The roundtable, which was chaired by Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, brought together a number of eminent persons with expertise in peace processes, mediation and peace negotiations to discuss issues in conflict management, share experiences and lessons learned, and consider how recent progress in bringing some conflicts to an end might be built upon and sustained. Sessions focused on lessons of peace negotiations, challenges of peace agreements, and support for peace processes. Drawing on their collective experience and understanding, participants also discussed the prevailing situation in Cote dIvoire. Hon. Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom, joined the meeting and underscored the imperative of ending conflict on the continent. She emphasized that conflict is a development issue, given that it continues to impede the ability of African countries to achieve the growth rates needed to reduce poverty. While stressing the need for political leaders on the continent to seriously address conflict, she also underlined that the recent progress in ending some longstanding conflicts has helped to create a new, more positive environment.
This summary does not fully express the richness of the discussions, or the collective expertise that was brought to the roundtable, but rather highlights the main issues considered and conclusions reached.
Participants drew on their hands-on experiences of past and on-going peace processes to share insights and lessons learned. There was agreement that peace processes need to involve all key players in the conflict if agreements are to be sustained. It was also recommended that peace settlements be as inclusive as possible, and take the expectations of the major stakeholders into account. While by definition peace agreements are based on compromises, experience has shown that those agreements that allow all parties to feel that they have achieved some of their objectives are more sustainable. Leaders of conflicting parties are more likely to abide by agreements if they feel that at least some of their concerns have been met and that their future is in some way assured. The challenge is to find a balance that is both acceptable and workable.
Each conflict has its own dynamics, and both the peace process and the agreement reached should be informed by the particular circumstances that pertain. Simple, hastily reached agreements that fail to address important issues are unlikely to lead to an effective resolution of the conflict. At the other extreme, overly complex and detailed agreements run the risk of not being seriously implemented. It was recognized that at times conflicting parties will use negotiations to buy time, or will accept commitments that they have little intention of upholding. This has been seen in most African peace processes to date, and a major difficulty lies in obtaining the commitment of parties to both negotiate in good faith and to honor their agreements. Although conflict management is a process and some setbacks are to be expected, at times it has appeared that parties involved in peace negotiations have not been really serious about trying to reach a settlement or bring about an end to war.
Participants emphasized the need to take a long-term view, and for attention to peacebuilding to ensure that peace agreements are properly implemented. They cautioned that peace processes require sustained effort and that there are no quick fixes. Realism in what can be achieved was also encouraged, as overly optimistic timetables can give an impression of failure when they are not met. Participants also recognized that at times the international community has appeared reluctant to fully engage or provide the necessary support to peace processes, while sustained assistance to post-conflict peacebuilding efforts over the long-term has also been limited.
Mediation and Negotiation
A significant problem in bringing longstanding conflicts to an end is that over time conflict becomes the norm. Those most directly affected by the conflict generally lack voice or influence, and there are few institutional mechanisms to promote accountability of either governments or rebel groups. At times, conflict has also become a lucrative business venture, particularly when control of access to mineral resources is at stake. Persuading parties to end conflict can be difficult as long as they derive some benefit from its continuance, and determining the entry point for intervention is complex while an early end to conflict is preferable, parties are unlikely to agree to negotiate if they think a military solution will be possible. Rather than a lasting agreement, early intervention may lead to a series of temporary settlements until such time as conflicting parties accept the inevitability of a negotiated solution. However, the timeliness of intervention can also significantly affect the peace process in Somalia, for example, a slow response allowed the situation to worsen considerably.
Participants agreed that third party mediation can be very helpful in bringing conflicting parties to the negotiating table, and that mediators can play an important role. However it was also recognized that ultimately conflicts can only be resolved by the parties themselves. Attempts to impose a resolution can result in an agreement that lacks legitimacy, and is thus unlikely to be implemented. Although each conflict needs to be addressed on its own terms and there is no formula that can be followed, it was agreed that a more systematic approach is needed to ensure appropriate early action, avoid duplication of effort, and minimize confusion. The principal mediator should be determined by the situation. At times, the greater distance provided by the UN or the AU is necessary. At other times, mediation by a regional leader or organization may be the most effective. Eminent persons from Africa or elsewhere acting on behalf of the international community or the African Union can also provide the necessary moral authority to persuade conflicting parties to negotiate.
