Civil society initiative empowers community conflict resolution mechanisms
The available land in Kondoa has for years been faced with conflicts, sometimes deadly, between farmers and livestock keepers in the district. This has divided communities and even caused insecurity.
“Land conflicts in this district were very prevalent for a very long time, due to land for both agricultural production and livestock keeping. We have very vibrant farming and livestock keeping communities all vying for the same limited land” states Mr Andrea Izigga Ng’hwani, the Kondoa District Administrative Secretary.
Civil society intervenes, promotes community participation to find solutions
Many land conflicts threatened the way of life for people in the district and its Town Council.
“We have had a conflict between farmers and livestock keepers for twelve years in Dissa Village. On multiple occasions, this threatened peace and our way of life here. All efforts by authorities failed to resolve them” says Mohammed Mkwakwata, Deputy Chairman of Peace Committee at Kisese Ward, Kondoa.
Foundation for Civil Society supported a community-based Civil society organization, Tanzania Peace, Legal Aid and Justice Centre (PLAJC) based in Dodoma that focused on building the capacity of the communities in Kondoa on conflict resolution and peacebuilding. The project followed an earlier assessment of the conflict and the negative effects on residents, farmers and livestock keepers in Kondoa communities. The assessment also aimed at finding a lasting solution to these conflicts, and more importantly a community mechanism that directly involves conflicting communities and their local leaderships.
“Our conflicts were about people vying for pastoral and farmlands. It needed us, people, to sit down and talk. Not use force” says Ramadhani Mkuki, Secretary of the Kisese Peace Committee.
The PLAJC intervention was implemented in Kondoa district and dwelt with resolving conflict between mostly farming and livestock keeping communities. The project facilitated the formulation of community peace management platforms that involved key community members. Their mandate was to coordinate all peacebuilding and conflicts resolution efforts in their communities. Each Ward formed its platform. The platform included farmers, pastoralists, village leaders, LGAs leaders, religious leaders and influential people in the communities.
Each Peace Committee had five members from all villages in the Ward. For Kisese Ward outside Kondoa Town, the committee constituted members from Sauna, Dissa, Madisa, Mapinduzi and Ata villages. These platforms then underwent training on the whole process of community peacebuilding and conflict resolution. The training sessions included community conflicts identification and the basics of land laws and policies.
“Peaceful conflict resolution and peace management are good for any community. We are encouraged to pass on what we have learned through generations. This is more an active approach than a reactive one, as it involves different members of the community who live in the areas where they witness conflicts” says Kondoa DAS.
Community Peace Committees at work
The peace committees have been trained and follow a rigorous process that they later perfect in their communities accordingly. It’s objective, open and fair to both sides of any conflict. The step by step approach includes:
Case reporting: Each village member is charged with the duty to observe, follow up and present cases from his/her community. The parties involved and the village leadership must be involved at this stage. The cases at this stage are discussed, agenda set by the Peace Committees and decision to meet both parties involved in a conflict is reached.
Parties invited for preliminary discussion: Both sides of the conflict are then invited to discuss their issue with the Peace Committee. Few members from both parties get the invitation. Each party gets an equal chance to state their case before the platform and the other side. Both sides need to meet face to face with the Committee at this stage to diffuse any hostility between them.
Conflict site visit: After the first discussion, the Committee and parties involved in the conflict are then invited to a site visit to assess the pertinent issue involved. This will include inspection of the boundaries, talking to neighbours and community members. Both parties involved in conflict continue to have a face to face discussion in front of the Peace Committee, where issues of anger and hostility are being carefully observed to gauge whether the discussion should continue or be referred to authorities.
Consensus proposal: After all details and issues have been discussed, the Peace Committee sit down for a judgement proposition which is presented to both parties to end the conflict with both sides having a win-win situation.
Informing the authorities: When both conflicting parties agree to a resolution, in most cases new boundaries are indicated, the Peace Committee inform the authorities in the process to provide official demarcations and other directives. These are then used for legal paperwork if ownerships and new boundaries are set.
Impact of community peace committees
Athumani Mvimbiri, farmer at Migongani sub-village, in Kondoa: “The conflict in our village threatened our livelihoods. It was getting dangerous and out of hand as we started moving around with local weapons. Our community was divided; we never cooperated in social events like burials and weddings, which in our customs is the highest point of animosity. But the work of the Peace Committees in our village stopped all that and united us again. We realised there were bad apples in our community that inflamed these conflicts for their interests“
Khalid Hoti, livestock keeper, Dissa village in Kondoa: “The source of our conflict here was land. We all wanted the same land, and no one was ready to cave in. It got so bad that fights were getting normal, and we had to call for the Police to intervene. This community peace approach was very unique. It forced those who were fighting to sit down and talk face to face with the elders and other important people in the village, so it was easy to dissipate all the pressure and communal tension. It helped us restore our way of life“
Community-focused peacebuilding and conflict resolution brought a new dawn to a district that is prone to rampant conflicts mainly between the farming and livestock keeping communities. In addition, this gave the communities involved direct participation in the discussion and consensus-building.
Following this initiative by PLAJC, the communities of Kondoa district benefited from the following:
Hostilities diffused and communities united
The Peace Committee in Kisese Ward managed to resolve a 12-year conflict that had ravaged Dissa Village and even caused insecurity and division in the community. Despite multiple attempts by the authorities, no resolution was reached all these years until this ‘by the community, for the community’ approach implemented by PLAJC came into effect. This is one of the successful conflict resolution cases officially reported and recognised by the authorities. The consensus reached and agreed enabled both farming and livestock keeping communities to live side by side.
Civil society is the voice for the masses that collaborate and supports the government in implementing development projects that are aimed at improving the lives of the citizens. This civil society contribution is evident in the years and effort by the civil society organisations working in thousands of communities in the country.
“It is no secret that the government highly value the civil society work in our society. For Kondoa district, I am impressed and amazed by the civil society work’s results that are impacting the lives of the communities. This is particularly in the area of peacebuilding and conflict resolution among the farmers and livestock keepers” says Madam Sezaria Makota, the Kondoa District Commissioner.
She adds that the government prefers working together with civil society at all times. The government commitment and support from national to district levels provides the CSOs with sectorial technical support and guidance on projects implementation.
“PLAJC work in promoting and building community peacebuilding and conflict resolution capabilities in this district goes in line with our plans and efforts. It is assessment-based, invests in community education and awareness, and more importantly focuses on long term effects in the communities” states Kondoa chief administrator, Mr Ng’hwani.
The government works with communities Peace Committees by providing legal and enforcement assistance when consensus and resolutions are reached to resolve land conflicts in Kondoa. The Land Office at the district council takes the lead in demarcations of resolved lands while the District Peace Committee oversees the enforcement of the consensus, agreement and community peace and tranquillity thereafter.