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CONFLICT MEDIATION IN CURRENT AREAS OF CONFLICT IN AFRICA (written 2012)

Address presented by Most Rev. Dr. Nicholas D. Okoh, Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria at the Inaugural  Conference organized by Christ the Redeemers Friends Trust, on the Conflict Mediation Commission/International Forum for a Culture of Peace and Global Ethics held at Redemption Camp, Lagos Ibadan Expressway,  on 18th December 2012.

 

Preamble

I bring greetings from The Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, and I pay very high respects to the convener, Pastor Dr. Enoch Adejare Adeboye, with appreciation for his foremost Christian leadership in Nigeria, Africa and the world at large as well as for the initiative to convene this and earlier conferences in order to give Christianity a voice in the general global discourse over insecurity and conflicts. This conference assumes that the Church is relevant in playing  mediatory roles and finding solutions to the problems  causing conflicts and that it can do this be engendering a culture of peace and ethics globally. I dare say from the outset that religion contributed to creating the problems that now confront us and naturally it should also contribute to solving them. We must go beyond the proposed United Nations Mediation Commission, helpful as that may be, for it may end up as another established bureaucracy with much motion without commiserate movement. Rather what we should aim at is initiating a positive revolution, based on godly principles. We should also try to recover the culture of peace and ethics which were in times past, derived from a combination of our African moral and philosophical values as well as sustain the  rich heritage of missionary Christianity. Africans before the globalized corruption of ethics and culture, used to be a bastion of communal love, with discipline and godliness.

The design of Conflict Mediation Diplomacy (Track 111 Diplomacy) by the panel of religious leaders, parliamentary and academic leaders in June 2011 at the United Nations summit meeting properly introduces a vital but missing link in the approach towards teaching peace and conflict resolution in Nigerian universities and related institutions. It is gratifying that United Nations that has followed the secular route and ignored religious perspectives have been forced to recognize and bring on board religious approaches in mediating peace in parts of the world. The UN charter as well as European Union Constitution deliberately resolved to go secular, having nothing to do with God in its policies. A nation that forgets God will fail and collapse. It may find that this current initiative may help tremendously in preventing conflicts or resolving them, instead of the perennial atmosphere of war common in Africa.

The world of academics, beyond the political sector is now attempting to appreciate the place of peace and conflict resolution as a subject of study and research. There are at least two Departments of Religious Studies, at Lagos State University and Ekiti State Universities that have changed their names to Departments of Religions and Peace Studies. What had been the exclusive preserve of Social science faculties in teaching peace and conflict resolutions is being explored by religious academics.

This conference is to further design steps and ingredients that can facilitate a culture of peace and universal global ethics through spiritual guidance of religious leaders , suggest legislations and curricular for academic education on the subject matter. Our assignment today is to focus on Conflict mediation in current areas of Conflict in Africa.

Africa and Conflicts

Africans can be perceived of in three categories 1) Black Africans in sub-Saharan African continent otherwise known as Negroes spread across, West Africa, East Africa, Central Africa and South Africa, 2) Africans in the Diaspora. This include the Africans assimilated in United States of America, England, Cuba, Brazil, etc and 3) Arab-Africans in Northern African countries such as Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Chad, Mauritius, and Sudan, etc. It is a matter of convenience therefore that we generalize the concept of African culture and ethics indeed there are various African cultures but a universal ethics.

Africa more than other continents have had a lion share of conflicts with its attendant consequences, such that one continues to wonder if indeed this is not a cursed continent, and if so, whether that curse, whether Hamitic or not has been or can be removed. While many Asian countries that suffered conflicts and crisis had recovered themselves and are making remarkable challenges globally including Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, India China, African Nations are increasingly crisis-ridden. The recent Arab spring played out in Africa consuming peace and harmony leading uprisings against governments in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Africa since slave trade and colonialism eras have remained pawn in hands of the Western world. Our country, Nigeria is a typical case of failure of government with great poverty, corruption and non-functional social facilities in the midst of oil wealth. ‘There have been over 9 million refugees and internally displaced people from conflicts in Africa. Hundreds and thousands of people have been slaughtered from a number of conflicts and civil wars. If this scale of destruction and fighting was in Europe, then people would be calling it World War III with the entire world rushing to report, provide aid, mediate and otherwise try to diffuse the situation’ A cursory glance at the record below shows occurrence of conflicts in Africa  for various reasons (derived from Wikimedia).

