A foray into peacebuilding. Which is sadly not my expertise. The meeting reminded me of my organizing days, except there was more attendance and enthusiasm. But the discussion winded around a celebration of the now peaceful relationship between the two groups. The disagreement was over history and land. The two groups fought bitterly during the civil war so there are still some hard feelings. Then the government built a road connecting two towns. The land along this road was prime farming land (mostly rice but other crops as well, cassava, for instance). The land came under dispute as apparently the Mandingo group was more quick to plant than the Loma’s. It should be noted that this is land that had previously been cultivated by both groups but with the new road became specifically desirable.
It seems that before our peacebuilding meeting there had already been a consensus to divide the remaining uncultivated land in half and stop the expansion of the cultivated land onto new areas. Seemed relatively peaceful to me. It was difficult, I reiterate, to understand the complexities of the issue as everyone talked very fast, in thick dialects and sometimes other languages all together. But overall the tone was positive.
I learned a great deal from the organizer of the peacebuilding. I interviewed him and just by observation saw the tension in the process as well as his own role. He’s of the Loma and felt particularly out of place at the beginning of his tenure as a DEN-L organizer on this peace negotiation. As I’ve learned in class though, it is important for the negotiator to be partial in order to have some stake and some sway with the parties. A completely impartial observer (not that that can ever truly exist) doesn’t get the parties very far because s/he has nothing to offer either side besides an ear.
*The image is that of the organizer who talked with me and one of the community member’s baby. It’s cold in the bush!