East Africa / Horn of Africa - Peace and reconciliation work / Dialogue Academies


September 16, 2008

Following years of devastating warfare, many countries and societies in the Horn of Africa are today still faced with the difficult task of dealing with the effects of war and the consolidation of peace. In many cases, the acute danger of state collapse continues. In addition to material reconstruction, the most urgent tasks are demilitarisation of the conflicts and establishment of civil institutions and processes of peaceful conflict resolution. Without tackling the social and psychological effects of war and reconciliation between the conflicting parties, sustainable peace in the entire Horn of Africa region and East Africa will be very difficult to attain.

Not only in the Horn of Africa, but in Uganda as well, resolving violent conflicts and dealing with war experiences continue to present challenges for society; primarily women are beginning to address them. In Uganda, the Heinrich Böll Foundation provides support to the international women’s rights organisation "ISIS-Women’s International Cross-Cultural Experience" (ISIS-WICCE) in implementing an exchange program for women from areas plagued by armed conflict, featuring workshops on non-violent conflict resolution as well as documentations and publications of the experiences of women from crisis regions.

"Peace and Reconciliation Work" is one of the components of the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s program on "Promotion of Civil Society in East Africa and the Horn of Africa." In this, reconciliation work is classified within concepts of civil conflict management. The goal is to impart civic education and public awareness to civil-society actors by way of trust-building measures; so-called "dialogue academies" illuminate the background of current conflict situations. These also strive to promote dialogue between participating conflict parties, as well as between various groups of society.

In the dialogue processes initiated by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the commonalities of the affected populations are place in the forefront. The Foundation views its role as a neutral dialogue partner for all conflict parties. Because the political conflicts in the Horn of Africa have a regional character, representatives of civil society from other countries in the region should participate in the dialogue process as early as possible. Also included should be experts from other parts of Africa, who can help smooth out discussion processes and broaden horizons. The people living in the Diaspora have an important role in the dialogue between the conflicting parties.

Women’s organisations make an important contribution to the peace and reconciliation process in the Horn of Africa, as well as to the democratisation process throughout the region, and are thus provided with special support.

On the international level, the Heinrich Böll Foundation supports and organises a series of conferences, which include participation by people from the affected countries in the Diaspora. This brings an intellectual and somewhat more objective perspective into the dialogue.

On the regional level, the Foundation’s regional office organises a variety of conferences and workshops on peace and democratisation processes in the Horn of Africa. On the national level, project partners of the Foundation include "Horn Relief" in north-eastern Somalia, an NGO which receives funding from the Foundation for implementation of a women’s forum to promote peace and the empowerment of women in Puntland; and "Sudan Forum for Peace" (SFP), which has formed a discussion platform and a type of Think Tank comprised of activists from various areas of society (politicians, businesspeople, intellectuals) from northern and southern Sudan to identify opportunities to resolve the current conflict.

A critical dialogue between the conflict parties in the region is developing rather slowly: this is due to the past of many societies in the Horn of Africa and East Africa regions, which have been dominated by violent conflicts, coupled with the still relatively weak civil society. The Heinrich Böll Foundation strives to promote and stabilise this dialogue, thus contributing to peaceful development in the region.