Participants noted that in most conflicts there are no easy answers, and that the concerns and grievances of all sides need to be addressed. Previous experience underlines that mediators need to be perceived as neutral. They cannot be interested parties. Their role is to listen to all sides and see the validity of issues, and then try to promote a settlement that is acceptable to all parties. If they are perceived as favoring one party, or of excluding certain actors, they are less likely to be able to broker a lasting settlement. Similarly, it is difficult to persuade parties to begin negotiations if one side is constantly demonized, as it is unlikely to have confidence in the process. Participants noted a tendency for those involved with peace processes to implicitly support the government in power, and cautioned that there is need to pay attention to legitimate grievances voiced by other parties. Particularly when peace processes are conducted under the auspices of regional or continental organizations it can appear as though they are biased in favor of states.
Recent conflicts in Africa have been characterized by the number of mediators involved. In addition to the UN, AU and regional organizations, individual countries often appoint special envoys, and a variety of non-governmental organizations have been increasingly active in peace processes. While this may be an expression of interest, the presence of multiple mediators is usually a complicating factor, and attempting to coordinate them can divert valuable time away from the actual negotiations. Different mediators can also send different signals, resulting in confusion instead of a clear, consistent message. Parties to conflict will use the confusion to buy time, stall the negotiation process, or play one mediator off against another. At times mediators also appear to have their own agendas, and do not always lend support to the overall process of negotiation. It was recommended that a principal facilitator should be appointed where possible, and the support of other entities encouraged. Organizations should also seek complementarity of purpose and cooperative action. In Sudan, the peace process has been assisted by greater coordination among agencies in recent months, whereas too many conflicting signals led to complications during the negotiations on the DRC.
Participants emphasized that most conflicts are complex and multifaceted, and are often complicated by historical factors. Mediators therefore need to be well-informed and understand the complexities of each situation. There is a tendency to oversimplify and generalize the problem, and to focus on those issues that can most easily be identified. However, true conflict resolution requires that root causes are addressed in both peace processes and peace agreements. Negotiations also have to deal with issues of access to, and exercise of, power. Mediators need to be able to draw on expertise to inform them of the history and dynamics of the conflict, take time to listen to all parties, and determine what issues are most important. This is often at odds with pressures for a quick solution. All concerned have to understand that peacemaking is a process, not an event.
It was agreed that peace processes are affected by the capacity of mediators, as well as parties to the conflict, to negotiate implementable agreements. Representatives of conflicting parties need to have sufficient authority to negotiate binding agreements, and to then build support among their constituents for what has been agreed. At times, technical assistance to parties and mediators has been helpful in moving a peace process forward, particularly where legal and constitutional issues have been concerned. Peace negotiations can also be facilitated by a variety of confidence-building measures that help to overcome lack of trust and suspicion among parties. Track two diplomacy can be very effective in supporting official discussions, and taking time out from negotiations to engage in workshops on specific issues or discussing concepts in non-negotiating sessions can help to bridge differences. Such techniques also help to build ownership of the peace process and commitment to it. Ideally, peace agreements should create a dynamic for peace, by laying out a process of interlocking and mutually reinforcing actions.
It was recognized that civil society has a role in bringing conflict to an end, and should be involved in the process of negotiation. This has often not been the case. However, it was also accepted that the role civil society can play in both bringing about and maintaining peace is in part determined by its strength and depth. In most war-torn countries, civil society is relatively weak, while in some instances such as the DRC the decay of political culture actually contributed to conflict. The inclusion of civil society also raises issues of representation. Some organizations are self-appointed, and it is difficult for mediators to know which ones are really representative and have legitimacy. Moreover, civil society organizations are not always well equipped to participate in negotiations, and lack of understanding about the process has sometimes led to unrealistic expectations. There is thus a real need for capacity building and training, which is increasingly being provided by specialized organizations and womens groups.
Participants emphasized the important role of women in building peace, recognizing that there is still reluctance among governments to include them in peace processes. Civil society and women are part of the infrastructure for conflict management that needs to be developed if peace agreements are to be sustained and implemented, while religious leaders can also play an important role in promoting reconciliation. In terms of process, it was agreed that in many ways the peace negotiations in the DRC have broken new ground. There was a conscious effort to make the peace process as inclusive as possible, by involving a number of factions and listening to all sides. There was also a real attempt to include civil society in the negotiations, and to ensure that women were active participants.
