International peace initiators must allow local population own peace process – Supreme Court Judge

By Issah Mohammed

Accra, Nov 29, GNA – Justice Professor Henrietta Mensa- Bonsu, a Justice of the Supreme Court, has urged external peace initiators to stop setting peace priorities and foisting them on host nations and the local population.

She observed that sustainable peace building initiatives that lacked inclusive participation and sense of ownership only worked in short term, lacking needed commitment in the long term.

Such initiatives, she said, could also be abandoned as soon as proponents withdrew funding or focused attention on other theatres of conflict.

“The requirements of donors among other interest groups have to be respected but must not be so represented as to operate to obscure the requirement for national ownership,” she said at a conference on Sustainable Regional Peacebuilding in Africa: Practices and Disconnects.

The conference was organised by the Meridian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa (MIASA) 9th Interdisciplinary Fellow Group 9, which is made up of five scholars who have conducted collaborative research over a four-month period.

Speaking on the topic, “Sustainable Regional Peace Building: Reflections of an academic-practitioner”, Justice Prof Mensa- Bonsu said an approach to a sustainable peace building that had national ownership must respect the wisdom of the host community.

The Professor of law also advised that the dignity of the host community be kept in mind as international actors took the role of facilitators who provided support and observed the direction of the initiative’s progress.

She noted that in instances where the national ownership may require timeframes for programme execution that may not be in tandem with that of international institutions and /or international actors, it was important not to evoke an aggressive adherence to set timetables.

“The least important consideration to international actors should be the desire to showcase their achievements in the field and fill required reports of progress made in periods predetermined elsewhere than in the host country,” she added.

Justice Prof Mensa- Bonsu also said that while the concept of national ownership was important in sustainable peace building initiatives, it should not be taken to mean that the international actors could not suggest and initiate programmes they might consider as urgent.

“For instance, a host community that has endured a long-drawn-out conflict may be so broken that peace education may be a priority to help them mend their broken societies and avoid a relapse into conflict.

“It might also serve the ends of conflict prevention where peace education, particularly of the youth, is undertaken in earnest,” she said.