Algeria -French conquest of Algeria, North African Campaign (World War II) Sétif and Guelma massacre, Algerian War, Sand War, Algerian Civil War
Angola- Angolan War of Independence, Angolan Civil War ,Battle of Casey CarletonBattle of Cassinga
Burkina Faso- Agacher Strip War
Burundi- Burundi genocide, Burundi Civil War, Titanic Express Massacre, Itaba Massacre, Gatumba Massacre
Cameroon- West Africa Campaign (World War I) , West Africa Campaign (World War II)
Central African Republic - Kongo-Wara , Central African Republic Bush War 2004-2007
Chad- Civil war in Chad (1965–1979), Civil war in Chad (1979-1982), Chadian-Libyan conflict, Civil war in Chad (1998–2002), Civil war in Chad (2005–2010), Insurgency in the Maghreb (2002–present)
Comoros- Comorian Secession Crisis, 2008 invasion of Anjouan
Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville)- Congo (Brazzaville) Civil War, Kongo Civil War
Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo-Kinshasa)- Congo Free State, Congo Crisis June 1960 – November 1966 , Katangan Secession, South Kasai Secession, Simba Rebellion, Shaba I 1977, Shaba II 1978, First Congo War, Second Congo War , Ituri Conflict, Kivu Conflict
Côte d’Ivoire- Côte d’Ivoire Civil War
Djibouti- Djiboutian Civil War, Djiboutian-Eritrean border conflict
Egypt- Muhammad Ali’s seizure of power, Mahdist War, North African Campaign (World War II), Arab-Israeli War (1948), Suez Crisis, Six Day War, War of Attrition, Yom kippur War, Libyan-Egyptian War, current Arab Spring uprising over Islamist government acquisition of too much power.
Eritrea First Italo- Ethiopia War, Second Italo-Abyssinian War, East African Campaign (World War II),Eritrean Civil Wars, Eritrean War of Independence ,List of massacres committed during the Eritrean War of Independence, Eritrean-Ethiopian War
Ethiopia- East African Campaign (World War II) ,Battle of Keren, Eritrean War of Independence, Ethiopian-Adal War, Ethiopian Civil War, Eritrean-Ethiopian War,1868 Expedition to Abyssinia, First Italo-Ethiopia War ,Battle of Adowa, Ogaden War, Second Italo-Abyssinian War ,Battle of May chew
Gabon- West Africa Campaign (World War II) , Battle of Gabon
Ghana - Accra Riots
Guinea-Bissau- Guinea-Bissau War of Independence, Guinea-Bissau Civil War
Kenya- East African Campaign (World War I)East African Campaign (World War II), Mau Mau Uprising (1952–1960), Shifta War (1963–1967), Turbi Village Massacre (2005), 2007–2008 Kenyan crisis
Lesotho- Gun War, South African intervention in Lesotho,
Liberia- First Liberian Civil War, Second Liberian Civil War
Libya- 2011–2012 Libyan factional fightingLibyan civil war, Chadian-Libyan conflict, Libyan-Egyptian War, North African Campaign (World War II), Libyan resistance , movement, Italo-Turkish War
Madagascar- Battle of Madagascar (World War II), First Madagascar expedition, Second Madagascar Expedition, Madagascar revolt
Mali- Agacher Strip War, Tuareg Rebellion, Insurgency in the Maghreb (2002–present)
Malawi- East African Campaign (World War I)
