UN blames conflicts in Africa on faulty peace accords

An M23 rebel carrying a machine gun strides the streets of Goma, eastern DRC.A UN commission has blamed the ongoing conflicts on faulty peace agreements.   FILE | AFRICA REVIEW

A UN commission has blamed the ongoing conflicts in the Horn of Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo on faulty peace agreements.

The UN Commission for Africa on Thursday said in a report that despite these regions enjoying intermittent peace periods, many often return to violence because negotiations dealing with calming tensions often fail to address the underlying causes of conflicts.

The study titled ‘Design and architecture of peace accords; mediation and architecture of peace processes in selected countries’ details accounts from several African countries that include the Sudans, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Burundi, Somalia, DRC, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Angola.

It points out that most peace negations in these countries leave out religious leaders, women and the youth as in the case of Somalia and Sudan, yet they are the most important group that bears the brunt of conflicts whenever they erupt.

Somalia for instance has had a two-decade civil strife but it was only until this year that a woman was appointed to the cabinet, despite previous talks to end violence. Moreover, most of the talks culminating to the selection of MPs involved clan elders. The report details how complex cultural arrangements in the selected countries are, criticises the meditation style for ignoring this and some of the moments that shifted the negotiation “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.”

Civil war

In addition, scholars who reviewed the report charge that most of the peace deals in the region have never fully prevented further wars because negotiators often reach at the table with personal interests in mind as opposed to national or universal goals.

In the case of Congolese conflict, an accord signed earlier between rebels and the Kinshasa Government for instance referred to salaries and related rewards for each side or “who got which ministerial post.” The two sides returned to violence with the M23 rebel group complaining lack of inclusivity from the Kinshasa administration.

Mr Jalal Abdel Latif, the Chief of Civil Society and Post-Conflict Section at the Commission argues that there is a need for more renewed attention by policy makers on the formidable task of peace consolidation, instead of just short-term goals of stopping violence.

“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,” he comments on the report.

“Given that relapses into violence are common, full implementation of the peace agreement is seen as another key milestone”, he added.

In Angola, the report notes that parties could not initially agree to talk because of mistrust between parties and mediators and were therefore not ready to talk. “No mediation was possible as no party wanted it; at no point in the mediation process did the parties address the role of the civil war.”

Prof Tony Kargbo, the Senior Programme Officer at the United Nations University for Peace, underscores the need to look at the credibility of the intervener or mediators and how prepared the parties are to meet at a table for talks.

“Regional mediators often rush towards power-sharing arrangements, but if we are to see power as a resource, then how that power is allocated, in addition to its limitations must be understood and properly handled,” he wrote.

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