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Capacity Development for Peacebuilding in Africa in a Post-Covid-19 Pandemic Future


The African Union and European Union Summit took place between 17th and 18th February 2022 in Brussels. The summit brought together heads of state from African and EU countries to discuss solidarity, security, peace, and sustainable and sustained economic development and prosperity for citizens of the two unions. The Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on livelihoods featured prominently. As a contribution to the agenda of AU-EU Summit, a group of African and EU scholars met to deliberate on the type of collaboration needed to build on this balance between peacebuilding and fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. The continent of Africa was almost succeeding in putting off embers of conflict fires which had devastated the continent over six decades when the Covid-19 pandemic struck. The Ebola endemic of 2016 and 2019 was well managed and contained by WHO. During the two years of the Covid-19 pandemic scourge, the continent lost ground on key basic needs the ordinary people expected from their leaders. There were nine attempted coups in Africa and six were successful. Additionally, coup leaders found it harder to maintain the same stability their predecessors had begun to achieve. Models for peacebuilding and community cohesion already in existence were now in danger to be buried due to emerging challenges. In 2017 Kenya had led the way with the famous ‘handshake’ between the sitting president and the opposition as a model the world could learn from. For the two leaders to embrace ‘a handshake’ for peacebuilding, great humility and humbleness are required because the two leaders made it clear to all that the nation is bigger than individual egos. South Sudan followed and other countries too. Even the USA is copying the Kenyan model for peacebuilding to address internal inner-city conflicts. After any elections we witness heads of state swearing by their respective constitutions to protect their people and boundaries but after entering the state house they turn guns on their own people. They immediately see their own people as enemies. In the Kenyan case, the people who voted for the president and the opposition leader were not to be labelled as enemies but as one people who deserve support in meeting basic needs like medicine, vaccines, water, decent housing, education, employment, free movement across ethnic divide and respect for different faith perspectives. When there is no peace, every good effort goes up in smoke. With the pandemic even the little resource for peace disappeared.

Therefore, it was important to understand the importance of capacity building in appreciating peacebuilding and waging war on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Why do we have an economic imbalance during the Covid-19 pandemic? 

I was listening to Anna Marriot, Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager, while speaking on BBC radio (November 2021), when she criticized vaccine producers for boasting to have the experience and expertise of vaccine development, production and manufacture life-saving medicines and vaccines, but without any evidence to show how they (vaccine producers) were helping developing countries to acquire enough doses for their populations. That time only 3% of Africa had been vaccinated while the rich nations were hoarding vaccines. Oxfam had estimated from available records that Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna would make pre-tax profits of $34 billion by end of 2021 between them. It meant over a thousand dollar per second, $65,000 per minute and $93.5 million per day. Five new Billionaires had been produced from these monopolies during the pandemic, with a combined net wealth of $35.1 billion.

Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appreciated the call by Oxfam and AU-EU scholars. He added that “vaccine nationalism threatens to prolong the pandemic”. Hoarding vaccines, making profits from selling vaccines and denying Africa funds to address vaccine gap and peacebuilding were a recipe for conflict in Africa.

Peacebuilding affected by the Covid-19 pandemic

Pope Francis reiterated the importance recognizing people over profits during a Vatican conference on the post-pandemic future, as reported by Devin Watkins on 13th January 2022. The future will require a multisectoral approach to post-pandemic transformations. Sustainable peace and balance with new innovations will be key.

In a policy paper in 2021, ACCORD[1] discussed why peacebuilding in Africa has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is not just in Africa, but the current COVID-19 pandemic has changed the dynamics of human security globally. The ACCORD paper stipulates key concerns where the weak socio-economic outlook for states and citizens of Africa has been further exacerbated due to the negative impacts of the pandemic. COVID-19 pronounced disparities in security indices, known as the root causes of conflicts in Africa, and, more obviously, also exposed how health issues which are intricately interwoven with peace and security.[2] In a press statement released on 20th June 2020, the UN Commission on Peacebuilding in the Great Lakes region underlined the intersection between the Covid-19 pandemic and the disruption of economic activities in key sectors, such as health, education, transport, trade and tourism. National budgets were put under pressure, making it hard for the countries’ capacities to cope with and address peace and security challenges.

Therefore, more peacebuilders have recognised the intersection between peace and security, on the one hand, and the health pandemic on the other, and are responding in innovative ways to ameliorate the multiplier impacts in their communities. While some of them are strictly adhering to the ‘social distancing’ imperatives of the pandemic and biding their time for the pandemic to pass so they can return to their core peacebuilding mandates, others have adapted themselves to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. Those already mobilising adaptive measures, in particular, are in two categories: one group is responding to the pandemic as a threat to peace and security while the other is responding directly to the pandemic as a health issue.