Mauritania- Mauritania-Senegal Border War, Western Sahara War, Insurgency in the Maghreb (2002–present)
Mauritius- Battle of Grand Port
Morocco- Berber Revolt (739-743), Almoravid-Almohad War (1130-1147),  Almohad-Marinid War (1215-1269), Moroccan-Tlemcenian conflict (1299-1370) , First siege of Tlemcen (1299-1307), Second siege of Tlemcen (1335-1337), Moroccan conquest of Tlemcen (1337-1348, 1350-1358, 1370, 1380), Moroccan-Portuguese conflict (1415-1578), 1465 Revolt, Wattassid-Saadian War (1527-1554), Moroccan-Turkish border conflict (1554-1830), 1603-1627 War of Succession, 1613-1666 Civil War, First Franco-Moroccan War (1844), Spanish-Moroccan War (1859), Rif Wars , Rif War (1893), Rif War (1909), Rif War (1920), Second Franco-Moroccan War (1911-1912), Zaian War (1914-1921), North African Campaign (World War II) (1942), Ifni War (1957-1958), Sand War (1963), Western Sahara War (1975-1991),
Mozambique- East African Campaign (World War I), Mozambican War of Independence, Mozambican Civil War
Namibia- Caprivi conflict, Herero Genocide, Namibian War of Independence, South-West Africa Campaign (World War I) , Maritz Rebellion
Niger-  Insurgency in the Maghreb (2002–present)Tuareg Rebellion
Nigeria-  Benin Expedition of 1897, 2009 Nigerian sectarian violence, 2010 Jos riots, Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970, Nigerian Sharia conflict, Conflict in the Niger Delta, Boko Haram Islamist assaults against Church and State in Northern parts of Nigeria
Rwanda- Rwandan Civil War, Rwandan Genocide
São Tomé and Príncipe- Batepá Massacre
Senegal- Casamance Conflict, Mauritania-Senegal Border War, West Africa Campaign (World War II)Battle of Dakar
Sierra Leone- Ndogboyosoi War, Sierra Leone Civil War
Somalia- Somaliland Campaign, Ethiopian-Adal War, East African Campaign (World War II), Italian conquest of British Somaliland, Ogaden War, Somali Revolution 1986-1991, Somali Civil War, War in Somalia 2006–present
South Africa-  Battle of Intombe, Battle of Gingindlovu, Siege of Eshowe, Battle of Hlobane, Battle of Kambula, Battle of Ulundi, Cape Frontier Wars, Battle of Blood River, Battle of Blaauwberg, First Boer War, Second Boer War, Sharpeville Massacre, Soweto Uprising, South African Border War, Battle of Cassinga, South-West Africa Campaign (World War I), Maritz Rebellion, Weenen Massacre, Zulu Civil War,
Sudan- East African Campaign (World War II), The Mahdist War, Battle of Abu Klea, Battle of Omdurman, Battle of Umm Diwaykarat, First Sudanese Civil War, Anyanya rebellion, Second Sudanese Civil War, Darfur Conflict, Chad-Sudan conflict
Swaziland- Second Boer War
Tanzania- Abushiri Revolt, Anglo-Zanzibar War, East African Campaign (World War I), Battle of Tanga, Maji Maji Rebellion, Uganda-Tanzania War, Zanzibar Revolution (1964)
Togo- , (World War II), , , (1978 – 1979), (1979), (1980–1985), (1982 – 1986), (1986–1988), (1986–1987), (1987–present), (1996-?), (1996–2002)
, , -overview of Rhodesian/Zimbabwe Civil Wars, a.k.a. the First Chimurenga, 1964-1979

