Mixed result in conflict resolution

As Western powers try to lure Taliban from combat, Al Jazerea looks at global peace initiatives.

    Palestinians continue to struggle for an independent state of their own [GETTY]

    With the war in Afghanistan dragging on, a plan to encourage Taliban fighters to lay down their weapons in return for money and jobs is being pushed by some Western powers.

    They say the plan could help to bring peace and political stability to the troubled country.

    But the Taliban has rejected the plan, saying they were fighting for Islam and to end the foreign military presence in their country, and not for "money, position and power".

    However, Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, says that at least 70 per cent of Taliban fighters have got nothing to do with the causes espoused by the group.

    "The US and others have been trying to convince those elements to lay down their arms," Holbrooke said.

    So can Taliban fighters be convinced to stop fighting and reconcile with their former enemies?

    Al Jazeera looks at several conflict reconciliation efforts around the world, which ones succeeded and which failed. 

    'Terrorists' turned politicians
    The Irish Republican Army (IRA) was an Irish armed organisation that waged a campaign against British rule in Ireland beginning in the early 20th century. 

    Calm has returned to Northern Ireland following power-sharing deal [AFP]
    The Irish war of independence was brutal and deadly. Many died and a lot of people were imprisoned. 
    In 1921 the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in London, which ended British rule in most of Ireland and established the Irish Free State. However, six northern counties would remain within Brirish rule.

    While the fighting in the south was largely ended by the truce, in the north killings continued and actually escalated until the summer of 1922.

    After the initial turmoil of the early 1920s, there were occasional incidents of sectarian unrest. These included a brief and ineffective IRA campaign in the 1940s, and another abortive IRA campaign in the 1950s.

    This was followed by the 'Troubles', a period of ethno-political conflict between the majority Irish Catholics and the minority Protestants loyal to Britain that lasted 30 years.

    After a prolonged period of political manoeuvring in the background, the loyalist and republican paramilitaries declared ceasefires in 1994, allowing Sinn Fein, the political party closely identified with the IRA, to enter into negotiations on Northern Ireland's political future and the birth the Belfast Agreement in 1998 which restored self-government to Northern Ireland on the basis of "power-sharing".

    Israeli-Palestinian conflict

    The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a dispute over land rights that has gone on for decades. 
    There have been many attempts to broker a two-state solution, which would result in the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel. 
    Reconciliation efforts that began in 1993 led to Yasser Arafat, the then leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, recognising Israel's right to exist. 

    Israel launched a military offensive on
    Gaza in December 2009
    However, years later the two sides still have not reached a peace deal that satisfies both Jews and Arabs. Multiple initiatives by the US and Arab nations have not yielded results and uprisings and wars between the two sides continue.

    Since Barack Obama came to power in 2009, the US president has expressed renewed interest in restarting the diplomatic process within a two-year/two-stage framework.

    In the first year Obama proposes negotiations on a Palestinian state defined by 1967 borders in return for recognising Israel as a "Jewish state". In the second year he proposes negotiations over Jerusalem, refugees and final status issues.

    However, Israel's refusal for a total settlement freeze on Palestinian land remains a major obstacle for renewing negotiations.

    Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has made it clear that a comprehensive freeze is required to move ahead with talks.

    South African apartheid
    In South Africa, the white minority controlled and oppressed the vastly larger black majority for around half a century through a system of legal racial segregation known as apartheid.

    Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president after years of apartheid

    Apartheid was met with various South African activist movements, which resisted suppression through widespread strikes, protests, and violence by bombing. Thousands of people were killed and imprisoned.
    As widespread international sanctions and divestments were instituted against the controversial system, Nelson Mandela, the head of the African National Congress (ANC) party began covert negotiations with the South African government in 1985.
    However, reconciliation meetings did not become formal until several years later. The first significant steps took place in 1990 with the unbanning of the ANC and the release of Mandela from prison.
    After a series of reconciliation talks from 1990 to 1993 between the ruling National Party, the ANC, and a variety of other political organisations, racial equality was institutionalised under South African law.  
    After the South East Asian island of East Timor first claimed its independence from Portugal in 1975, the country was invaded and occupied by Indonesia to become its 27th province the following year.
    Falintil, a prominent resistance group, fought a campaign for more than 10 years against Indonesian forces, in which tens of thousands of people were killed and many others died from hunger and illness.
    An international East Timor solidarity movement pushed for a UN-sponsored agreement between Indonesia, Portugal and the US to hold a UN-supervised referendum for East Timor's independence.

    The vast majority voted for the island's autonomy, but clashes between the two sides continued.
    A peacekeeping force, first led by Australia and then the UN, later intervened to restore order. The UN force of International Police established a National Council, which oversaw the process of turning East Timor into an independent nation, which it managed to achieve in 2002.

    Sudan conflicts

    Sudan's civil war was sparked by a government effort to impose Islamic law on the mostly Christian south in 1983. The resulting war was fuelled by the south's rich oil reserves, ethnicity and a desire for self governance.

    There are thousands of peacekeepers in Darfur  under a joint African Union-UN mission
    Over two million deaths, many from starvation, are blamed on the conflict.

    In 2003, the country's problems worsened with the Darfur conflict. It began when the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in Darfur in western Sudan took up arms, accusing the government of oppressing black Africans in favour of Arabs.

    The Sudanese military and the Janjaweed, a group of fighters recruited mostly from the Afro-Arab tribes of the north fought SPLM and JEM, which were made up mostly of Muslims.

    The government, while publicly denying that it supports the Janjaweed, is accused of providing financial assistance to the militia, and of participating in joint attacks targeting civilians, and attempting to cover up mass graves.

    In 2005, after nearly three years of negotiations, Sudan's government and the main rebel group signed comprehensive peace accords to end more than 21-years of civil war in the south.

    In 2006, the Darfur peace agreement was signed by the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Sudanese Government.

    Fighting has declined in Darfur but not ended, and aid agencies say the humanitarian situation remains a pressing problem.

    Nearly 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Darfur, and more than three million displaced, the United Nations estimates.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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