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NCFT DR 150127 Dagadas Minanimbong covenantVengeance runs deep. This is an established fact especially in remote areas where there is a perceived lack of justice and security.

For years – sometimes generations – a mother would live in constant fear not knowing when the foe will choose to strike, or who among her sons will be killed next. For years, a family member will participate in a deadly game of hide and seek. The game ends when the family line is exterminated. If this is a movie, “The War of Clans” might be a fitting title. But in many remote areas of the Southern Philippines in Mindanao, they call it “rido.”

Rido is a term, derived from the Maranao tribe, which is commonly used to refer to clan feuds. When members are engaged in acts of retaliation, the cycle of violence is almost impossible to stop.

Rido has brought bitter strife to the lives of feuding families and kinship groups, as well as to communities where bloody hostilities have taken place. The phenomenon has not only caused the destruction of property, but more importantly, it has derailed the normalcy of life of the people who were displaced by war.

The rido between two clans within the epicenter in the village of Tongganon in Carmen municipality, North Cotabato province has been raging for years. Lives were lost, houses and civilian properties destroyed, and families displaced over and over again through several cycles in the violent family feud. The rido is said to be one of the worst in the area of North Cotabato. Nonviolent Peaceforce’s North Cotabato field team has been monitoring the conflict since 2011, with its focus on civilian protection concerns.

In August 2014, the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD), along with the Local Initiatives for Peace and Development (LIPAD), initiated a conflict resolution process to settle the costly feud. This was not the first attempt, but stakeholders view this one with confidence as the conclusive settlement, partly due to the facilitation by prominent personalities from a wide range of sectors such as Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), several town Mayors, as well as respected Moro elders and datus, or local chieftains of eminence or nobility.

From the start, UNYPAD’s President invited Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) to support the process by providing international and impartial presence. This included presence in the initial phases of shuttle diplomacy and exploratory meetings first held separately with each clan, through the more formal period of negotiations until the very end of the resolution process.

Half a year of meetings and negotiations culminated in a kanduli, or thanksgiving, and signing of a Peace Covenant to celebrate the resolution of the feud on January 27, 2015. It is stated in the covenant that both parties will give their utmost to work for peace and avoid provocation. In case misunderstandings arise, they shall be settled peacefully. The two families will also follow the tenets of Islam which highlight the significance of trust and forgiveness.

While the parties themselves, as well as the facilitators, deserve the greatest recognition for the settlement, NP played a vital role as an observer. Its reputation as a non-partisan and independent organization was the main reason why NP was chosen to take part in an otherwise locally-led process.

Conflict resolution through nonviolent means, such as dialogue, is precisely the type of activity that NP supports and promotes. The success of the resolution will, however, ultimately depend on the implementation of those involved. This requires the sincerity of both parties. And NP standsready to support both clans to uphold their commitments to build lasting peace.

If transformation of all parties is complete, then vengeance becomes a thing of the past.

NCFT DR 150127 Tarzan signing covenant