Keeping peace must go hand-in-hand with peacebuilding (Uganda)

(Reposted from: Daily Monitor. February 2, 2021)

By Edgar Buryahika Kavindi

The just-concluded presidential and parliamentary election was largely peaceful. President-elect Yoweri Museveni, while addressing the nation on January 16 after being declared the winner, referred to this election as the most peaceful and just election since 1962. This, he attributed to majorly the fingerprint detection machine that was used during voting. The ‘peace’ referred to during this election period was more of peacekeeping – the Internet was switched off, and security agencies were heavily deployed to deter a rise of any form of violence.

This was a decisive action taken by the State for the good of the country. Despite isolated cases of violence, the election was generally successful. On the other hand, peacekeeping without peacebuilding is not sustainable.

The different stakeholders need to go back to the drawing board and invest more in peace-building and be able to create a situation where we do not only focus on peacekeeping, but rather peacebuilding and peace sustenance.

While peacekeeping can only address the symptoms of a problem but the underlying causes will keep cropping up as they wait for an opportune time to show up and create violence and instability.

True, this was an election, but unless the underlying causes of violence we witnessed during the election process are not addressed decisively, they will keep rearing their ugly heads whenever opportunity avails itself. And you never know,  that opportune for violence may arise when we least expect it. Worse still, it may also find our peacekeepers unprepared.

Therefore, it is in national interest that the root causes of violence during elections in the country should be identified and addressed in the best way possible. This will spare the country the bother characterised by the rushed and radical measures such as switch off Internet or deploying heavy security during the election.

We need to keep asking ourselves many  questions: Why was the Internet switched off?

Was it actually being misused by a section of members of our society? Why was there heavy security deployment? Was there suspicion that people would cause violence at polling centres, burn fuel stations, what? Finding informed answers to these many questions will go a long way calming tension, the situation that often  characterises our elections.

In the preamble of UNESCO’s constitution, it is stated: ‘Since war begins in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” This, therefore, begs us to create a peace culture at an individual, community, national or international level. We should all embrace the values of tolerance, dialogue, respect, communication, forgiveness, justice, observe human rights-equal rights, democracy, and solidarity.

This can best be achieved by engaging the country’s youth, who constitute about 78 per cent of our population, in various productive activities.

Peace education, which goes hand-in-hand with human rights and justice at all levels, should be incorporated into our education system, and can significantly contribute to creating a culture of peace, which is sustainable. This notwithstanding, leaders need to be exemplary so that the youth can have role models to look up to when adopting a culture of peace. The willingness of policymakers is critical to ensure that a culture of peace replaces a culture of violence, starting with the youth today.

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