AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
In light of the recent and recurring difficulties experienced by external intervening actors in Africa, it is crucial to consider the voice of political wisdom, which takes into account the lessons learned from previous interventions and applies them to seeking successful avenues of conflict resolution in the Third World. Prominent recent examples of problematic external interventions in Africa can be found in Rwanda and Somalia. In the case of Rwanda, there were misunderstandings between the local people and the French forces. In Somalia, there were problems between the Somali people, U.S. forces, and other UN troops. This article focuses on the flaws of external intervention in African conflicts and what can be done to improve conflict resolution.
The goal of this article is to identify which factors promote conflict resolution in Africa. We have incorporated relevant principles drawn from the existing literature concerning conflict resolution and intervention in Africa and have supplemented these findings with case study analysis such as in Somalia. Discussions with diplomatic officials from many African and European nations, as well as interviews with congressional and State Department officials in the United States, have helped identify problems with conflict resolution and potential improvements.
We conclude by suggesting that in order to improve conflict resolution in Africa, external intervention must be reexamined and synchronized with "ripeness" and proactive African local efforts. Furthermore, leadership, the role of regional organizations, and ripeness must be recognized as important factors in the resolution process. The degree to which external intervening actors are sensitive to local standards and values and take into account traditional leaders and methods of conflict resolution can affect the success of the intervention.
Major Principles of Conflict Resolution in Africa Suggested by Existing Literature
One of the most pervasive themes in the literature concerning conflict resolution is that external intervention by international and regional actors will be unsuccessful unless (1) the combatants truly prefer peace to continued warfare and (2) the circumstances of the conflict make it ripe for resolution.
I. William Zartman is perhaps the most vocal proponent of this view, and he has outlined the following conditions that must exist for a crisis to be ripe for resolution:
1. there exists a situation perceived by actors as deadlock and deadline;
2. unilateral solutions are blocked and joint solutions become conceivable; and
3. the party that previously had the upper hand in the conflict has slipped and the underdog has gained in strength. Both sides perceive that the conflict is a "hurting stalemate."(1)
The lack of such ripeness in several specific crises has been cited as the primary reason for the failure of intervention to bring about a peaceful settlement. The sharp contrast in effectiveness between the UN Transition Assistance Group in Namibia (UNTAG), and the UN Angola Verification Missions (UNAVEM I and II) provides valuable insight into how the degree of ripeness is instrumental in both creating and preventing opportunities for resolution.
UNTAG proved to be a success because a number of factors - the end of the Cold War, U.S. pressure for the achievement of a resolution, a military stalemate recognized by the combatants as such, and the existence of "face saving compromises on the mutual withdrawal of Cuban and South African troops"(2) - combined to make the situation ripe for resolution. Compromise is an essential aspect of resolution, and according to Zartman, "the conciliator's task is to deflect the parties from competing attempts to impose unilateral solutions (first tracks) and into a joint search for a bilateral solution (second track)."(3)
Likewise, UNAVEM I, which was designed to verify the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola, achieved success because the warring parties had each suffered military defeat that caused them to reevaluate "the price of a decisive victory.... Changing political and economic factors, new superpower cooperation, domestic political conditions in South Africa, and the ever mounting human and financial cost of the war led both sides to conclude that a political settlement was a better option than continuing the stalemate."(4)
However, when the Angolan government and the rebel faction of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) signed a tentative peace agreement in 1989, the internal Angolan conflict "was not ripe for resolution; the parties were not yet committed to finding a peaceful settlement. Each side felt the withdrawal of its opponent's foreign backers would give it the upper hand and allow a definitive military solution to the conflict."(5) UNAVEM II, therefore, failed miserably. Chris Simpson of Africa Report has commented that despite both sides' insistence that there must be a political, not a military, settlement, "there still seem to be more reasons for the war to continue than for it to stop."(6) Alluding to the inadequacy of external intervention in the absence of a situation of ripeness and political settlement among the parties, Gareth Evans has observed that "even with adequate resources, UNAVEM II could not have achieved what the peace making process had not."(7)
One of the crucial factors that must exist to facilitate conflict resolution and African development is leadership. In both interstate and intrastate civil conflicts, if an agreement is to be reached between the combatants, there must emerge strong leaders who command the respect of their followers and are willing to negotiate and compromise, sacrificing certain gains for the greater prize of peace. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela and F. W. de Klerk have demonstrated how such leadership can promote a peaceful settlement of divisive issues and nurture the transition to democracy and a fuller realization of human rights despite the racial, cultural, and economic differences that are the source of much conflict.
Time's Paul Gray suggests that "Mandela and De Klerk perfectly meet the first precondition of peacemakers: they do not like each other very much. Harmony is only intermittently an issue between friends; the intractable messes of human coexistence are left for enemies to hammer out."(8) When the agreement was reached to form a government of national unity, designed to last five years after the April 1994 elections, Mandela and de Klerk ascertained the wisdom of this power-sharing arrangement, and each made crucial concessions.(9) De Klerk no longer insisted on the inclusion of a white veto over black majority rule, and Mandela dropped his demand for a powerful central government, accepting instead a system of federalism granting certain provinces aspects of autonomy. "Then both leaders, despite personal dissatisfaction with the details, enthusiastically supported this plan, selling it to their followers."(10)
The case of South Africa is instructive for other countries with intrastate conflict or rivalry among …