Peace-Building in Africa

AFRICA, 21 Feb 2011

Adeleye Oyeniyi – TRANSCEND Media Service


In surveying the range of efforts for peace, the concept of peace-building as the construction of a new environment should be viewed as the counterpart of preventive diplomacy, which seeks to avoid the breakdown of peaceful conditions. Peacebuilding includes early warning and response efforts, violence prevention, conflict resolution, peace advocacy, civilian and military peacekeeping, military intervention, humanitarian assistance, ceasefire agreements, and the establishment of peace or buffer zone.

Africa, from time immemorial, has been deprived of good governance and sustainable development. Poor governance has bred poverty, conflict, instability and a cycle of violence on the continent. Countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC – and former Zaire), Somalia, Sierra Leone and Liberia, with relatively poor governance, have been rocked by conflicts, wars and instability; even though countries like Mauritius, Botswana, and Namibia have, in the last two decades, recorded huge development and economic growth.

However, without good governance – rule of law, predictable administration, and legitimate power – no amount of funding and charity can set Africa on the path of prosperity. But in the last decade, Africa has made meaningful strides to reform governance and promote development. Besides, democratisation in many countries, regional initiatives to move the continent forward led to the formation of African Union (from the defunct Organisation of African Unity) and peacebuilding, in the forms of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).

What is Peace-building?

The term is used to refer to long-term preventive, pre-hostility strategies, for measures to remove the internal causes of conflict and to strengthen structural stability in a country against the threat of civil war.

International Alert defines peace-building as “the employment of measures to consolidate peaceful relations and create an environment which deters the emergence of escalation of tensions which may lead to conflict” (International Alert, 1995). According to Albert (2001: 130), Peace-building is an ability of “Repairing” relationships, institutions and social facilities and putting in place schemes that can help the disputing communities to be united once again.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1992) gave clarity and coherence to the concept when he defined it as: “Action to identify and support structures which will tend to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict, rebuilding institutions and infrastructures of nations torn by civil war and strife (and tackling the deepest causes of) economic despair, social injustice and oppression.” The definition came against the backdrop of United Nations (UN) intervention in violent intra-state conflicts prevalent in a number of countries after the end of the Cold War.

Galtung (1996) views peacebuilding as one of the measures of intervening in conflict in order to overcome the contradiction at the root of the conflict formation. In principle, this can be done by anybody or group: government, inter/non-governmental organisations, capital (trans-national corporations), civil society or by individuals of any kind.

Meaning of Peace-building

According to Miller (2005: 57), Peace-building involves policies, programmes and associated efforts to restore stability and the effectiveness of social, political and economic institutions and structures in the wake of a war; or some other debilitating or catastrophic events. Peace-building generally aims to create and ensure the conditions for ‘negative peace’, the mere absence of violent conflict management, and for ‘positive peace’, a more comprehensive understanding related to the institutionalisation of justice and freedom.

The British Army (1997: 2) describes peace-building as: actions which support, political, economic, social and military measures and structures aiming to strengthen and solidify political settlement in order to redress the causes of conflict. These mechanisms to identify and support structures that tend to consolidate peace, advance a sense of confidence and well-being and support economic reconstruction.

The United Nations distinguishes between several different kinds of intervention to bring about peace. In addition to humanitarian aid or emergency assistance, designed to provide the immediate means of survival for populations at risk, the main categories of intervention are:

Peace-Making: Interventions designed to end hostilities and bring about an

agreement, using diplomatic, political and military means as necessary.

. Peace-Keeping: Monitoring and enforcing an agreement, using force as


These include verifying whether agreements are being kept and supervising

agreed confidence-building activities.

