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The Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Process

 Dr. Matin Royeen Ph.D.

The current peace discussions between Taliban and the Afghan representatives  in Doha, fundamentally deal with two vital issues.  How to reconcile past trauma, resolve the  current conflict by achieving peace that safeguards the national interest of Afghanistan.  I would like to share some thoughts about these two important topics that constitute the heart and soul of discussions between the two parties.

Peace scholars have written extensively about political conflict resolution and reconciliation in war-torn countries.  Some insights about peace by Johan Galtung may be helpful.  He discusses four important elements that constitute peace and are very relevant to the current discussions in Doha. Qatar.

  1.  Equity:  Cooperating towards mutual and equal benefits.  The challenge here is how to achieve equal benefits through a genuine spirit of partnership between the two parties.
  2. Hormony:  Establishing genuine empathy towards each other and experiencing/feeling  both the joy and suffering of the other as his/her own.
  3. Trauma:  Dealing with the scars of the violence of the past that has physically, emotionally and psychologically affected people during the conflict.  Coping with  trauma requires reconciliation.
  4. Conflict:  Establishing common ground in dealing with Incompatible goals with potential for violence.  Two  characteristics of conflict are polarization and dehumanization.  Conflict deals with current and future traces of violence that requires resolution.

Reconciliation is a dimension of peacebuilding that requires efficient management of conflict.  According to  John Lederach, reconciliation is about repairing/rebuilding damaged relationships that have caused so much suffering.

  1. Relationship Building:  It is important to engage the two sides as human beings who have suffered in the past and who have the same goals and aspirations towards a peaceful life.
  2. Face to Face Encounter:  Active engagement of the two parties helps to address the suffering of the past by expressing grief, loss, anger and injustice experienced by violence,
  3. Acknowledgement:  Honest communication, active listening and genuine understanding of each other contributes towards healing.
  4. Recreating Confidence and Building Trust:  Transformation or a desired change mentally, emotionally and personally must take place.  This  change requires  a strong will to accept this Personal Transformation as a strength instead of a weakness towards reconciliation.  Personal transformation by each participant will open the doors of opportunity for peace.
  5. Reconciliation requires Mercy:  The parties to the conflict come to terms with the past and chart a new beginning.  In order to achieve this goal, the parties must display acceptance, forgiveness, support and compassion.  Mercy is a prerequisite for Healing. 

Observations:  The journey for peace and reconciliation has begun.  The road to this ultimate destiny will be long and arduous. The protracted  bloody forty year conflict in Afghanistan has three dimensions.  First, in order to  end the  direct violence, the machinery of killings and terrorism should be stopped by parties to the conflict.  A temporary one month ceasefire can generate a great deal of goodwill and trust that are important towards ending direct violence.  Unfortunately, two other forms of violence serve as great obstacles toward peace,  and should also  be addressed.  Indirect/structural violence such unemployment, poverty, hunger, discrimination, poor governance and endemic corruption need to be addressed.  The third threat to peace is  Cultural Violence which includes clashing of values, belief systems and polarization of ethnic groups.  Dealing with these issues require mutual understanding, cooperation and long term social, economic and political reforms in which each Afghan can be vested.  Afghanistan will continue to need the support and cooperation of donor countries for years before it could become financially self-sufficient which is a prerequisite for National Sovereignty. 

While the peace discussions are underway, it is important that both the Afghan Government and the Taliban restrain from inflammatory and degrading remarks about each other.  While these derogatory comments may provide temporary catharsis for individuals, unfortunately it will inflict more damage to the peace process. 

The Great religion of Islam values mercy, compassion and forgiveness.  It is only under this spirit of cooperation and empathy that peace can be accomplished.  History has shown that it is a lot more challenging to  rebuild a nation than waging a war..  If it requires a village to raise a child, it takes a diverse group of citizens to rebuild a damaged nation.

Matin Royeen Ph.D. is an Afghan-American educator.

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