Cease fire is not peace

DJ at Asymptotic Life was directly involved a group that was instrumental in brokering a cease-fire in the Sri Lanka civil war a few years back. They thought the combatants would then do the right thing and continue working towards peace. So they backed off from involvement, thinking their job was done. Tragically, it wasn’t.

The combatants did not use the cease-fire to disarm, broaden understanding, and promote democracy.  News flash: they never have, and they never will. Instead, they consolidated power, fanned the flames of ethnic nationalism, and worked tirelessly to ensure that peace did not happen. Now we see the results: in a year of fighting, 5,000 more people have died.

For those who would end a war, there is much to be learned here. First and foremost, cease-fire should never be mistaken for peace. When cease-fire breaks out (or when the troops come home), our work had just begun.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, if peace is to be made, it will not be made by the combatants. If you’re truly anti-war, plan on participating in the process— because no amount of pressure will cause a combatant party to do the work of making peace. They’ve got a vested interest in continuing the conflict.

Indeed, this is often true. Warlords, rebels, and governments frequently do not want conflicts to end, because it suits their political, economic, ideological, and personal purposes that the wars continue. As an example, it’s clear that neither George Bush or bin Laden actually want peace in the Middle East.

If peace is to be made, it’s up to committed individuals willing to make the commitment to see it through. I truly regret that I let our opportunity pass.

When the troops finally do come home from Iraq. our job, as DJ notes, will have just begun. That’s when we’ll need to prevent further such wars.


  1. Just to clarify, our group didn’t “broker” the peace agreement– we prepared the ground for it. The Norwegians get the bulk of the credit for brokering, but without the grassroots work we did, their work would not have been successful.

    This another easily-overlooked aspect of peace strategy: it must take place at several levels simultaneously. Since few groups operate well at more than one level, it requires complimentary efforts between groups.

  2. Sie.Kathieravelu

    I agree that if peace is to be made, it is upto committed individuals willing to make the commitment to see it through. For that purpose a solution must be put forward for others to consider and comment. For the problems in Sri Lanka I have a solution that is fair andjust. The only problem with the solution is that the present day political parties, who are the masters of the da are not illing to consider it. So the only option left is go to the masses. But goig to the masses directly will cost a lot financially, which I cnnot afford. Persons or organizations interested in bringing about peace , harmony and stability to Sri Lanka are kindly and humbly requested to contact me via email: –

  3. There are a number of grassroots organizations in Sri Lanka, and many peace organizations, but only one group that really blankets the country– Sarvodaya. Some peaceworkers have called Sarvodaya “the sleeping giant”– an embarassing but accurate moniker. Some (within and without the organization) believe that without Sarvodaya’s involvement, peace will not be possible in Sri Lanka.

    Sarvodaya’s peace secretariat, though intermittent in its efforts, has been fairly effective. If you’re serious about grassroots outreach, they’re the ones to talk to.

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