Watch the World Economic Forum event live at 10:45am SAST (8:45am GMT) on Friday, June 5.
Conversations about terrorism, whether in international conferences or in private living rooms, usually revolve around the urgent need to stop the violence, by military means or political dialogue. There’s relatively little discussion about unresolved issues after a ceasefire has been achieved.
And yet, there’s a strong argument that countries wracked by violence—civil war, insurgency, or terrorism—should not wait until the killing ends to plan what to do next. And a key component of any such plan is to integrate former militants into society.
If you look at any of the African countries wracked by violence—whether it’s Nigeria’s war with Boko Haram, Somalia’s continued torment by Al-Shabab, or the other African countries where the Lord’s Resistance Army operates—it is clear that the men (and boys) now armed and dangerous must one day be returned to the very communities they have long terrorized. They cannot all be killed, or incarcerated.
When the time comes, each of these countries must find a way to separate those who have committed hideous crimes from those who were forced by extenuating circumstances—often at the point of a gun—to join these terrorist groups. The latter group, likely the majority, must then be reintegrated into society, safe from recrimination by those they have hurt.
This may seem like a distant prospect—and a low priority—while the violence still rages, but a post-conflict plan is crucial to ending conflict. Militants, especially those exhausted by prolonged fighting, are much more likely to stop fighting when they know there’s a path that lets them return to normal life (or, rather, as close to normal as possible).
In the absence of such plans, ceasefires tend to break and peace deals fall apart. Look at how hard it has been to get a durable armistice in the Central African Republic, where a brutal two-year war between the Muslim Seleka and Christian “anti-balaka” militias has been raging. (Finally—knock on wood—it may be nearing an end.)
African nations seeking post-conflict solutions don’t have far to look: the continent has several recent examples—from Rwanda and Liberia, to Sierra Leone and Ethiopia—of how to (and how not to) deal with post-conflict situations. Is it conceivable that Boko Haram fighters will one day be forgiven, through some truth-and-reconciliation process, and allowed to live peacefully among their former victims? If it cannot be conceived, then chances are the violence will continue indefinitely.
But how do you get perpetrators of violence to seek forgiveness? And how do you get victims to forgive?
I will be putting those questions—and many others—to a panel of leading Africans in Cape Town, at the World Economic Forum’s Africa summit. The topic: Silencing the Guns.
My panelists will be:
Abdirahman Yusuf Ali Aynte, Somalia’s minister for planning and international cooperation.
Hafsat Abiola-Costello, founder of the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy, and special adviser to the government of Nigeria’s Ogun state.
Kenya’s Erastus J.O. Mwencha, deputy chairperson of the African Union.
Kennedy Odede, also from Kenya, and founder of Shining Hope for Communities, an NGO conceived in Nairobi’s infamous Kibera slum.
South Africa’s Anton du Pleissis, managing director of the Institute for Security Studies.
Watch the conversation live, via the video link at the top of this story, at 10:45am SAST (8:45am GMT) on Friday, June 5.