Positive Peace and Its Attaining in African States: Informative Essay

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Peace has been the greatest aspiration of humankind at a personal level and in communities they reside. Peace has been talked, thought, taught and studied in numerous ways. For better understanding on status of negative and positive peace in African context, it is crucial to first analyze the key terms majorly used in this write up: violence, conflict, peace, positive and negative peace. Peace is relative to many people and scholars have expressed their dissatisfaction in trying to attach a specific meaning to the term, as it is perceived as a multifaceted term that has various connotations ranging from personal, collective, and institutional aspirations. Peace is the non-warring state of a nation, group of nations or globe, it is a treaty between warring antagonistic nations or groups to end hostilities and refrain from further fighting or antagonism, resulting into a state of mutual harmony between people, groups, or neighbors, also described as liberty from civil uproar and violence of community. Therefore, peace is not necessarily deficiency of any conflict but it is deficiency of all forms of violence and describes conflict in a positive way. It is important to recognize that peace is a multidimensional concept, thus there are difficulties in its refined definition.

Violence is when “human beings are being influenced so that their actual somatic and mental realizations are below their potential realizations” (Galtung, 1969: 168). Violence is extreme form of aggression, such as assault, rape and murder. The violent acts are geared towards creating and sustaining control and power over another person or group, and this kind of manipulation relation is fueled by disparities present in society. Many African states have experienced various forms of violence: physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, spiritual, cultural, verbal, financial and neglect. For instance, in Nigeria nearly all forms of violence have been perpetrated by Boko Haram militia: physical violence (many women and children have been hurt somatically in some instances resulting to death), psychological violence (children have experienced this kind of violence aimed at decreasing mental potentialities through brainwashing, lies, threats and indoctrination), sexual violence (many women have suffered sexual and gender-based violence that is sexual act imposed by force, threat, coercion or by taking advantage of coercive environment of a person’s incapacity to give consent; many women have been raped and assaulted by militia. Galtung (2017) further defines that violence as actual and potential, if citizens in a country suffer or die as a result of avoidable calamity or cause, this is termed as violence. The avoidable deficiencies of basic human needs or life that hinders people from meeting their needs or releasing their full potential, therefore deprivations and exclusions in society are perceived as violence. A case in point is the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe in 2008, scores of citizens succumbed to the disease. Cholera is avoidable and treatable, but due to government neglect through substandard medical service provision and negligence on public health, the disease claimed lives. Government deprivation from quality healthcare and neglect of public health thus exposing citizens to hazards and increasing their vulnerability to disease is violence. Furthermore, the disparities and inequalities witnessed in education sector among various African countries, such as Kenya, can be termed as structural violence. Structural violence occurs when discrepancies exist among certain groups based on status, gender or nationalities in access to goods, services, resources and opportunities. The inequalities entrenched in social, political and economic institutions and systems that govern a country are considered as violence.

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Peace is perceived as having two sides: absence of personal violence and absence of structural violence referred to as negative and positive respectively (Galtung, 2017). Negative peace is further defined as absence of violence or the fear of violence. Many African states are experiencing negative peace, there is absence of war or violence, however structural violence is deep-rooted in institutions. Negative peace also referred to as peace without justice peace, which broods at the expense of justice. In negative peace, violence and conflict are invisible, however there is presence of flaring tensions beneath the surface, which could blow up to violence with slightest provocation. Negative peace persists due to unresolved issues that could range from unresolved historical injustices to constant accumulation of unresolved issues and injustices. Negative peace looks into addressing direct symptoms, conditions of war and effects of force.

According to Positive Peace Report 2017 (PPR), positive peace is defined as the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. The same factors that create peace also lead to many other positive outcomes that societies aspire to, such as thriving economies, better inclusion, high levels of resilience and societies that are more capable of adapting to change. Therefore, positive peace can be described as creating an optimum environment in which human potential can flourish (PPR, 2017). Positive peace has been linked to presence of calmness, harmony, wellbeing, justice, equity, strengthened human bonds, shared human values and shared feelings of humanity. Positive peace is also perceived as genuine, lasting and sustainable peace centered on justice for all people. According to Galtung, absence of structural violence is referred to as social justice.

The Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) has identified eight pillars of positive peace. The first is a well-functioning government that delivers high quality public and civil service, promotes trust, participation, and political stability and preserves the rule of law. Since the government represents society, it is tasked with mandate of responding to citizens needs irrespective of their affiliation or identities. It is the duty of government to ensure that investment in public good is performed effectively, ensuring community’s needs are adequately addressed, resulting to well-being and peaceful community. A well-functioning government will ensure that public resources, services and goods are equitable distributed and accessible to all citizens. Such measures will ensure no member is marginalized and fosters inclusive development where no one is left behind, thus creating peaceful coexistence. A visionary government also ensures state institutions are guided by values, principles and law to ensuring citizens receive services without prejudice, therefore strengthening social justice. A well-functioning government ensures conflict is handled creatively resulting into stronger communities rather than conflict escalating to violence. Therefore, for positive peace to prevail, African leaders must ensure policies and strategies are people centered in fulfilling citizen’s demands and wants.

Another positive peace pillar is the equitable distribution of resources. Studies have shown peaceful countries promote equity in access to resources like education and health. This helps in bridging the gap between the rich and the poor, also aids in addressing issues of inequalities and marginalization among the vulnerable group. Fair access to resources also advances human capital, thus increasing opportunities for realizing citizens’ potential.

The third pillar is the rights of others. Studies indicate that countries with high levels of positive peace promote tolerance and respect among groups irrespective of their ethnic, linguistic, gender, religious and social economic status diversities. In Central African Republic, the civil war has persisted due to inter-ethnic tensions between Christians and Muslims as a result of intolerance to others’ rights, hence deteriorating gains in positive peace. According to International Peace Institute (IPI), Senegal has cultivated inclusion, diversity and pluralism as part of national identity, therefore promoting acceptance of others’ rights, as well as increasing positive peace (IPI, 2018).

The free flow of information pillar looks into the extent which citizens easily access and exchange information with freedom from restraint or censorship. States with high levels of positive peace have free and independent media, greater access to unregulated information via various mediums and freedom of civil society, thus guaranteeing well enlightened citizens who are capable of articulating their issues and are able to make coherent decisions. Open and unbiased dispersion of information is also essential in keeping government accountable, thus ensuring good governance where citizens are able to participate in political, social, economic and cultural processes and express their sentiment without fear or prejudice. Access to technology has also been linked to increase and speed of information flow around the globe. Access to technology has averted violence, advanced peace, accountability and transparency of governments and private sector as well. Eritrea is regarded as the world’s worst press freedom predators by Reporters Without Boarders (RSF), and was ranked number 179th out of 180 in 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

The good relations with neighbors pillar reveals countries with good relations with their neighbors, utilizes diplomacy and negotiation to manage disagreements and conflicts rather than resulting to violent. Good relations with neighboring states ensure success in foreign direct investment, tourism and humanitarian help during crisis, all these are crucial to country’s development agenda. More importantly, good relations foster peaceful coexistence and ensure positive regional integration. Equatorial Guinea has been in constant wrangles with its neighbors Gabon and Cameroon. Persistent tensions have ensued with Gabon due to oil rich territory. Equatorial Guinea has had minimal participation in regional integration, thus backtracking regional cooperation in the region, therefore lowering levels of positive peace among neighbors.

Another pillar is a sound business environment. Countries with high levels of positive peace are constantly striving to advance sound business environment and formal institutions that enable triumphs in private sector. Political instability of any country will directly influence the performance of private sector, and countries linked to positive peace have heavily invested in economic environment, thus attracting more investors and improving economic status. Rwanda is known to have invested in regulatory system that are conducive for investors more, so the president has advocated for longer sentences for corruption culprits in order to control levels of corruption. Such measures have aided advancement of positive peace in Rwanda.

The third is the high levels of human capital pillar. Skilled human capital results from intentional investments in education and heath this guarantees literate and skilled labor force which results into economic value of country. Mauritius has massively invested in human capital via provision of free education up to university, thus productive and reliable workforce. In addition, the state also warranties free and accessible health care, thus improving citizens’ well-being. African youthful population can reap from demographic dividend via investment human capital.

And the last positive peace pillar is the low level of corruption. Many African states are grappling with the issue of corruption. Countries with high levels of corruption results to misappropriation and embezzlement of public funds, consequently leading to poor service provision or even lack of it. Positive peace entrenched in a country’s system will ensure those culpable are held accountable. Such systems also aim at addressing issues of inequalities in resource allocation, strengthening of institutions, thus promoting peaceful cohesion. Prevalent levels of corruption are likely and have resulted into civil unrest, which have escalated to violence and even to civil wars in some African states. High levels of corruption in Kenya have impeded peace positive progress. The country has been marred with many corruption scandals that have not been resolved. Due misappropriation of public funds, many citizens cannot access quality public services such as health care. Because of corruption inequalities have emerged that have propagated unrests among citizens. More so, inequalities in public resources distribution have led to ethnic conflict among various communities in Kenya.

