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Ending War in Africa

Time (GMT +01) 16:00 17:00

Dr Kayode Fayemi - Executive Secretary, Centre for Democracy and Development, Lagos
Professor Robin Luckham - Institute of Development Studies (TBC)

  • Kayode Fayemi argued that any analysis of conflict and how to reduce it must look at the global shifts in economic and political power over the past decade.
  • In Africa the critical background factors include: fiscal and monetary pressures on dependent economies amid IMF and World Bank reform programmes; weakening of state security strcutures; decline of authoritarian states in face of demands for political liberalisation; the withdrawal of superpower sponsorship of Africxan regimes after 1989.
  • The most important direct causes of war are two sides of the same coin: worsening impoverishment of Africans and misuse/theft of resources by elite groups. But it's too mechanistic to blame war solely on poverty as it doesnÕt explain why many of the wars have been in less poor countries (such as Angola and Algeria). Most of Africa's wars are about resources in the broadest sense - access to land, social and economic goods - as well as the more obvious diamond looting.
  • Social networks and good governance are important in avoiding conflict and resolving them quickly. Political reforms and pluralism in countries such as South Africa, Ghana, Mali, Cape Verde and Benin allow for some optimism that better performance by governments can help build a more peaceful climate.
  • The New Partnership for African Development (NePAD) document on peace and security has major weaknesses. It discusses the issues in isolation to its analysis of government and politics. It ignores the historical backdrop and other multilateral attempts to tackle conflict such as the OAU security mechanism; the early warning systems and monitoring mechanisms.
  • A serious shortcoming with NePAD is its disconnect with African people - as opposed to governments and the political elite. The voices of the people who make up oppositional groups or who serve in the security institutions are not being heard. 
  • Tackling causes of conflict is a political task: war is generally an effect not a cause of bad govertnment. So pushing for democracy, accountability and open government are key to efforts to reduce violent conflicts.
After prolonged periods of authoritarian rule in many African states, speedy transitions to peace and democracy have been rare. In many cases, post-military NIgeria for example, mass violence has continued. Partly this is the legacy of dictatorial rule: a culture of militarism and an institutionalisaton of violence as a political means. Communities are less willing to try to resolve disputes through negotiation when a resort to arms - especially if backed by state power - can secure their aims more quickly. More attention must be paid to the nature of Africa's military, police and security services: what is their position in the hierarchy of state spending? What new missions and doctrines are needed for the agencies in the new environment? Not one conflict in Africa is wholly internal. Even apparently civil wars are fed by the international proliferation of small arms, the organised multinational exploitation of resources which can finance war, and the collaboration between warlords from different countries in the same national war (for example Sierra Leone). This means more attention should be paid to regional sceurity organisations to tackle such collaboration. Western governments are looking more seriously at policy. Since 11 September there has been a new view of Western interests in regional security. The British government has spearheaded support for security sector reform as a development issue. The US governmenthas been backing the use of private security companies - such as Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) - to assist on security reform with mixed results (in countries such as Nigeria). Effective policy must find ways to coordinate efforts to tackle conflicts at various levels. NePAD needs an operational framework to show how community initiatives van work with national and regional mechanisms, and what support continental and international institutions can give them. Tackling conflict is a continuum for people in war zones: they make no distinction between peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace enforcement - as long as the war stops. Robin Luckham (chair) suggested lessons could be learned from countries where there had been no violent conflict and from countries - such as Mali - where a conflict has been effectively tackled. Patterns of dispute might be similar in several countries but why did some political/resource disputes escalate into war. If NePAD is to help, it cannot be a tabula rasa. It should draw on Africa's long experiences in tackling conflicts - good and bad - such as the West African peace keeping force in Liberia. Western countries should operate on a minimum principle of 'do no harm': that is they shouldn't sell arms into conflict zones or prop up tyrannical regimes. In the discussion several important points were raised:
  • Failed states needed reconstruction if they were not to spread conflict in the region
  • Better regulation of corporations was needed to stop them financing wars
  • Arms dealers and financiers in the West should be better scrutinised
  • The Brahimi reforms to UN peacekeeping should be implemented
  • African governments should sanction troublemaking countries and Western states should back them
  • The British intervention in Sierra Leone saved lives but interventions are not always benign


This event discuss whether the conflict in Africa is internally or externally driven. Early warning options, conflict resolution and humanitarian issues need to be taken into consideration.

Assembly Hall