Building peace from within. AU and The Berghof Foundation host week long workshop to train community peace builders

27 September 2021

Africa University’s College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance in collaboration with the Berghof Foundation is hosting a week – long workshop in peace and negotiation that will run from the 27th through to the 1st of October 2021 under the theme,  Building Peace from the Inside: Supporting Insider Mediation for Sustainable Transformation of Conflict. The aim of the initiative is to create peace agents within communities thus empowering them to resolve internal conflicts and overcome socio- economic challenges  that threaten to tear apart the fabric of society and the peace that is so essential for it to thrive.

This event is the first in a larger programme that consists of a series of workshops targeting transformation in the peace sector  from the ground up. The programmes’ funder, The  Berghof Foundation, was established during the height of the Cold War by Dr. Georg Zundel and now spans five decades of history. With a vision to unite and engage people constructively to find inclusive and peaceful ways to solve issues and grievances that affect them, the foundation has supported,  inspired, developed and empowered communities across the world for 50 years in partnership and collaboration with global partners like Africa University, to build a better world.

Drawing participants and practitioners from the civil society and government  who specialize in youth empowerment, human rights, peace and reconciliation, justice and religion, the workshop looks to engage persons who are actively involved in  and work for the community to enhance their impact in the respective critical needs areas in which they operate.

A number of alumni who have gone on to serve in the peace and justice sector as thought leaders and innovators of transformation were also part of the participants showing the continued success and impact of Africa University’s graduates.

On average , peace and the negotiations that lead nations and communities towards it are deliberated upon at high levels of government and leadership often excluding the voices of those who live with and are confronted by the negative implications of conflict in their daily lives. The approach to peace building is therefore in many instances a top down affair with little to no consideration of the needs and wants of the local population. Peace negotiators are also often brought in externally to solve conflict which can lead to a skewing of perceptions of conflict and the lived reality of those who have to deal with it therefore diminishing the sustainability and satisfaction with peace outcomes after the mediation and negotiation process has ended.

Interim Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Pamela Machakanja who read the official opening remarks on behalf of the Acting Vice Chancellor Rev. Professor Peter Mageto, alluded to this dichotomy between civil society and the peace process. She went on to highlight the importance of the workshop in bridging this gap.

“Through this workshop, we are bringing peace practitioners and the community closer. The work we do as an institution through these trainings complements and feeds into the policy framework of the Government of Zimbabwe as it drives the peace and mediation space in our country. We are looking to building peace from the grassroots level. You find that training in this skill begins at the top level  but the affected communities are largely excluded from the peace process when they are the ones who suffer the most.”

Interim Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Pamela Machakanja

Professor Machakanja went on to outline the stellar contributions that Africa University is making towards the creation of skilled negotiators and mediators to ensure a lasting peace on the continent.

“At Africa University we always say that leaders are made here, they serve here and they lead here in Africa . We believe that it is important to leverage in- country skills and capacity . As a university, we are working towards creating a critical mass of practitioners and professionals through our Master of Science in Peace and Mediation. We are also working together with the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission on a number of MOUs’ where we aim to roll out more initiatives and programmes that will enhance this great work in Zimbabwe. It is our duty to contribute positively to the efforts of the Government of Zimbabwe and our communities to bring lasting peace. The cost of not talking is grave and can be disastrous . Unresolved conflict leads to violence. Each participant in this workshop is a driver of change  and through you there is a window of opportunity to drive dialogue. You are bridge builders and go- betweens for the community.”