ECA study says many peace negotiations do not address causes of conflicts

By Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
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By Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)

11/29/2012 12:05:37 PM -

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, November 29, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- A study of peace accords in selected African countries has revealed that despite the attainment of peace in the long-run, many negotiations complicate the future of state-building because they fail to address the underlying causes of conflict, according to experts' assessment at a recent meeting in Harare.

Experts were drawn from the academia, civil society and development agencies to review the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) study entitled: Design and architecture of peace accords; mediation and architecture of peace processes in selected countries.

Speaking on the importance of the assessment, Jalal Abdel Latif, Chief of Civil Society and Post-Conflict Section at the ECA, said that agreements have repercussions on the future of the State-building project and there is a need for much more renewed attention by policy makers and development specialists on the formidable task of peace consolidation.

The study examines peace accords in Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Somalia and Sudan.

It details the nature of the complex arrangements in the selected countries, teases out the actors, mediation style and the key moments that shifted the negotiation processes.

“The signing of a peace agreement often signals the end of the conflict, however, much of the literature argues instead, that this signals only the beginning of a process toward ending the conflict,” said Abdel-Latif. “Given that relapses into violence are common, full implementation of the peace agreement is seen as another key milestone", he added.

Through a detailed description of the various negotiations, including ‘talks about talks', the study authors point to failures that were due to a number of reasons, including the lack of understanding of the morphology of the parties involved, issues of partiality and neutrality and the grip the key negotiators had or failed to exert on the process.

Participants noted that the interests of the negotiating parties usually frame the architecture of most accords and as reflected in an analysis of the inter-Congolese dialogue, whose accord refer to salaries and related rewards. Independent analyst Charles Nyuykonge said the prolonged inter-Congolese dialogue on the Democratic Republic of Congo was at one point plagued by “who got which ministerial post”.

In the case of Angola, Joao Gomes Porto University of Bradford professor who authored the Angolan and Guinea-Bissau studies noted that several of the country's failed peace processes were characterized by a lack of adherence to notions of neutrality or partiality. “In addition, no mediation was possible as no party wanted it; at no point in the mediation process did the parties address the role of UNITA and the civil war,” said Porto.

With the United States pushing negotiations based on the carrot and stick model, the result, according to Porto, was a concession/convergence settlement that is typical of power negotiations. As he argued, “Angola's case is on the one hand a failure of mediation; on the other hand, the country achieved a special kind of peace that was brought about through clear military victory.”

Tony Kargbo, Senior Programme Officer and Associate Professor, United Nations University for Peace, underscored the need to look at negotiation complexities and the issues surrounding the credibility of the intervener, resources available and how prepared the parties are as well as their technical know-how. “Regional mediators often rush towards power-sharing arrangements, but if we are to see power as a resource, then how that power is allocated, in addition to its limitations must be understood and properly handled,” he said.

Furthermore, according to ECA economist Adrian Gauci, a missing piece of the process may be the lack of optimization of peace accords to include sustainable development, “There seems to be a tension between the need to stop a war; and the need to address the underlying causes of the war,” he said.

Abdel-Latif offered some key lessons such as the need to address the grievances and frustrations of demobilized combatants through reintegration in order to build a lasting transition from war to peace. He also underscored the importance of impartiality and neutrality as important for long-term peace, stressing, “sustainable peace and not the declaration of peace, should be the goal.”

Participants recommended that the study should articulate the role of non-state actors, such as women's groups and church leaders in what is referred to as track 2 of negotiation processes. Furthermore, the role of the international media and the theoretical underpinnings that locate the key moments of the negotiations on the basis of ‘rightness and readiness' would need to be further elaborated in the studies.

Future studies would need to look at structures of violence, funding aspects of peace processes and how multilayered negotiations converge and agree on strategies. “More analysis is needed on talks preceding the deployment of special envoys and rolling out of preventative diplomacy, said Porto, adding: “We need to question current models of international diplomatic negotiations and look at who is seated at the table.”

As the outcomes of this study will be useful for policy makers, Takwa Zebulon Suifon, post conflict reconstruction and peace building expert at the African Union Commission, said the study was timely because it opens up all the peace and security reports and decisions previously not available to the public. “This allows experts to review, analyze agreements; and offer insights into how efficiently policy makers can approach the peace process," he said.

The meeting was organized in the context of a memorandum of understanding between the ECA and the Harare-based African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) in which both institutions collaborate to implement joint programmes.

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