Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Power sharing in crisis...

The tragic news today is of an attack on an army base in Northern Ireland, the first in around a decade of hard won peace. All loss of human life is tragic and this is possibly more so for its potential to spiral into a return to the low-grade civil war that ate at British and Irish society for three decades. The thing that has been getting at me all day however is the insistence of leaders on all sides that this will not derail the peace process. The sad truth is that the peace process has been stagnant for several years, and one of the main planks of the process is to blame--Power sharing.

Power sharing is not in itself the problem, indeed it has been an invaluable tool in Northern Ireland and could provide the vital bridge towards progress in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. The problem is that it has become seen as an end-state. Power sharing ought not to be the target end-state for the main reason that it is not democracy. A situation where an election is held and the losing side take up powerful positions within the government is in fact almost the reverse of democracy. True democracy is a position where the minority accept that they are a minority and will be governed by the majority, whilst (and this is important) the majority accept that being in the majority does not give them the right to demonize, terrorize, discriminate against or impose personal morality and religion upon, the minority.

It is this state that must be the target of any peace process, and the events in Northern Ireland are perhaps a sign of what happens when the flow is allowed to stagnate. If the peace process was moving forewards properly, then the extremist dissidents on both sides would not be able so easily to find solid ground and support. We as people on all sides need to redouble our efforts.

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