COTABATO CITY—Representatives of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) have joined a Bangsamoro peace conference hosted here Tuesday by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), in partnership with the Strategic Communications and Capacity Building (SCCB) Project in the Philippines.
Brian Harding, senior expert for USIP Southeast, said the peace process is an essential issue, not only for the people of the BARMM and the Philippines, but also for the rest of the world, including the United States.
USIP was established by the U.S. Congress in 1984 as an independent federal institution devoted to the nonviolent prevention and mitigation of deadly conflict in other nations. It supports peace education and efforts in convening initiative on reconciliation, transitional justice, religion, peace-building, and other key issues.
In a statement read for him by Minister Sha Elijah Dumama-Alba, BARMM chief minister Ahod Ebrahim underscored the importance of the USIP officials’ visit to BARMM, and their interest on the Bangsamoro narrative “brings fresh hopes to valuable peace engagements in the region.”
“We are taking this opportunity to introduce examples of work which the USIP has done around the world to support peace and to see their experiences that would be valuable for the BARMM,” Harding said. Nash B, Maulana
Harding said the world needs more “peace-building success stories” like the peace process along the track of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“As we lay the foundation for a new era in the Bangsamoro through the implementation of our peace agreements with the government of the Philippines, we call on our people to summon their strength and courage to stand together as one people aspiring for one goal, that of genuine peace and justice for all,” Ebrahim said.
“On the part of the MILF, we do not only concern ourselves with our personal destinies, but more importantly, the destiny and the future of the Bangsamoro people, and we must continue to tread the difficult path—the path of personal sacrifice and the burden of ensuring the future of our people,” Ebrahim added.
He said the MILF is effectively transitioning to its evolution into a social movement, with service delivery at its core. “From fortification of camps with arms, we now venture into the development of our communities with new sets of learned skills, using the transition period to transform from a revolutionary mindset into enabling leaders and managers in the government,” Ebrahim said.
Ebrahim also paid tribute to his late predecessor, saying; “We have produced some of the great-hearted fighters in this part of the world and the great revolutionaries of our century, the most recent of them, the late Sheikh Salamat Hashim.”
It can be recalled that Hashim in 2003 wrote the U.S. government (addressed to then President George W. Bush, and the Department of State) “to help correct the historical injustices done on the Moro people.” President Bush acknowledged the letter in his address to the Philippine Congress during his state visit in Manila on May 19, 2003.
The peace conference was also attended by Marjanie Macasalong of Bangsamoro Youth Commission, Deputy Minister Atty. Haron Meling of Ministry of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education, chief of Macro-Economic Planning Division Camella De Vera-Dacanay of Bangsamoro Planning and Development Authority, peace program officer Sittie Janine Gamao of the Ministry of Public Safety and Order, and executive director Ameen Andrew Alonto of the Bangsamoro Information Office.
Also in the USIP team were director of gender policy and strategy Dr. Kathleen Kuehnast, senior expert-reconciliation Dr. Carl Stauffer, Myanmar country director Jason Tower, program specialist of Myanmar and Southeast Asia Gabriela Sagun, and Dr. Haroro Ingram, SCCB coordinator.