Mission of Peace-building in Darfur

Apolline Bergier          April 20, 2012
Reading time: 3min

Passionate about conflict resolution through mediation, Randall Butler created, in 2007, the Institute for a Sustainable Peace (ISP*). He shared with us his experience and those of his colleague in the ISP, Makki Ibrahim Makki, with the leaders of “Fur” and “Bin Mansur,” two Darfur Tribes, which have been at war for over 10 years.

Makki Ibrahim Makki and the town's mayor speaking to the residents of El Malam

How did the Peace-building  process take place in Sudan?
The people of the Sudan have been at war with each other for over 50 years since independence. The Darfur region has been the scene of a civil war for the past 8 years. Although a peaceful relationship appears to be in progress, it remains extremely fragile and under considerable pressure. I have heard many times that “Sudan is a culture of violence exclusively.” In such a context, initiating a reconciliation process can only be possible if a group of influential individuals, of leaders (political, media, NGOs), is willing to end such conflicts and to change the situation. These leaders must possess means to act and must be able to mobilize a wide network locally.
Through the use of training workshops in the USA, the ISP’s mission has been to provide them with the means and tools to act in their country and among their tribes and communities. Between 2007 and 2010, the ISP has gathered 75 opposed leaders (politicians, rebels, human rights activists, journalists…) from all regions of North and South Sudan and the Diaspora.. The added value of this type of training workshops lies in its inter-ethnic and inter-tribal character. 
A Peace-building process, according to the ISP, occurs in 3 phases:
  • Reconciliation: the initial step is to build bridges to communicate and attempt to understand each other, in order to allow the leaders in conflict to realize on their own that they possess common values and aims, to share them and then start to build a relationship based on trust.
  • Reformation: how to improve the leaders’ capacity to work together to reform and renew societal structures and processes to make them more just, collaborative and inclusive of all members of the society.
  • Reconstruction: which common future is to be considered? And how to build it?
In October 2011, following this workshop, Makki Ibrahim Makki, one of the participants from Darfur in the training and manager of the project in Darfur, returned to his hometown of El-Malam, in order to explore the possibility to initiate a reconciliation process between the “Fur” and “Bin Mansur” Tribes. He first met separately with several leaders from both tribes to persuade them of the interest in working together toward reconciliation, and to identify the existing obstacles to a peaceful coexistence. Some time later, he brought them together in order to ease the tensions between both groups. It was time to forgive the past and to consider a common future. The last meeting involved all of the residents from El-Malam, including women and children from both tribes. This aimed also at encouraging millions of displaced individuals to return home.
One of the first decisions taken was to consolidate peace consisting in rebuilding El-Malam’s market, which had been destroyed during the war. The market had been a strategic crossroads between the 2 largest towns in Darfur, where different tribes used to sell or exchange their goods. But, beyond that, the market was also a place for human and cultural exchanges. People from all tribes would gather and converse over coffee. El-Malam’s market was a true symbol of unity in Darfur.
What are your hopes for Sudan and South-Sudan?
I hope that the leaders from the conflicting tribes will think together of common good, that they will consider a common future.
Peace within society does not simply consist in the absence of violence. It is a very active dynamic. I often remind the participants that “when you believe you have managed and reached peace, you are probably losing it because you are not working on it anymore.”
How does your faith echo with your engagement in ISP?
I try to express my faith through my work with ISP by giving unconditional love to each and every one of the participants.
Some Christian friends ask me: “Why isn’t the ISP a Christian Institute? How can you convey and build peace without leading people to Christ first?”
I believe that Christ loves everyone irrelevant of one’s choices. I want to be able to have profound conversations and friendships with people who do not share my faith.
To know more about the Institute:  http://www.sustainablepeace.org/
* : Created in 2007, ISP’s mission is to reconcile leaders of groups in conflict, train them to work together in their diversity and mentor them as they serve their communities.