Implementation of Peace Agreements
One of the main challenges of negotiations is to achieve a realistic and implementable agreement. At times, peace agreements have required conflicting parties to sign up to an extraordinary set of actions that would be difficult to implement even under the best circumstances. At other times, unrealistic timetables have meant that important activities such as disarmament and demobilization have not been adequately undertaken, with detrimental consequences. One of the disappointing features of African peace processes is the number of agreements that have either been ignored or have not been adequately implemented. At times, this has been because negotiators have been unable to build support for agreed provisions. In other cases, each unsuccessful agreement has served as an incremental step, until a final settlement has been achieved. But some agreements have not been properly implemented because they have failed to address the real causes of conflict.
It was recognized that leaders sometimes accept agreements that they have no real intention of implementing, and thus the kind of incentives and pressures that can be brought to bear should be considered. The role of credible guarantors is important in this regard, and while both regional and continental organizations could help to monitor implementation, the international community also has responsibilities. In some instances, sanctions against those who renege on agreements could be necessary. However, sanctions are difficult to implement effectively. When applied, they should be targeted at leaders and those who blatantly exploit the situation for their own advantage, rather than at the general population.
Participants agreed that there is need for attention to spoilers who can derail a peace process or prevent it from being implemented effectively. Experience has shown that such spoilers can be a variety of internal and external actors, as well as the conflicting parties themselves. Neighboring countries or political leaders have sometimes had a vested interest in the continuance of conflict, as have arms dealers who have been known to simultaneously sell weapons to opposing sides. Close supporters of political leaders have also encouraged maintenance of the status quo even if that meant prolonging the conflict, because they recognized that peace would imply a loss of power and influence.
The effective implementation of peace agreements also requires that attention is given to the whole range of issues that can affect the transition to peace. Peace agreements should be seen as part of the broader process of political transition. Follow-up is needed to make peace agreements work, and to ensure that they are rooted in society. This was not the case in early conflict management efforts, such as Sudan after the Addis Ababa accords, when little assistance for reconstruction was provided. While peace agreements are by definition elite settlements, genuine reconciliation has to take place within society, and among all stakeholders. Attention thus needs to be given to the processes of reconciliation and reconstruction, so that people can experience the benefits of peace. It was also recognized that the implementation of peace agreements can be affected by the status of those involved. In a position of weakness, parties may agree to certain processes and procedures which they then disavow once their position has changed, as happened in Liberia.
Elections are a key component of peace agreements, designed to give post-conflict governments a degree of political legitimacy. However, elections need to be properly prepared and planned. Premature or ill-prepared elections can result in lack of support for incoming governments, or give losers an excuse to return to conflict. Unrealistic timetables can mean that necessary pre-election activities such as demobilization are not adequately undertaken. There is also a tendency to see elections as the end point of a peace process, rather than the beginning of a long-term process of political transition during which peacebuilding and reconstruction efforts need to be continued.
Transitional arrangements are an important element of peace processes, and can be a useful in facilitating a gradual return to normalcy during which confidence can be built and democratic elections properly planned. Transitional arrangements, which in most instances imply some form of power sharing, are often also more acceptable to conflicting parties, who recognize that they allow time to generate political support. While such arrangements can be very useful, they need to be carefully managed. To be effective, power sharing mechanisms need to be respected by all parties and accepted by the population. They are unlikely to promote reconciliation if parties use them merely to entrench their own power and influence. It is also important that a culture of impunity is not entrenched during the transition period.
Justice, Reconciliation and Impunity
Participants recognized that issues of justice and reconciliation are central to the maintenance of peace. But how these can best be achieved is dependent on each situation, and what is appropriate in one circumstance will not necessarily work in another. There are tensions between focusing on past injustices and moving ahead, and the desire for retribution may make reconciliation hard to achieve. In most instances, however, some attempt must be made to heal deep societal differences and to overcome past abuses if peace is to be sustained. A major difficulty in achieving reconciliation is that different groups have different perceptions of events, and often find it difficult to recognize that others also have rights that must be respected and safeguarded. People also need to feel that real progress is being made if they are to overcome the trauma of war.
