Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Today, 6th March 2015, marks the 58th anniversary of the independence of Ghana. Ghana, being the first African country to have gained independence, is still like other African countries tottering on the trajectory of positive peace. And the words of Kwame Nkrumah still resonate with this reality today, “Besides, political independence, though worthwhile in itself, is still only a means to the fuller redemption and realization of a people. When independence has been gained, positive action requires a new orientation away from the sheer destruction of colonialism and towards national reconstruction. It is indeed in this address to national reconstruction that positive action faces its gravest dangers.” It must have been the Rt. Reverend Nyansaku ni Nku who made this anecdote of an old woman who, disillusioned by the lack of incremental socio-economic gains and frustrated by the perennial intra-state conflicts in today’s Africa, asked, “When will this independence end?”
A war of independence was fought by 17 sub-Saharan African countries in 1960 ostensibly with the flagship objective of overthrowing the colonial yoke that was foisted on them during the 1884-1885 Berlinisation. It was a war of liberation that began today, 6th March, in Ghana some fifty-eight years ago and culminated in 1994 in South Africa with the symbolic erosion of the institutional structures of apartheid. Any war that goes against the grain of structural prebendalism, any war that resonates with the legitimate aspiration of the oppressed, any war that buys into the liberation theology of self-governance and people-driven ownership is transformative.
Unfortunately, the modest gains of transformative wars have hardly been consolidated in the continent fifty years after. On the contrary, the path from transformative war to positive peace has been strewn with petals of negative peace, watered in most cases by structural violence and fettered in all cases by gradualist discourses to African Unity. According to a Global Peace Index survey carried out in 2014 only five African countries (Mauritius, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, and Lesotho) fall under the high and medium peace value bracket. These statistics show that since the re-emergence of electoral democracy in the late 80s more African countries have suffered from conflict constipation (latent conflict) than those which have experienced conflict diarrhea (open conflict). Countries undergoing conflict constipation, sometimes called islands of peace, are only glued by the fragile bond of an expendable citizenry and an insensitive leadership. The ingredients of panel-beaten constitutions, electoral delinquency, horizontal and vertical inequalities in wealth, domestic elite parasitism, party clientelism, and fixation on identity-based polarisation underpin the island of negative peace. Yet beneath this island of negative peace lies the simmering tensions of structural violence.
To circumvent the forces of negative peace, Africans would have to, in the next nominal ondependence years, execute a paradigm shift from good governance to collaborative governance and from electoral democracy to democratic development. While good governance is about how power is achieved and dispensed, collaborative governance focuses on humanitarian interventions that address basic service delivery systems often in contestations among citizens and the peace and justice nexus. Collaborative governance is devoid of the personalisation and perenialisation of power, as well as the trappings of monarchical inclinations. It is informed by the African shared community vision called ‘ubuntu’ (South Africa), ‘pitso’ (Lesotho), and ‘m’bangsuma’ (Cameroon). While electoral democracy focuses on what happens during elections, democratic development goes beyond the vicious instrumentalisation of elections whose outcome is often politician-centered to embrace the virtuous cycle of non-traditional security issues that are citizen-centered. Added to these national values of positive peace is the battle cry for continental integration whose practical visibility has eluded the African people since 1900.
The Chula Peace Template
Africa is not pathologically tragic. On the contrary, it has shown relative resilience to some home-grown and external predation. A few countries like Botswana, Rwanda, and Mauritius offer beacons of hope for the continent by proving against the tide of Barack Obama’s speech, that a nation can have both strong persons and strong institutions. How these strong persons derive legitimacy and whose agenda they perpetrate, how these strong institutions are modeled and in whose interest they are fashioned, and how African people can fast forward the gelling of their national economies into a supra-national pool constitute the fundamental next generation questions. That is why coming to Bangkok, Thailand, as a Rotary Peace Fellow (2015) at the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University (Chula) and sharing experiences with twenty-one others including high profile leading discussants marks a watershed in peace and conflict studies in my career. After more than two months and with less than a month to the end of the studies, we the Class 18 Rotary Peace Fellows shall be heading home with a Chula Peace Template that hopefully would influence and impact our works and lives. Of course the Chula Peace Template shall be informed by our local contexts, especially for Africa where structural violence, terrorism (Africa’s Hot War), and intra-state tensions continue to occupy world conversations. A cursory look at the alumni of the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, shows that at least one out of every class is African. Indeed, alumni from Africa occupy the enviable third position with 14% coming behind Asia (34%) and North America (23%). It is therefore incumbent on all past Rotary Peace Fellows to sustain the alumni feedback by deepening the contents of the alumni newsletter and also, especially past African Rotary Peace Fellows, to search common communication channels to distill positive peace patterns from their respective countries. That is why I strongly suggest that The Rotary Foundation hosts another Rotary Peace Center for Professional Development in sub-Saharan Africa, not necessarily for Africans alone but for global citizens in search of watering the seeds of intercultural dialogue sown in Chula and widening the narrative space to include the African story. This way, Africa’s next independence journey of collaborative governance may be shaped by new foot soldiers of positive peace holding the Chula Peace Template as their oracle of inspiration.
George Ngwane, Cameroon
Rotary Peace Fellow
January 2015 Session