Building and Improving Relations between Local Authorities and Grassroots Partners

Zanzibar1Making All Voices Count with the Zanzibar Interfaith Centre

Members of the ACTION Support Centre, together with the Centre for Trust, Peace, and Social Relations (Coventry University) traveled to Zanzibar to visit partners at the Zanzibar Interfaith Centre, as part of a research project under the Making All Voices Count Project. The project, entitled “From Early Warning to Response in Preventing Violence: Transforming Conflict through Citizen Engagement”, seeks to build and/or improve relations between local authorities/decision makers and our partners who are engaged at the grassroots level.

The visit began with conversations among ZANZIC’s Joint Committee of Religious Leaders for Peace and Tranquility, and continued with further dialogue among YIFOZA – Youth Interfaith Forum of Zanzibar. In these conversations, our partners shared not only their concerns, but also stories that inspired optimism and hope. In one particular case, concerned and offended citizens reached out to the Mufti’s office. Strong relations between the Mufti and Christian leaders led to a quick response and an apology to those offended – tensions calmed before physical violence occurred.

The team also met with the Zanzibari police, including the Commissioner of Police for the archipelago, and learned about their efforts to use Facebook to raise awareness and communicate with the youth of Stone Town. The Facebook page was created in partnership with the International Law and Policy Institute (ILPI), with whom the team also met. ILPI is using cell phones to conduct mobile surveys in Zanzibar and is building bridges with the community through this process.

At the heart of the visit came a full-day workshop, hosted by the Zanzibar Interfaith Centre. Participants included YIFOZA, the Joint Committee of Religious Leaders, local police, Stone Town Youth, Tanzania Youth Icon, officials from Zanzibar’s Ministry of Education, and others. The purpose of the workshop was for the participants to learn about each other and to create a space for thinking about and responding to tensions in Zanzibar. The ACTION team guided participants through a Force Field Analysis, in which four breakout groups discussed the attitudes, behaviours, systems, institutions, groups, economics, politics, and social factors which can hinder or support a cause. Building from these reflections, the plenary began to describe the landscape of Zanzibar through the Relationship Mapping approach, in which key parties to the tensions are identified, and the relationships between them analyzed. Earnest conversations about the role of the community, as well as the opportunities for the community and civil society to positively engage other ‘powers’, set the stage for further conversation beyond the visit.

The project will now continue with a visit to People’s Voice for Peace in Gulu, Uganda, and through work with the Local Peace Committees of Gauteng, as well as online conversations. People from ZANZIC, People’s Voice for Peace, and the Local Peace Committees will meet each other and exchange learning through webinars. At the same time, members from these three groups will be active in the upcoming Conflict Transformation Encounter event October, continuing to build relationships, promote solidarity, and learn from the broad ACTION community.

Reports and learning from this initial visit will appear in future newsletters and will help shape the direction of the project.