Two armed clans in Southern Philippines have come together to end the decades of violent fighting that was affecting millions.
The large clans, led by Abdullah Macapaar (a.k.a. Commander Bravo) and Aleem Ansari Murad, had been engaged in retaliatory feuding, called rido in the Philippine region of Mindanao. The fighting was destroying homes and taking the lives of countless members of each family year after year—even though both officers are a part of the same major rebel group (the Moro Islamic Liberation Front).
"Nonviolent Peaceforce has been witness to the harsh effects of the conflicts between the followers of both leaders for the past two decades," says Xarifa Lao Sanguila from our field team in the Philippines. “Both leaders have influence, relatives, and subordinates in the two provinces of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur, with a combined population of almost 2 million people.”
Sanguila recalled how Nonviolent Peaceforce has worked for years with local groups to shuttle between the two leaders to protect civilians whenever armed conflicts erupted between their followers or relatives.
Each clan lives in camps and villages where civilians are interspersed with those involved in the ongoing rido. One of the officers had even attended Nonviolent Peaceforce’s orientation. Since Nonviolent Peaceforce had a presence in their camp, they were very familiar with our teams and our mission to protect civilians and support peace initiatives.
So, when the two clan leaders decided they needed to end the fighting, our team was approached to help facilitate the talks. We were honored to help. Our team, together with a local organization called Pakigdait, facilitated the initial agreements between Commander Bravo and Murad amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two leaders have committed to working together for the betterment of their followers and the civilians in the communities covered by their commands.
Significantly, the reconciliation was officially completed right after Eid'l Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.
Sanguila explained that the reconciliation is a very significant milestone for the Bangsamoro people in the area. "This reconciliation will also be a big boost to the ‘Normalization Process’ of the recently signed peace accord between the Philippine government and the rebel group", Sanguila added pointing out that clan wars or "rido" are one of the major causes of hesitance among former rebels to lay down their firearms and lead a civilian way of life.
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The talks were facilitated by Nonviolent Peaceforce in partnership with Pakigdait with support from the European Union.