A reflection on the International Day of Peace
We live in an increasingly perilous world in which we cannot contemplate guaranteeing peace and security. Just over a week ago, a newly sworn in President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, described as a teacher and activist, survived an assassination attempt in a Mogadishu hotel along with visitors who had come to witness what had been heralded as a new era in the war-torn Somalia. The inauguration was attended by regional leaders including the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and the President of Djibouti. The attempt on Mohamud’s life highlighted the incredible security challenges he faces as he takes over the mantle of leadership of a volatile country torn apart by years of internecine conflict. The United Nations-backed political process that resulted in Mohamud’s election was condemned by Islamist militants who said it was manipulated by the West.
A recent Times magazine dated 24th September in its lead story ‘Flash Point’ underscores “a chain of violence from Cairo to Benghazi, following an anti-Islam video produced in the United States and raises the question, “did the Arab spring make the Middle-East more dangerous?” As we know, violence has since gone beyond Benghazi. It has ignited many parts of Asia, the Middle-East and Europe. There is already an increasing apprehension that these attacks may herald a new beginning of further Middle-East crisis.
Just last Friday, 21st September, the world celebrated the International Day of Peace, also known as Peace Day, whose theme for this year is captured under the title: “A sustainable peace for a sustainable future”. While we cannot talk about peace without mentioning the threats to peace around the world, the International Day of Peace nonetheless provides an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to reflect on the importance of peace.
I should point out from the outset that we cannot understand the importance of peace if we are not in position to appreciate the complexity of human nature and conflict as a phenomenon. We are informed of biological theories of conflict from Charles Darwin’s times to more recent times which emphasize that human beings are prone to conflict by their very nature and that “human beings are born aggressive and violent and since they have no control over their destiny, there is nothing they can do about it. This view holds that conflict and indeed aggression are inextricably interwoven in man’s behaviour.
A French Philosopher, Jean Jacque Rousseau “saw a fundamental divide between society and human nature and contended that man was good by nature and a “noble savage” when in the state of nature”. Even Confucius in China concluded that “there is deceit and cunning in man, and from these, wars arise”.
Interestingly, some theories on conflict have provided repugnant ideas such as racism and tribalism to prevail and have consequently caused untold harm to humanity taking into consideration lessons learnt from history.
There are those who believe that the world we live in is a world of “opposing interests and of conflicts among them, moral principles and can never be fully realized, among them, but must at best be approximated through the even temporary balancing of interests and the ever precarious settlements of conflicts. It is also argued that the wide-range of world problems such as wars, criminality, social deprivation, famine as seen in our today’s world and various catastrophes are transferable into one common denominator—the failure of man in his behaviour.
This year’s theme for International Day of Peace highlights the fact that we cannot think about building a sustainable future if there is no sustainable peace. The example of Somalia in the Horn of Africa, Libya and Egypt simply demonstrate parts of our continent afflicted by relentless instability fuelled by a multiplicity of factors, including religion. Without sustainable peace, we cannot have effective governance and ultimately, we cannot have a sustainable future.
Rwanda and other African countries are involved in peace keeping around the world not for altruistic reasons but because history teaches that from our own experience, we understand that building a culture of peace requires that people and societies value freedom, justice, democracy, tolerance, solidarity and other attributes of human decency that promote respect for dialogue and understanding.
Contact email: oscar_kim2000[at]yahoo.co.uk