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Call to Nonviolence: Some Nonviolent Methods of Conflict Resolution

By Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO, Founder of WILPF Cameroon

YES to dialogue and contradictory debate and NO to military responses to people’s concerns.
”The methods of non-violent action have a much stronger pedagogical and educational power with regard to the public that watches and listens than the methods of violent action” Jean-Marie MULLER
Non-violent protest and persuasion are among the methods of non-violent action used against an injustice or situation. They are mostly symbolic and can be used as part of a massive information campaign. The use of these methods indicates that the resisters are for or against something. In a non-violent strategy, speech and action reinforce each other, with action underlining the significance of speech and vice versa. At the height of the struggle, it can be said that speech becomes action and action becomes speech.
Thus, the methods of non-violent action have a much stronger pedagogical and educational power with regard to the public who watch and listen than the methods of violent action. Whereas a violent demonstration is likely to be nothing more than a noisy and confused monologue in front of an audience that remains alien to the action that is taking place in front of it but without it, a non-violent demonstration can become a real dialogue with the audience that is already participating in the action.
Jean-Marie MULLER clearly indicates that speaking out is the first stage of a non-violent action. “Resignation is essentially made of silence and the first complicity with injustice is to remain silent in front of it. Therefore, the first action of non-cooperation with an injustice is to break with the silent majority by speaking out in the public square. Speaking out is already a seizure of power. It breaks the monopoly of speech that the powerful tend to acquire. For the strength of public authorities lies in the silence of the majority.
Thus, he continues, the strategy of non-violent action strives to implement the subversive force of the word. It aims to create a contradictory public debate that exposes the sophisms and lies of the discourses that are used to justify the established disorder.
WILPF as an organisation that promotes peace by interrogating the root causes of conflicts, believes that contradictory debate ALONE and a frank and inclusive dialogue can build a lasting peace in Cameroon at this difficult time in our history.

Below are some methods of non-violent protest and persuasion
– Formal statements: Public speeches, Letters of opposition or support, Statements by organisations and institutions, Signed public statements, Statements of accusation and intent, Group or mass petitions.
– Communications with a wider public: Slogans, caricatures and symbols (written, painted, printed, repeated, mimed, gestured), Banners, posters, inscriptions, Leaflets, brochures and books, Newspapers and magazines, Records, radio and television, Messages written in the air or on the ground.
– Group representations: Delegations, Pressure groups etc.
– Symbolic public acts: Display of flags and symbolic colours, Wearing of symbols (pins, militant badges), Prayer and worship, Handing over of symbolic objects, Stripping of protest clothes, Destruction of own property (houses, documents, identity papers…), Symbolic lights (torches, lanterns, candles). Portrait exhibitions, protest painting, new symbolic signs and/or names in the streets, symbolic noises (“symbolic tunes” using whistles, bells, sirens, crockery…), symbolic re-appropriations (seizure of land or buildings), rude gestures.
– Pressure on individuals: Pressuring officials (following them around, reminding them of something or remaining silent and respectful), Fraternising (subjecting people to intense direct influence to convince them that the regime they serve is unjust), Organising vigils.
– Entertainment and music: Satirical skits and farces, Theatre performances and concerts, Singing.
– Processions: Parades, religious processions, pilgrimages, vehicle parades.
– Tributes to the dead: Political mourning, mock funerals, protest funerals, tributes at burial sites.
– Public assemblies: Protest or support assemblies, Protest rallies, Public lectures with several specialist speakers.
– Withdrawals and renunciations: Abandonment of post, Silence, Refusal of reward, Turning your back.

All these symbolic actions are, as we have understood, part of the panoply of expression of public opinions, a panoply which, by dint of experience, is often used without violence and which is itself the object of struggles for its free expression. When these symbolic actions are used for the first time or defy specific or general official prohibitions (in the case of a state of emergency or a state of siege, for example), they have more impact than when they are in fact such commonplace expressions that they really need to be set to music in a solid information campaign to be effective.

A public demonstration organised in the street is precisely a collective expression by citizens who intend to exercise their right to speak. In concrete terms, this public expression can be expressed through leaflets, posters – “making the walls speak” – banners, placards and slogans. For the very effectiveness of the demonstration, it is essential that the word that accompanies it remains non-violent. The aim of a demonstration is to convince those who are not demonstrating of the rightness of both the denunciation and the demand it seeks to express. Public opinion is much more receptive to a demonstration that is expressed through non-violent speech rather than violent shouting. The language of revolt revels in insults and slurs against the adversary, but the shout is only an inarticulate and therefore incomprehensible word. It is a mistake to think that a word is stronger the more violent it is, one begins where the other ceases. A word that becomes violent begins to deny itself as a word. The striking force of a word comes from its accuracy, not from its violence. This is why one of the fundamental requirements of non-violence is the pacification of speech.
The powers that be that support injustice know very well that it is above all a question of making speech inaudible, and of focusing attention on violence. Violence is spectacular and it tends to make citizens spectators, to the detriment of their possibilities as actors.

From the writings of Jean-Marie MULLER, Lexique de la non-violence, ANV/IRNC, 2nd quarter 1988. Gene SHARP, The Nonviolent Struggle, Ecosociety, 2015.

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