The Concept of Peace: An African Perspective

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According to Johan Galtung, peace seems to be an umbrella concept, a general expression of human desires, of that which is good, that which is ultimately to be pursued .

He for instance stated that there are two typologies of Peace-Positive and negative peace. For him, the negative peace is the absence of violence, absence of war-and positive peace is the integration of human society. He also introduced typologies of violence; Direct, Structural and cultural violence. According to him, negative peace is the absence of cultural violence and structural violence and prevalence of justice, harmony and equality.

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The study of Johan Galtung served so as reference to many peace types of research. For instance, his research served as reference to assess the existence of peace in Ethiopia.

Peace does not mean absence of war. Peace means, the desire, the hope of being or living without trouble in the society. When someone is not in peace that means he is in trouble. He may spend nights and nights without sleeping because he is not in peace. Even the friends and relative of people who passed away would like to see their soul rest in peace. It is why when a friend or a relative dies, people wish to his soul rest in peace. Hence, peace is a permanent hope to everybody even when he is no longer in life.

All people in all parts of the world would like to live in peace. It is why even when there is conflict or war; people try to do their best in order to overcome the conflict and to come to peace whether by negotiation, by mediation or by arbitrary. After the talks have come to an agreement, international mechanisms can set up a peace support operation or a peace building operation in order to maintain the peace which constitutes their achievement.

Peace has been a long time ago a subject of preoccupation. It is why after a long period of conflict or of war, people try to get together in order to see how to prevent future generations from conflicts. For instance, after the First World War, American President Woodrow Wilson set up the theory of collective security with the objective of preventing the world from the Second World War.

Even if the Second World War happened, the American President has succeeded by gathering the world around the same objective which was to build a world of peace, a world free of conflicts.

In the same line, people were encouraged to do research in the field of peace.

But somehow notwithstanding efforts, a conflict may arise; it is why before we proceed with the study of peace, we thought, it would be better first to have a look at what is a conflict. Remember that even when a conflict happens, the objective of people is to come quickly in the period of peace even if it may be hard to get peace.

In this chapter, before we develop ideas about peace, we will take a look at what is conflict and how it happens. After that, we are going to develop how peace has been a hope of every continent. We are going to assess how good ideas have been raised in order to set up institutions that are in charge of studies of peace like universities or centers for research and churches. We will see how Africans have their way of perceiving peace and how they define peace in an African Way. The chapter will be ended by a conclusion with a selected biography.

Study of a conflict

Hayward R. Alker JR and Frankl. SHERMAN distinguished what they called phase structure definitions of conflicts and said that one of five levels of disagreement and conflict, a given dispute may pass through one or more of the phases:

  • Phase I: (Dispute Phase) – a quarrel disagreement claimed by at least one party to be an issue of substantive international political significance.
  • Phase II: (Conflict Phase) – a dispute in which at least one of the parties has demonstrated willingness to use military force to resolve the dispute but as yet has not actually done so.
  • Phase III: (Hostilities Phase) – a dispute involving systematic use of military force, over a specific military objective(s) causing casualties and/or destruction of property.
  • Phase IV: (Post Hostilities Conflict Phase) – fighting no longer occurs as in Phase III, but at least one party continues to view the quarrel in military terms. Sporadic violence may still occur, but evidence concerning the cessation of hostilities should suggest something more fundamental than just a temporary lull in intermittent hostilities.
  • Phase v: (Post-Hostilities Dispute Phase) – a dispute is no longer viewed in military terms. However, the issues in the dispute remain, although negotiations for resolution may be taking place.
  • Phase VI: (Settlement Phase) – the final Phase, commencing with a settlement or agreement resolving the underlying dispute.

In the Galtung’s opinion, a conflict can be viewed as a triangle whose sides are represented by A (Attitudes), B (Behavior), C (Contradictions) .

  • (C) Contradictions
  • (A) Attitudes (B) Behavior

(C)Contradictions: the main conflict includes real or perceived incompatibility of goals between the conflicting parties. In symmetrical conflict, the contradiction is defined by the parties, their interests and conflicts of interests. In asymmetric conflict, the contradiction is defined by the parties, the relationship between them and the conflict within this relationship.

(A) Attitude includes the perception and non-perception of the parties about themselves and each other. It can be negative or positive, strongly n

What is the difference between asymmetric and symmetric conflicts?

When A and B have a relatively similar or equal position, and they enter into a conflict due to diverging interests, that is a symmetric conflict. When in the relationship between A and B, one of the parties has a clearly superior standing compared to others, that is an asymmetric conflict. Most of conflicts nowadays are asymmetric. There three types of asymmetric characteristics of conflict: power, strategic and structural asymmetry.

The escalation of conflict is not a good thing to humanity. The solution is the preventive diplomacy which involves the prevention from conflict. But while a conflict arise, preventive diplomacy will try to see how the conflict will be less extended and finally preventive diplomacy will see how to come back in the pristin state after a conflict has occurred. That is the role of everybody but the collective action is undertaken by the international community through the United Nations Organization (UN). In fact, the United Nations Charter underscores the centrality of conflict prevention as a responsibility for the whole of the United Nations System. Conflict prevention involves a range of actors across three pillars of the UN: peace and security, development, and human rights .