Truth and reconciliation commissions are increasing in popularity as a way of promoting accountability for past actions and creating a basis for reconstruction. Although there is no blueprint for how countries should go about creating such commissions, the process has to allow people to feel that justice is in some way brought about if they are to accept it as legitimate. The method, timing and extent of enquiry are significant issues that need to be determined. The primary intent of truth and reconciliation processes is to hold people accountable for their actions. In some instances, they are accompanied by legal provisions, or certain acts are subject to legal action. Some people may be brought to trial, and given suspended sentences, imprisoned, or otherwise punished. Even when there is no punishment through the formal justice system, the public recognition of crimes carries with it an element of moral censure. Given the importance of promoting reconciliation in post-conflict societies, participants suggested that the AU commission studies and organize roundtables to share experiences.
Issues of impunity are inextricably linked to justice and reconciliation. It is difficult to bring about reconciliation if people feel that leaders who have been guilty of severe abuses enjoy impunity. A major issue in post-conflict countries concerns impunity for actions, and determination of what is acceptable. There is a general sense that those who promote and engage in conflict should be held accountable, but there is no clear understanding of how this can best be achieved. In Somalia, for example, determining who should be held accountable is difficult, given the number of different warlords involved in the conflict, while in Rwanda the process has been very slow. It was also recognized that there are many gray areas in conflicts, and that frequently all parties are guilty of violations of international humanitarian law, though to differing degrees.
Impunity is a complex issue. If there is too much emphasis on punishment during peace processes there is a danger that those who stand to lose will be reluctant to negotiate, fearing reprisals. Yet the inability to bring perpetrators of atrocities and abuse of human rights to justice has helped to create a culture of impunity and perhaps fueled conflict. Questions of impunity also raise the issue of where to draw the line, and whether only those who actually engage in conflict should be subject to enquiry, or whether sanction should also be extended to those who actively support conflict by providing funding or selling arms. It has been seen that conflict is sometimes fomented by individuals, groups or countries acting in their own interest, who can also prevent the implementation of peace agreements. Even though sanctioning countries that support conflict may be difficult, participants agreed that their role should be made public.
Regional, Continental and International Initiatives
There was general agreement that both continental and regional organizations have important roles to play in bringing about an end to conflict, preferably with the support of the international community. As a result of past experience, there is now much greater collaboration among the UN, the AU and regional organizations. Whether the UN, AU or a regional organization assumes the principal conflict management role should be determined by the circumstances of each conflict. At times, it may be more appropriate for a regional organization to take the lead because of greater familiarity with the issues and the situation. At other times, this can be a complicating factor and parties to the conflict may lack confidence in the neutrality of mediators. In such circumstances, the continental perspective and distance that the AU brings can be helpful. Mediation under the auspices of the UN obviously demonstrates international concern, and can bring a greater degree of political weight and leverage than mediation under continental and regional organizations. In some cases, a collaborative and coordinated approach involving regional, continental and international organizations may be optimal.
In recent years, both regional organizations and the AU have greatly developed their capacity to engage in conflict management. The first operation by a regional organization ECOMOGs initial intervention in Liberia was very much an exercise in learning by doing, and in the beginning lacked even proper legal authority. The OAUs decision to concern itself with internal conflict and establish a conflict management mechanism was recognized as a major step forward, while it was agreed that the peace and security council will greatly strengthen the ability of the AU to intervene in conflicts. While recognizing the progress that has been made, it was also suggested that both regional organizations and the AU need clearly defined policies on defense and security, with legal backing for intervention and established procedures to ensure accountability. It was also agreed that regional and continental organizations need to be alert to warning signs and take early action before violence ensues. At times, African leaders have abused power or implemented policies that have led to conflict, but neither regional nor continental organizations have responded. While the proposed AU panel of the wise was seen as a useful mechanism for conflict prevention, participants cautioned that its effectiveness will depend on the degree to which its moral authority is recognized.