Togo- West Africa Campaign (World War I)
Tunisia- ,North African Campaign (World War II), Tunisian independence, Bizerte crisis, 2010–2011 Tunisian revolution
Uganda- Uganda-Tanzania War (1978 – 1979), Fall of Kampala (1979), Uganda National Rescue Front (1980–1985),Ugandan Civil War (1982 – 1986), Uganda People’s Democratic Army (1986–1988),Holy Spirit Movement (1986–1987), Lord’s Resistance Army (1987–present), Allied Democratic Forces (1996-?), Uganda National Rescue Front II (1996–2002)

Western Sahara- Ifni War, Western Sahara War
Zambia- East African Campaign (World War I), East African Campaign (World War II)
Zimbabwe- First Matabele War, Chimurenga-overview of Rhodesian/Zimbabwe Civil Wars, Second Matabele War a.k.a. the First Chimurenga, Second Chimurenga/Rhodesian Bush War 1964-1979

 

Chronological List of  current wars

 

I wish to submit that the above conflicts witnessed low participation by the Church or religious organizations in their resolution or until their conclusion. Yes, occasional religious leaders were involved in clamoring for conflict resolution through public advocacy. But beyond Red Cross that intervenes to alleviate refugee situations, religious sector has hardly organized itself as a potent and recognized force to serve as peace mediators. The disunity of the Church itself, as well as interreligious distrust has jeopardized the potent utilization of this tool for peace and mediation. In some instances as in the Rwanda and Burundi genocides, church leaders and members themselves participated in the killing of their fellow human beings and fellow Christians, in an ogre that claimed about 800, 000 lives. It should be noted that most conflicts in Africa are mostly due to religious and tribal sentiments.

Three common ‘evils’ plague most African countries: perverted use of religion, ethnicity and politics. Recently, another joined; cultism in educational institutions. One of them is bad enough to permanently destabilize or debilitate the life of any community or nation; if these evils converge upon a nation, the doom is unimaginable. Nigeria hosts and dines frequently with the three patron devils, inviting their periodic diabolical, symbiotic collaboration to wreak havoc in the nation. To survive their systemic and violent assault can only be due to divine grace.  In her four decades since independence, Nigeria has been more provoked to disintegration than most African countries, but has often survived beyond the imagination of   skeptics. She has experienced great tragedies in form of unnecessary religious and ethnic violence but moves ahead in an amnesiac tradition without learning vital lessons for engendering unity, justice and  moral rectitude.

Theophilus Danjuma while serving as Defense Minister, stated thus:

… I must confess that I share the fears of possibilities of religious and sectarian strife’s in this country.  I believe that tribalism as a fall back position was destroyed by the Nigerian Civil War.  But I regret to say that religious and sectarian chauvinism is fast replacing tribalism as a vehicle of political cohesion.  The use of ethnic and/or religious differences as a means of achieving political solidarity is fraudulent enough but it becomes more disturbing when it us used to polarize the people and thereby disturb the peace and stability of the country.  I am not aware of any country that has survived two Civil Wars. I am afraid that our country, Nigeria, may presently be living between wars.  I hope I am wrong but all the ingredients and the signs to the contrary are there for any perceptive analyst to see… My greatest fears are that there may be no Nigeria after our Nigeria after our next strife (emphasis mine).

There are different ways of approaching these problems. We may adopt either the Nnamdi Azikiwe or the Ahmadu Bello philosophy. It was reported that in an argument over governance in the newly independent Nigeria, Azikiwe advised his Northern colleague: ‘Let us forget our differences’ Bello retorted ‘No, let us not forget our differences but recognize and discuss them; that way, we can know how to deal with each other’. Both men were right. This poses a choice between conflict prevention and resolution; between preventive methodology and the curative, as in medicine. Neither of the two positions suffices alone, in conflict resolution. It is when balance of both is struck that positive equilibrium is achieved. Today there is a tragic extinction of credible and charismatic leaders at all levels in every geo-political configuration. After the passing away of Nigeria’s founding fathers, none of the ethnic groups can boast of major leaders with sufficient charisma to command the respect and awesome influence of the original trio: Azikiwe, Awolowo and Bello. In Nigeria, Lilliputians now reign in the dearth of ideological giants.

Towards Effective Religious Mediation of Conflicts and Global Peace in Africa

Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Isaiah’s messianic prediction (Isa. 9 vs 6-7) clearly attributes global peace to the lordship and rule of Christ. Despite the sporadic persecution of Christians in different parts of the world and in virtually every age, no religion has engendered as much peace, progress and civilization like Christian culture and ethics. We speak of crisis of ethics today because of a systemic reversal of the hitherto Christian influence upon society. Following Calvin’s pragmatic reformation by marrying Christianity with society, missionary endeavours in parts of the then colonized world ensured the promotion of peace and ethical consciousness in parts of the world.

The life and teachings of Jesus Christ was characterized by peaceful coexistence, forgiveness, moral purity and general good of mankind. Reversal of Jesus influence in modern societies, such as take-over of Mission schools and banning public prayer and instruction in religious education in schools have bred vices which today have become an albatross on modern society. We produce today graduates who may be intellectually sound but may end up clever devils once the religious morals are missing in the total education package.

