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A Legacy of Violence in The Making

“The past is a timebomb, and its fuse burns brightest in the half light of competing versions’ of founding myths of national identity. We inherit the obsessions of the dead, assume their burdens; carry on their causes; promote their mentalities, ideologies and …superstitions, and often we die trying to vindicate their humiliations” (Harrison 2005)

This may feel like a untimely post at this stage of a conflict that has horrifically developed relatively recently. And despite the conflicting war narratives, the steady increase in violence, death, destruction, and the dreadful suffering of people in Sudan ( also Ukraine, Yemen ....), it is time to prepare for peacebuilding. This is when the international humanitarian community can develop a new aspect of valuable support.

Now is the time to plan and build a useful part of a future peacebuilding platform. A project which will observe the conflict through a peacebuilding lens.

There are many examples of when a peace deal is signed, when the newly announced post-conflict state along with the decision makers within the peacebuilding community rush into a strange game of post-conflict catch-up. A process which requires many politicians, military officers, diplomats, and bureaucrats to rapidly recalibrate from a conflict to a peacebuilding mindset. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the challenges that this recalibration creates without support.

This new line of support addresses key sites of violence during the conflict in Sudan (and other wars), whilst acknowledging that a legacy of violence is in the making.

From my experience, It would make a lot of sense for the humanitarian community to invest time and money in developing an initial ‘fourfold understanding’ of the capital city, Khartoum (Ideally, this would expand to a nationwide perspective).

1. The work would identify trauma and everyday places of violence. Places that will develop a negative narrative within the local community, a narrative which could also grow to impact the urban collective. Those Infra-Ordinary places which were once an integral part of the day-to-day meaning and the subconscious blur of city-life[1], which, due to conflict (have or will) become conscious reminders of insecurity, trauma and violence (Please read pages 12-18 in this report that shows the kind of example albeit in a different context of Mosul Iraq).

2. Likewise, we will look to identify everyday places of positivity, resilience and tolerance, places that have an encouraging narrative within the local community and is or could be acknowledged and shared throughout the urban collective.

3. The process would identify other aspects of memorialization in Khartoum. Mapping museums, monuments, and markers of collective memory. We will categorize them as either Cosmopolitan or Antagonistic and explore an Agonistic mode of memorization in the future.

4. Later in the process and absolutely key to any peacebuilding approach is understanding what others are doing or have done in the city after conflict, therefore, the team would also map interventions (scale and methods) by incoming humanitarian and governmental actors, recording the interventions, use, re-use, modification, neglect or removal aspects of the built environment.

What the data will tell us:

By mapping the city in this way, the team will identify and link valuable social associations with the memories made before, during and after conflict. Highlighting key sites of social importance, which everyday memories of violence are important and their likelihood to further incite further violence, civil unrest as well as the positive drivers for resilience and recovery.

The team can therefore, forecast risk and pinpoint places imbued with memories that could potentially fuel future violence[2]. As well as Identifying and promoting positive memories of social cohesion and kindness. The team would also have the capacity to safeguard against imposed amnesia or silencing too.

The team would understand more about an urban citizen’s sense of place, belonging and identity, and help nurture a collective sense of ownership and trust concerning the future.

Naturally, the project would support all humanitarian actors in their activities by providing an everyday picture of the places and people that host their humanitarian interventions.

In other words, the process will develop a nuanced understanding of the urban context during conflict and create a peacebuilding platform which will evolve as layers of information are added. A profile which can adopt other data such as climate, employment, economic and criminal stats as they are available.


The data development will be a key tool that will set a foundation for many interventions and adaptive reuse projects. By linking these layers of peacebuilding early, we substantially improve the value and significance of the work needed to improve the lives of people in Khartoum.

[1] Collective unconscious is a term introduced by psychiatrist Carl Jung to represent a form of the unconscious (that part of the mind containing memories and impulses of which the individual is not aware).

[2] Misattribution: assigning a memory to the wrong source; mistaking fantasy for reality, or incorrectly remembering that a friend told you a bit of trivia that you actually read about in the newspaper- more common than people think. Suggestibility: memories that are implanted as a result of leading questions, comments or suggestions when a person is trying to call up a past experience…..related to misattribution persistence: thrives in an emotional climate of depression and rumination, and can have profound consequences for psychological health, (try to think of the single biggest disappointment in your life – chances are that you recollected this experiences repeatedly in the days and weeks after it happened, even though you wish you could forget it.) Bias: Reflects the powerful influences of our current knowledge and beliefs on how we remember our past. We often edit of rewrite our previous experiences – unknowingly and unconsciously – in light of what we now know or believe. The result can be a skewed rendering of a specific incident, or of an extended period in our lives, which says more about how we feel now than about what happened then. ‘Stereotypical biases’ influence memories and perceptions in the social world – experience with different groups of people leads to the development of stereotypes that capture their general properties, but can spawn inaccurate and unwarranted judgments about individuals.


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