From Arms to Farms: Kauswagan Winner of the 2016 UCLG Peace Prize
n the midst of a longstanding conflict, the local authorities of Kauswagan, in the Lanao del Norte province of the Philippines, showed courage and innovation by coming up with a comprehensive localized reintegration programme called
â€˜From Arms to Farmsâ€™. Even though it was the central government that ultimately convinced the Islamic secessionist rebels into laying down arms, there is no doubt that the programme has been a great peace contributor.
A former MILF commander with a project manager
Background The Moros are a large Muslim population group from the southern Philippines. They have a long tradition of rebelling against occupants, dating back to the time when Spanish explorers discovered and claimed the archipelago in the 16th century, up to American colonial rule and more recently against the state. At the beginning of the 19th century, Moro resistance was virtually subdued because of American military superiority. However, when the Philippines became a sovereign nation-state in 1946, and territories claimed by the Moros came under de jure control of the Philippine state, a resurgence of resistance was imminent. From the beginning of the 19th century, tensions between the Moro population and the Christian and Spanish speaking Filipinos had been rising. The dispute concentrated on landownership. The Moro communities claimed a historical right to lands that they had inhabited for centuries, while the absence of a land entitlement system indiscriminately allowed for the purchase of land and settlement. As a result, divisions widened between the Muslim community and the Christian Philippine population as they moved to the south. In 1972, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was founded and started its violent campaign for independence. In 1987, the MNLF leadership accepted the governmentâ€™s offer for the establishment of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, which led to a final peace agreement in 1996. The splinter formation of expelled combatants, established in 1984 as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) refused the deal and continued their armed struggle.