We submit here that conflicts and general insecurity and unethical behavior can be best appreciated if viewed from Biblical perspective.

1.   The Bible predicted that these problems will occur on a large scale during the end time
2. Satan is coordinating a well-organized assault against the Church and Biblical ethics and Christian culture in general. We are at war!. What is happening is not circumstantial conflicts but deliberate acts from the Kingdom of Satan against the kingdom of God. This global assault which is taking undisguised physical attacks against churches and Christians have so far taken the following diverse forms, albeit achieving the same goal of eliminating the common enemy- the Church

a. Judaist antagonism against Jesus Christ as messiah. They crucified him and still reject him today
b. Roman state persecution of thousands of Christians I the 1st century AD
c. Islam which is vociferous in its attack against the Trinity, Jesus death and resurrection, the Holy Bible and=                    evangelism and mission. It swept North Africa and Asia Minor away from Christianity
d. Communism in the far eastern countries such as China, old USSR, etc. These are mostly atheists who do not
believe that there is God, talk less His global culture.?
e. Secularism in western society which has led to church decline and Christian membership as well as removal                 of Christian cultural influence upon societies which earlier were built upon Christian heritage and principles.
f. Scientific evolution. This attributes creation, not to God but to origin of species.
g. Revisionism, which in modern times has witnessed review of Biblical inspiration and authority, lordship of
Jesus Christ and the influence of conservative Christian ethics. The most recent crisis which this has caused                  is the homosexuality drive in churches and secular societies, promoted by governments, using tax payer’s
money to challenge Christian moral positions. The Church also witnesses conflicts and need mediation to
heal the broken communion caused by revisionists who infiltrate and seek to take over the Church. The
theological seminaries in the West are the breeding laboratories for this secular agenda.
h . African paganism and resurgence of occult.

 

  1. The messianic manifesto of Jesus Christ as prophesied in Isaiah 61 declares the scope of Christian involvement in and mission to   the world at large. Under Gods anointing and inspiration, it can be            deduced that the Christian task in the world includes,   proclamation of good tidings, proclaim liberty to captive people,  healing broken hearted people (such as refugees of conflicts),       setting free prisoners, proclaim new dispensations in society, comfort those who mourn, give beauty in place of ashes       (transformation), facilitate joy in place of sorrow, rebuilding   wasted communities and cities from generations of wars and conflicts. (Isa. 61 vs 1-5).
  2. Jesus was a conflict resolving figure. His interactions with and teachings on conflict resolution and inter-personal relations broke      the dividing walls between races (Israel and Samaritans, genders and class. He sets example by his forgiving disposition for      Christians not to retaliate when attacked, but should forgive their enemies. This has been exploited by enemies of the Christian faith today as guaranteed docility which may encourage more attacks against churches as have been witnessed recently in parts of             Northern Nigeria where bombs are planted by suicide bombers and wanton killings of Christians while worshipping in churches, even within precinct of military barracks.

Christians are being compelled by exigencies of these targeted  religious attacks to review their theology on
armed resistance by  endangered Christians in a country whose government has  proved  incapable of
securing their fundamental human rights to life and  protection by the state.

  1. It is the primal business of the Church to address socio-political issues; indeed all issues in the public and private space, as a voice  and watchman over society at large. After all, politics is fundamentally nothing,   but the management of the affairs of men in organized society. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness            thereof, the earth and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).  Christians in politics are simply acting in service and in the     interest of their heavenly father’s world. The Bible severally describes God as ‘King of Kings’ and ‘Ruler over all rulers’. In this sense, ancient Israel began her life as a theocratic state. Yahweh     saw her choice of democracy as rejection of His rule through the   Prophets. There is something inherently wrong in democracy. ‘A   government of the people by the people for the people’ totally excludes God. Everywhere men have tried to substitute God in   human affairs, they have failed woefully. The collapse of atheist    Soviet Union and the outright humiliation of proud         Nebuchadnezzar of ancient Babylon indicates this. The latter’s         remark after recovering his sanity from animal psychology was: ‘now I know that almighty God reigns in the affairs of men’ We            must redesign African model of democracy in a manner that             appropriates our African worldview as well as spirituality. Adopting ‘hook, line and sinker’, democratic models from secular and post-modern West, will tantamount to spiritual, cultural and psychosomatic constipation resulting in organic disorders.

