Think Piece

Education for Peace in Africa

 

By Horace Campbell

 

                Ethnicity, Gender and Militarism

 

Amilcar Cabral had warned in Guinea that although ethnicity constituted an important factor for the people, divisions of class, religion and gender are also important. Throughout the African continent there have been analysis on the ethnic nature of warfare and "civil wars" but far less recorded in relations to class and gender base of military struggles. So far the gendered nature of warfare and conquest has in the main eluded scholars and commentators on war and peace. This is a crucial area of investigation and teaching since this analysis shifts the discussion of peace to the social relations of power between men and women at all levels of social reproduction.

 

A gendered analysis of war and peace would explore the construction of social relations at all levels, the homestead, the village community, the school, institutions of spiritual reflection, in cultural activities such as dance, the bureaucracy, the coercive forces and in economic relations.

 

Such an analysis would focus on how men are socialised to be warriors and are portrayed as valiant while women are portrayed as weak and vulnerable. Gender violence can be traced to the ideas of male valour and the warrior traditions which when translated in the minds of young males equate physical power and masculinity. Young males are socialised to fight at an early age and the use of physical force and intimidation is presented as a problem solving while negotiation is left to the girls who are less physically disposed to use force.

 

More than twenty years ago thoughtful scholars exposed the bankruptcy of the warrior tradition in Africa when this tradition served to oppress the producers rather than mobilise against foreign domination. African women have suffered from the militarism and coercion of dictatorships and they continue to be the most ardent supporters of peace. It is however true that women are complicit in the socialisation of males since as mothers they are the first and most educator in the society.

 

Lessons of peaceful living are communicated by parents and women are involved in the most fundamental nurturing exercise in society, the survival of the young. Many women who provide crucial education in the early years are not consulted at a later stage and the formal educational system excludes and oft times discriminates against women at the higher levels.

 

 The struggles against intimidation in institutions of higher education and against sexual harassment of girls becomes an important component of the peace narrative and education for peace as women's groups are growing demanding that the centrality of women in the educational formal and informal process be recognised. Through international organizations such as UNIFEM African women are developing new avenues for expressing the concepts of peace which demystifies the link between the personal and the political. Women in Africa are the forefront of a more robust definition of peace as freedom from all sources of oppression.

 

This thrust by progressive women has forced the governments of Africa to pay more attention to issues of peace and in an effort to seize the initiative from serious women and men, the wives of the Heads of State in 1997 convened the First Ladies Summit on Peace and Humanitarian Issues. It was ironic that this meeting was held in Nigeria and that the meeting was chaired by Mrs. Maryam Abacha, the wife of a military dictator. The very social forces which maintain the old colonial relations, have now joined in the call for peace. This initiative expose the opportunism of state feminism in Africa (officially sponsored women's organizations led by the wife of the head of state) and demonstrates the necessity for a clear class analysis when dealing with gender and militarism Fatima Babiker, starting from an explicit Marxist position had paid close attention to the forms of women's organizations on the continent of Africa. She pointed out the fact that there are basically three forms of organization on the continent:

 

a)      The state supported women's movement which is usually conservative and reinforces the patriarchal image of women as mothers;

b)      Liberal organizations which want women to have the same position as men, equality in the state without changes in the class structure and production relations and;

c)      Those organizations dedicated to the emancipation of women including the transformation of gender relations and gendered identities.

 

That the OAU in 1997 established an African Women Committee on Peace and Development at the 1997 summit should be seen in the context of the conservative attempts to coopt the womens movement in Africa. This same OAU remain divided on dealing with the carnage which continues in a number of countries. Moreover, these leaders oversee economies were there is massive structural violence as well as direct violence against women in the form of battering, rape, and other forms of abuse. Because the question of the relationship between sex and conquest, between state violence and domestic violence and between gender and politics has been underdeveloped in the context of nationalist politics, the discussion on gender is raising the level of the discussion on peace. This process of developing a new intellectual culture and a new educational infrastructure is slowly growing out of the disillusionment with the all class and politicized narratives of the politicians who dominate the state structures in Africa.

 

Education for Peace in Africa.

 

Education for peace raises both the questions of education and peace. While it is out of the scope of this paper to explore the nature of the educational system, it is noteworthy that most authorities agree that the present educational structure does not serve the needs of social reproduction in African society. Social reproduction, that is the recreation, from one phase to another of the conditions, enabling a society to function, usually brings to mind the reproduction of all the elements necessary for the continuity of production. In the context of the societies of Africa, as elsewhere in Pan African world, education forms an important aspect of the conditions necessary for continuity.

 

Formal education, therefore in Africa is not neutral with respect to gender, class and racial conditions.

