WHAT PEACE DO WE WANT ?

PEACE is one of the most difficult concepts to define because it is perceived from different perspectives and positions in a given society. In fact, peace for one person may appear to be injustice for another. The quest for peace provides the ample evidence of how different people are, and these differences are the natural causes of conflict. Peace also has much to do with the society we live in, and more often than not, our society is defined by the most powerful people, who always want to impose their definition of peace on others. 

History teaches us that as society has evolved, so too has the concept of peace evolved. From the ancient Roman saying of Si vis pacem para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war) to Johan Galtung's definition of negative peace (absence of war) and positive peace (absence of social injustice, corruption, poverty, etc.), we can say that the concept of peace has come a long way. 

No matter how people may define peace, you will notice that the term is closely linked to violence. Given that peace is unavoidably understood through the socio-political and socio-economic structures of distribution of wealth and power in a society or a nation. This explains why the concept, peace, has a lot to do with *CHANGE OF THE STATUS QUO, BETWEEN THE HAVES AND THE HAVE NOTS. Here lies the fundamental difference; the change of the status quo will be advantageous to one and not the other because one side sees change as an opportunity and the other side sees it as a threat. 

In this kind of situation, the logic of understanding and common sense must supersede that of misunderstanding and the strict respect of the law. In fact, it becomes an opportunity to change the laws and why not the constitution, given that these laws were not put in place to safeguard the interest of the less privileged in the society. For both sides, particularly those with much to lose, to avoid going down the slippery slope of violence, it is imperative for a dialogue to be initiated in order to achieve understanding. Unfortunately, this is not often the case.

What happens then if the most powerful failed to initiate dialogue?

At this point, the HAVE NOTS, so desperate for change and having nothing to lose, will definitely make recourse to violence as the inevitable means to obtain their goal. The asymmetric warfare tactics like, guerrilla warfare or terrorism, will very much be used by the HAVE NOTS. It is worth mentioning that these methods have oftentimes pushed the HAVES to call for dialogue (however, it most often takes a long period of time). But sometimes the radical position taken by both sides makes dialogue difficult to come about and when it happens, it does not necessarily pave the way to any sustainable peace. It is more an elite settlement, which is not bottom top. Violence therefore is not often the solution.

NON VIOLENCE in recent years has proven to be an effective tool for the status quo to be changed. NON VIOLENCE is that light of justice, love and truth that puts out the darkness of injustice, violence, manipulation and hatred. What also makes the non-violent strategy to be very effective is its quest to purify the ills of society through the use of timeless values and inciting its opponents to learn in the process. It is for this reason that the NON VIOLENCE strategy leads to RECONCILIATION AND FORGIVENESS, which is the purpose of African RESTORATIVE JUSTICE, the contrary of the Western RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE.  

One can conclude that peace, a term difficult to define, remains a perpetual quest which must be worked on daily and should be the result of mutual understanding and not one side forcing the other side to accept its views. Therefore, the peace we make today is the peace that will determine our future. So, what peace do we want? Is it a peace hinged on justice, truth, and equality or one driven by self-interest, manipulation, injustice, and violence ?

 
Wannah Immanuel Bumakor
— Peace and Development Studies specialist & Spokesman of ACT Movement