On the road to positive peace The reintegration of
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1 On the road to positive peace: The reintegration of former child soldiers in Sierra Leone Utrecht Summer School 2009 Education for Peace and Human Rights Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Lennart Vriens August 10, 2009 Student: Hannah Sophie Huell Word count: 4800 2 “There’s no bad bush to throw away a bad child” (local saying in Sierra Leone, in Stovel, 2008) Children and youth were central to the civil war that waged in Sierra Leone from the outbreak of hostilities in 1991 until the signing of the Lomé Peace Agreement in 2002. The centrality of the youth finds expression on two levels. Firstly, the root causes of the war between the government troops and the rebels in the form of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) can to a large extent be attributed to the systematic disempowerment of the youth under the patriarchal leadership of the state. In this regard, the exploitation of the state’s resources, particularly the diamond industry, by the government leaders and their partners created grievances within the predominantly young population1. This, in turn, led to the establishment of the RUF by former Sierra Leonean students, who sought refuge in Liberia and organized the rebel movement from the Liberian territory and with the support of the former Liberian president Charles Taylor. Secondly, children and youth were central in the civil war due to their instrumentalisation as weapons of war by the government forces as well as the rebels. Children were systematically recruited (voluntarily or involuntarily in the form of abduction) as child soldiers. Large percentages of the government forces and the RUF consisted of children. Some sources even estimate that about 50% of the RUF fighters were children under the age of 18 (Mcintyre & Thusi, 2003). The central role of children and youth requires that young people are attributed a central role in the process of peacebuilding, particularly in the form of the effective reintegration of former child soldiers into the community and their transformation into responsible agents within their respective community. In this sense, the focus of this paper will be on the “R” of DDR, denoting the popular peacebuilding slogan of “Demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration”. Demobilisation and 1 50 % of the Sierra Leonean population is estimated to be younger than 24 years (Mcintyre & Thusi, 2003) 3 disarmament can be regarded as having been successfully achieved by the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (NCDDR) in cooperation with the UN peacekeeping force UNAMSIL (Ginifer, 2008). Already by August 2002, around 57 000 out of 70 000 ex-combatants including children were demobilized and had disarmed (Ginifer, 2008). However, disarmament and demobilisation are only the “tip of the iceberg” as the most difficult task of the DDR-process is the effective re-integration of ex-child soldiers into society. Methodology After placing the importance of reintegration of ex-combatants in the context of peacebuilding, conflict transformation and the achievement of positive peace, this paper will assess the reintegration efforts on the economic, political and social level undertaken by the government of Sierra Leone together with international development agencies and examine what lessons can be drawn from these. In this regard, two major findings will be stressed: The need to transform youth into active agents on the community level by stressing their potential for conflict transformation and involving them in the process of peacebuilding as well as the need to involve the entire community in the process of reintegrating former child soldiers. Lastly, it will be stressed how the arts can serve as an important tool of peacebuilding particularly in the context of community-building. Reintegration of former child soldiers in the context of peacebuilding, conflict transformation and the achievement of positive peace Within the field of conflict resolution, conflict transformation serves a double role. Firstly, it is used as the generic term to describe all the different processes of conflict de-escalation and secondly it is also referred to as the very last step of 4 successful conflict resolution in the form of the effective transformation of the conflict. Hugh Miall (2005) in his influential book “Contemporary Conflict Resolution” presents a diagram of the different steps of conflict de-escalation starting with peacekeeping in the form of the reaching of a ceasefire and the disarmament and demobilization of former combatants. The first two steps of the DDR approach, demobilization and disarmament, can therefore be regarded as falling within the first phase of conflict transformation. The next phase is agreement in the form of elite peacemaking, which involves agreeing on the distribution and the arrangement of power. In the context of Sierra Leone, this step can be regarded as completed with the signing of the Lomé Peace Agreement between the government forces and the RUF. The third step is normalization in the form of structural peacekeeping, referring to the social political and economic structure which helped maintain the conflict. In Sierra Leone, this implied addressing the patriarchal power structures, which were an important source of the conflict. Finally, the