. Peace-Building: Undertaking programmes designed to address the causes

of conflict and grievances of the past and to promote long-term stability and


Peace-building is not primarily concerned with conflict behaviour but addresses the underlying context and attitudes that give rise to violence, such as unequal access to employment, discrimination, unacknowledged and unforgiven responsibility for past crimes, prejudice, mistrust, fear, hostility between groups. It is therefore low-profile work that can, at least in theory, continue through all stages of a conflict. But it is likely to be strongest either in later stages after settlement and a reduction in a violent behaviour or in earlier stages before any open violence has occurred.

Peace-building is most often used to describe work that has peace-enhancing outcomes, and it attaches great importance to how things happen. In other words, it is about the process as well as the activity itself and its outcomes. For example, the rebuilding of a bridge in Kabul, Afghanistan after it was destroyed in fighting might have best been described simply as reconstruction. However, the UN agency saw the opportunity and set out deliberately to develop the peace-building potential of the situation by involving the previously conflicting sides jointly in the planning, the physical work and future maintenance and control.

Classification of Peace-building

In his Agenda for Peace, Boutros Boutros-Ghali classified the concept of peace-building into two.

  1. Pre-conflict peace-building includes such measures like ‘[de] militarisation, the control of small arms, institutional reform, improved police and judicial systems, the monitoring of human rights, electoral reform and social and economic development.’ (Boutros, 1995; cited in Albert, 2001: 132).

The Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) describes pre-conflict peace-building as: …a proactive process that requires identification of conflict incidences; analysis of conflict structure, actors, and trends; adoption of relevant responses and management mechanism (IDASA 2004: 29-30).

Similarly, Rechler (1997: 61; cited in Albert, 2001: 132) portrays pre-conflict peace-building as: preventive measures that aim to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor; to promote and implement human rights and the rights of the minorities, and to promote durable development and the realisation of a just and fair social order, in which there is no discrimination based on race or sex.

Pre-conflict peace-building is a kind of early warning mechanism to monitor conflict triggers or catalysts and address the structural or root causes of (armed) conflict, which may be considered as latent or a conflict situation which is still in ‘sleeping phase’.

  1. Post-conflict peace-building relates to action to identify and support structures which will tend to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict. In the aftermath of international war, post-conflict peace-building may take the form of concrete cooperative projects which link two or more countries in a mutually beneficial undertaking that can not only contribute to economic and social development, but also enhance the confidence that is so fundamental to peace.

Post-conflict peace-building is more associated with peacekeeping

while (often) focusing more on demobilisation and reintegration programmes, and immediate reconstruction needs. Post-conflict peacebuilding is to prevent a reoccurrence, while preventive diplomacy is to avoid a crisis.

Thus, Peacebuilding involves building a network of opportunities in the transformation of conflict attitude between the parties through restoration of communication and genuine reconciliation. It promotes more friendly relationship among old combatants. It also creates institutions and social facilities aimed at assisting former disputants to respect their mutual needs and interests for peaceful society where meaningful development can take place.

Peacebuilding plays very important roles in the promotion of peace and conflict resolution by focusing more on the ways through which the agreement can effectively be implemented. It also builds opportunity networks in the reconstruction of social, economic and political structures to allow for creation of sustainable capacity for peace and long-term conflict transformation between the parties.

Basic Features

There are also schools of thought which arose, on the heels of three basic features of the concept of peacebuilding, as presented by David (1999: 27).

These are:

  1. The rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation of societies that have suffered the ravages;
  2. The creation of security-related political and/or socio-economic mechanisms needed to build trust between the parties and prevent the resumption of violence;
  3. A national, external (foreign), multilateral or UN intervention to create conditions for peace.

The foregoing features seemingly share similarities with development strategies or programmes.

