This bulletin features the Centre for Conflict Management and Transformation [CCMT], an organization providing conflict intervention services to communities and organizations, using training and dialogue as tools for conflict resolution. Veritas conducted a question and answer interview with CCMTs director, to learn more about the organisations outreach programmes, achievements and the challenges it has faced along the way.
The Centre for Conflict Management and Transformation
Question [Q]: What are your organizations objectives?
Answer [A]: CCMTs vision is to promote a society where people actively participate in creating social and economic justice by managing and transforming all forms of conflict constructively. CCMTs objectives are to raise awareness and enhance the capacities of communities in conflict transformation to enable them to deal with their conflicts constructively. We do this using capacity building, intervention and research.
Q: Conflict management and resolution are difficult enough in less complicated situations, how has the concept been received in the polarized political atmosphere prevailing in Zimbabwe.?
A: Our work has been very well received in both the urban and rural areas. Our approach is to sensitize communities on what we offer but it is up to them to identify problems and disputes affecting them. We do not go into communities to dictate but to facilitate dialogue and help them tackle the issues they see as problems.
Q: Does your initiative have the support of politicians?
A: We work within the framework created by the political environment at the grassroots level, mainly through local government structures which include district councils, elected local officials and legislative representatives. Members of Parliament attend our workshops. If we are required to seek authorization from the DA to enter a community, we comply.
Q: Do you intervene in conflict situations by invitation from the community ?
A: Yes, we intervene only by invitation. However, not every community experiencing problems knows about CCMT. If we see a problem, we may go into a community to organize a workshop to sensitize community leaders about our work. But after that it is up to them to invite us or not.
Q: Tell us about some situations CCMT has tackled and whether long-term impacts have been achieved in the communities in question?
A: Conflict resolution associations have been formed as a result of CCMTs work. We support such associations in Epworth, Chitungiza, Mbare, Kuwadzana, Highfield and Tafara-Mabvuku in Harare. Other associations are in Rujeko and Mucheke in Masvingo and Mkoba North and South in Gweru.
Q: How do you ensure that communities feel they own the process rather than that CCMT imposes or prescribes solutions?
A: We clarify the role that CCMT is able to play; we only go in as facilitators. CCMTs role is to create a safe space where conflicting parties can discuss and identify solutions to their problems. We do not impose or prescribe solutions, those have to come from the parties.
Q: What are the measures that communities emerging from conflict situations must take to ensure that they do not relapse into violence and other upheavals?
A: When we facilitate dialogue between conflicting parties, we make sure participants internalize the process and that way learn relevant skills. CCMTs hope is that they can use these skills beyond the specific intervention. In the main, we try to impart skills for communicating in a non-violent way. We also equip communities with skills to analyse a conflict so that they can identify its root causes and work on them.
Q: It is common knowledge that in any conflict situation, it is women and children who bear the brunt. Does CCMT take this into consideration when implementing outreach initiatives?
A: While it is true that women and children bear the brunt in conflict situations, the creation and exacerbation of a conflict is a collective responsibility. All members of a community bear responsibility. Therefore our approach is as inclusive as possible. We recognize that women are an intrinsic part of the community and can play a vital role through their ability to influence as mothers and nurturers. We believe it is good to equip them with skills to deal with conflict, but do not regard them as a separate entity.
Q: Apart from conflict linked to political affiliation and land occupation, what other issues spark disputes within communities?
A: Every day disputes are the ones that give rise to political conflict as people will seize on them, misinterpret them and take them out of context. As an example, CCMT is facilitating the resolution of disputes in schools between parents, school development associations and school administrations.
Q: The work of CCMT involves giving communities capacity to manage conflict. Tell us about CCMTs training programmes?
A: We provide training linked to specific interventions. If a particular intervention is needed, we bring in training for it. To cite an example, in one area of Zimbabwe we have brought together a group of headmasters to equip them with conflict management and transformation skills to deal with disputes within their field of professional operation. Ideally, however, it is the conflict that defines the training needs. It should not be the other way around.
Q: How does CCMT liaise with other organizations undertaking similar work so as to avoid duplication?
A: We are part of the Peace-Building Network of Zimbabwe whose very purpose is to enhance co-ordination among organizations involved in peace building. At community level we network with organizations operating in the same districts. This rules out unnecessary duplication.
Q: Has the existence of the government of national unity created a better operating environment for CCMT?
A: Yes, it has created a better operating environment in that communities are more open to assistance from outside and there is more tolerance between conflicting political groups. This has generally created a more conducive environment. We hope to work towards maintaining and enhancing it
Q: Skills to handle differences amicably must be instilled early in life. Does CCMT have programmes specially tailored for schools and youth groups?
A: We do not have any programmes for pupils in schools, but are initiating a pilot project in association with the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Bulawayo. This involves building up intervention skills within a select group that includes students, lecturers, university administration and support staff. This is in recognition of the fact that universities and other tertiary institutions are hotbeds of conflict. We will assess the success of the pilot project and decide where we go from there.
Q: How do you disseminate information about your programmes and successes so that communities in conflict can benefit?
A: We are currently developing a strategy by building up our research department which will package and disseminate our information.
Q: What are some of the challenges CCMT has faced along the way?
A: One that comes to mind immediately is the imbalance between the work that needs to be done and the availability of resources to do the work. An additional challenge is CCMTs ability to be flexible in responding to situations on the ground. Funding partners expect specific outcomes from specific areas in specific timeframes and this can be very limiting when a situation demanding immediate attention arises
We would be pleased to hear from any organisations working for peace that would like their work featured. We are aware that some organisations are working in very difficult circumstances and cannot therefore give us full details of their work, for the sake of the communities they work with. But any strategies that can be shared are of interest. We have a policy of sending a profile to the Director of the organisation featured for the go-ahead before it is distributed by Peace Watch.
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