How to achieve and sustain peace and security in Africa

How to achieve and sustain peace and security in Africa
Before we attempt to answer this question, we must understand what peace and security really
mean. The Cambridge Dictionary defines peace as ‘freedom from war and violence, especially
when people live and work together happily without disagreement’. That’s almost a utopian idea
because it does not only prescribes lack of conflict but also precludes fear of violence between
heterogeneous social groups. Security on the other hand can be defined as the resistance to or
protection of a person or an entity against threats or harm.
Hypothetically speaking, peace, like happiness, can not in itself be pursued; it must ensue.
According to the Institute for Economics and Peace (I.E.P) the Global Peace Index are
correlated to indicators such as income, schooling and levels of regional integration. Besides,
the same study shows that peaceful countries often shared high echelons of transparency of
government and low levels of bribery. The implication is obvious; social, political and economic
justice must be at the core of any peace building initiatives. It doesn’t require a genius or a
mentally enhanced being to figure out that the greatest causes of unrest in Africa are flawed
electoral processes and socioeconomic injustice.
In light of the above facts, here is my five point plan to ensure peace and security is achieved
and sustained in Africa: ensure an accountable and transparent government through
institutionalization, free fair and credible elections, impartial law enforcement, observance and
upholding human rights and social and economic justice for all. If I were a leader in Africa, I
would spare no efforts to ensure that economic and social justice are not just clichés thrown
about in rallies and conference halls, but are a realities both enshrined in our constitution and
the moral fabric of our society. This is an essential foundation upon which other efforts must be
Flashing back to the incidence that still wounds many Kenyans, the 2008 post-election violence
was just a representative of the common pathetic events that threaten almost every African
nation. On the back of charged political campaigns, Kenya went into the December polls, a
polarized and uptight country, with ethnic tensions rising and the hitherto fragile peace hanging
on the balance. Following the release of the results, violence erupted in every corner of the
nation almost pushing it to a cliff-edge of total collapse. A few years later the same thing
happened in Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast just because Africa never learns that there can never
be lasting peace without real justice.
One of the missing links in the peace building jig-saw has been and continues to be social and
economic justice because of entrenched tribalism and racism in most of Africa. We must
acknowledge that the major threat to peace and security in Africa is not external aggression or
radical ideological groups like communism but inter-ethnic clashes and armed conflicts fuelled
by social and political injustice, real or perceived. If I were a leader in Africa, this would be a top
priority. I would solve this by ensuring strict and equitable (re)distribution of resources, jobs and
state investments across the country and equal representation, notwithstanding which tribe is in
Bluntly said, Africans fight fellow Africans because of tribal suspicions and reservations. This
was the case in Rwanda in 1994, in Kenya in 2008, in South Sudan and most of Africa today. If
tribalism is not a problem in Africa, then Africa has no problem. Any government is always
identified with an ethnic community and tribe. Professor Michael T. Mboya puts it more
succinctly: “Successive governments of independent [Africa] have nurtured this idea as
presidents have used ethnicity as a criterion for resource allocation, favoring their ethnic groups
and excluding those ethnic groups they perceive to be enemies of their own.” (Emphasis
Any civilization worth its name must be government by a set of laws and regulations which each
member is obliged to observe. Under my leadership, I would ensure that laws are not only just
and fair but also enforced without favoritism and impartiality. And we cannot talk about law
without mentioning human rights. Fundamental human rights are at the heart of any legal
system. Human rights must be upheld, for everyone, every time. My leadership would never
allow human rights and the legal processes at large to be sacrificed at the altar of political
expediency and retrogressive cultural practices. Because, if you think about it, how on earth can
anybody be at peace when their very human rights are at stake?
Law that victimize women and girls and/or propagate male chauvinism must be abolished for
peace to be a reality for everyone. There have been reports across Africa of women losing their
properties and being kicked out of their homes after the death of their husbands, simply
because ‘they don’t belong’. How sad! Retrogressive cultural practices which fan the flames of
fear and have plagued much of Africa for decades like cattle rustling, female genital mutilation
and wife battery must be stopped. We must pass a strong message that we will not disparage
our morals that low.
If I were a leader in Africa, I’d build vibrant institutions that pass the test of time and win the trust
of the people. Institutions like Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission, pioneered by the
Republic of South Africa and adopted by both Kenya and Rwanda, must be allowed to achieve
their mandates. They must be guided and protected by law. This is a necessary step towards
achieving peace and security. The weaknesses of African institutions stick out like a sore thumb
among the causes of conflict not only in the Sub-Sahara but also across the continent. The
continent is pertinently painted with corruption and bribery. At the core of every institutional
failure is corruption and political interference. If peace is to be reality, Africa must slay the
dragon of corruption once and for all and loosen the grip of putrescence upon its institutions.
Our electoral institutions, law enforcement and correctional institutions, learning institutions and
institutions of public administration must be guided by the principles of justice, fairness,
transparency and accountability. This is essential, otherwise we will lurch from one crisis to
another, pushing our continent into social and political turmoil. Such a striking message must
come from the top. Political goodwill is indispensable in this process. Politicians have an
appalling propensity to tear down or manipulate institution and so, they too must be held to
account. My leadership must resist the temptation to stand with and support scandal-buffeted
regimes and demagogues just because they’re ‘one of our own.’ Ultimately, we have to choose
between peace and security or total bedlam.
In concluding, we must realize that peace and security on one hand, and fairness and justice on
the other, are intricately linked. It is impossible to have one without the other. In fact, we may
even say, without any fear of contradiction, that any effort to promote peace and security without
corresponding endeavor to achieve justice is doomed to failure. Justice is the life blood of
sustainable peace. That’s why we need strong institutions, credible elections and transparent
and inclusive governments to achieve lasting peace and security.
Sex, HIV/AIDS and “Tribal” Politics in the Benga of Okatch Biggy by T. Michael Mboya,
Postcolonial Text, Volume 5, No 3 (2009)

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