Our final session was interacting with Fambul Tok, a program in Sierra Leone that looked to reduce conflict between civil war actors in the war torn country. The entire session was very emotionally heavy as we saw videos and heard stories of children being flung around and smashed into the ground, of girls being raped by family members, of children killing their parents and loved ones. For me, this really upset me as the actions partaken by the people in the country directly went against some of my prime core values, and I couldn’t understand how even though these actions were taken place, and the peace process showed community members coming together, how almost easy it seemed for forgiveness and then amicability moments after was possible.
What really struck me about this session was the role play we had enduring the afternoon. We were assigned roles within a region in the country that had a history of conflict between two groups and had to develop action plans and coordinate with our various adjacents and subordinates regarding partnership and actions. What struck me during the presentation was the level of abosolute disconnect between us at the top, and those at the community level who were being affected by our designs and projects. There was no communication between the community groups and the national organizations, and a lot of our actions were built off the scripts we were given and not the actual needs of the people. What happened were plans developed that did not match their needs and would cause them more harm than they would good.
A lot of this mirrored the way real world peacebuilding and development can go. The lack of inclusion between local communities, the in pouring of top-down approaches within a country or region seen needed the most help, and the disconnect even between adjacents in terms of what was provided, true roles enacted by the organizations. It was a real eye opener for me to be careful of falling into the trap that development and donor dependency usually fosters, and causing more harm to communities that I intend to serve. As I continue my journey into peacebuilding, I must constantly be aware of this and try my best to be mindful of the community’s needs and desires by asking the community themselves and not assessing based off a case study – that to me is how agency will be best cultivated.