Attitude and Behavior: Determinants of Conflict

The variables, attitude and behavior are indispensable indicators or determinants of conflicts experienced in all situations around the globe. Scholars working in the field of peace building look at protracted conflicts occurring in many parts of the Third World countries as functions of attitudes and behaviors sustained largely by the dictatorial tendencies of ruling political elites.

Mathematically, the equation expressing the relationship between attitude, behavior and conflict is [A + B = C] where A stands for attitude; B stands for behavior; and C stands for conflict. This equation implies that attitude is not the same as behavior. Attitude is an inner feeling. It triggers action that may or may not be reflected on the behavior. For example, politicians usually show behaviors that do not match their internally expressed feelings when interacting with the public. Interestingly, their behaviors keep on changing, while their attitudes remain constant.

The changing political actions are intended to divert people’s attention from the camouflaged personal objectives being pursued by political elites at the expense of majority. Unfortunately, the changing political actions tantamount to hypocrisy, thus triggering conflicts which are difficult to resolve. The conflict in South Sudan is attributed to inappropriate attitudes of political elites who have captured power and diverted a great deal of the country’s financial resources to their private businesses that benefit only their families and close relatives.

The hyperinflation that has crippled the impoverished people of South Sudan does not bear any significant impact on the ruling political elites operating at the national, state and local levels of government as long as they have amassed wealth and continue to systematically marginalize those patriotic, well-educated, qualified and competent citizens, whose contribution is vital in the process of nation building. National dialogue is a tool for gathering greater truth for nation building. This objective can only be achieved if the national dialogue is inclusive, transparent, and free from all forms of manipulation by either of the dialogue groups.

To ensure the neutrality of the national dialogue, its venue should be located in a place acceptable to all groups in dialogue. Above all, neutrality of the national dialogue also requires that none of the groups in dialogue should be involved in organizing and facilitating the dialogue process. This precisely means that the probability of success of the national dialogue is higher if it is organized by a neutral body. This is the truth. Can we learn something from this truth?

The author strongly believes that unless the ruling political elites change their attitudes and see the problem befalling the country through the eyes of the people of South Sudan there is little success, if not nothing, to be expected from the national dialogue which is now being launched. Having said this, the author should not be misinterpreted to be working against the national dialogue. In fact, the author is one of the architects and promoters of national dialogue in South Sudan, who has written a number of articles that educate the public how to wage a successful national dialogue.

The author’s major concern is to help create a credible and genuine national dialogue capable of bringing the people of South Sudan together in a way that gives them opportunity to exchange perspectives and experiences on all issues of concern. Such a credible national dialogue should compromise people diverse views with  intent to reach a common ground of understanding that will lay a foundation for just peace, unity and permanent stability for the present and future generations.

The main issues of concern that are worth inserting in the dialogue agenda are so many. Some of them need to be dealt with at the level of intercommunity dialogues; others have to be considered at the level of interstate dialogues; whereas a great deal of others have to be pushed to the national level if they cannot be resolved in the lower levels. One of the dialogue issues that the author has found suitable for intercommunity dialogues is the issue of child abduction.

In fact, there are many issues that need be tackled at the lower levels than at the national level of government. What is really required, is proper consultation with ethnic communities prior to start of actual dialogue. Consultation is to be followed by formulation of dialogue agenda and training of dialogue participants. The dialogue agenda should be widely publicized before the beginning of the dialogue in order to incorporate as many inputs as possible from the public. Let God bless the national dialogue and change the attitudes of the ruling political elites. Lord, give us peace!

By Christopher Sebit

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