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Many peace talks fail to address conflict roots - new study

Some fighters in DR CongoSome fighters in DR Congo (Photo: raissaioussouf.wordpress.com)
December 3, 2012

A new study reveals that many peace negotiations complicate the future of state-building, because they fail to address the underlying causes of conflict, despite attaining peace in the long-run.

According to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) this was findings from experts' assessment of peace accords in selected African countries unveiled at a recent meeting in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare.

The experts who reviewed the ECA study came from various backgrounds in the academia, civil society and development agencies.

Entitled: ‘’Design and architecture of peace accords; mediation and architecture of peace processes in selected countries,’ the study examines peace accords in Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Somalia and Sudan.

The experts 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, among other things.

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”.

See below details from a UNECA statement:

‘’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.

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.

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.”


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