Our Core Principles

Our Anti-violence Ubuntu Principles

Many postcolonial African states have experienced violent conflicts, prompting the quest for viable approaches to conflict resolution and peace-building. Certain groups’ desire to control power and resources at the expense of others lies at the heart of the racism, civil wars, armed insurrections, terrorism, ethnic conflict, genocide, xenophobia, and intracommunity and domestic conflict prevalent in Africa, particularly in countries that experienced prolonged foreign domination. The quest for peace and security led to the resurgence of Ubuntu, an African humanist ideology, as an indigenous approach to conflict resolution and peace-building.

Our Ubuntu approach says that nonviolence can be a safe, effective and lasting way to defeat injustice, but like any other science it takes knowledge, courage and determination. Peace is wedded to our core values, anti-violence principles, and the ideal of an Ubuntu Africa. We are committed to peace and non-violence. In the delivery of our Strategic Plan, AU Watch ensures that all the work we undertake is in line with the following principles:

Civil wars and state repression have left many societies traumatised and shattered. Unsolved atrocities and injustices can easily provoke new cycles of violence. Impunity may undermine trust in the legal system, increasing the risk that vigilante justice will be resorted to and encourage further atrocities. Mistrust and hatred between former adversaries inhibit reconstruction, decision making and economic development. Disagreements are opportunities to learn new perspectives. Conflict is a chance to work together and find a solution that addresses everyone’s needs. We’re not saying that it’s simple or easy to respond constructively. It takes courage. But everyone can do it.

The more we respect others, the more effectively we can persuade them to change. Never use humiliation as a tool–or accept humiliation from others, as that only degrades everyone. Remember, no one can degrade you without your permission.

Concrete action is always more powerful than mere symbolism, especially when that action creates constructive alternatives: setting up schools, forming cottage industries, establishing farming cooperatives, devising community-friendly banking. Remember you never change things by fighting the existing reality. To effectively change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

Conflict is very emotional. When emotions are high it is much easier to begin attacking the person on the other side than it is to solve the problem. The only way conflicts get resolved is when we attack the problem and not each other. What is the problem that lies behind the emotion? What are the causes instead of the symptoms?

In order to understand the conflict, it is important to under- stand the dynamics of the relationship including the history of the relationship. However, in order to resolve conflicts, we must focus on the future. What do we want to do differently tomorrow?

We are of the view that conflict should not be regarded as an isolated event that can be resolved or managed, but as an integral part of society’s on-going evolution and development; that it should not be understood solely as an inherently negative and destructive occurrence, but rather as a potentially positive and productive force for change if harnessed constructively. Conflict transformation goes beyond merely seeking to contain and manage conflict, instead seeking to transform the root causes themselves – or the perceptions of the root causes – of a particular conflict. We seek to transform conflict from violent to cooperative, to change the everyday interactions between people in conflict from destructive to constructive.

Learning to solve problems peacefully involves many social and emotional skills and is strongly linked to the quality of “getting along with others.” Unlike conflict avoidance, compliance, disengagement or coercion, solving problems peacefully means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and actively coming up with strategies to make things right in a fair way. Conflicts are a part of life and show up in situations where facts, desires, and fears differ between people. Simply put, conflict is a disagreement but it does not always involve a fight. Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely to occur.


A close examination of the various conflicts occurring in Africa reveals two broad categories, namely intra-state and inter-state conflicts. Such conflicts can be further divided into:

  • inter-ethnic conflicts
  • inter-state conflicts
  • liberation conflicts
  • civil rights conflicts
  • annexationist conflicts
  • political transition conflicts.

Have you noticed that many of the conflicts in Africa do not always stem from crises of national governance and the failure of our regional organisations and governmental institutions to mediate conflict? We are indicting former colonial powers and powerful organisations for maintaining colonial-style approaches to African conflicts at the expense of a desire to address the fundamental issues that divide the parties to the different conflicts. It is our submission that the colonial factor ought to be a consideration in attempts to address African conflicts because the roots of many post-colonial conflicts in Africa remain buried in Africa’s past and, specifically, in the colonisation and de-colonisation processes.

We make the claim that conflict resolution is more than the suppression or perhaps the elimination of overt violence. We argue that envisaging and/or imposing peace-keeping forces at every turn on various African conflicts does not provide the desired durable outcomes.


1. Our Commitment To Peacebuilding
We are committed in assisting the AU and its Members to secure peace in Africa. It is extremely important for all parties involved in a transformative conflict resolution process to commit to and acknowledge others’ commitment to the process of transformation. We understand Africa and understand why many of these conflicts persist. We belong to these communities. We are going nowhere.

2. A Human Rights Approach
At the core of our approach is a human rights approach. The role of human rights abuses in the causes, dynamics, and consequences of conflict illustrate the importance of a human rights approach to conflict resolution: if human rights are part of the problem, they must be part of the solution. At AU Watch, we are convinced that a human rights perspective can improve the odds of transforming violent conflicts into sustainable peace by enhancing the design and implementation of peace processes and conflict resolution practices.

3. Peace and Social Justice are Intertwined
To strengthen the capacity to use human rights to combat entrenched poverty, discrimination, and injustice, we have taken a social justice approach to conflict transformation. Such an approach ensures increased participatory and sustainable solutions to conflicts, provide common standards against which to measure regional and national actions, reframe conflicts as social justice issues and enhance accountability beyond the domestic justice or political systems.

4. We use a holistic and integrated, systemic conflict transformation and peacebuilding approaches
This means working at multiple levels from the top down, bottom up and horizontally with a wide variety of political and civil society actors in order to promote conditions for peaceful resolutions of conflict. Thus, having a relational – rather than an individualistic – belief‐system should help communities resolve conflicts constructively. In our integrated approach, everyone is involved, from the regional, national to community level.

5. We know our communities
You must have seen so-called conflicts resolution experts flying in from Europe and America into your village, trying to resolve conflicts that are generations old. How can that be? We are members of these communities. We were born and raised in those communities. We know the issues more than any outsider. Together we are able to resolve our problems.

6. Our very own Ubuntu approach
Ubuntu is about dialogue, cooperation and collaboration in the African way. Adherence to the principles of Ubuntu by state and nonstate actors has drastically shown to reduce threats to peace and security in Africa.

7. We are committed to promoting and improving the capacity, effectiveness and legitimacy of the AU and its Recs in the resolution of conflicts
This means working to develop multilateral regional peace and security mechanisms while enhancing the power and effectiveness of the United Nations.

8. Our work and research are guided by a concern for excellence, evidence and facts, committed to developing out-of-the box and creative solutions to conflicts
All our research and interventions are of the highest quality. We are data driven, analytically sound and relevant to the needs of researchers, policy makers and peace building practitioners.