Research project

Community participation - conflicts - peace

Peacebuilding is an intervention model that emerged in the 1990s. It postulates that traditional diplomatic mechanisms of conflict management, involving exclusively the representatives of belligerent parties, is no longer sufficient. Populations’ participation in the peace process has mainly led to NGOs’ involvement, to whom donor agencies have delegated the responsibility for “organizing” populations’ participation. In Casamance, as in other post-conflict areas, one of the most popular strategies for promoting participation is the establishment of peace committees: a group of people is designated to prevent and manage disputes arising at the village level. Against the background: the idea that small conflicts’ accumulation could fuel again the great independence conflict.

Often presented as an original and popular intervention mechanism, committees are rather the result of the standardisation of peacebuilding’s strategies. The need to build intervention from the bottom is systematically advocated from the top. The objectives of participation, its methods and functioning are prescribed from the outside; especially since there are many different mechanisms of conflicts’ resolution in the village societies. In the absence of social anchoring, those set up by NGOs are rarely used. This exteriority systematically raises the question of the appropriation of these mechanisms by the populations. This often leads to manipulation. Far from the sought for impartiality, committees are used in strategies of material, economic or political capitalization. Furthermore, village conflicts, essentially related to land property, as well as the independence conflict have political origins that committees are not in a position to address. In this way, they aspire to the treatment of the symptoms rather than causes.

For the last fifteen years in Casamance, peacebuilding has benefitedfrom funders’ craze, giving rise to the commercialisation and massification of peace actions. As illustrated by the proliferation of peace committees, interventions are not judged by their results, on the basis of the benefits that they affirm to provide.They are valued and replicated according to their competitive value on the development market.