Irrespective of the category’s countries in Africa, especially in the Horn of Africa, the call is for all stakeholders and the networks institutions, local and international organizations one belongs to, the common denominator is the resilience and innovations they are mobilising for the common good of the affected citizens under their care people and to add value to Africa’s peace and security efforts now and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

African indigenous knowledge and social teachings in peacebuilding

What must we do then to balance between peacebuilding and the Covid-19 pandemic? We identify capacity development, addressing peacebuilding within each country, promoting the principles and values that uplift each person out of poverty, suffering, irrespective of ethnicity, clan, region, or political affiliation. We need an ubuntu or utu philosophy in Africa where all people in power embrace humanity without discrimination. Among FBOs and African culture the imagery of the circle is very important. The circle has the centre which is for the divine and everyone else belongs to the circle. The circle does not discriminate nor separate anyone due to gender, race, or colour. Once you remove God from the centre of the circle and place a human person you will experience a dictator, oppression, extrajudicial killings, extermination of the other (see Jonas Kaleli, 1985, Ali Mazrui in the Africans, A Triple Heritage). Desmund Tutu adds that the essence of being human means, “I am a person through other people. My humanity is tied to yours”. He further explained “Ubuntu is the essence of being human”.

Therefore, if we embrace which means love, truth, peace, happiness, external optimism, inner goodness without discrimination of any person, then humanity is embracing the spirit of the divine. Wholeness in unity, diversity in unity. If Ubuntu is the essence of being human, the divine spark of goodness inherent within each human being, who has the power to end life not chase away their own people just because they have bene branded enemies? From the beginning of time the divine principles of Ubuntu have guided African societies. It is from this context that we question modern political leaders when they subject their citizens to great pain and suffering. The Covid-19 pandemic has brough pain to humanity. No one is spared then political leaders have been rubbing knives and bullets into the open wound of Covid-19. Why must the other suffer? Why must leaders punish those they do not like? Who says those are enemies and us are the good ones? In the African democracies, the context of Ubuntu or Utu means all are part of the circle and all will face justice for their crimes. Extend the circle of friendship to all and leave the centre to the divine.

What kind of capacity development is required for peacebuilding in Africa?

For better health service delivery in Africa, peace among nations and within the nations is key. Ordinary people are not interested in war but services that contribute to the common good, uplift each other’s dignity and spread humane desires as human beings. Like in most well-known practices among faith institutions there are African proverbs which state that when my neighbour bleeds I bleed, when my neighbor is hungry, I am hungry too, when my neighbour is not vaccinated and I am the only one vaccinated then I am not safe.

Capacity building then calls for actions that build, strengthen, maintain necessary and required competences and harnessing resources needed to sustain, improve health services for all people, especially vulnerable and underserved populations whether in enemy zones or not. Some of the capacity development activities in better public health delivery include technical assistance, training, fair data collection technologies for easy sharing, data interoperability, analysis and reusability for high quality material development and improving research. Universities in the north and west can collaborate with universities across Africa in this skill exchange to move towards developing own vaccines and other vital medicines to meet local demand.

The role of respective Governments Africa is to improve on capacity development of its leaders not to discriminate against its own citizens who are found in conflict zones. They should build capacity in public health and peacebuilding by improving on capacity development at all state levels, local regional levels, strengthen the healthcare safety net, advance shared public health goals with health resource and services administration.

International collaboration means stopping the politicization of healthcare and Covid-19

  • Actors- FBOS, National integration and cohesion commission in Kenya.
  • Region: All Africa Conference of Churches, with their partners across the globe, Tangaza University, Europe External Programe with Africa (EEPA), American Friends, All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), all recognize cohesion and peaceful coexistence and sharing in the common goods like vaccines to all citizens.
  • Through an Association of Member of Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA), SECAM, Dicastery for Integral Human Development at the Vatican, all concerned for peace and mobilizing adaptive measures for peaceful solutions and amicable handshakes for development, for better delivery of services.
  • Western-Europe-Africa peace initiatives, local community actors across border initiatives call for collaboration from the international community to build capacity that understands its own context and also recognizes the international law. UN-led Geneva conventions for all rights observances require all leaders to respect when in office.
  • The president of Kenya and UN Security Council initiatives recognize the nexus between peacebuilding and health care delivery as a right for all citizens. It means even prisoners, prisoners of war, those in captivity deserve the same rights as free people, whether passing through as refugees, migrants or stranded passers-by. The President of Kenya leading IGAD and UN Security Council for warring groups to ‘shake hands’. If it has worked in Kenya, it can work anywhere. But the right capacity of leaders immersed in humility is key.


We recognise the intersection between peace and security, on the one hand, and the health pandemic on the other. But capacity development has been hampered by conflict due to poor leadership. It calls for innovative ways to ameliorate the multiplier impacts in their communities.

Therefore, capacity development for peacebuilding in Africa should be taken as a precondition for collaboration among nations, across continents and with donors. There is need to find leadership that can apply a multiplier effect in arresting conflicts before they flare out of control. The African peace models have this methodology but it has not reached the international arena. You do not mitigate conflict with one lens but through multi layers of age sets. Just as youth cannot admonish elders without clear lines of dialogue and respect, so are elders not pushed to make irrational decisions by their youth. International peace groups cannot use same methods and models which do not suit local needs. In the post-pandemic future there is need to walk with people and not put profits over needs of people.


Key references

[1] The African centre for the constructive resolution of disputes ACCORD is a non-governmental, non-aligned conflict resolution institution based in Durban, South Africa.

[2] Press Release by the UN Peacebuilding Commission on the meeting on the Great Lakes Region 15 June 2020