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Research Report

Rethinking Conflict Resolution in Africa: Lessons from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and Sudan

Emeric Rogier
Copyright Date: Jul. 1, 2004
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 58
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Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 9-12)

    Some conflicts seem particularly difficult to solve. The proliferation of warring factions, their leaders’ apparent stubbornness and lack of scruples, the extreme brutality with which war is prosecuted, the recurring failure of peace attempts and simultaneously the development of flourishing war economies are all but a few features raising doubts that these seemingly intractable wars, whether old or new, will ever end. And yet, they do end, sometimes. Particularly since 2002, the prospects for peace have (relatively) improved throughout Africa, such as in Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Sudan....

  2. (pp. 13-18)

    It is a common belief that a wave of ‘new’, mostly internal, wars has exploded in the post-Cold War era and has affected in particular Africa. Yet, this belief seems much more shaped by perceptions than rooted in reality. First, the annual number of major armed conflicts has not increased but decreased regularly since the end of the Cold War, from 32 registered in 1990 to 21 in 2002.³ Although 58 conflicts have taken place over this period, the notion that the end of the Cold War has generated greater conflict is therefore not corroborated. Secondly, whereas the vast majority...

  3. (pp. 19-28)

    Analyzing the causes of success and failure of peace efforts in intractable conflicts has led us to put into question a number of recurrent assumptions in the field of conflict resolution. Specifically, for mediation efforts to bring about a durable settlement, it is generally believed that the peace agreement should: i) be ‘all-inclusive’, i.e. agreed upon by all relevant stakeholders; ii) address the ‘root causes of the conflict’ in its provisions; iii) come out at the ‘ripe moment’; iv) be promoted by a ‘neutral’ facilitator; v) provides a peaceful, i.e. consent-based, solution ; vi) and be ‘locally owned’ by the...

  4. (pp. 29-39)

    This section aims at consolidating in a strategic framework the conclusions discussed previously on the key tenets of an effective conflict-resolution policy. This framework is primarily intended to potential third-party actors whose role in coping with an intractable conflict should be as important as the parties’ commitment is low. The proposals discussed above should indeed underpin a hands-on, actor-focused and context-specific approach to peacemaking. Before elaborating this strategy further, it is necessary to emphasize a few conditions without which it cannot materialize, let alone succeed. Needless to say, respect for these conditions may still not guarantee success, but will increase...

  5. (pp. 41-56)

    This research has reached the conclusion that far from being bound to fail the role of third-party actors may be more instrumental in intractable conflicts than in any other as such an external involvement would add a new element, and create a new dynamic in a deadlocked situation. In order to make a difference, however, third-party intervention should be commensurate with the difficulty of the challenge. In the previous sections, key principles, conditions and guidelines of an effective conflict-resolution strategy have been outlined. Moving further down at the operational level, this section focuses on actions, measures and decisions that may...

  6. (pp. 57-57)

    This report has argued that Western countries do have a role to play in resolving seemingly intractable conflicts in Africa and can actually make a difference. In fact, experience has shown that international involvement is not only desirable but often provides the only way of getting some countries out of the logic of war in which they sink. Assuming that devising the way might further help mobilizing the will, this report has outlined ways and means for improved conflict-management and resolution policies. In particular, the need for greater coherence, consistency and commitment from the part of Western states has been...