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Number 8 June 2001

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Towards a Culture of Peace

Congress for the Reconstruction of Africa*
Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) - June 21-26, 2001

Sharing experiences and discovering outside initiatives, working out propositions for a remaking of Africa adapted to the reality of the continent and tomorrow's world, and building common strategies for the construction of a durable peace - these are the objectives of The Congress for the Reconstruction of Africa.

The Dar Es Salaam Congress is the final product of a series of debates and exchanges started last year by the African Caravan for Peace and Solidarity (ref. Caravan Nº5)

For one week, 70 participants coming from the continent's regions and from all socioprofessional levels will be meeting to deal with three main themes:

  • Governance (decentralisation and regional integration, social movements, reconciliation and justice, administration of cities and territories etc.)

  • Economical issues (future of business networks, land reform, Africa's place in the global economy, role of information and communication technologies, usage of natural resources)

  • Values and society (learning and higher education, art and peace culture, solidarity and ubuntu, opposing xenophobia and ethnophobia, health, etc.)

The participants will attempt to give priority to identifying the leading policies and principles shared by everyone and to specifying firm propositions to face up to the important challenges of the continent. Aware of the need for a reconstruction of Africa, the Dar es Salaam Congress would like to prefigure a more extensive process of working out a generation contract to reconstruct the 21st century.

An essential movement towards reconstructing

A deep will to change prevails throughout Africa. Over the whole continent, individuals and organisations are linking up, making themselves heard and developing promising initiatives for the future. As well, with the new century, our continent is changing generations. It is supported by a youth going full speed into the building of tomorrow's world, with no complexes regarding former colonisers, with no guilty feelings about failures, refusing to always look elsewhere for the source of Africa's misfortunes and their possible remedies.

Change does not necessarily have to mean forgetting or denying. It is with the trials and errors of the last few decades that the necessary lessons accumulated for the next century have been learnt, that ideas have been thought out at a local level, and the innovations from which tomorrow's Africa will emerge. Not so recently, in many regions, our societies have been able to develop original ways of governing, sharing and solidarity, administration of natural resources, etc. It is our capacity of making the most of the innovating experiences of the last few decades and to update older practises without hesitating, completed with an effort to creatively absorb outside initiatives, that the key to our continent's future will be found.

A generation contract for Africa

The Congress for the reconstruction of Africa is the first step to the building of a common project, of a generation contract for Africa. This contract will be developed in a five year process led by associating the different organisations concerned, going from local to national level, regional, then continental. The project will be developed following a uniform procedure: the identification of common values, stating the principle obstacles and advantages, the constituents of the programme. It is on the basis of this "project for Africa" that various partners - States, businesses, NGO's - will be invited to come into this generation contract and set up public instruments for evaluating the mutual respect of any engagements.

The Dar es Salaam Congress prefigures this generation contract by stating the initial constituents of a basis of common values and by identifying directions of reflection and innovating experiments to build a foundation of a reconstruction of Africa.

A basis of shared values

The constitution of a basis of common values is essential since there cannot be a real and lasting peace and development without shared values and common long term perspectives on the future of the societies. The common values on which our continent can be built in the 21st century could be summed up in two principles:

  • Dignity restored, meaning the conviction of being in control of one's own destiny and the ability to do so;

  • Participation in the world to be built, meaning the awareness of a particular identity while participating in a humanity having a common destiny.

These could take the form of a vision of an Africa with a rich diversity and strong unity, compassionate, combining liberty and responsibility, favouring human development leaning on the past to build the future. Such values, from the uniting of African identity to a universal ethic, would enable the outlining of a common project for Africa and state the conditions for legitimate governing.

Working out propositions and common strategic actions

The African reconstruction needs the development of clear thinking and human networks to form it, to promote it and to put it into action. The general framework proposed to elicit policies and strategies of change depends on two methods: the exchange of experiences to benefit from the many multiple and promising local innovations which have appeared in many fields; "active subsidiarity"; from exchanging experiences, we do not get uniform plans but basic principles, everyone then putting into practice the necessary measures to apply the principles the best adapted to their specific use.

Promoting reconciliation and the building of a lasting peace

The Africa at the end of the 20th century is an Africa of violence, crossed by uncountable conflicts, tearing apart countries and communities and compromising all effort of development. Breaking vicious circles of violence; insuring reconciliation amongst Africans and within Africa itself: that is the double priority of our continent in this first year of the 21st century.

Africa has, within itself, in its traditions and practises, rich cultural resources to build peace. It also possesses the experiences of other societies. Reconciliation in Africa and the construction of peace will be the fruit of this mixture.

No conflict looks exactly like any other. However, it is possible to state the basic principles for reconciliation and for the way from war to peace. The first step for the reconstruction of Africa will therefore be an inter African conference on the challenges of building peace to wok out these basic principles. In each country, a coalition for peace could be made which would adopt a common charter based on these basic principles with continental modalities of monitoring the putting into practice of these principles.

To begin with, we propose the following basic principles which are grouped around four objectives:

Admitting the past

Reconciliation does not come from forgetting but from forgiving. Forgiveness itself is not repairing prejudice but recognising that prejudice, being irreparable, should be overcome. The work on memory, commissions on justice and the truth, effective judgement of those guilty, even if, and above all, they are publicly pardoned, participating in the necessary task of forgetting the past, essential for admitting and breaking the never ending cycle of justified revenge.

Repairing the harm done

All lasting conflict destroys economical and peace structures and creates the basis for an economy of violence, those engaged in violence having to keep it up to survive. The peace deal, made those who have left everything to take the path of violence, cannot be lasting. Political struggle and full scale delinquency dialogues a similar will to survive. A reinsertion plan for the belligerents together with the creation of the minimum professional and economical conditions is thus a prerequisite.

Organizing the present

Peace depends on confidence and faith in the sincerity of both sides. What to do if confidence does not actually exist, if the violence is based on denying each others humanity ? Changing from the view of the other side as an enemy to that of a partner is at the heart of making peace. From current African experiments, the following examples can be noted: the important involvement of traditional and spiritual leaders and of symbolic actions, national reconciliation conferences, guarantees given to minorities, training of police forces to the practice of human rights, etc.

Preparing the future

There won't be a future peace without common projects and perspectives. In this way, development is linked to peace, not as taken for granted, but as a common aim: operations should be set up, starting locally. In addition, building a peace culture veritably consists of a contract of generation, joining schools, the media, religious and political institutions, local facilities, etc. Peace institutions could also build up the necessary conditions for living together, by constituting the framework symbol of peace by guaranteeing the freedom of being different. Finally, let's not neglect the importance of sharing and solidarity: there is no lasting peace which institutionalises injustice or attributes the spoils of war to the winning side.

For all comments and information: write to Centre International Martin Luther King, BP: 14, Bujumbura, Burundi. E-mail:


* Extracted from the background document of the Congress, summary by Veronique Rioufol

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