Within the field of conflict resolution and peacebuilding, there exists a question of how present the international community ought to be in negotiations. In a recent analysis from the Council on Foreign Relations, author Stephanie Hanson summarizes a number of approaches currently being taken on the African continent and implies that most “homegrown” peace agreements are unsuccessful. She suggests that African countries are “hunting for an elusive peace” and that without international initiatives, it is unlikely that conflicts will be resolved. It may be true that recent attempts at peace negotiations have been less successful in the absence of international actors, but international efforts themselves are not without their flaws. Perhaps we need to begin to consider a new methodology when examining peace deals in Africa.
In many ways, it is correct to say that international brokers enhance the effectiveness of conflict resolution. But it is also important that we examine those resolutions and the measures for implementation taken by either national governments or international actors. Too often, external forces assist in the brokering of reconciliation only to find that the Western-endorsed model does not enforce a lasting peace.
Stephanie Hanson endorses the work of external peace negotiators and says that “successful international initiatives brought peace to Sierra Leone and Southern Sudan.” While it is true that Sierra Leone has largely overcome the conflict of the late nineties, it is hard to say the same for Southern Sudan. In July, the International Crisis Group released a report analyzing the fragility of Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the necessity of greater UN vigilance to ensure the implementation of the accord. David Mozersky, Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa Project Director, alleges that “if the CPA fails – which is increasingly likely – Sudan can be expected to return to full-scale war, with devastating consequences for the entire region.” It becomes clear, then, that something is lacking from the CPA; that all sides do not feel satisfied or that suitable methods of justice and post-conflict transformation do not exist. If the international community is to be involved as a mediator, we must examine our capabilities in the field as it relates to the conflict.
Sudan is not alone in its struggle to find peace after external moderation. Even Rwanda, whose Gacaca Trials were largely a product of Western encouragement and were designed to replicate the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, is experiencing difficulty in finding a stronger sense of restorative justice.
Thus, it begs a return to the tireless question of international involvement in post-conflict situations of national or local scale. How much can Western institutions and governments influence peace deals in Africa? When do they have a right to breach a nation’s sovereign status? Perhaps most importantly, what is the best option when issues of human rights and humanitarian emergencies are taken into account?
Of course, each situation requires a separate analysis, but the northern Uganda peace talks provide a good example of the power of Western actors in halting conflict and saving lives. Though the Juba peace process is undeniably fragile, the simple dispatch of an American diplomat could incent the two sides to sign an agreement. This requires little capital investment, only the presence of the United States. But what is important in this situation is that the Government of Uganda (GoU) and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) come to terms and establish a plan for reconciliation independent of the desires of international actors. They must be confident in their own capacity to procure peace or the endorsement of external governments will have little lasting impact. The recent signing of a reconciliation and accountability document in Juba is a step in the right direction – it was drafted by the GoU and the LRA and allows for both formal and traditional forms of judicial action.
Nevertheless, for a more holistic peace agreement in northern Uganda, one that will bring a stronger sense of serenity to the north, the presence and legitimacy of a U.S. official is imperative. As such, the international community must be willing to more fully support initiatives that are “homegrown” to ensure that they do not fail. Hanson writes that internally resolving Darfur or Somalia is implausible; it will certainly be difficult, but perhaps if the international community were more willing to support and invest in internal efforts, peace in these regions might be more conceivable.
In the end, it is not a matter of including or excluding the international community, it is a matter of examining the extent to which our involvement can aid in a peace process. It is important that we listen to the victim’s needs and to the demands of those fighting before we push for a signature on a deal that will be neither heeded nor implemented in the long term. AFJN is working on a project with the Advocacy Network for Africa on restorative justice and we hope that you will join us in promoting new strategies for procuring peace in Africa.