The Roles of Power and Communication in Peacemaking and Peacekeeping
Introduction to IJWP, June 2020
This issue of International Journal on World Peace has three articles related to peacemaking and peacekeeping in Africa. The principles discussed apply to peacemaking and peacekeeping anywhere in the world. The first step is the creation of negative peace, the absence of fighting, and the second step involves positive peace, dialogue, negotiations, and a legal framework in which to work together for the common good.
There is first an important role in the use of military and police power in the creation of negative peace—the physical separation of warring parties to prevent bloodshed, and the creation of an environment in which dialogue and negotiations can take place. However, if the military force is not neutral, and sides with one party or uses excessive force, structural violence is created that impedes the possibility of dialogue and positive peace. This is a main difference between a peacemaker/peacekeeper and a conqueror who would impose their own kind of peace.
Secondly, there is an important role in fostering a consensus and higher cultural consciousness on common social goals. To develop positive peace, religions, the media, and schools have a role to play communication of knowledge for well-being of the entire society.
Our first article, by Abosede Omowumi Babatunde, Metin Ersoy, Leon Miller, and Stephanie Thiel addresses the idea of “peace journalism,” a phrase coined by Johan Galtung in the 1990s. Peace journalism is defined as an approach to resolving conflict that employs communication processes and media to facilitate collaborative engagement within mediated value creation networks.
The authors look at how peace journalism might be employed in Nigeria, especially in mediating conflicts in the Northeast, where Boko Haram is active, and ethnic rivalries in the oil-rich Niger Delta. They discuss lessons learned in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, and elsewhere where peace journalism was employed to enable groups to accept one another and live together.
Peace journalism involves a communication process that transcends the power interests, economic interests, ideological interests, and other self-centered interests that seek conquest without compromise. Conflicting parties tend to view their differences from a win-lose framework. Peace journalists teach that conflict can be reduced by adhering to the principle of creating value which heretofore was not seen to exist thus producing win-win outcomes for the conflicting parties.
This peace journalism concept can be compared to evolving from a hunter-gather framework to a production framework. When hunter-gatherer groups fight over taking a limited supply of things that exist—like herds of deer, minerals, or money, there is a win-lose situation. On the other hand, when necessities are created by farming, building, manufacturing, and other activities, the supply of necessities becomes enough for everyone and the conflict fades. This may be the foundation of civilization.
Our second article, by Seun Bamidele, analyzes the insurgencies in Northern Nigeria. Nigeria is religiously pluralistic, but many people view other religions as a threat, the win-lose framework described in the first article. Religious insurgency is fed by subjective misinterpretations of religion designed to convince followers that it is imperative to kill anyone who does not believe in the group’s creed. The overbearing nature of Nigerian security agencies imposing state government control only expands the divides and aids Islamic radicalization in the country.
Bamidele describes a “Protestant Islam” in Nigeria that parallels the Protestant Reformation in Christianity. This occurred after the Islamic encounter with different radical foreign Islamic groups. Traditionally, Muslims in Nigeria were nominal believers but a “purification” movement promises another way forward based on a strict religious life. This particularly appeals to the young and dispossessed. The Boko Haram movement was established in Nigeria in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf and later became a subsidiary of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) under Abubakar Shekau in 2009. Hero-worship and selfish interests of the leaders and even members, and geostrategic religious issues serve as factors that contribute to radical Islamic insurgency promoted in the name of Islam.
Islamic insurgency movements like Boko Haram are not propelled by religious ideological factors alone. While they have religious underpinnings, leaders are often corrupt and politicize religious movements; and they are generally not equipped to lead an autonomous Islamic society. Bamidele concludes that most analysts emphasize either the religious motivations or the political motivations of Boko Haram, but a holistic understanding requires synthesizing both paradigms.
Our third article, by Solomon Hailu, argues that the concept of the indivisibility of peace has been around a long time. First, indivisibility means that peace and security are linked. A peaceful life (positive peace) cannot exist in the absence of security (negative peace). Further, the indivisibility of peace implies that aggression by one state against another affects the peace of all states. Therefore, national security requires international security.
This concept of indivisibility lies at the founding purpose for the League of Nations, which failed, and United Nations, which corrected some of the impotence of the League. But Hailu argues that the United Nations was designed for the world of the 1930s and the world has changed significantly in 90 years.
After World War II, the ideological competition and rivalry between the superpowers blocked constructive developments of peacekeeping operations during the Cold War. This undermined the principle of collective security, which required a clear community consensus on the nature of aggression and the identification of the aggressor. With each state aligned within a bloc and each bloc with a Security Council veto, the United Nations was seldom able to approve a unified action. Secondly, as the bipolar world crumbled, intrastate conflicts became the major threat to peace. However, the principle of state sovereignty upon which the United Nations was founded literally forbade United Nations intervention.
The quest for collective security has been elusive. The United Nations needs to revise its doctrine of state sovereignty to address the responsibility to protect (R2P) people caught up intrastate conflicts, genocide, humanitarian disasters, and failed states. The UN should establish a framework for intervention when innocent civilians are purposely targeted by internal armed conflicts.
Also, with the collapse of the bipolar world and the limitations of the UN, regional powers can assist in peacekeeping actions. Hailu explains that, in Africa, the United Nations is frequently perceived as a disinterested Western organization that does not adequately care about or understand African states. A regional peacekeeping power might be considered more legitimate. Hailu argues that South Africa, having itself made a transition to democracy and best equipped militarily and financially, is in the position to lead regional peacekeeping efforts in Africa. However, South Africa can learn from others, particularly Nigeria, who served as the leader of ECOWAS peacekeeping missions in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Human social institutions tend to fall into one of three social spheres. In governance and the legal order, power is the primary principle. In the economic sphere production is stimulated by market incentives. And, the cultural sphere reflects the social consciousness which contains knowledge and compassion. Peace requires harmony and functionality in all of these spheres. Political realism and power politics only address the first sphere, and do not provide an adequate framework for peace. Peace journalism, as our first article describes it, can help foster the social consciousness necessary guide social institutions in all three spheres. But the peace journalist, as a peacemaker, needs to be a politically, economically, and ideologically neutral referee, and not an activist who sides with any cause except indivisible peace.
Gordon L. Anderson
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