In the 2017 Global Peace Index, the Institute for Economics and Peace reported deterioration in peace in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, with the largest deteriorations occurring in Ethiopia, Burundi, Mali, Libya and Lesotho. Six of the reported ten least peaceful countries in the world – Syria, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, Central African Republic, and Libya are equally from Africa. Despite reduction in the number of external aggressions, Africa continues to suffer from internal conflicts in the form of – ethnic tensions, electoral crises and terrorism.
Although it is impossible to quantify the human tragedy that results from violence, the widespread insecurity in the region has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and resources, hence the need to create a new paradigm of sustainable peace and security in the continent.
Peace in this case will not merely be the absence of violence, but the ability of a society to respond to the needs of its citizens, reduce the number of conflicts, and resolve existing disputes. While security, will be protection from harm in every imaginable way.
One veritable way to actualise the dream of a peaceful Africa is through the embrace of education. Good education will help purge our population of extreme doctrines and intolerance. It will also help promote a culture of justice, equity, respect for human rights, and harmony – a panacea for peaceful coexistence among diverse African populations.
Promotion of traditional African values in our communities and integration of African philosophies of reconciliation, non-violent resolution of grievances, and communal participation into the educational curriculum will also help achieve sustainable peace. Pre-colonial African states were plural, yet people lived in harmony. Traders could display their wares and leave their shops to attend to domestic chores without the fear of theft, children in the community were trained and nurtured by all, and members of traditional religious groups enjoyed the support of one another during festivities, despite worshipping different deities. Such sense of solidarity, togetherness, and religious tolerance is needed to achieve sustainable peace and security.
There is similarly the need to stem all forms of inequality to prevent civil unrest in our communities. We cannot achieve sustainable peace as long as women are discriminated against, and minority groups are sidelined. By allowing equitable distribution of resources, bridging the poverty gap and ensuring minority voices are heard; we will be taken steps in the right direction. We equally need to strengthen our democratic institutions, promote representative governance and shun all forms of discrimination to achieve sustainable peace and security.
Economic revival in the form of job creation to cater for the unemployed population and improvement in the ease of doing business is also important to attain security. Engaging unemployed youths will prevent them from being willing tools in the hands of extremist groups. While the improved ease of doing business, will make local enterprises thrive, and increase tourism and foreign direct investment. Business competitiveness and economic productivity will thus result.
Health is a prerequisite for the attainment of peace. As it is impossible to be at peace when there is infirmity and the mind is feeble. Making health care affordable via creation and strengthening of insurance schemes will enable even the least privileged of our population access care when the need arises. And this will in effect bring about peace and security.
To deter crimes in our communities, it is important to uphold the rule of law. Recruiting natives into our security agencies will also make them more efficient. An indigenous police force will understand the local population more, and will be able to maintain law and order better. Funding, equipping and regular training of such agencies will help improve their capacity to sustain peace.
We equally need to strengthen our social institutions to cater for street children, internally displaced persons, and refugees – to help integrate them into our communities. By creating trust funds we will be able to provide relief materials and fund peacekeeping operations during natural disasters, and violent conflicts.
The construct of peace is such that straddles every facet of human life. So the attainment of peace is dependent on good governance – which requires responsible leadership, participatory citizenship and fair political representation, with its attendant benefits of good education, affordable health care, financial security, food security, and an effective criminal justice system. While this definition of peace may seem like a utopia, each gentle stride will move us towards the desired destination. Only enduring peace can provide the level of security necessary to make human potentials flourish. With a peaceful and secured Africa, we will be able to develop human capital and attain sustainable development.
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