 

Throughout the Bible records, avowed followers and messengers of God have been politically involved. Moses confronted Pharaoh and liberated his oppressed people from apartheid –like slavery. The Judges who preceded monarchical era combined spiritual and political leadership. During the monarchy, it was difficult to separate rule between kings and prophets. Some prophets chose and dethrone kings. Some masterminded and executed coup de tats. Prophets condemned Kings,  David was a prophet-king model. Isaiah was of the nobility, Amos and Jeremiah were somewhat ‘one-man revolutionary squad’ among their people. Prayerful Daniel was a Provincial Governor, not as high as slave-boy Joseph who, by dint of his divine exhibition of divine gift, became Prime Minister of the world power of that day.

 

The role of Martin Luther in the protestant reformation against excessive Catholic authoritarianism and doctrinal compromises changed the Christian universal landscape. Martin Luther King Jr. of United States of America led Blacks in that country to resist the official policy of racial discrimination and to enable African Americans to enjoy the freedom they have today. Luther said:

I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist.  Was not Jesus an extremist in Love?… Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ?  Was not Martin Luther an extremist – “here I stand; I can do none other so help me God”’ was not John Bunyan an extremist – “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience”… so the question is not whether we will be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love?… for the preservation of injustice or for the abuse of justice

 

Desmond Tutu of South Africa played major roles in the eradication of obnoxious apartheid. During Nigeria’s military dictatorship under Generals Ibrahim Babangida and late Sanni Abacha, the voice of the Church’s resistance came from late Archbishop Abiodun Adetiloye, former Primate, All Nigeria and Archbishop Olubunmi Okogie of the Catholic Church. In all the foregoing, religion, ethnicity/race and politics were inextricably intertwined. It is the culture of the church to get involved.

When evil can plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind.  When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love.  When evil men would seek to perpetuate and adjust status quo, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of justice (Martin Luther King Jr.)

 

  1. The Nigerian Religious Council (NIREC) initiated by government      has been able to intervene in mediation occasionally but has not  been able to resolve or prevent recurrent attacks. We are not very      sure if all the leaders representing the various religions in the  country are honestly on the same page in executing the objectives    of the council. Otherwise why has it been impossible for the  respected leaders to call to order their members who relish in         inflicting death and violence on innocent citizens who exercise          their rights of freedom of worship in a country that pretends to  have a working Constitution.
  2. Our suggestions at this conference should address opportunities to introduce Peace and Conflict prevention, mediation and resolution     in the curricular of all educational institutions at all levels.             Religious studies should be made compulsory for all students  under the general Studies or Civics programme, public officers should be made to swear oaths to pursue peace and harmony in    the performance of their official duties, and new legislations should   be drafted by this assembly and presented to our legislatures to    adopt, on ways that peace and mediation of conflicts can be  guaranteed for the good of our societies.

Our submission at this conference is that now that religious bodies are being recognized as potent contributors to the search for global peace and good culture and ethics, the UN should support the Adeboye-initiative  by constituting the proposed United Nations organization for Religious Peace and Conflict mediation. These should be trained and empowered to reorient citizens of all countries on ideal culture of peace and ethnic harmony and  the value of tolerance and inter-religious cooperation, in an atmosphere where constitutional rights of adherents of each religion are respected with freedom to worship God of their choice. This body should be consulted and involved in peace and conflict resolutions.

This current global initiative which informs this conference should do all things possible to brainstorm and find better mediation alternatives for pursuing conflict prevention and resolution in all parts of the world. If Africa the victim of most conflicts is able to show the way to peace to United Nations, then we would have contributed to the world, a great legacy. African has the largest number or Churches and practicing Christians. This should be used to a great advantage in showing path to peace to a developing but increasingly godless western world.

May The Prince of Peace guide us with His Holy Spirit to accomplish the laudable objectives that this conference has set to address at this conference. Amen.

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