsible for war crimes must ensure accountability and justice.

Put simply, there is no peace without justice.

Source : USIP

Ebola to Piracy: Sustaining U.S.-China Work in Africa

By: Jennifer Staats

U.S. and Chinese leaders have worked with counterparts across Africa to combat a range of security threats on the continent, from Ebola to piracy to instability in Sudan and South Sudan. A recent United Nations Security Council Resolution condemning terrorist attacks and violence in the Lake Chad Basin illustrates that more joint efforts are needed to support Africa’s stability and development. Unfortunately, distrust and skepticism between the United States and China are getting in the way of further progress. But there may be a way to prevent backsliding.

US and Chines Military MIO Exercise

U.S.-China counter piracy exercise. Photo Courtesy of U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary M. Keen/Released
Initial trilateral efforts in Africa have revealed three key lessons for effective cooperation, according to experts in a recent discussion at USIP.  First, successful efforts must be African-led and should work through existing African institutions. Second, leadership matters, and the U.S. and Chinese ambassadors in Africa play a critical role in making collaboration possible. Third, engagement must be sustained, holistic, and long-term, rather than ad hoc.

Although both the United States and China want to see an economically prosperous and secure Africa, there are many barriers to closer cooperation. They include competition, lack of transparency, different definitions of “stability,” and bureaucratic stovepipes.

Three ambassadors and an associate director at the Carter Center in Atlanta considered ways to overcome these hurdles in a March 2017 article in Foreign Affairs.

“The goal should be to transform occasional moments of cooperation—such as the shared efforts of China, the United States, and African governments during the Ebola crisis—into what China expert Kurt Campbell has called “habits of cooperation” on those areas where all parties largely agree.”

Campbell and the four authors addressed the point at the USIP event on April 11, held to discuss progress in a three-year project between the institute and the Carter Center, called the Africa-China-U.S. Consultation for Peace. The program is being conducted in coordination with the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel.

In addition to the authors’ recommendations, experts identified other opportunities for collaboration:

  • Coordinate humanitarian assistance to the Lake Chad Basin to avoid duplication and gaps.
  • Conduct joint research on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, including piracy as well as illegal and unreported fishing.
  • Strengthen maritime security structures in West Africa, particularly the Interregional Coordination Center in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
  • Develop African merchant marines to facilitate trade.
  • Address threats to food security and public health.
  • Build the capacity of African peacekeepers and establish a reliable source of funding for African Union peace operations.
  • Invest in civilian security, governance, economic rehabilitation, effective community-police relations, and the judicial and security architecture in the Lake Chad Basin.
  • Align development assistance, infrastructure projects, and economic investment with conflict prevention efforts.

The need for three-way cooperation in Africa remains high.  Where direct collaboration is not possible, one alternative might be to pursue complementary policies that still would allow parties to work in parallel toward the same goals, as long as they maintain some openness and transparency.

The United States and China should commit to adding these issues to the new U.S.-China Consultative Dialogue, to ensure these opportunities get the attention they deserve. The challenges facing Africa cannot be ignored just because leaders in Washington and Beijing cannot overcome their mistrust. Instead, the three parties must find creative ways to pursue complementary efforts that will help everyone realize their shared interests.

Source : United States Institute of Peace