Properties of Peacebuilding

Peacebuilding usually attracts a lot of responsibilities on the part of peace facilitator and the parties in (armed) conflict. Generally, peacebuilding often has some properties or elements, which include:

  1. Socio-economic and political equity;
  2. Participatory and constitutional democracy;
  3. Respect for human rights and rule of law;
  4. Independent and responsible judiciary;
  5. Demilitarisation and promotion of pacific settlement of disputes;
  6. Establishment of reconciliation and restoration agencies;
  7. Good governance and responsive leadership;
  8. Civic education and peace advocacy;
  9. Effective separation of power;
  10. Public accountability;
  11. Prompt and adequate administration of justice;
  12. Strengthening of NGOs and community-based organisations (CBO); and
  13. Freedom of speech, association and respect of media rights (see DFID, 2002: 27-29).

African Peacebuilding Initiatives or Agenda

In building peace, efforts should include implementation of peace agreements, and reviving the dislocated relationship and communication among former combatants or parties in conflict. Peacebuilding also demands that the collapsed state of economies, fragility of political structures, disarmament, repatriation and resettlement of the refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) should also be addressed in the transformation of conflict between the parties from violent to non-violent and war to peace.

African countries and institutions have developed various peacebuilding and conflict resolution tools and have experimented with various forms of peacemaking over the years. In fact, notably from the uncoordinated, yet largely consistent response the international donor community received from African countries in response to their various paecebuilding capacity building initiatives, a broad degree of policy confluence and common understanding has developed in African over the past decade, , at least on the macro-policy level.

There are useful linkages between APRM and NEEDS, which identify the immediate challenges that were likely to confront its implementation; determine the scope of information that was required and how to access them in order to have an acceptable and credible country review exercises. Adoption of a mechanism for ensuring sustainability and effectiveness of the APRM process, and increasing the level of interpretative understanding and overall technical competence the key stakeholders was also on the agenda.

The process aims at facilitating development in Africa, the mechanism is voluntary, self-imposed and non-adversarial. The objectives include the building of public confidence in governance, institutions and processes in Africa; democratisation of development agenda by ensuring popular participation, offering a comparative learning process on governance and development strategies, as well as returning the commitment of African leaders to set development priorities and maintaining their course. Nigeria, alongside 23 other countries, including Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Algeria and South Africa, acceded to the mechanism, just as it embraced liberal democracy as the best form of government.

The centrality of peer review as a catalyst for development and acceleration is poignant even though political peer review is a difficult matter and its level of success may not actually determined. A panel of between five and seven eminent African persons, who have distinguished themselves in careers that are considered relevant to the work of the APRM was proposed, the funding of which was to come from assessed constitutions of participating member states. The conference of the participating countries would review the APRM once every five years to enhance its dynamism.


Peacebuilding is a very difficult task and there are some obstacles, which can lead to the failure of any peacebuilding initiatives or agenda. According to Miller (2005), these obstacles include:

. failures to address the underlying or root causes of the conflict;

. lack of legitimacy in the eyes of recipients and target groups, particularly in

relation to newly formed institutions;

. lack of agreement over the acceptance of roles and implementation of

responsibilities by all parties to the conflict;

. limits on leadership in times of political transition or extreme crisis;

. over-reliance on external parties; and

. aspirations to build a society that functions generally better than it did prior

to the conflict.

Thus, peacebuilding involves putting in place some conflict transformation measures that can create trust-building opportunities and improve the communication networks of the parties. In the quest of building peace, necessary strategies are usually adopted for reintegration, rehabilitation and healing. Building peace also involves addressing the root causes of the conflict and creating long-term actions for sustainable peace and harmony between the parties.

Peacebuilding Measures in Africa

Invariably, the critical position of Africa in meeting up with the Millennium Goals (MDGs) to halve poverty by 2015, good governance and sustainable development are indivisible as foremost peacebuilding measures. NEPAD, as a latent economic blueprint from three major sources – the Millennium Partnership for Africa’s Economic Recovery by South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki, the Omega Plan by his Senegalese counterpart Abdoulaye Wade and the Compact for Africa’s Recovery by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The merger of the three plans gave birth to New Africa Initiative (NAI), which later metamorphosed into NEPAD on July 11, 2001.

