Despite the fact that Africa has had its share of conflicts in the last decade, there has been a general trend towards greater democracy and better governance. As recent events in the Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Egypt, and currently in Libya show, however, the potential for further conflict remains very much a part of Africa’s reality. For Alfred Nhema and Paul Zeleza, both respected African scholars, understanding why conflicts in Africa occur is essential to their resolution and prevention.
Nhema and Zeleza take a deep look at African conflicts in their book, The Resolution of African Conflicts: The Management of Conflict Resolution and Post-Conflict Reconstruction, published in 2008 by Ohio University Press. The two-volume publication features 11 chapters (or more accurately papers), all contributed by renown African scholars, with the lofty objective of providing a home-grown perspective of what causes conflict, and how understanding the causes can help resolve future conflicts, secure peace and ignite economic development.
The contributors bring with them a mosaic of perspectives – not only from the world of academia and research, but also from active practical experience in areas ranging from international relations and law to regional security and political science theory.
In Volume One, the different causes of conflict in Africa are analyzed with evidence pointing to the tensions between ethnicity, nationhood, and statehood, as well as the lack of democratization and legal safeguards commonly referred as the rule of law. The role of external powers is also highlighted. One paper highlights the increasing potential for domestic conflicts to balloon, and take on a regional context.
Alfred Nhema opens with an overview of conflicts in the region. Then in Chapters 1 and 2, Victor Adelula and Godfrey Okoth, separately analyze the growing role of continental, regional and sub-regional bodies like ECOWAS/ECOMOG, NEPAD, SADC, IGAD and others, in conflict prevention and management. Another contributor, Jakkie Cilliers, focuses on the role of civil society in creation of early warning systems for conflict detection.
Others like Kizito Sabala, Aisha Ahmad and Edwin Ruto (see Chapter 9) look at the link between insecurity, poverty, social fragmentation and political anarchy using the example of Somalia. The case of Somalia also illustrates the point about how a local conflict can exacerbate regional instability.
Chapter 10, which looks at the example of Mozambique, attempts to show that even in post-conflict situations, there are still complexities in achieving peace. Mozambique’s case also illustrates that even in the context of immense political vulnerabilities, the role of institutions and political leadership can be particularly critical in fostering a culture of peaceful coexistence.
The final chapter, contributed by Charles Manga Fombad, traces the role of reforms in Africa arguing that though constitutional reforms have now become one of the most overt signs of the present democratization process, the problem in most of the Francophone, Anglophone and Lusophone countries has not been the absence of constitutions but rather constitutionalism with its main elements being the recognition and protection of fundamental rights and freedoms, the separation of powers, independent judiciary, the control of the constitutionality of laws, amendment of constitution and the presence of institutions that support democracy. The absence of constitutionalism introduces uncertainty where totalitarian regimes thrive, and this absence in many African countries explains why there is still doubt as to whether the third wave of democratization will do any better than the preceding ones. For Fombad, once a country crosses the constitutionalism Rubicon, the chances of it backsliding into anarchy or dictatorship are considerably reduced.
Moses Kibe Kihiko holds a Master’s degree in Leadership Studies. He recently published his book “Public Leadership: The Ten Defining Moments How Leaders Acquire & Handle Fame, Power & Glory “with Miraclaire Publishing, Website: www.miraclairebooks.com). Moses is the CEO of Practicum Leadership, a training, consultancy, writing and research firm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.