last step of conflict transformation is reconciliation in the form of cultural or ‘deep’ peacebuilding (Miall, 2005)2. This implies taking action on the local levels to help reconcile communities that have been torn apart by war. The reintegration of child soldiers falls within this last, and most difficult, step of de-escalation. This is the case, because reconciliation of communities requires the transformation of social relationships within the community, particularly between former victims and perpetrators. Only if social relationships can be effectively transformed and the former child soldiers reconciled with their community, is the process of conflict transformation complete. The completion of the process of conflict transformation moreover denotes the progression from negative peace, as the absence of direct violence, towards positive peace. Positive peace is referred to as the absence of structural and cultural violence on the community level and the achievement 2 For the scope of this paper, which focuses on this type of peacebuilding, cultural peacebuilding will be referred to as peacebuilding. 5 of sustainable peace in the form of a just social structure inclusive to all members of the society alike. As Johan Galtung is cited in Miall (2005): “Positive peace is more than the absence of violence; it is the presence of social justice through equal opportunity, a fair distribution of power and resources, equal protection and impartial enforcement of law." In this sense, positive peace is closely related to the culture of peace, as the achievement of positive peace requires the presence of a culture of peace, denoting the “values, traditions and modes of behavior based on respect for life, ending violence and promotion of practice of non-violence through education, dialogue and cooperation” (UN resolution: culture of peace). For the achievement of positive peace the reconciliation of local communities plays an integral role wherefore the successful reintegration of former child soldiers is a prerequisite for positive peace. Economic, political and social reintegration of former child soldiers in Sierra Leone The predominant approach by the government of Sierra Leone towards the reintegration of former child soldiers seems to have been focused on the aspect of economic integration in combination with the provision of formal school education in order to achieve social integration as denoting the reconciliation between ex-combatants and the integrating communities (Boersch-Supan, 2008). As Wessels (2005) sets out, the reintegration process generally started with tracing the concerned children’s or young person’s family and reuniting the ex- combatant with the family. At times, the reunification was preceded by the attendance of short-term rehabilitation camps for child soldiers, which were led by Unicef (Zack-Williams, 2006). In these camps the former child combatants received psychological counseling in the form of de-traumatisation therapy. Moreover, the children and young people underwent basic health screening 6 and were prepared for their re-integration into society (Zack-Williams, 2006). Attendance of the camps, however, was restricted to a small proportion of former child soldiers due to a lack of capacities. After reunification, the focus of reintegration was and still is on livelihood support comprising of vocational training and life skills, which would enable children to earn a small income and thereby serve as an incentive not to have to go back to the bush to make a living. Lastly, education and literacy of children are emphasized in order to build a more positive future for the former combatants (Zack-Williams, 2006). The main actor in economic integration is the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (NCDDR). The NCDDR provides financial reinsertion benefits to former ex-combatants (children as well as adults) for the initial phase of their reintegration into society. Former child soldiers are thereupon placed into apprenticeship schemes to learn and acquire a useful skill like carpentry, building, plumbing or fixing bikes (Ginifer, 2008). After the apprenticeship is complete, the participants can keep the toolkits necessary for the performance of the skill in order to practice. Moreover, the NCDDR provides counseling for the former combatants in order to help and assist them in finding a job (Ginifer, 2008). So far, a majority of the child soldiers and a total number of an estimated 20 000 combatants has undergone skills training. In addition to that, the NCDD has placed around 6,400 former child soldiers in school (Ginifer, 2008). These efforts aimed at skills training and education clearly stress the governmental focus on economic integration. Nevertheless, certain efforts at integrating the youth on the political level have also been undertaken. Initiatives to involve the youth more on a political level can be traced back to the Lomé Peace Agreement, which stressed the importance of dealing with issues related to children and particularly child soldiers. In this context, the peace agreement established the office for the children’s protector, in order to account for the needs and wishes of the youth. Moreover, the Ministry of Youth and Sports has set up a ‘Youth radio’ as a 7 platform for the youth of Sierra Leone to make their voice heard, articulate their needs and come up with visions of the future of