“Conflicts can emerge in any society when disagreements, differences, annoyances, competition, or inequities threaten something of importance to one or more groups or individuals” (UN-Habitat, 2001). They come up during situations of cross border disputes, transition in governance systems, ethnic strife, domestic violence, religious conflicts or land disputes etc. Especially for long lasting solutions for resolving conflicts, there may come a need for a third party intervetion.The purpose of conflict resolution is to “reach a consensus on the appropriate balance among competing interests”. Especially due to the sensitiveness of the conflict of societies, it is very important that the process of conflict resolution be participatory from beginning to the end, where the intervention and the influence of the third party need to be kept to the minimum for a long lasting effect of the resolution. Tools for resolving conflicts include participatory methods such as active listening, constructive dialogue, negotiation, mediation, and (re)conciliation.
One of the examples of participatory conflict resolution practices is the ‚Gathering for peace summit‘ held in January 2009 in Oromia Region, Ethiopia. The purpose of the summit was to resolve the conflicts between different pastoralists communities and clans from the Oromia region and create peace agreements for further conflict situations.
After a long history of neglect towards pastoralists, the then existing government of Ethiopia gave special attention to patoralists to represent them at all levels of governance. The Oromia Pastoralists Association (OPA) was created for the same purpose. The OPA has supported the peace process through establishing different pastoralist committees and by working together with neighbouring pastoralist committees for peace.
For the gathering that took place in Oromia region, Borana Zone, at a place called Mudhisellu, pastoralists travelled from many places as Oromia, Somali, Afar, Gambella, and Southern Nations and Nationalities. Government officials, pastoralist neighbours from Kenya and government officials were also present. The three organisers were the Oromia Pastoralists’ Association, the Oromia Regional State Administration and Security Bureau, and the Oromia Pastoralist Development Commission. International organizations such as Oxfam America fand the Ethiopian Red Cross Association were also present. According to the OPA members, the Governmental bodies at different levels participated in the gatherings so that they could respond to the cases concerning them. They also followed up the peace process between the Karayu and Argoba, the Karayu and Afar, and the Oromos in Miesso and the Isa by meeting representatives of each group. They resolved the conflict with the participation of the three groups. The peace making was achieved through the customary Gada institution. The Gada leaders (Abbaa Gadaa) made decisions according to the traditional system of conflict resolution. The committee has been focusing on preventing conflict before it results in destruction.
The success of this conflict resolution practice is that it is very participatory, to an extent that the OPA not only activly participates in the peace making process and demands for certain actions form the government, but the solutions for the conflicts are also taken by the elders from the community. Such a practice keeps the influence or the manipulation by the third parties including the Government and international organisations to a minimum level, making it a truly participatory process.