It was agreed that the regional dimensions of conflict have to be taken into account, given the impact of internal insecurity and unrest on surrounding countries. At a minimum, the challenge is to ensure the positive neutrality of neighbors, while it is preferable if the region is a constructive force for peace. In the past, the regional response to conflicts has not always been helpful. At times, individual countries and leaders have supported particular sides in conflicts, even when a regional organization has encouraged an end to hostilities. The DRC obviously presents the most stark example of differing views within a region, but in other cases also surrounding countries have not been able to present a unified approach. Experience has shown that this can threaten the peace process, particularly if support to one side or the other continues during negotiations.
While the primary focus of mediation and negotiation should be the country in conflict, neighboring countries also need to be involved in peace processes, and made to understand that they will benefit from peace. It was recognized that excluding countries from discussions could lead them to undermine negotiations. However, involving neighboring countries does not necessarily resolve all problems. If regional leaders have previously supported one side or another in the conflict, their ability to bring the necessary moral authority to peace agreements will be compromised. Furthermore, competition between countries, leaders or institutions to take the lead in peace processes can result in confusion or lack of real support for a negotiated settlement. In extreme cases, this can actually prolong conflict.
In addition to the surrounding region, it was also noted that diasporas can be either a positive or negative force in conflict management. In some instances they have provided substantial funding or purchased arms that have enabled conflicts to continue. In others, they have tried to influence the policy decisions of members of the international community. It was recognized that diasporas often reflect the political ambitions of individuals or groups within them, and thus do not always present a unified approach. Nonetheless it was recommended that attempts be made to involve them in peace processes, in order to encourage them to exercise a positive influence and promote peace.
Even when mediation is undertaken under the auspices of a regional organization or the AU, the international community has an important role to play, and timely and appropriate international support can greatly affect the peace process. Backing by the UN or members of the UN Security Council can send a signal that the international community is concerned to promote peace, while the direct involvement of powerful countries can bring pressure to bear on conflicting parties. It was agreed that the United Kingdoms engagement in Sierra Leone positively affected the outcome, while the increased interest shown by the United States in Sudan has provided new stimulus to the peace process. The international community in general, and major powers in particular, can provide guarantees that can be extremely helpful in creating confidence among conflicting parties during peace processes. Although for the most part positive encouragement is needed, it was also recognized that at times the threat of sanction can be decisive.
The need for the international community to support mediation efforts, and to adopt a coherent and consistent approach, is particularly important. It was noted that at times, powerful countries have sent conflicting signals, which has complicated the process of negotiation and allowed parties to the conflict to exploit apparent differences. At other times, a discrepancy between messages sent from capitals and those given by local envoys of individual countries has caused confusion. It was also noted that the international communitys response to conflict is neither predictable nor uniform. In general, African conflicts and peace processes have not attracted the same level of interest, support or resources as those in other regions.
There was agreement that greater commitment on the part of the international community to help prevent and end conflicts in Africa would be beneficial. In addition to strong diplomatic support for peace processes, resources are essential. It was emphasized that even when development partners pledge support, delays in transferring funds can have a detrimental effect. In Rwanda, the OAUs ability to monitor the situation was seriously constrained by lack of timely financing, while in the DRC mediation efforts were held up because of funding delays. Although accountability and proper use of resources is essential, different accounting procedures and regulations can make managing donor contributions extremely time consuming and detract from the process of mediation. A coordinated approach, more flexible financing, and standardized procedures would greatly facilitate effective management.
In addition to funding mediation efforts themselves, there is need for timely provision of adequate resources to implement peace agreements. At times, delayed or inadequate financing has seriously set back the process. Funding of critical components, such as disarmament, demobilization or preparations for elections, is essential. Although development partners are increasingly involved in providing assistance, the mandates of some organizations only allow them to fund particular activities, or to become involved at certain stages. Thus for example, funds that are available to assist with the return of refugees cannot be used for longer-term reconstruction efforts. There is also a tendency for development partners to compartmentalize peacebuilding into particular phases mediation, peacekeeping, peace agreements, elections, post-conflict reconstruction rather than to see it as an interlinked and integrated process. This makes provision of funding particularly difficult, and can lead to underfunding or non-financing of critical activities, delays in making resources available, and duplication of effort.