Sierra Leone (Mcintyre & Thusi, 2003). In addition, the ministry has set up a ‘youth council’, representing the youth of Sierra Leone, which meets twice a year with government representatives. The youth council serves as a tool to promote dialogue between the political representative level and the youth and aims at counteracting the marginalization of youth in politics (Mcintyre & Thusi, 2003). To summarize, the efforts undertaken by the government of Sierra Leone, particularly in the form of the NCDDR have revolved around economic integration paired with formal education and to a lesser extent the increased integration of the youth on the political level. However, as stressed by Laura Stovel (2008) and Johanna Boersch-Supan (2008) these integration efforts have not led to social integration in the form of the reconciliation of the former child soldier with his or her community. The authors conducted interviews with local community members in whose community former child soldiers were reintegrated. These interviews demonstrate clearly that reintegration has only been achieved in the form of peaceful coexistence, but not deep integration of former child soldiers as community members. Ex-child soldiers are integrated for the desire of peace, integration is therefore understood by the local community as a compromise for peace. When asked by Boersch-Supan (2008) what her feelings were after the war when the rebels were integrated into the community, a woman form the community of Makeni replied that there was no alternative than to forget and forgive for the sake of peace. This and similar responses from members of other communities demonstrates that people are not really forgiving, but instead ‘sacrificing’ for the sake of peace. How can this failure to achieve an effective integration of former combatants and true reconciliation of communities be explained? 8 The shortcoming of the reintegration process in Sierra Leone and ways of addressing the two major problems There are two issues that can be regarded as central to the apparent failure of true reconciliation of former child soldiers with their communities. First, the discourse promoted by a predominantly Western model of integration, which portrays the former combatants as passive victims. Thereby it denies their agency not only concerning the past but also their potential of agency in the future as active participants in the peacebuilding process. The second shortcoming revolves around the insufficient involvement of the community in the reintegration process. In this regard, reintegration efforts have placed too much emphasis on the former perpetrators while failing to acknowledge that reconciliation has to take place in the overall community context. These two issues will be explored separately. As Susan Shepler (2005) stresses, the discourse of particularly Western NGOs in Sierra Leone has promoted a vision of former child combatants as victims of the war and innocent children, but has not sufficiently acknowledged their role as perpetrators and the possibility of agency of the youth. Shepler (2005) defines this portrayal as a discourse of ‘abdicated responsibility’. One example for such a discourse of abdicated responsibility in Sierra Leone is the promotion and education of the local communities about the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). The promotion of the CRC can be regarded as successful to the extent that the convention is nowadays the most familiar of any human rights instrument in Sierra Leone, surpassing even the national constitution (Shepler, 2005). However, the message promoted by the CRC is problematic, because it fosters the discourse of abdicated responsibility. This is the case, because the CRC focuses exclusively on the rights of the child (socio- economic, political and cultural). By portraying the children and youth as exclusive rights recipients, the CRC emphasizes a notion of the youth as 9 innocent beings and natural recipients of rights. This very Western depiction of childhood and youth can be problematic in a postwar context, in which children were not only innocent but also acted as perpetrators inflicting harm on the community members with whom they now have to reconcile. En bref, the discourse that takes place in the context of the CRC forgets the responsibilities that come together with the rights, wherefore the narrative of abdicated responsibility has not been useful in reconciling communities. As Shepler (2005) sets out in relation to her findings from interviews conducted, local community members do not easily accept the discourse of abdicated responsibility which portrays the former combatants as victims. This can be easily understood, as it is somehow paradoxical for the former victims (the local population) to see the former perpetrators as the ‘new victims’. Therefore, it is important that not only the victim role of the former child soldiers is stressed (which is of course of vital importance), but that also their role as perpetrators is addressed in order to reconcile the former combatants with their communities and consider the grievances of the local population. In addition, the dominant discourse of abdicated responsibility can aggravate community reconciliation, because it denies the agency of the youth by depicting young people as passive victims. This on the one hand, denies the young people the possibility to come to terms with the