As a home-grown initiative, its objective, its objective include the eradication of poverty, promotion of growth and development in Africa; involvement in the role of women in development process; promotion of peace, security, human rights and good governance. Others include diversification of production and exports, as well as the creation of avenues and opportunities to invest in the continent’s human resources. Priority areas target huge investment in information and communication technology and reducing the digital divide among the 53 member-states; development of infrastructure, which includes transport and energy, improved financial mechanisms and infrastructure, as well as regional integration.

However, it has some drawbacks. They include heavy reliance on foreign funding; as it estimates that the continent needs US$64 billion annually to achieve a growth rate of seven per cent of which is expected to come from foreign sources. Its non-forceful position on the debt problem of Africa, its market orientation and inability to address the question of power and hegemony in international political economy – activities of multilateral institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organisation (WTO), among others, and the commitment by African leaders to write their own history and take collective responsibility for actions of members are also additional drawbacks.

Factors that have further strengthened renewed interest of world leaders in the activities of African leaders include the formation of AU, emphasis on democracy, rule of law, human rights and good governance and criminalisation of unconstitutional seizure of power (Mauritania). Others are shift from the principle of non-interference to non-indifference, new alliance and partnership with non-state actors and renewed commitment to tackle conflicts (Burundi, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire, Congo, and DRC). Also, new institutional infrastructures like the Pan-African parliament, African Court of Justice, Peace and Security Council, African High Command and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) have kindled the interest.

Participation in the Country Review Term (CRT) or APR process is open to all member states of the AU. After adoption of the declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and corporate governance by the AU, countries wishing to participate will notify the Chairman of NEPAD Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee. This will entail an undertaking to submit to periodic peer reviews, and be guided by agreed parameters for good political governance and good economic and corporate governance. And, for the process to live beyond the present actors who endorsed the memorandum of understanding, the process should be in the hands of the people.

Gender Perspective in Africa’s Peacebuilding

Towards the end of 1990s, the impact of gender mainstreaming in peacebuilding became more prominent as evident in the activities of the United Nations Transitional Assistance Group in Namibia (UNTAG) between 1989 and 1990. The composition of the peacebuilding mission demonstrated a new phase of gender sensitivity in peace operations. The UNTAG experience addressed some of the gender justice issues facing women and gender approach to decision making processes. One notable area the UNTAG mission made a huge success was empowerment of women in political decision-making and political participation.

The new wave of adopting gender perspective in peacebuilding has also become a manifest in Africa. According to the African Heads of States and Government, it has become imperative to: …ensure the full and effective participation of women in peace process, including the prevention, resolution and management of conflicts and post-conflict reconstruction in Africa, as stipulated in the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) and to also appoint women as special envoys and special representatives of the African Union. (Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality, adopted by African Heads of States and Government on July 6, 2004).

Nonetheless, women have currently played several crucial roles in peacebuilding. The efforts of women in realising their gender justice ambition through increased participation in peace processes in Africa were evident in their strategic and result-oriented campaign and activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Peace Dialogue. They strived for their inclusion in the process of peace negotiations. Through their commitment and the tremendous support from the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the African Women’s Peace Committee – Femmes Africa Solidarite (FAS), among others, there was a renewed call to increase women participation in peace process.

The participation of women in the Inter-Congolese Dialogue (ICD), which took place in Sun City Resort, South Africa between February 25 and April 18, 2002, cannot be underestimated. Initially, the peace conference ended without reaching any accord; but it was later agreed that another peace meeting needed to later be convened in the same year in Pretoria, South Africa. Through the material and technical support of the UNIFEM, a number of Congolese women met in Nairobi, Kenya between February 17 and 19, 2002. The major objective of the meeting was to draft a declaration to develop a framework aimed at increasing women participation in the peace negotiation process in their country.

