Peace as the Norm: Keeping Peace in Africa – World

By Youssef Mahmoud and Chimwemwe A. Fabiano

For decades, the African continent has been the graveyard of short-term interventions by a seemingly well-meaning but myopic international peacebuilding program determined to safeguard a state-centric and flawed international order. Whether it is the United Nations (UN) or the African Union (AU), peace efforts have largely focused on rebuild the neocolonial state, politics and economics with its underlying top-down logic of violence rather than building a peaceful society. This is evidenced by the lackluster performance of some of the ongoing UN stabilization missions, particularly those serving in countries where foreign interests are at stake.

More than the absence of war and violence

Until recently, normative scholarship and practice of peace focused primarily on conflict prevention, de-escalation or mitigation of aggression, peacekeeping, peacemaking, and peacebuilding. peace in the context of war. It was assumed that these interventions would lay the foundations for a lasting peace. Yet all that can be achieved through these efforts is a negative peace or absence of violence.

Some analysts have maintained that as long as Africa’s aspirations for peace continue to be portrayed negatively as the absence of conflict, peacekeeping will remain a elusive goal. The goal is even more inaccessible if state building is equated with peacebuilding, especially in contexts where the state has been captured by predatory elites more concerned with power than governance. In fact, various scholars have pointed out that prior to its co-optation by outside actors, peacebuilding was central a base, from bottom to top activity rooted in the cultures and identities of societies.

This has prompted some African scholars and practitioners to question some of the prevailing assumptions underpinning the peacebuilding enterprise and to call for a shift towards a decolonial peace that places citizens and indigenous peace structures and processes at the center of building lasting peace.

For citizens living in countries in difficulty, the challenges they face would therefore be formulated not in terms of deficits but in terms of insufficient capacity for self-organization to anticipate, manage, mitigate and resolve conflicts. Seen in this light, the search for the underlying causes of instability becomes the search for why this indigenous capacity is inadequate and how it can be strengthened. Focus on what is still go strong and not only what is wrong welcome opportunity for a different challenge.

This requires a critical conceptual shift where peace is treated as the norm in human interactions rather than the exception. By peace, we mean here all that societies do to deliberately preserve harmonious and trusting relations. These are collective actions to mend these relationships when they are broken and nurture them when they are restored.

UN Sustaining Peace – A missed opportunity for normative change

In response to recommendations from a 2015 review of the United Nations Peacebuilding Architecture (PBC), the Security Council and the United Nations General Assembly passed identical historic resolutions 2282 and 70/262 in 2016, inaugurating the concept of “maintaining peace”. peace” as an overarching framework for revitalizing the peacebuilding work of the United Nations. The review found that the prevailing approach to peacebuilding gave power and agency to external actors to define problems and prescribe remedies. The PBC review argued that this approach set aside existing national, local and endogenous efforts and capacities to build and sustain peace.

The resolutions defined peacekeeping as “a goal and a process for building a common vision of a society, ensuring that the needs of all segments of the population are taken into account”. He stressed that peacekeeping is a shared task and responsibility that must be fulfilled by the government and all other national stakeholders, and must pass through the three pillars of UN engagement – peace and security. , human rights and development – at all stages of the process. conflict.

However, the political and programmatic interpretations of UN resolutions remain dependent on liberal and top-down peacebuilding agenda and there is concern that renaming existing peacebuilding activities under the new peacekeeping nomenclature risks contributing to conceptual confusion and possible confusion for both Member States and practitioners.

In practice, much like peacebuilding, peacekeeping continues to be seen as a set of interventions relevant only in contexts where conflict is manifest, imminent or threatening to return. He is still committed to the prevailing belief that if you analyze and address the root causes of conflict, peace will ensue. Thus, the factors associated with peace are understood to be the reverse of those leading to war and conflict, despite evidence to the contrary.