atrocities they have committed. On the other hand, it undermines the long-term capacity for peacebuilding and reconciliation, because it effectively de-politizes the youth. This undermines the potential the youth has for participating in community building and peacebuilding efforts in the long-term. After all, the youth of today will be the adults of tomorrow and should therefore be integrated into the peacebuilding and community building process. Active participation, in return, might also serve as a way of acknowledging responsibility in the community context and therefore aid the reconciliation with the community. This can be the case, for instance, when former combatants contribute to rebuilding efforts 10 or take up community service tasks. Moreover, as will be discussed below, arts- based peacebuilding can be an important tool of promoting the agency of the youth in a community context. Apart from a necessary re-orientation of the discourse on ex-child soldiers, it is also essential to address the second shortcoming relating to the reconciliation process. This shortcoming pertains to the insufficient involvement of the community level in the reintegration process. Efforts at reintegration have focused too much on the individual level of the perpetrator, displaying a very atomistic approach that does not regard the former combatants as part of the community. This becomes evident in the short-term rehabilitation efforts described in the second section of this essay. The psychological counseling and therapy provided in the short-term rehabilitation camps for the former child soldiers was based on an individual-centered psychological approach (Zack-Williams, 2006). This meant that the source of the problem was located in the mind of the individual, constituting the traditional Western approach towards psychology. However, traditionally Sierra Leonean culture locates the confused mental health of a person in both the perpetrators mind as well as in the community in general (Zack-Williams, 2006). The approach towards mental health therefore doesn’t correspond to the Western individualistic view, but sees mental health as located at the intersection of individual and community. Specific rituals serve to appease the community, which includes the perpetrator’s victims, with the perpetrator himself. These rituals are generally undertaken by traditional African healers and aim at cleansing the perpetrator of his or her transgression by appeasing the spirits of the dead. Cleansing rituals can, for instance, start with the former child soldier confessing to the local healer and begging for forgiveness. Thereupon, the former combatant is taken to a ‘sacred bush’ and stripped of his clothes which symbolize his former lifestyle. These clothes are 11 thereupon burned to demonstrate the transition to a new life. Lastly, the local community would deliver an animal sacrifice to the spirits of the dead (Zack- Williams, 2006). The traditional approach therefore lets the community participate in the healing process, which ultimately helps foster reintegration of the participant. Differently put, the community approach invokes the traditional saying that ‘There is no bad bush to throw away a bad child’, referring to the potential of the community to reintegrate former transgressors. In this sense, short-term rehabilitation programs should be based more on local traditions and customs instead of Western paradigms and should take place not in a far away rehabilitation camp, but within the community itself. This conclusion can furthermore be regarded as confirmed by the United Nation’s Machel study, which set out that only a small minority of former child combatants suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome that has to be treated clinically, but that for the majority community support was more important (Zack-Williams, 2006). Apart from basing short-term rehabilitation more on the local customs and traditions, the community dimension of the long-term economic, political and social programs also needs to be strengthened. Albeit the skills training program by the NCCDR does involve a community dimension in the sense that the skill obtained by the former child combatants like carpentry or bike fixing are supposed to benefit the entire community, the focus on training ex-combatants also bears certain dangers. This is the case, because the local community very often feels disadvantaged in relation to the former child soldiers. As Boersch- Supan (2008) deduces from her interviews, community members feel that it is not just that former combatants are rewarded by the economic reintegration programs, whereas the former victims in form of the community do not receive any benefits. The same holds with regard to the political integration. Granting the youth opportunities, which the community do not enjoy might lead to grievances within the community relating to the favorable treatment of former 12 child soldiers. This, in turn, has the consequence of aggravating the integration process. Therefore, it is essential to involve the community into economic and political reintegration processes and grant them a share of the cake. In this sense, the communities have to feel that they as well profit from the reintegration programs. A good example of such a program that integrates the community level is the Christian Children’s Fund (CCF) approach in Sierra Leone as outlined