Devon Curtis, Gwinyayi Albert Dzinesa, eds. Peacebuilding, Power, and Politics in Africa. Cambridge Centre of African Studies Series. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2012. xviii + 353 pp. $32.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8214-2013-3.
Reviewed by Olayiwola Abegunrin (Howard University)
Published on H-Diplo (February, 2014)
Commissioned by Seth Offenbach
Devon Curtis and Gwinyayi A. Dzinesa’s Peacebuilding, Power, and Politics in Africa is an educational and timely collection of essays about peacebuilding, power, and politics in contemporary Africa. Scholars from an array of disciplines, including politics, law, African studies, international relations, security studies, and economics, contribute chapters to this volume. They expose the tensions and contradictions in different clusters of peacebuilding activities, such as peace negotiations, state building, security sector governance, disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration.
In peacebuilding, diplomatic and military tools are employed. However, since the beginning of the twenty-first century, peacebuilders have adopted new strategies by focusing on the political, social, and economic causes of conflicts, as well as the need to employ and promote socioeconomic justice for successful peacebuilding.
Peacebuilding was popularized in the 1990s with the publication of the report “An Agenda for Peace” by Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1992), the first African United Nations (UN) secretary-general. Since the publication of that report, Africa has become the world’s most important peacebuilding laboratory. Contributors to Peacebuilding, Power, and Politics in Africa assess the post-Cold War peacebuilding experiences in Africa. The book covers cases of peacebuilding under UN missions in the following countries: Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria’s Niger Delta, and Sudan.
In chapter 1, David Keen argues that peace can also be an incentive for war. For example, the Liberian civil war shows that “the question of how inclusive or exclusive a peace agreement should be is a difficult and critical one. A considerable measure of inclusion of the main armed groups--both at the negotiating table and in government would appear to be necessary” (p. 31). “Incentive-based approaches to peacemaking tend to focus on the violent while often ignoring those who have not been drawn into participation in violent processes” (p. 32). Peacebuilding offices have been established in countries where peacekeeping operations are taking place. The UN has also established peacebuilding offices in each African region where there are conflicts or civil wars, including west Africa, central Africa, and the Great Lakes region. In Kofi Annan’s tenure as the secretary-general of the UN, the organization played a major role in creating a Peacebuilding Commission as well as a Peacebuilding Support Office within the UN Secretariat. Especially chapter 7 by Funmi Olonisakin and Eka Ikpe, “The United Nations Peacebuilding Commission: Problems and Prospects,” details the activities of these supporting commissions and offices.
Contributors also cover the role and function of the International Criminal Court (ICC). In chapter 9, “The International Criminal Court: A Peacebuilder in Africa?” Sarah Nouwen specifically covers in detail this topic. For example, she shows the ICC’s relevance and potential contributions to peacebuilding in Africa. This particular chapter also demonstrates that the ICC is one of the most important peacebuilding institutions to tackle conflicts not only in Africa but also in the international community as a whole. On account of its principle of complementarity, the ICC at times spurs initiatives in favor of conducting domestic proceedings, which may help establish or reestablish the domestic rule of law and thereby contribute to peace. The role and importance of the ICC in peacebuilding and politics of negotiating peace in northern Uganda, Sudan, and Darfur are emphasized in chapters 10 and 11.
Not only the UN and the ICC are involved in peacebuilding in Africa, but external donors, nongovernmental organizations, international financial institutions, and the World Bank also are involved. However, Africa remains the continent most in need of effective and efficient peacebuilding to ensure that countries emerging from conflict do not degenerate or relapse into war because of lack of strong institutions and adequate resources to ensure that fighters bid a final farewell to arms. Thus, more and serious work needs to be done in peacebuilding and African countries that have resources need to be actively involved in peacebuilding in the continent. The success of peacebuilding will discourage conflicts and civil wars and bring peace and stability to Africa, but all these lie in the hands of the African governments themselves.
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Olayiwola Abegunrin. Review of Curtis, Devon; Dzinesa, Gwinyayi Albert, eds., Peacebuilding, Power, and Politics in Africa.
H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews.
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