Another major intention of the Nairobi meeting was to inaugurate a group of women to represent the interest of Congolese women. The group would consist of eleven representatives, and each of these women would represent each of the eleven provinces of the country. The Congolese women’s deliberations resulted in the Nairobi Declaration. The declaration accorded relevance to the needs and aspirations of women, particularly as Congolese women contributed 52% of the total population in the DRC. The population strength of women should be considered by negotiators as ‘an inescapable force in the restoration and maintenance of peace and development’ of the warring country.

The Declaration went further to highlight various atrocities women suffer in conflict societies, ranging from rape, mutilation, ti HIV infections. In the Nairobi Declaration, women explained the need for all and sundry to acknowledge their active roles in peacebuilding, reconstruction and development, because they are no less ‘mothers of the nation’, as their active role in the family and society at large cannot be overemphasised, particularly in the area of mediation. Therefore, the active participation of women and adoption of equal gender approach by the IDC became imperative for the peace negotiation meeting to yield fruits.

Now, in the constitution of Uganda, gender equality is engendered, as men and women have equal rights and opportunities to political, economic and social resources. The new direction was reflected in the appointment oa woman, Ms. Betty Bigombe, as principal negotiator representing the government’s team in the peace negotiation between the government and the Lord Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group that launched an armed insurgency against Ugandan government. Her participation in the peace process was very productive and fruitful, as ceasefire was facilitated.

In Rwanda, the new constitution guarantees women at least a 30% quota in political institutions, even as women are now occupying no less than 48% of parliamentary seats. Similar development obtains in the Rwandan judicial division, where women enjoy 50% constitutional share of appointment at the nation’s Supreme Court.


In Africa, there has been an upsurge in the campaign for the promotion of culture of peace among the world population through promotion of principles of democracy and human rights. Regional and continental concerns are now getting more involved in (international) peacekeeping initiatives and humanitarian activities. They remain committed not only to building peace, but also active in socialisation processes, creating unique values and civic attitude among the people. They also serve as mediators, trauma healing counsellors and policy-makers for meaningful conflict transformation.

Multilateral declarations and institutional resolutions have given credence and support to improved women participation in peace process and important roles in peacebuilding. Several gender advocacy activities are carried out by several women organisations and NGOs in Africa, in their quest for mainstreaming gender in peacebuilding. As peace activists and advocates, women have continued to respond to the need to stem down the culture of violence, which has thrown the entire global system in war and confusion. It is not surprising that women in Africa have been able to achieve fit within a short time of their participation in peace process.


Overall, governance is observed as improving on the continent of Africa, although the process may appear tenuous and obviously reversible. There is uneven progress and development among African countries, even though more political parties now exist virtually in all the countries. To give backing to the laudable peacebuilding objectives, African leaders, led by those of Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Algeria, and Egypt all endorsed a memorandum of understanding on the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) as a new NEPAD initiative and an African learning process, through self monitoring and evaluation in political and economic governance.

In finality, the mechanism could improve governance on the continent by providing a forum for the civil service and other stakeholders to engage the state in governance discuss shape development agenda and its course. The APRM would draw national consensus on development priorities; help to promote transparency and accountability in governance; identify key areas of capacity development both locally and internationally for areas of key deficiencies. But cautiously, the process could serve as a basis for donor evaluation of countries and support due to its non-enforcement nature and no sanctions. In addition, a peacebuilding APRM measure could create participatory pressures, self-policing mechanism, which is unique in the world and could consume resources that have otherwise been invested in development projects on the African continent.


Adeleye Oyeniyi

-Fellow, The Salzburg Seminar (Austria): The Entrepreneurial City

-Editorial Consultant to numerous African-biased newsmagazines in: The Netherlands, Germany and Austria. International media concept, institutional research and related cross-sectoral works span peace and conflict, security, public affairs, political and development economics, management and administration, entrepreneurial and business management programme, and more; with attestation, especially by reputation, to readership across The Netherlands, U. K., Germany, Belgium, Nigeria, Switzerland, and Austria.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Feb 2011.

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