by Wessels (2005). The projects supported by the CCF started with discussions on the community level to identify the needs of the community concerning infrastructure and as a side-issue also addressed how to integrate former child combatants. However, the focus was primarily on the community needs. During the second stage of the project it was determined what was the prioritized need, in most cases a hospital or a school. Thereupon, the local youth including the former child combatants, would build the project in a cooperative endeavor receiving a small stipend to provide for their living expenses (Wessels, 2005). The process of rebuilding the local infrastructure firstly facilitated the communication of the local youth with the ex-combatants since working together enabled a ‘bonding experience’ among the young people. Secondly, it also transformed the attitudes of the local population in general, as the reconstruction work was on the one hand regarded as a form of atonement and on another level also demonstrated that the former combatants could contribute actively to the local community. Therefore, it could be said that the project of the CCF enabled the empowerment of the former combatants in a community context, helping them to be reintegrated into the community as valuable members. This example demonstrates the importance of community-building for long-term and deep reconciliation of former combatants with their communities. In the following and last section arts-based peacebuilding as a very useful, yet 13 undervalued, tool for community-building will be presented and examples for possible application given. The case of arts-based peacebuilding: achieving reconciliation via community- building The arts can play a vital role in peacebuilding, because they can serve as an important vehicle for communication and therefore have a strong potential for community-building. In this sense, the communicative potential of the arts as well as sports lies in the potential to create a dialogue between former combatants and community members by involving them in group activities. Michael Schenk and Lisa Schirch (2008) give an example of creating dialogue and understanding in the context of the tensions between Muslims and Christians in the Philippines. This project was focused on ‘poetry dialogue’ and organized poetry workshops and competitions. The teams participating in the project were mixed concerning religion and age group, which enabled not only inter-generational but also inter-religious learning and fostered understanding of the other side (Schenk & Schirch, 2008). A similar project could also be feasible in the context of Sierra Leone to help promote the dialogue and understanding between former combatants and the communities in the long term. However, it is important that these projects are culturally sensitive, which means that they have to be compatible with the local culture. Therefore dancing and singing might prove to be more appropriate vehicles, in a country with an extraordinarily high illiteracy rate like Sierra Leone, but in which singing and dancing are central to community events. Apart from serving as a general vehicle for communication, the arts can also be used particularly to address conflict within the community in a more indirect manner. This can be very helpful, since community members are often reluctant to address conflicts directly as they fear negative consequences. 14 However, expressing conflict indirectly via artistic expression does not entail direct confrontation and is therefore often preferred. A very useful vehicle for the thematisation of conflict is therefore theater. For the actors staging the conflict in form of a play, the thematisation requires fictionalisation which is expressive of the indirect nature of depicting conflict. Moreover, this fictionalisation enables the spectators of the play to make a more objective assessment of the conflict situation at hand, wherefore it might be easier to find solutions. Theater can therefore be a useful tool in addressing conflict and finding possible solutions. The arts-based approach as a tool of implicit and deep learning The Arts-based approach towards addressing and trying to find solutions to conflict can be further illuminated in the context of the concepts of implicit as well as “deeper” learning. In this sense, I will highlight how arts-based peacekeeping tools can serve as important vehicle for implicit and deeper learning. Firstly, as Lennart Vriens (2008) outlines, in contrast to explicit learning which focuses exclusively on the contents to be communicated, implicit learning is more concerned with the methods of how these contents are communicated. Much like the old saying, “the way is the goal”, implicit learning sees the methods as leading to peace education. At this point, I see a very strong overlap with the theory of deeper learning, which offers a more holistic conception of learning that focuses not only on the targeting of a person’s cognitive processes, but also targets feelings and emotions. Thereby, deeper learning is “affective”, as it goes beyond rationalistic cognition, but tries to “stimulate” certain peace promoting values within the human being (Vriens: The affective nature of learning and the problem of violence). I see a strong overlap between the two concepts of learning as I find that the affective level of a person can best be tackled not via