New network for peace in Africa

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

After 15 years of working in her country’s Parliament, it was time for South African politician Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge to return to “what drew me into the Struggle”.

Ten years on, she has founded an NGO, Embrace Dignity, and this month was elected co-chairperson of the Pan African Non-Violence and Peace Building Network.

John Moses (left) and Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

John Moses (left) and Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

The network was established at Cape Town’s City Hall where delegates from 33 African countries joined forces to find solutions to the continent’s conflicts via mediation instead of violence.

Madlala-Routledge said the idea for the network came about two years ago when organisations from 12 African countries met in Johannesburg for non-violence training.

Between then and now, they worked to attract other organisations to join them for the five-day conference held by London-based War Resisters’ International and local partners. It ran from July 4 to 8.

“We want to create a network of peacemakers to go into countries where our governments have failed. We would prefer to pick up on the issues before war breaks out,” said Madlala-Routledge.

“We want to use our collective resources to build peace in Africa. We have a wealth of experience and resources among us. We have people who do non-violence training and they are able to share their tools and strategies.”

Madlala-Routledge said they aimed to grow the network into a consultancy representing civil society at the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU).

“We want the AU to recognise that we play an important role and for them to seek our advice. This network could be sitting at the UN,” she said.

Moses John from South Sudan, co-chairperson of the network, said it has “been our dream for the last two years to launch this”.

Moses said he works with the Organisation for Non-Violence and Development in his recently established country. He said his work focused on “political conflict related to governance issues in Sudan”.

“As civil society, we want to bring peace to our country. We try to work with mediators to find peace,” he said.

“This network is made up of civil society. It is different because we have connections at a grassroots level, national peace networks and the global peace movement.”

Olufemi Oluniyi from Lagos, Nigeria, is also part of the fresh network. He works at the Africa Peace Research and Education Association in Lagos.

“We are looking at various alternatives to war and we have the opportunity to work together,” said Oluniyi.

He said Nigeria’s “pluralistic nature” meant the “probability of violence is always there”.

“We have violence related to religion and local conflicts. We are saying one does not have to wait for violence. We are pre-empting violence. The more we can educate ourselves and see the violence coming, the better,” said Oluniyi.

He said the network would “register with regional groups so we can avail our insights”.

Madlala-Routledge knows the road ahead will be tough, trying to tackle Africa’s conflicts, but she remains “hopeful”.

She would likely draw on her insights as the country’s former deputy health minister from 2004 to 2007 and the former deputy defense minister from 1999 to 2004.

“This work reminds me of what drew me into the Struggle in the first place. I went into Parliament and felt I was making a difference. But I realised after 15 years in government that the work is not complete,” she said.

“We still have some of the same problems we had when we were in the Struggle. I am glad to be back in the trenches in civil society.”

She added: “We are building on the work that others have done. We don’t see ourselves as the salvation to Africa’s problems. Governments have their role, but people have a crucial role to play.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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