 

The issues of the gendered structure of the educational system are linked to questions of the democratization of access to education and education for peace. In 1989, UNESCO, in a study on Prospects of Education for all underscored African cultural identity as the springboard toward the development process. In the "Conference of Ministers of Education and Those Responsible for Economic Planning in African Member States" that have been organized starting with the first one in Addis Ababa in 1961, the same agreement has been made; viz, that Africa needed culture-oriented education, that would ensure the survival of African cultures, if it emphasized originality of thought and encouraged the virtue of creativity. Scientific appreciation of African cultural elements and experience is considered to be a sure  way of Africans to see science as a means of understanding their cultures and as a tool to serve and advance their cultures. It is now agreed that peace and a culture of peace is a fundamental requirement of cultural renewal in Africa.

 

Since African women are at the forefront of social reproduction it is generally accepted that the education of girls remain one of the cornerstones of future transformation. During the period of the struggles against colonialism, the slogan of education and liberation underscored the centrality of education in the process of class and racial selection. What was missing in this period was a clear understanding of the gendered underpinnings of the system. The whole debate about democracy and peace in Africa has to be informed by a clearer understanding of the place of women and men in the educational system.

 

The fact is that even when an educational system is committed to providing equal opportunities for all children, and by means of generalized examinations and scholarships, ensures the highest degree of social mobility, it still has a limited democratic impact owing to the class and racial divisions of society and the inequalities in culture and general knowledge transmitted outside the schools system, by the family and the social milieu. It is this milieu which perpetuates gender discrimination by reinforcing patriarchal ideas on the place of women. In the context of Southern Africa where European settlers which have constituted the dominant economic groups that has shaped educational policies and social norms these same elements attempt to shape the discussion on education for peace. In this apartheid context as in the colonial context throughout the continent, knowledge about African culture, including the educational institution and its epistemological foundation and gender vision, has been ignored.

 

It is in this sense that the developing discussion on the transformation of gender relations is also tied to the transformation of the educational system. It is generally agreed that Africa needs a new educational system, properly rooted in both society and environment and therefore apt to generate the self confidence from which imagination springs. It is this challenge of developing the cultural and social self confidence of all pupils, both boys and girls which is at the core of the discussion of both access to education and the quality of education.

 

This discussion is also central to the discussion on peace.

 

Can peace be defined or is it a process?

 

Reference has already been made to the differing concepts of peace which emanated from the period of the French Revolution. The important point about this reference is that throughout all phases of European history the formulation of international laws relating to peace and solving questions of war did not consider the humanity of Africans. Peace enforcers who were sent across borders to put down threats to the modern state structure and to keep peace accepted colonial oppression as the natural order of things. For decades the accepted definition of peace was the absence of war and the absence of armed conflict. This definition of peace has been the one which inspired the fathers of international relations and the

international jurists.

 

One of the founding fathers of international law whose treatise "On the Law of war and Peace" contained the vision of an impartial legal system presented a vision of peace being enforced by states and a law of peace with consistent rules for international dealings, and a separate law of war that offered moral parameters for the conduct of war. From the time of the Treaty of Westphalia which ended the thirty years war in Europe in 1648 there has been attempts by European states to develop a concept of world order and peace.

 

Throughout the period of the nineteenth and twentieth century up to the period of the Second World War there were conventions (Geneva and Hague) which were promulgated to govern the conduct of war. However, these models were state centered depending on the governments to enforce laws and international treaties to ensure peace. However, when these conventions were being written Africans were not considered humans or having the right to sovereignty. In fact the international treaties between Europeans guaranteed their military occupation of Africa which was sealed at the Conference of Berlin in                 1885.

 

This conference generated a treaty among Europeans to bring peace to Africa by stamping out slavery. In effect, the articles of the Conference of Berlin outlined conquest as peace enforcement in Africa. The second model of Peace in Europe which emanated from the founding of the League of Nations in 1919 crafted a system of mandates and protectorates which supported colonialism on the grounds that there were certain peoples" not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world." In essence, when the International Labour Organization (ILO) was founded in the aftermath of World War I to stamp out forced labour and conditions of slavery, the ruling classes in Britain, France, Belgium and Portugal were at that moment codifying coercion and force as the fundamental form of alienating the labour of the African peoples.

 

The problem of individualism, the market and structures which devalue the life of Africa and hence being a threat to peace has been a constant feature of the international system. This has been explored in the book on Human Rights in Africa by Issa Shivji who drew attention to the fact that after more than one million Africans lost their lives in World War I, when the USA and the victors were speaking of peace and self determination, the political leadership of the West then thought that there was a danger of putting the ideas of peace and self determination into the heads of colonised persons.

 

Horace Campbell is a professor at Syracuse University Email: campbell@harare.iafrica.com

 

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