I am Principal Investigator for this research project, which is being implemented at the African Leadership Centre and funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).
We argue for a rethinking of approaches to peacebuilding and statebuilding in Africa. Current approaches to peace and state building rely on a dominant narrative that constructs statebuilding as a prerequisite to peace. Underpinning this is the assumption that a certain type of [democratic] state would produce peace. As such, interventions in societies affected by armed conflict focus on the transfer of a model of statebuilding that is expected to lead to lasting peace and stability. We challenge this if only we build “good” states, peace will come approach on several grounds, two of which are mentioned here. One is that the underpinning assumption of this approach is inherently flawed. Rarely does the dominant discourse of peacebuilding construe the outbreak [potential or actual] of intractable conflict, which sometimes and paradoxically threaten the very survival of African states and the efforts to reconcile affected societies as part of a continuum of statebuilding.
We therefore argue that peace in the form construed by current interventions is not an end in itself. Rather, peacebuilding should be conceived as part of the continuum of statebuilding in the affected societies. Many situations of armed conflict in post-independence and post-Cold War Africa are the result of statebuilding conversations taking place in the specific national contexts. And those conversations might require a distinctly different solution, process or time frame from the models offered in response by interveners. In pursuit of this argument, we examine a number of conflict situations in Africa, which ended through different forms of political or peace settlements. We draw a distinction between two types of violent/armed conflict settings.
The first consists of those situations of armed conflict where violence ended on the battlefield and the post-conflict agenda was pursued locally without active external participation [Ethiopia; Rwanda]. The second includes situations where the end of violence as well as post-conflict agenda was negotiated and facilitated by external interveners [Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Sierra Leone]. We suggest that an examination of these settings might enable us to make better sense of the impact of internally and externally driven processes, and the extent to which each helps to set conflict affected societies on the course of nation and statebuilding in ways that produce stable peace.
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