Peacebuilding among Shona communities in transition in Zimbabwe: a participatory action research.
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This study is a participatory action research (PAR) intervention that examined the contributions of informal peace committees to peacebuilding in Zimbabwe. The emergence of informal peace committees as a diverse segment of Shona customary courts is a demonstration of institutional transformation that has taken place among the Shona people. In many respects, the discourse on peace committees, as peacebuilding mechanisms has gathered momentum in recent years owing to the relative success stories recorded in countries such as Afghanistan, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Philippines, Sudan, Uganda. In these and other countries that have experienced violent conflict, communities have taken responsibility to set up informal peace committees in order to address peace challenges bedevilling them. To interrogate systematically the contributions of informal peace committees to peacebuilding, this study established a 15-member ward peace committee (WPC) in Ward 8 of Seke district, Mashonaland East Province. Since the study was predominantly participatory, requiring the researcher to work with a small advisory team, a 15 member WPC became the participatory action group (PAG). A total of 42 participants and informants involving 21 males and 21 females were purposively sampled in the study, and due to its participatory nature, the PAG played multiple roles which included planning, convening meetings, implementing resolutions and the analysis of data. Data obtained from weekly and monthly WPC meetings were complemented with participant observation, six in-depth interviews, a WPC focus group, three village peace committee (VPC) focus groups and seven narratives on experiences of informal peace committees in Harare, Marondera, Mutare and Wedza districts. From the findings, one of the major themes that stood out was that informal peace committees give members of the village the opportunity to come together and share ideas on problems bedevilling them. Another popular view but also related to the above, was that informal peace committees are a direct response by communities to take responsibility for their own peace as they open space for building relationships through collaborative resolution of conflicts as well as fostering the improvement of livelihoods through low cost entrepreneurial activities such as bee-keeping, market gardening, farming, vegetable drying and poultry. These activities have made marked differences in that low-income communities have coped with economic shocks thereby mitigating violent conflict. The study concluded that informal peace committees are an effective means of building peace because communities take responsibility for their own peace using local resources and skills. It recommends that while informal peace committees should remain independent and community-based, they can feed into mainstream peacebuilding in Zimbabwe, in particular, the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) which was created in May 2013.