Angelina Khaminwa

Angelina Khaminwa is a Program Officer for Outreach and Communication at the Co-existence Initiative. The Co-existence Initiative is an organization that works with peace builders internationally and is founded on the notion that human interaction begins with commitment to tolerance, mutual respect and agreement to settle conflict without recourse to violence. Ms. Khaminwa has published and presented papers on dispute resolution and the relationship between conflict and socio-cultural systems. She focuses her research on three main areas, including women in conflict, conflict resolution in her native Kenya, and conflict resolution in the United States public high schools. She has worked with student activists in the United States sub-committee, Senate sub-committee on immigration and as a mediator in the Massachusetts court system.

Commentary by Angelina Khaminwa

There is an organization in England called the Conciliation Resources and they put together a publication called The Court on a regular basis. They put together a special series in 1999 that reflected on the peace process in Northern Ireland. One of the authors of the article, Klem McCarthney, wrote a piece from which I will quote: “many who did not support a predominant system of sectarian politics found their sphere of activism in the trade unions, churches and neighborhoods, but they had little impact on the overall political situation. Most sectarianism society including the churches, were themselves divided about the most appropriate response to the conflicts and in these circumstances, intransigent voices were dominant, perhaps it was inevitable that violence would muffle the voices of those who support accommodation, intransigent voices speak a simpler and more forceful message that is easier to understand than the more intricate and less obvious argument in favor of cooperation and dialogue.”

I am actually going to pick up on Professor Emmert’s talk. He ended it by saying we need to break the cycle of terrorism and that is really what I want to focus on today. On September 12th, 2001, President George Bush gave an address to the nation in which he said, “the deliberate and deadly attacks which were carried out yesterday against our country were more than acts of terror, they were acts of war. War and acts of terror have been part of human life for millennia and will continue to be, not only in our generation, but probably in the generation of our children and our children’s children.

However, we do seem to be moving into an age in which war is more terrifying. Players in conflicts range from rebel groups to businesses. Large numbers of civil populations are being targeted and killed. Terror is being used on non-militarized groups. For example, the attacks on New York and Washington, the mutilation of women in the mass raids that were used in Bosnia, the withholding of food as a tactic of war in Southern Sudan, and kidnappings in countries such as Russia and Columbia. In addition, ethnicity and identity are being used as rallying calls to war and combat, in a very weird way, extending from highly technical and robotic destruction to hand-to-hand mutilation and murder. So it is imperative that we shift the way we think of war, the way we think about peace and the way we think about conflict.

In preparation for this, I was looking at the title of this event, “Negotiating With Terrorists and Non-State Actors”. Let’s talk about non-state actors for a little bit. We have talked quite a bit about terrorists. The definition of non-state actors that I had pulled up to date, they are armed opposition groups who act autonomously from recognized government. Included in this category are rebel groups, the regular armed groups and sergeants, dissident armed forces, guerillas, liberation movement, freedom fighters, and de facto territorial governing bodies. The title of this roundtable bothered me because it made it sound as if terrorist and non-state actors were the same thing, when in fact, terrorists are an example of non-state actors. Let’s just kind of keep that in mind. There absolutely is no doubt that terrorists are evil. That there is evil out there, they will harm, they will kill and that we do need to protect ourselves against that. However, the use of force, as a reaction to these acts, is effective in quelling the direct violence. However, it does very little to affect long term change and that should be what we are interested in. Frank Emmert says that we should think about becoming an active society. How do we become an active society? Not by retaliating and creating short-term solutions, but by looking at ways in which our societies are institutions that can interrogate concepts that will reduce these acts of terror.

