Joanna Slater of the Washington Post reports from New Delhi that this is the first such announcement between the two Asian neighbors since such sporadic cross-border firings began in 2003. In the Post correspondent’s view, this is a potentially significant move between India and Pakistan toward reducing strife that has threatened peace in the subcontinent all those years.
Ms. Slater adds: “Bashir Ahmad Wathloo, 45, lives on the Indian side of the border. His aunt was killed three years ago when she was unable to flee incoming shells from the other side with the rest of her family.”
On February 26, her on-scene account added: “Mr. Wathloo was sitting with friends in front of a neighborhood store. This was an activity he had avoided for more than a year after cross-border shelling intensified. The mood in the village was festive.
“It felt good to be outside without fearing for one’s life,” the Indian villager concluded. A vivid illustration of what a peace accord can produce.
RECONCILIATION SEEDS WITHIN DIVIDED SOCIETIES
Let’s head to Senegal, in West Africa. Its Casamance region, according to a June 9 on scene account report by the U.S. Institute of Peace, “has been wracked by conflict since 1982, when an insurgency sought independence from central government policies.”
But a recent global crisis, the deadly coronavirus, ironically has finally helped ease generations of distrust in the town of Goudomp, Senegal. In March 2020, COVID-19 began its fatal march around the globe and began to foster critical reforms — even in a split small community in West Africa.
Guodomp had been a seemingly hopelessly divided town for nearly five decades, costing more than 5,000 lives in factional fighting and leaving another 60,000 displaced as homes, farms and even entire villages were destroyed. It was a portrait of a small hamlet in seemingly hopeless unending strife.
But now, unprecedented dialogues between youth leaders, Senegalese security forces, civilians and others in Goudomp have helped stimulate initial local dialogues to counter not only the deadly plague but other issues.
The U.S. Institute of Peace has been active in encouraging this trend at a local level. USIP’s Justice and Security Dialogues program has been active in promoting conversations in what has been described as ”among the world’s longest-running local conflicts.”
As Goudomp Mayor Malang Vieux Cisse put it: “Everyone sitting together (citizens and security forces conversing regularly for the first time) increased confidence that even the most difficult challenges can be met collectively.”
A SINGLE SOUL WHO’S MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Across the continent to South Sudan, there’s the story of Gatwal Gatkuoth, founder of an organization working with youth to end that country’s grinding civil war. Writing for the U.N. World Food Program, James Rupert tells about Gatwal’s evolution in his teen years from farm lad to peace activist:
“Gatkuoth’s life as a young cowherd tender capsized in 2002. In grasslands near the White Nile, Sudanese troops assaulted a camp where he and other lads were minding their families’ cattle.
Gatwal’s barefoot sprint away from gunfire would be his first steps in a month-long sprint away throughout Sudan’s civil war to years of life in exile. He was without a family in a camp of refugees from what would become an independent country, South Sudan.
But Gatwal’s life was saved, he recalled, by a benefactor who sent him to school. Only what he learned there, he said, led him to eventually return home to reunite with his parents as a young adult. There, he created an organization working with youth to help end what historians have called “South Sudan’s grinding civil war.”
Gatwal says training from the U.S. Institute of Peace then strengthened his resolve to pull his compatriots out of poverty.
Gatwal Gatkuoth today is a well-known activist at the United Nations. In an April briefing at the U.N. Security Council last year, he described his activities as “working at the grassroots among refugees to breakdown stereotypes and enmities among ethnic and tribal groups.
In his view: “I have daily contacts with these communities, frequently by way of the internet, through my cellphone hotspot. In my organization, I’m one of two or three people with access to the Internet.” He’s now working with his teammates to translate new materials into South Sudanese dialects for sharing in the refugee camps on ways to counter hunger and poverty.
From cow herder to international anti-poverty activist, a remarkable story of hope in a time of global thirst for solutions.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More