Australia helps prepare former combatants become government and community leaders
From combatants to government leaders
It was once a struggle with no end in sight. But the decades’ worth of peace negotiations have finally yielded good results. The leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who once led the fighting, have now taken on the task of laying down the foundations for meaningful self-governance.
The transition from revolutionary life to civil service can be quite a challenge. Coming from one of the longest movements and struggles in Southeast Asia, the top leaders of the MILF are now governing the newly established Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
To ensure that the MILF leaders are equipped with knowledge and skills to effectively steer the transition process for BARMM, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Australian Government, engaged the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) to design and conduct a management program for senior leaders of the BARMM government.
BARMM Interim Chief Minister Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim, who is also the concurrent Chairman of the MILF, led the participating 31 ministers and technical staff in the program held from January 18 to February 02, 2020.
The program aimed to deepen the understanding of the senior leaders on governance strategies that will help them successfully transition to a new and stronger government. To this end, the BARMM senior management were trained on the following key areas: systems thinking, problem solving, collective decision-making, stakeholder engagement, social learning, public negotiations, service delivery excellence, and coalition-building. The interactive program also combined leadership and management theories with practical experiences in governance shared by some alumni through the learning exchange part of the program.
“This program is timely as we undergo the transition in Bangsamoro – our key leaders really need it during this challenging time. We appreciate the approach of the program which was practical and easy to understand,” shared BARMM Interim Chief Minister Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim.
From combatants to community leaders
While the senior leaders of MILF gear up to be the new leaders of BARMM, the MILF combatants were also immersed and trained under the School of Peace and Democracy-Bangsamoro (SPD-Bangsamoro). The SPD-Bangsamoro was launched by United Nations Development Programme in partnership with the Bangsamoro Government, with support from the Australian Government.
The priority learning areas for the combatants’ track were discussed with MILF leaders and representatives. These included salient features of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, updates on the peace process and normalization program, Islamic values and leadership, moral governance, conflict management, and community development. The detailed training modules were developed as well with experienced trainers and facilitators from the ranks of the MILF.
As one of the core faculty members trained under SPD-Bangsamoro, Swaib Mohamed or ‘Soy’, an MILF member, was assigned to co-develop the module on moral governance. He revisited the history of Bangsamoro and read voraciously about the struggle of its people to better understand it from the their perspective and appreciate the people’s vision to move forward into a Muslim-led democratic government.
“It was very challenging to conceptualize the module because we need to ensure that it will be understood by the commanders who were trained most of their lives on tactical and military leadership,” Soy said.
But more than understanding and appreciation of the learning exercises and lectures, Soy said that the most crucial part is the application of these learnings when the commanders go back to their camps. After undergoing the SPD-Bangsamoro training, these commanders are expected to lead and facilitate forthcoming camps transformation and community development initiatives in their respective areas.
To date, the school has trained 147 officers, including 24 members from the Bangsamoro Islamic Women Auxiliary Brigade, across all base commands of the MILF.
For Soy and fellow members of the Bangsamoro Government, the capacity building of former combatants is a continuous learning process, together with other development partners working to realize the vision of a peaceful Bangsamoro.
“From all the years of struggle, we have learned that war does not last forever – there is always hope at the end of the tunnel,” said Min. Mohagher Iqbal, Chair of the Implementing Panel of the MILF in the Philippine Government-MILF Peace Process.