Hopefully it can be said that all our previous issues have in a general way been about conflict and peace. We are, after all, trying to live up to the name of this journal by publishing material related to conflict and dealing with conflict, especially in Africa. This issue, however, has turned out to be very specifically focused on conflict and peace. Three of the five articles are about war, one is about civil-military relations and one about social conflict.
In the first two, horrible realities of war are described and discussed. In each case, however, the discussion includes more than issues related to the suffering of the people concerned. Recommendations are made with regard to retributive and pro-active measures.
In the first article the focus is on the physically violent looting of communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by ruthless soldiers and rebels, and on the structurally violent plundering of state funds by relentless, self-enriching politicians. Suggestions are given for promoting human rights and social justice, democracy, good governance, accountability and transparency.
The first part of the second article provides us with an overview of two decades of brutal fighting through which northern Ugandan rebels tried to regain political power. A brief explanation is given of the vicious repression that triggered savage retaliation. The main focus is on the persistent ‘resistance’ of an ‘army’ fighting – and committing atrocities – under a religious banner. The second part of this article is devoted to the debate around the most effective approach to end this intractable civil war. Pardoning, reconciliating and forgetting can be pursued by means of legal and traditional mechanisms. Or retributive justice can be brought to bear on the perpetrators, especially the accountable and culpable leaders.
The third article is also about war, but in a different way. It explores a paradigm shift from destructive war fighting to military activities of a constructive kind. It shows how leaders are beginning to realise that a changing environment seems to be reducing the possible ‘benefits’ of traditional wars. New perspectives adopted by political leaders in Africa are discussed. Attention is given to security policies oriented towards constructive and cooperative military operations, and to ways of phasing these in where older-fashioned military conservatism still predominates. Some are also harbouring the vision of a warless future, not only as something to be tentatively mentioned, but as a drawing power with transformative potential.
In the fourth article the coordination between the military and civil society is discussed, especially with regard to post-conflict peacebuilding operations. The importance of addressing the root causes of a conflict and promoting social justice and sustainable peace is emphasised. Improvements in policy formulation and implementation are recommended.
In the last article we move from the intra-national and international political context to the intra-community social context. Socially acceptable and accepted ways of expressing existing or emerging conflicts are described and discussed. The value of the availability of such methods becomes clear. After all, talking about a conflict can prevent or take the place of fighting. In so many cases, however, talking is either carelessly postponed or fearfully avoided or deliberately rejected as an option. Anything that can prompt, facilitate or encourage the breaking of silence can therefore serve a very good purpose in this regard.
We trust that the set of articles in this issue will inspire readers to think critically and creatively where a social, political or socio-political conflict is brewing, emerging or raging, or where such a conflict has been resolved, and to share such thoughts with others who may be willing to cooperate in dealing appropriately with the situation at hand.