From the above discussion, it is evident that positive peace is multifaceted initiative that requires a complete overhaul of values, principles, culture and policies in a state. For positive peace to be achieved and entrenched in any state, there has to be deliberate and intentional agendas.

In attempts to achieve positive peace many African states have experienced various challenges. According to International Peace Institute (IPE), many initiatives have been centered on ending conflict rather than sustaining peace. Peace has to be the starting point of analysis by detecting societal factors that enable lasting peace. A lot of efforts are invested in trying to unearth factors that enable conflict, while neglecting those that will guarantee sustainable peace.

Focusing on short-term solutions that are time bound instead of focusing on long-term solutions that will yield sustainable, positive peace. Peace initiatives are mainly run by donors whose projects are time framed and do not offer long lasting solution as they are quick to move to next project. Positive peace building ought to be viewed as a gradual process that incorporates short-term, medium-term and long-term solutions. A five-year project is not adequate to establish positive peace in a society. More so even after violence and peace agreements have been signed positive peace initiatives should continue not only to curb reemergence of conflict, but also continue to strengthen institutions and help address issues of structural violence.

Many initiatives have not been locally owned due to lack of or inadequate participation, thus communities do not fully support these initiatives. In formulating positive peace project local communities have not been consulted and approaches and solutions have been imposed on them, thus neglecting indigenous knowledge and capabilities. Due to inadequate involvement of community, many efforts have proved futile and unsustainable. A bottom-up approach should be considered when designing and implementing positive initiatives, rather than a top-down approach, this ensures community ownership of process. Inclusive participation will also ensure the needs of everyone are addressed, including the marginalized. Sustaining peace initiatives ought to be locally owned, regionally anchored and internationally supported (IPE, 2017).

Positive peace initiatives have been handled as stand-alone projects, because positive is multi-dimensional affair even when it comes to designing projects these projects should incorporate other actors. Government or donors cannot be the sole players, other sectors have to be involved, for instance, the private sector, community-based organizations (CBOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), religious organizations and others. Government partnerships with various partners both local and international is pivotal.

Many positive peace efforts have been failed due to lack of political will (Daley, 2006). Some leaders have vested interest and will be unwilling to change the status quo. Many of extractive institutions that enact negative peace are enabled by leaders who would be reluctant to promote change, instead would want to pursue selfish ambitions (Acemoglo & Robinson, 2012).

Speaking about the exclusion of civil society organizations (CSOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in positive peace initiatives, it should be noted that they are perceived as a preserve for a few in government and political spaces, therefore neglecting the rest. CSOs are very critical in articulating citizens’ voice, campaigning and advocating for peace therefore their contribution in positive peace processes cannot be overlooked.

In the context of the interference by international actors, it should be noted that many peace processes have been high jacked by international actors with aim of advancing vested interest. For instance, France’s involvement in Libya that has left the country in deplorable state. Also, the World Bank’s structural adjustment programs in the 1980s and 1990s failed to achieve appropriate outcomes for African states (Daley, 2006). International organizations have been accused of neglecting contextual heterogeneity in implementing solutions, their homogenous transplanted remedies have advanced retrogression rather than progress.

Another challenge in advancing positive peace in Africa has been the interrelatedness of conflicts, a number of conflicts experienced in Africa have spilled over to neighboring states, thus complicating attempts to foster peace. Due to vested interests, leaders from neighboring states have declined cooperation and support in addressing issues pertaining peace. Some are perceived to derail peace progress. However, on the flip side good relations with neighbors can aid peace progress and promote economic growth (Collier, 2007).

The deep-rooted culture of impunity among African states, the snail pace in prosecuting perpetrators of crimes against humanity have impeded progress towards realization of positive peace. Many countries in the region lack accountability and commitment in resolving gross human violations, inequalities and corruption. As result the vicious cycle of impunity has persisted.

In conclusion, positive peace is a multidimensional concept which requires multifaceted strategies and initiatives that requires time and well-thought-out process in implementing them. Attaining positive peace is an intricate gradual process, hence African states can invest more in preventive mechanisms such as advancing human rights as an enabler to achieving positive peace. Linking human rights and sustaining peace agendas offers a distinctive, strategic entry point to help shift from a culture of crisis management to one of prevention (IPI, 2017). Another recommendation is incorporating peace education in public and private institutions and communities to enhance behavioral transformation. Peace education is about impacting knowledge, values, attitudes and skills in order to prevent conflict (in our case, structural violence) and to help advance a deeper understanding of situations that lead violence in society, as well as ways to overcome and resolve them.

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Positive Peace and Its Attaining in African States: Informative Essay. (2023, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/positive-peace-and-its-attaining-in-african-states-informative-essay/
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