Adequate funding for post-conflict reconstruction is also necessary. The needs of countries coming out of conflict are acute, but governments often have limited capacity to adequately manage resources or implement activities. Post-conflict assistance has to be geared to the individual needs and capacity of each country, but flexibility on the part of development partners, including the international financial institutions, is also needed. It has to be recognized that financing for post-conflict reconstruction will be required for a number of years, not only in the immediate aftermath of conflict. There is also need to consider what scarce resources are spent on. At present, very little assistance is provided to the efforts of women to build peace at the community level, even though this is a crucial element of sustaining peace agreements. Postconflict governments also need to demonstrate progress unless communities can see that peace benefits them, the agreements reached at a political level will be difficult to sustain.
Peacekeeping and Use of Force
It was noted that the response to conflict is often to send peacekeeping forces. While this can be helpful in preventing an escalation of violence, peacekeeping operations should be seen as integral components of political strategies to bring about peace, and not as stand-alone activities. It was also agreed that peacekeeping forces are sometimes sent when there is no peace to keep, and when peace enforcement is actually needed. Participants stressed that force is a difficult strategy to apply. It can bring parties to the negotiating table, but is unlikely to bring a fragmented society together. Agreements reached under duress are likely to be fragile, and easily overturned. Thus they cautioned against an over-reliance on sending peacekeepers without also working to address the underlying grievances that have led to violence.
The success of peacekeeping operations is dependent on their strength and capacity, and also on their mandate. The mandate should be clear and suited to the situation, and yet peacekeeping operations frequently have overly ambitious mandates without the necessary resources to implement them. In Rwanda, however, the peacekeeping mandate was clearly not sufficient to address the extent of conflict or avert the carnage. In addition to the mandate, a range of other factors affect peacekeeping operations, including the need for clear policies, common approaches and strategies, and technical issues such as command and control, and standard operating procedures. Some African countries have considerable experience of peacekeeping, both on the continent and elsewhere, and lessons from this experience should inform future operations.
It was recognized that assistance efforts such as RECAMP and ACRI can contribute to strengthening African peacekeeping capacity. However, they need to be coordinated and meet needs defined by African countries and organizations, not by the countries providing assistance. African countries also need to determine what type of training is needed. In addition to technical capacity, there is need for issues such as human rights and international humanitarian law to be included in training for peacekeeping operations, as well as awareness of HIV/AIDS. Peacekeeping operations also need to be accountable. To the extent that surrounding countries are involved, or intervention is under the auspices of regional or continental organizations, countries sending troops need to be informed of the purpose and the mandate of the operation. Oftentimes there is little support for peacekeeping in African countries because the purpose of intervention is not clearly understood.
The recently-established AU peace and security council should facilitate peacekeeping operations mandated by the AU and, if established, a standby force comprised of regional components should facilitate rapid deployment. Participants noted that African countries have the ability to provide troops for peacekeeping operations, but lack resources and logistical capacity. The international community was urged to provide a timely and appropriate response to African-led peacekeeping missions to facilitate early action. In addition to financial resources, logistical support and equipment are necessary. At times, delays in providing pledged resources, or provision of non-compatible and out of date machinery, has hindered the deployment and effective implementation of peacekeeping missions. Participants also encouraged the UN, the AU and regional organizations to act together, and noted that peacekeeping forces operating under the mandate of the UN or the AU and comprised of regional troops could at times be a useful alternative to peacekeeping operations mounted by regional organizations. However, even when regional organizations are primarily responsible, the support of the AU and the UN will be necessary.
Participants decided to devote a special session to the situation in Cote dIvoire, which they regarded as a tragic setback to the generally hopeful signs that conflict in Africa is being brought to an end. They considered concerted action on the part of African countries and the international community to be imperative, given the enormous consequences for the region if the situation continued to deteriorate. Participants recognized that the conflict was a result of a complex combination of factors, including the artificiality of borders, the lack of inclusive political processes and transparent elections, poor governance, ethnic divisions within the military, economic deterioration, inequitable access to resources, and widespread corruption. However, the emphasis on citizenship and the concept of Ivoirité was regarded as the single most damaging factor, and responsible for exacerbating the other problems.