listing peace related values, but by “enacting” these values via certain methods of learning. In this sense, I am of 15 the opinion that values can only be learned by placing people in situations where they can experience those values and connect them to certain emotions and feelings, but not by the classic methods of teaching like ex-cathedra teaching. Integral peace values like trust, solidarity, non-violence, respect for life, being open to other points of view and creativity (Vriens: The affective nature of learning and the problem of violence) have to be learned via affection, not cognition. Out of these enlisted values, one should –in my opinion- start with the openness to other points as well as the value of empathy that is stressed by Ido Abram (2001) in his work on “Education after Ausschwitz”. The arts-based peacebuilding approach can help to revive these fundamental values. At this point, I would like to refer back to the peacebuilding tool of theater. What better way to make people experience empathy than to put them into the shoes of another within the framework of a theater play? By enacting local conflict via theater, people’s ability to be open to other opinions and viewpoints can be fostered. One example could be to reverse the roles of the two conflict parties and let representatives of the local communities enact the role of the former child combatants and vice versa. The method of enacting conflicts directly appeals to people’s affections, because the expression of emotions and feelings is an integral aspect of theater. Furthermore, in my opinion, the ability of empathy and putting oneself in the shoes of another leads to the promotion of other peace values like solidarity, non-violence and respect for life. This is the case, as once groups are able to emphathise with the other group, they are less likely to employ violent measures towards another group, but would rather stress non-violent means of conflict resolution. Therefore, organically stimulating certain peace values in communities, by means of making use of interactive methods, leads to a deeper learning because it addresses people’s emotions and feelings and not only their cognition. The result of such deep learning ideally is the ingraining of those peace values into community interactions, which can foster positive peace and thereby conflict 16 resolution. It is thus essential that arts-based peacebuilding is included in the colour palette of peacebuilding tools, as it is an effective vehicle for implicit and deep learning. Overall, by promoting dialogue and addressing conflict situations, the arts thus can contribute to the reconciliation of communities. Furthermore, by engaging community members in group activities like sports clubs, music bands or theater groups, people not only get better at communicating with each other, but also form bonds of friendship among each other, which ultimately provides the greatest benefit to community building. In effect, long term arts and sports-based group activities can be a very efficient means of community building and achieving deep reconciliation between former child soldiers and community members. Conclusion This paper has attempted to shed light on the issue of reintegration of former child soldiers in Sierra Leone. As highlighted, official government efforts have focused on economic and political integration of former combatants via skills training projects in conjunction with formal education and enhanced efforts at integrating the youth on a political level. However, these efforts have failed to achieve reconciliation beyond mere coexistence and have therefore not fulfilled the objective of establishing positive peace. This failure can be attributed to two major factors; the dominant discourse portraying the former combatants as passive victims and the insufficient integration of the community level in the reconciliation efforts. In this regard, the essay has laid out possible ways of addressing these shortcomings. Apart from a re-orientation of the dominant discourse to stress not only the victimhood of former child combatants, but also their potential for agency in the peacebuilding process, the community has to be more involved in reconciliation. Community 17 involvement needs not only be enhanced with reference to short-term rehabilitation efforts, but also in the more long-term oriented effort of economic integration. Lastly, the special potential of arts-based peacebuilding in the context of community building and reconciliation has been highlighted. In order to redirect the peacebuilding process in Sierra Leone towards the path of positive peace in the form of deep reconciliation between former combatants and the community members, it is thus essential that the former shortcomings are addressed. Only then can the traditional saying of ‘There is no bad bush to throw away a bad child’ fulfill its true potential. References 18 Boersch-Supan, J. (2008). What the communities say: Ex-combatant integration and reconciliation in Sierra Leone. Retrieved August 7, 2009 from http://www.nuff.ox.ac.uk/politics/papers/2008/NuffWP_Boersch- Supan.pdf. Ginifer, J. (2008). Reintegration of ex-combatants. Retrieved August 7, 2009, from http://www.issafrica.org/Pubs/Monographs/No80/Chap2.pdf. Mcintyre, A. & Thusi, T. (2003). Children and youth in Sierra Leone’s peacebuilding process. 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