The 9week qualification course-Pt.II

A few weeks back I shared some details of this course. Now here is something more detail…the course is hosted by the Akademie für Konflikttransformation alias Forum ZFD or Afk. The Akademie is partly funded by the German Federal Development Ministry (BMZ). Myself and another colleague from Ghana are sponsored by the BMZ, the North Rhien Westfialia (NRW) government and the Ministry for Children and Future Generations (GFMM??). The training is held in the AZK – Zentrum Königswinter and all participants – 8 of us live in the AZK in Königswinter, 20 kilometres from Bonn. One thing I like about the Germans is their love for acronyms – AZK, DED, GTZ, BMZ, ZFD, and the list goes on! Plus the fact that you can have long words like – “Konflikttransformation” to mean “Conflict Transformation”; which is the exact [did you hear that?], exact work of the Academy! Your name describes you 101% and there is no need to fight over what is whose responsibility.

During the course, we have various field trained and field experienced trainers and facilitators who take us through various courses. The longest of those sessions [5-days] has been with Dr. Diana Frances – to whom I will return to presently. In its sixth week, we have meandered though topics such as “dealing with conflict”; “basics of conflict transformation”; “working in intercultural teams and groups”. We also looked at “mediation and negotiation from the perspectives of third party interventions” and “analysing and understanding conflicts”. The later was facilitated by Diana Francis.

Say No to Peace

Say no to peace

If what they mean by peace

Is the quiet stillness of fear

The silence of broken spirits

The unborn hopes of the oppressed

Tell them that peace

Is the shouting of children at play

The bubble of tongues set free

The thunder of dancing feet

And a father’s voice singing

[Briab Wren – Shared by Diana Francis]

Diana Francis: She is a mother, pacifist, thinker, author, teacher, peace-work, accomplished executive but perhaps for me was how she was humble in the presentation of her world view of peace, conflict and the current dialogues around it. She spoke a commoners’ English [language], yet conveyed deep, well thought out discussions.  Diana made me question whether Africa and the so-called 3rd world represented an export destination for so-called peace workers. Her methods made me question whether in West Africa our institutions are addressing conflicts or preventing conflicts. After all, conflict if well managed is the oil for change and development; so must we be preventing it? This is due to the fact that we see conflict as a negative not a positive and our thinking as a people perpetuates, drives and shapes everything we do.

This question was further given value in the discussion with Kai Brand-Jacobsen the director of Romania based PATRIR about how we define stages of conflict, example “pre-conflict” and “post conflict”; suggesting that we move from a period before conflict and a period after which there is no conflict [simply put]. Thus, our interventions do not in many cases take into consideration that part before the conflict [in this case “pre-conflict”] neither do we consider the period after “post conflict”. During that discussion with Kai, I wondered how wrong or right our conflict management [and here, I do not say Conflict Prevention] processes in West Africa [Pre- and post-conflict then have become the period violence begins and when it stops respectively].

Violence according to Johann Galtung is “avoidable insult to basic human needs”

I will not philosophise about concepts and theories but my humble opinion is that in West Africa, we have too many “wrong” people doing the work of peace and conflict management. ECOWAS – the economic community of West African States come to mind. Every major officer that works on Elections, Peace, Security and Governance has a military background. A former general, colonel, etc heads these divisions; a look at how conflicts have been resolved in West Africa is a pointer to this phenomenon.  Sierra Leone: take Fode Sankor out and you have peace. Liberia, take Charles Taylor out and there will be peace. The army trains its officers to look for threats and “remove” those threats, or engage the threat and bring it under control. This was classical to the 1990s in the escalation of the Liberian crisis – Ghana’s own General Arnold Quaynor was instrumental in that process. Of course there has been great improvement since; I wish there could be more training in people centred and rights-based approaches to conflict management and resolution where there is a broad-based engagement of all [or as many] relevant parties in the conflict and making them own the conflict and the processes that go with the resolution rather than the current situation where conflict resolution on the macro-level in West Africa has been a top-down approach from the regional body – ECOWAS.

I will advocate increasing training of professionals attached to various ministries – with the ministry of foreign affairs taking on most of these actors and using them on the field as Ghana takes on more important economic and political roles in the ECOWAS sub-region. This I will return to.

My encounter with Kai of PATRIR was something worth discussing; however not connected is how Africans are thought of keeping their connections so I was invited to a small farming community on the German-Belgian border [just a mere 34 kilometres] – Schōnecken. The journey was reflective and healing. Then I meet the people – a small “community” pub was the venue and everyone-knew-everyone. For the first time in 6 weeks, I felt at “home”! My host had lived an honest and loved life and I suffered for it by getting drinks from almost everyone…to welcome me. Then I realised that the feeling of loneliness and discontentment is essentially a city misnomer.

But the morning had a surprise for me….a beautiful countryside, with hills and greens a sharp contrast to my all favourite country in Europe – Holland. I needed to see hills, high rises, real trees, etc. Also important to me was my walk with Leonie, the 15year old niece of my host. We had a pleasant walk through the village and showing me stuff. Again, everyone including kids will say hi…I was pleasantly shocked. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that at 15 Leonie knew what she wanted to do when she was older. She wants to be a physio-therapist. She explains that after been hospitalised for a bit, and she observing the physio, she felt that was her calling. Also remarkable was that she knew how to become one and was already watching me… I have a back problem and she noticed it and asked about it.

At that point I asked how many final year University students knew what they wanted to do when they leave school. My experience was that up to 95% zilch about what they want to do. And even more scary is that a whopping 98% of senior high students do not know either what they want to do. They only know the course they want to read not what or where it will lead them.

A food for thought for the implementers of our youth policy, educationalists, parents and the government back in Ghana; and also a note to me to do more in that area with my organisation.

Next, I will discuss Kai Jacobsen from the perspective of Leonie, my German friend.

P.S: Due to the current security situation in Germany, I have decided against writing about my perceived security lags in the trans-border train system as promised last week. Please bare with me.

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