Alternative Dispute Resolution is a series of mechanisms and tools but it is also an approach. Just on the side, I had another problem with the title of this workshop and I wanted to step away from negotiation and talk more about broader conflict resolution/dispute resolution. It is not just negotiation. ADR provides useful frameworks, processes, and languages for identifying, analyzing and resolving conflicts. Through ADR we can do things that seem basic but are critical to the peace building process. Again, picking up on something that Frank Emmert said, there is a need to identify who is being addressed. Are you addressing the people who are out to kill others? Or are you addressing the non-violent sectors of an organization or a movement? So through ADR we can address some of these issues. We can acknowledge that non-state actors engaging in violence may have issues or disputes that they see as legitimate. To some extent, it is irrelevant as to whether or not we see the issues as relevant or legitimate. ADR processes can engage multiple actors in this process of resolution. ADR can provide an opportunity for the verbalization of alleged, perceived or real grievances. And ADR can create a process that can produce a result that is accepted by all parties.

The ADR approach is one that is closely linked to idea of coexistence, which is the idea that communities can live together without recourse to violence. Whether or not they are living in complete social cohesion or just basically sharing a space is encapsulated in this whole idea of coexistence. It acknowledges that conflict can be resolved in a non-violent manner. ADR allows us to examine the complexities of conflict by providing us with tools to resolve present crisis and to provide ways in which existing, new and emerging societies can institutionalize strategies that effectively address and resolve conflict. And there are a couple of underlying assumptions that we need to take with us when we think of moving towards an active society and in creating ways in which we can stop terrorism in the long term. And I am going to list a number of them here:

First, the resolution of conflict is fundamental to the creation of sustainable peace. Terrorism is seen as a media event and I think we should start to think of terrorism not just as a media event, an event that is trying to capture our attentions, but as a conflict event, an event that is trying to highlight a conflict that exists, whether or not we think that it is a legitimate conflict. And sustainable peace, what does that mean? I got a quote from Hobbs in which he says, “for war consisted not of battle only or the act of fighting, but an attractive time wherein the will to content by battle is sufficiently known, the nature of war consisted not in actual fighting but in the known disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary, and that time is peace”. So again, we have to think about peace in a much broader way, it is not just about combat, but it is about the very environment in which we live in.

Second, eliminating those who commit the terror attacks without an analysis of their reasons is likely is to reduce the incidences of violence in the short term but not in the long term. Again, we should stop dealing solely with the manifestations of conflicts and look deeper and really make a distinction between violence and conflict. Resolving conflicts, especially those marked by considerable pain and histories, takes time. It requires the efforts of multiple sectors, multiple actors and resources. There is no simple solution. A collaborative approach should be utilized, one that recognizes the benefits of different types of actions at different times. For example, the need for the persecution of individuals who enact heinous crimes. Negotiating with non-state actors does not mean that we are absorbing the terrorist of their crimes. Again, we need to separate the violent act from the non-violent movement.

Conflict resolution is as complicated as conflict. ADR allows societies to address conflict and conflict resolution at the state, community and individual level. Strategies to do this include: restorative justice, community-based dialogue, integrated education, human rights education, peer mediation, reconciliation processes and problem solving workshops. Dealing with conflict is as much about resolving specific conflicts as it is about building institutions that reflect concepts of peace, social justice and diversity. We need to think about not just the actors, the people who are going out to kill, to bomb, but we need to think about the communities from which they are springing and how do we go into these communities and try to engender peace, social justice and diversity? And the last point is that the international community is really still fine-tuning its strategies. We are on a very, very long journey to peace and we need to take this into consideration as we start to chart action and start to make plans that may or may not be useful. We have to realize that we need to learn lessons from every action that we do.

And finally, I wanted to end with a quote from today’s New York Times, Paul Crugman in an article said this morning, “Mr. Bush apparently regard Saddam Hussein as a pushover, he believes his advisors who tell him that Iraq war will be quick and easy, a couple of days full of shock and awe followed by a victory parade, even if it does turn out that way, is this administration ready for the long, difficult, quite possibly bloody task of rebuilding Iraq?” This question is not just specific to the U.S., but it is a question that the global community has to take into consideration when we are dealing with terrorists, when we are thinking about addressing or retaliating against them. Are we, as a global community, beyond retaliating with military force? Are we ready for the long, difficult, quite possibly bloody task of rebuilding?