Do you have peace? Peace be with you ! These are two essential ritual formulas when, from Praia to Djibouti, Sahelians meet. Peace is a major aspiration in the Sahel; it is undoubtedly more prized than ever, whereas it seems to desert the region. In the Sahel, what does peace mean? First of all, an end to acts of violence, attacks on people and populations. This supposes putting an end to the proliferation of weapons, conventional or not. In short, to apply the slogan “Silencing the guns” of the African Union.
Peace to better mobilize our resources
With independence and the end of apartheid, there is no longer a “just war” in Africa. Beyond their differences, Africans consider wars as the mother of plagues and want the continent to be freed from them. Who would not be happy to see the budgets devoted to the fight against terrorism mobilized to fight the real enemies of peace, which are ignorance, disease, hunger, poverty, exclusion, and promote fair development and inclusive?
Peace at the heart of the Manden charter
Peace is a social end because man is only realized in the community. The Manden charter, called Kurukan Fugan in Bambara, which African historians consider to be the first Constitution in the Sahelian space since it dates from the 13the century, is instructive: peace is enshrined in it as a human right.
Peace is assimilated to a state of well-being which can only be achieved by freeing oneself from everything that hinders the human being; in this case, the violation of the economic and social rights of citizens, fear, inequalities, deprivation, exclusion, racism, sexism. This peace is not given, it is won with the weapons whose names are: conciliating dialogue, patient listening, empathy, respect for otherness. In the mind of Kurukan Fugan, who makes peace a cardinal virtue, “all life is life” and, as such, deserves respect.
Peace, a condition of prosperity
If the GDP which counts as wealth armaments, the fact is that where the arms thunder, prosperity recedes. More than firepower, it is financial, scientific, technical, cultural and institutional capital that provides strategic advantage, both economically and geopolitically.
Peace, this friend of women …
In war zones, the condition of women is declining. Women die there in childbirth, because the few health centers are deprived of their midwives. Women are reduced to closed spaces where obscurantism reigns maintained by an outdated patriarchal order. When we know the role of women in the biological and social reproduction of societies, we know that the future is mortgaged each time they are silenced by the din of arms.
Likewise, the condition of youth is getting worse. In conflict zones, children, especially child soldiers, find themselves in great vulnerability. The same is true of young people who constitute the privileged recruitment pool for politico-mafia groups. For those who resist, migration, legal or not, is the only way to salvation. “The time of youth” is lengthening: unable to build a future for themselves, young people remain confined to the status of social cadets.
Sahelians must invest in the dynamics of peace …
This fight for peace in the Sahel must be supported as a priority by the Sahelians, but must be supported by the international community in a partnership approach. The Sahelians have the heavy task of creating the conditions so that violence is no longer the preferred way to resolve conflicts. It is up to them to implement systems of governance that guarantee justice and equity, and know how to “recognize dignity in the slave and in men celebrate intelligence” (Serigne Moussa Ka). Many Sahelian leaders are now working on it, but their efforts must be amplified.
And thus encourage their partners
The Sahel partner countries have the task of deploying the instruments of increased economic, scientific and technical cooperation, but above all renewed and innovative. Everyone has the need to accept, from the outset, that the partnership approach requires a long-term commitment.
Peace, a real emergency
Because it is getting late: those for whom millions of jobs must be created by 2030 have already been born. It is getting late, because with each passing day the ecosystems deteriorate further, the peasants, fishermen, pastoralists literally eating their ecological capital. It is in the name of the systemic nature of these risks and their threat to peace that the fight must be global. By fighting for peace in the Sahel, it is good for the planet that we are fighting. Peace, prosperity, peoples, partnership, the planet: the “5 Ps” that structure the United Nations 2030 Agenda have nowhere been more relevant than in the Sahel. It is time for the word to die, for action to intensify so that the hope of a Sahelian renaissance may live on.