The seminar enabled participants to learn about the opportunities and obstacles of engaging armed non-state actors (ANSA) in peace processes as the guest speakers, showcasing their practical experiences and recent research findings.
The discussion focused on the dynamics that allow ANSA to adopt a non-violent path in the negotiation and implementation of peace settlements, engaging concrete references to the role of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army and Movement (SPLA/M) in the Southern Sudanese peace process, and to the role of Islamic Jamia in the engagement of ‘Al-Qaeda’.
Active conflict is an evolutionary environment, so ANSA's strategic goals may change depending on the context, thus offering opportunities for dialogue but also necessitating pro-active leadership with a view to reaching a post-conflict situation. Interaction with the Islamic Jamia helps distil several key factors which contribute to ANSA's adopting peaceful means.
Firstly, amnesties allowed the group to ‘save face’ rather than undergo punishment for renouncing violence. Secondly, as an organization, Islamic Jamia maintained strong command, control and communication links with its followers, and was, as such, able to ensure adherence to this tactical transformation. Finally, the ties between Islamic Jamia and its supportive base ensured a strong sense of responsibility and sympathy throughout the peacebuilding process.
However, due to the loose association of the various facets of Al-Qaeda, it may be difficult to actually replicate the experience of Islamic Jamia. On a more localized level, smaller groups may be persuaded to renounce violence if this transformation is seen as sufficiently beneficial in terms of international recognition, inclusive dialogue, and resolve of legitimate grievances.