Participants were unanimous in their condemnation of the policy of Ivorité as adumbrated and applied, which they saw as being introduced for short-term political ends. They cautioned that such a divisive policy was bound to have detrimental long-term consequences in a country with Cote dIvoires ethnic make-up and existing geographical and religious fault lines. Once introduced, it fanned the zenophobic tendencies of those who considered themselves to be true Ivoirians, and heightened the fears of groups already marginalized and treated unequally. Though the consequence of a particular set of factors, it was agreed that the conflict in Cote dIvoire exemplified the difficulties of managing political change, and underscored the need for effective institutions and accountable governance to facilitate the process of political transition.
There was agreement that the crisis had been brought about in large part by the intransigence of the political elite in Cote dIvoire, which had deliberately refused to acknowledge the likely consequences of political actions, and which had ignored all advice that advocated compromise. However, it was also recognized that the violence represented a failure of regional and continental organizations to exercise leverage over political leaders, and to recognize warning signs and act decisively to prevent conflict. The involvement of some surrounding countries and leaders had worsened the problem, while the influx of arms and the availability of mercenaries and former combatants from other conflicts had encouraged military action.
It was agreed that the unwillingness of the government to recognize the rebels as legitimate parties in the peace process, and the lack of will to negotiate in good faith demonstrated by both the government and the rebels, had been stumbling blocks to negotiations. Even though talks were on-going, neither side had given up engaging militarily, and both were guilty of violations of ceasefires. Initially also, neither the government nor the rebels had sent negotiators with sufficient authority to take decisions or agree on compromises to talks in Lomé, leading to the impression that they were not serious about reaching an agreement.
Although ECOWAS had taken the lead in intervening in the conflict, it was recognized that this presented difficulties, given that the conflict had a potentially profound impact on ECOWAS member states. Cote dIvoire, because of its previous stability and relative prosperity, had attracted a large number of immigrants and migrant workers from surrounding countries. Not only did they provide significant resources in the form of remittances, but most countries in the region would be unable to cope with a sudden return of their nationals. Thus their own interests made it difficult for most ECOWAS governments to adopt an impartial stance toward the conflict, while within member countries there was a certain degree of popular ambivalence toward intervention.
Participants felt that ECOWAS attempts at mediation had suffered from a lack of clear vision in the initial stages, in part because the crisis had divided the region according to the national interests of individual countries. The promotion of cohesion within the region was thus essential. It was also acknowledged that ECOWAS was operating under considerable financial and logistical constraints, and that the support of the AU and the international community was needed. While expressing the hope that France would play a constructive role given its close association with Core dIvoire, participants underscored the need for close collaboration among all those involved in trying to bring the conflict to an end. They also agreed that UN involvement would probably be necessary, given the complexity of the situation.
It was agreed that there would be no easy or quick end to the crisis, given that the country had become so deeply divided and society so fragmented. A process of national dialogue involving all key stakeholders would be necessary, and grievances discussed, if a lasting settlement is to be reached. Any agreement reached should also take the political realities into account, and not simply attempt to paper over them. It was recognized that rebuilding trust will be a long process because of the level of societal division, and all methods to promote dialogue were encouraged. These include the use of track two diplomacy, and efforts to promote dialogue and reconciliation at the local level, especially by womens groups. It was also underscored that any agreement reached would require guarantees and supervision to ensure that it is actually implemented.
The situation in Core dIvoire notwithstanding, it was agreed that progress is now being made in bringing conflicts to an end on the continent. Achieving peace in a few instances would be a tremendous breakthrough that would help to promote confidence among both Africans and their international partners. However, much more serious consideration of how to prevent future conflicts is necessary. Challenges of governance and political transition need to be faced, and African institutions and political leaders need to send a strong message that actions that provoke conflict will not be tolerated. It was recognized that in many instances conflict is a response to poor governance and political exclusion.
Among the key lessons learned from experience are that conflict management efforts need to be guided by a clarity of vision, and that coordination and collaboration are needed. For agreements to be sustained, dialogue and reconciliation at the national level is required. In all instances, the international community should take conflict management in Africa as seriously as in other regions. It was agreed that new instruments to address conflict in Africa are needed, involving the close collaboration of African countries and institutions and the United Nations, with the support of other international actors. It was also agreed that the GCA could play an important role in building support for new approaches, as well as in encouraging more active consideration of how conflict could be prevented.