Perspectives on Conflicts Resolution in Africa

Southern Voices in the Northern Policy
Debate: African Perspectives
An initiative of the Africa Program and Leadership Project at
The Wilson Center
With the generous support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York
David Zounmenou and Fritz Nganje
Southern Voices Conference
Wilson Center
What are the important areas of divergence
and convergence in the approaches to African
conflict resolution and peace building between
the North and Africa?
• Basic assumptions underpinning our argument
• Major areas of divergence
• The problem of quick-fixes & coercive tactics in
conflict resolution
• The question of military intervention
• The relationship between the UN and African
initiatives for conflict resolution
• The peace versus justice debate
• Some Recommendations
Basic assumptions underpinning our
The causes of violent conflict are complex
North and South Legitimate interests and stakes in
containing the scourge of conflict on the continent.
There is a convergence between the north and
Africa around basic humanitarian norms such as
the R2P. The divergence is at the level of process
and implementation.
Lingering lack of political will in some quarters of
the African leadership to respect and implement
these norms
Interests of regional and external actors tend to
obstruct effective conflict resolution efforts.
Major areas of divergence
1. The problem of quick-fixes & coercive tactics in conflict resolution
Failure to appreciate the cultural norms and values that guide conflict resolution
in Africa.
Failure to appreciate the complexity of contemporary conflicts in Africa.
Responding to conflict largely to contain the security threats they pose to
Northern countries and not to address the underlying causes.
2. The question of military intervention
There is not a general African aversion to military intervention in African conflicts,
especially in the context of the R2P doctrine.
Humanitarian intervention has a strong and growing constituency even in policy
The problem is with the implementation of this principle, which is both selective
and at times used to serve national interest agendas.
The double standards and regime change
Major areas of divergence
3. The relationship between the UN and African initiatives for
conflict resolution
• There
is shared understanding on the preponderant
responsibility of the UN Security Council in maintaining
international peace and security.
• Inevitability of partnerships with the West in overcoming the
scourge of conflict on the continent, given mutual interests and
the shortage of capacity and resources on the continent.
• Proximity to the conflict environment and direct interest in its
• The unrepresentative character of the UNSC demands that
African initiatives be prioritized, albeit with financial, technical
and diplomatic of the UN and its member states.
• The problems of political paralysis within continental
organizations, obstructive interests of regional powers could be
dealt with through constant dialogue between the UN and
regional organizations.
Major areas of divergence
4. The peace versus justice debate
High premium on upholding the rule of law and
Africa’s argument is not against justice or
accountability for serious crimes committed
during conflict, but against an insensitive and
inconsistent application of the principle.
The challenge therefore is how to disentangle
international instruments for the promotion of
human rights from the realpolitik of international
relations, as well as finding complementarity
between modern and traditional African notions
of transitional justice.
African Union and the R2P:
Lessons from Libya and Cote d’Ivoire
Two key lessons can be drawn from those experiences:
1. African Community is still divided.
• Two dynamics arose from this.
• The anti-imperialist rhetoric was advanced while the
credibility of the continental organization was questioned
regarding their stance on peers who unleashed extreme
violence on their own citizens.
• One needs to interrogate the insistence on homegrown
solutions, peaceful solution even when the threat of gross
human right abuses has become imminent.
2. Libya and Cote d’Ivoire experiences appear to have
brought back the UN Security Council into the “Cold War”
Policy considerations
There is need for genuine, open and continuous dialogue involving
Western policymakers, practitioners and scholars and their African
counterparts to facilitate a shared understanding of conflict
dynamics, underlying interests & preferred approaches.
Harmonization of approaches:
Northern partners should apply an engagement model that allows
for identifying and working with continental, regional and national
drivers of change. This can effectively complement continental
models of intervention, avoiding duplication and dislocation. It also
limits frequent de-legitimization of their role and controversies that
may arise from common shifts especially in post-conflict settings.
This should be preceded by efforts to understand the rules and
procedures of conflict resolution in Africa.
Policy considerations
3. Institutional/operational support & capacity building:
• Institutional support is required for continental mechanisms
for conflict prevention, management and post-conflict
reconstruction. This should follow the logic of catalysing
Africans to do things for themselves rather than doing it on
their behalf or leaving them to their fate.
• International development assistance from Western countries
to their African counterparts should be refocused on
supporting the democratic aspirations of the African people.
Such support should go both to strengthening state
institutions as well as develop the democratic agency of civil
society. This would go a long way in preventing conflict and
responding efficiently to them if they happen to arise.
Policy considerations
4. Reform of global governance processes:
• There should be a real commitment from Western
leaders towards strengthening international regimes for
conflict prevention & resolution by, among other things,
democratizing their decision-making processes. To this
end priority should be given to the reform of the
workings of the UN Security Council, given its mandate
to maintain international peace and security. In the
specific case of the contentious R2P, the US should
consider the merits of Brazil’s concept of “responsibility
while protecting.”

similar documents