Paktia and Khost face similar problems as most of the other South Eastern Afghan provinces. Conflicts over land, water, and other resources linked to or causing tribal rivalries are of major concern to the Afghan government. Government verdicts in these conflicts are exploited by hostile actors to mobilize a tribe against the government. The low capacities within the formal justice system as well as the continued distrust of local communities in state conflict resolution structures (courts) have made government interventions in these conflicts even more difficult. Fearing destabilization in the region due to these unresolved conflicts, the then Khost Governor, Arsala Jamal (2006-2009), sought assistance from The Liaison Office (TLO) to find an alternative to the court system that could assist the Afghan government to cope with the increasing number of land and resource-based conflicts. In response, on 23 November 2006, TLO facilitated a large size jirga called by the Governor, between customary structures (tribal elders, religious figures, district councils) and local government (district governors and line departments). One of the outcomes of this jirga was the idea of the Commission on Conflict Mediation (CCM). The TLO’s Khost sub-office facilitated the establishment of the CCM to resolve longstanding resource related conflicts. Owing to its success in Khost, the Paktia Provincial Governor also requested TLO’s support to establish a CCM in the province. TLO facilitated the establishment of CCM in Paktia with the support from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP)
This project pursued following main objectives:
- Contributed to the stabilization of the volatile regions in Southeastern Afghanistan (Paktia and Khost) by successfully resolving tribal conflicts through CCM
- Addressed the low capacities within the formal justice system to resolve the tribal conflicts and the continued distrust of local communities regarding state structures
- Developed a tribal mapping data base and case filing system for government officials and the CCM
- Supported the provincial government in conflict mitigation
As a first step, TLO held preliminary meetings with the Governor of the province and elders of the major tribes to discuss security and stability in general and the establishment of CCM in particular. The different stakeholders were informed and familiarized with the CCM process, its benefits and the process of its set up during these meetings. This process also smoothened the way for the TLO to start preparations for a Jirga. The Jirga led to the selection of the permanent members of the CCM, one from each major tribe. Once the commission members were selected by the Jirga, the Governor formally appointed the commission.
As soon as the CCM was formally appointed, office rooms were set up for the CCM and secretarial staff was hired. At the same time, a data base on tribal conflicts and case filing system was developed in the Governor’s office.
Afterwards, TLO supported the CCM with an active monitoring and evaluation program which included interviews with CCM members after training, generating an in-depth case study from at least one case, and quarterly interviews with the Governor to understand his assessment of CCM’s progress. TLO supervised the progress of CCM by tracking the willingness and ability of the Governor to forward cases for adjudication and the willingness of tribal constituencies to participate in the CCM. TLO also engaged in regular and substantive communication with tribal elders to track the progress of CCM.
The commission worked jointly with the provincial government in selecting and identifying unresolved conflicts that posed a threat to stability and needed to be addressed. The cases were formally nominated by the Governor and accepted by CCM. These cases were urgent, where the parties were already engaged in violent conflicts, or latent conflicts that had a high escalation potential and could cause inter-tribal instability and turmoil.
The commission also resolved long standing disputes that local Jirgas had been unable to resolve for last 60 years. The commission managed to convince both the disputing parties with its judgement.
The tribal mapping data base set upin the Governor’s offices of Khost and Paktia systematically kept track of conflicts and a case filing system for tribal land conflicts. It helped TLO in training the secretarial staff, CCM members, and the government officials in these provinces.
The CCM became a way of integrating traditional mechanisms of conflict resolution into the modern judiciary process, resulting in a collaboration of traditional and modern governance mechanisms. The resolution of tribal conflicts through an out of court arbitration mechanism embedded in tribal structures was a major contribution to stability in southeastern Afghanistan. It also created a good relationship between the tribes and the police and circumvented personal animosities between the tribes.