Towards a new African peacekeeping agenda

The African continent has a rich and varied repertoire of formal and informal capacities, knowledge and experiences to decolonize the study and practice of peace and develop an integrated African agenda for peacekeeping. Taking these into account in all their complex pluralityalongside global and regional markets understandings of peace and the conclusions of the support peace researchthere is several key pillarsincluding AU Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, that could form the basis of a new African peacekeeping agenda.

The first pillar of this agenda is conceptual: like a tree, peace would be conceived as growing from the bottom up. Unlike rule of law and security, it cannot be enforced from above. It must be woven into society from below by fostering systemic partnerships and incentives to sustain it. All companies have attributes that contribute to the maintenance of peace, whether it is their institutions, their culture, their policies or the everyday and unspoken norms of interaction between individuals and groups.

Although there is still no clear understanding of how to bind effectively bottom-up and top-down efforts, what is known is that only a combination local, provincial, national, regional and international efforts can lead to lasting peace. Some international peacebuilding partners have called for an approach that builds peace from the ground up. Upside down, where the emphasis is more on the process than on the result. It is up to local communities, in partnership with intermediate and national governance structures, to shape the outcome, as evidenced by innovation, Fambul Tok process in Sierra Leone.

The second pillar is about process and practice: ask citizens what the issues are and how to keep the peace. As mentioned, African scholars and practitioners have documented the rich repertoire formal and informal African practices, approaches and processes for building and sustaining peace. These include peacemaking processes as practiced by the Tiv community in Nigeria, the Guurti system (old) in Somaliland, the Mato Oput in northern Uganda and the Ubuntu tradition in southern Africa.

Despite the limitations of some of these processes, including patriarchy and gender-based violence, these practices have helped build lasting peace. They are considered by researchers to have added value, as they are inclusive and build on local cultural assumptions, norms and values ​​as well as basic notions of justice. Other researchers have proposed the traditional Gacaca system in post-genocide Rwanda that combines both retributive and restorative justice as a means of accelerating transitional justice and reconciliation processes.

The third pillar would seek to update our approaches to peace and conflict analysis. It is indeed necessary to seriously examine the factors of conflict in order to deal with their immediate destructive consequences. However, such an approach alone will not be enough to lay the foundations for lasting peace. It should be supplemented by a mapping of the resilient capacities for peace that are still at work and suggest ways to strengthen them. Lasting peace is more likely to take root if peacemakers To build what people have and what they know. The development of a dedicated African Positive Peace Index that measures peace on the continent could help in this endeavour. In this regard, the overall positive peace index might be a useful reference.

Another priority on the agenda is peace education. Worldviews like that of Ubuntu– which says “I am because we are” – among other humanistic African traditions, they offer rich fundamental principles and practices for a sound peace education program.

To be credible, such a program must be supported by predictable and flexible funding. Without a dedicated financial facility, the proposed program would be unworkable. For so long, peace interventions in Africa have been funded by foreign nations and other donors, some of whom have agendas that do not necessarily allow lasting peace to take root on the continent. For the agenda to be led and owned by Africans, the majority of funding should come from Africans themselves. This is all the more important for ongoing efforts to decolonize the powerful, Eurocentric epistemology who for decades informed the peacebuilding enterprise on the continent, with little to show for it.

Finally, for the agenda to be realized, leadership for peace is needed. This kind of direction aims to create and nurture an enabling environment that unleashes the positive potential of people at all levels of society so they can resolve conflict nonviolently and participate in co-tracing a path to daily positive peace. This direction should not be fully invested in an individual, it is more about facilitating the exchange of ideas and establishing reciprocity among diverse groups of people towards a consolidated vision of peace.

This article is based on the authors book chapter “Keeping the peace in Africafrom the Palgrave Handbook on Sustainable Peace and Security in Africa (2022).

Youssef Mahmoud is Senior Advisor at the International Peace Institute. Chimwemwe A. Fabiano is responsible for women’s political leadership at Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA).

Originally published in Global Observatory


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Steven L. Nielsen