In one word, people will try to avoid conflict and will see how to live in peace even if we know that peace does not mean the absence of conflict. The good thing would be not to face conflict. It is why people in all parts of the world, will try to prevent from conflict. When a conflict occurs, they try to prevent it from extension and they try to restore peace by all means necessary.

Before we make any consideration about peace, let first consider the Lao Tsu’s quote on peace:

If there is to be peace in the world,

There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,

There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,

There must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors,

There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,

There must be peace in the heart .

In order to fulfill the need of Lao Tzu of getting peace all over the world by beginning from home, many researches and teaching have been undertaken whether by academics, churches or other institutions.

Peace Studies through Academic and Research institutions

Peace studies’ origin (including conflict resolution, conflict studies, etc.) as an academic discipline can be traced to the late 1940, and the field has been developing steadily since then .

But before we go to the peace studies, let us first look at what does the word “peace” mean. Literally, the word is from a Latin word “pax” with the meaning of pact, a control or an agreement to end war. In history we will find for instance pax Americana, pax Britannia and pax romana. The word means generally how people can come back to peace after a conflict had occurred. That is called Peacemaking according to LCDR Rachel Mangas and Maj. Matthew Fiesta who stated, regarding to US definition of peacemaking, that in contrast to other peace operations, peacemaking is strictly diplomacy. Confusion may still exist in that area as at one time, the US definition of peacemaking was synonymous with the definition of peace enforcement which is conducted under the authority of Chapter VII, UN Charter and could include combat, armed intervention or the physical threat of armed intervention. They added that now, is defined as a process of diplomacy, mediation, negotiation or other forms of peaceful settlement that arrange an end to a dispute and resolves issues that led it. They conclude by the Brahimi report who said that Peace Making addresses conflicts in progress, attempting to bring them to a halt, using the tools of diplomacy and mediation. According to the report, Peacemakers may be envoys of governments, groups of states, regional organizations or the United Nations or they may be unofficial and non-government groups. Peacemaking can be a prominent personality, working independently.

Beside this preventive diplomacy, following the wholesale carnage during the twentieth century with nuclear bombs, holocausts and environmental damage, progressive educators have developed a body of peace education theory that provides information about the destructiveness of violent conflicts and strategies for peace. Peace educators point out problems of violence and instruct their pupils about strategies that can address those problems hence empowering them to redress the circumstances that can lead to violent conflict.

Peace education refers to someone who teaches about peace. Among the topics taught: the definition of peace, why people do not have permanent peace, how reach peace… People may also be taught about the challenges of achieving peace, developing non-violent behavior or promoting peaceful attitudes.

According to Ian M. Harris, peace education has 5 postulates:

  • It explains the roots of violence,
  • It teaches alternatives to violence,
  • It adjust to cover different forms of violence,
  • Peace itself is a process that varies according to context,
  • Conflict is omnipresent .

According to a booklet produced by the NGO Teachers without borders named a professional development course for educators, peace studies became a more serious academic subject soon after the Second World War . That was due the threat of nuclear war throughout the cold war which encouraged many scholars to devote their studies to creating sustainable peace.

In the same line, the United Nations set up in 1980 the University for Peace with the objective of ……………………………..

Besides and before academic institutions, international organizations including United Nations bodies as well as many non-governmental organizations have been growing in influence and importance since the end of the First World War and have contributed greatly to the movement to achieve global peace.

The process has been continuing till the contemporary period. For instance, the UN’s approach to conflict prevention has evolved overtime. The General assembly and Security Council resolutions adopted in 2016 (A/70/262 and S/2282) on ‘’sustaining peace’’ which encompass activities to prevent outbreak, escalation; continuation and recurrence of conflicts further reinforce this approach. Moreover, the peacebuilding Commission and human right Counsel play important roles in advising, directing and supporting the UN’s effort to prevent conflict and sustain peace.

Peace Studies through Churches

Religion is an important topic on today’s policy agenda. It is now difficult to ignore the religious’ role in conflict and peace.

Religion can make a valuable contribution to increasing tolerance, resolving conflict and rebuilding peace.

For Muslim, such action may be found in Imam and Sheikhs’ individual role in their personal capacity often in an ad hoc and informal manner.

“Blessed are Peace Makers for they will be children of God” (Matthew 5; 9). “Christ is our Peace” (Ephesians 2:14). All followers of Christ are at the research of Peace. By following to Christ, people are organized in different religions. According to Wikipedia, the word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith or belief system, but religion differs from private in that it has a public aspect .

The earliest Christian writers insisted on the strict adherence to the pacific precepts of Jesus and his apostles forbidding Christians from killing and serving military. For them, killing and warfare belong to the old dispensation which is passing away now that the grace of God in Christ has come into the world.

According to this theory, someone may think that war is conserved as bad thing. But, war can be conducted when it is making, keeping or restoring peace. Augustine stated that war is a tragic necessity in a sinful world. (recherche de la source).

According to him, war can be waged when certain criteria are met, including the criterion of just authority (here the authority of God) and that of just intention (restore peace). War can be waged at command of legitimate authorities by soldiers who are committed to serve peace.


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