Chester A. Crocker, Pamela Aall, eds. The Fabric of Peace in Africa: Looking beyond the State. Waterloo: Centre for International Governance Innovation, 2017. 386 pp. $110.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-928096-36-8; $38.00 (paper), ISBN 978-1-928096-35-1.
Reviewed by Ulf Engel (Universität Leipzig)
Published on H-Diplo (December, 2017)
Commissioned by Seth Offenbach (Bronx Community College, The City University of New York)
The Fabric of Peace in Africa: Looking beyond the State is the second of a two-volume set on conflict management in Africa. The first volume, Minding the Gap: African Conflict Management in a Time of Change, also edited by Pamela Aall and Chester A. Crocker, was published in 2016, and focused on the nature of conflict in Africa, peace-support operations, and mediation. The overarching question in the second volume is what constitutes social cohesion and resilience in Africa in the face of violent conflict.
The editors are no strangers to the subject. Aall is a senior fellow in the Global Security and Politics program of the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). Crocker, a former US assistant secretary of state for African Affairs in the Ronald Reagan administration, is a distinguished fellow at CIGI. Together they are leading the center’s African Regional Conflict Management project; they also share a history at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), which was established under Reagan in 1984. Crocker was chair of the USIP board from 1992 to 2004 and Aall is a senior adviser at the institute. The editors have already copublished, among others, Conflict Management in a World Adrift (2015), Rewiring Regional Security in a Fragmented World (2011), and Taming Intractable Conflicts: Mediation in the Hardest Cases (2004), all three with Fen Osler Hampson.
The brief foreword of the edited volume was written by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan. Contributions to this volume are by both academics and practitioners from the United States, Europe, and Africa. In their introduction, Aall and Crocker outline the main challenge this edited collection wants to address: how to explain why some African societies “manage to resist falling into conflict or resolve conflict once they have broken out”—and others don’t (p. 4). They argue that apart from political leadership, good peacekeeping, effective mediation, etc., it takes particular forms of state-society relations and actors that contribute to the kind of social cohesion and resilience that is needed to manage conflict well.
The edited volume comes in six parts and twenty-one chapters. Following the introduction (part 1), part 2 is on social tension and conflict, with contributions, among others, by Pierre Englebert (Pomona College, Claremont, California), “State Capture and State Building as Stress Factors in African Conflicts,” and Eghosa E. Osaghae (University of Ibadan, Nigeria), “Conflicts without Borders: Fulani Herdsman and Deadly Ethnic Riots in Nigeria.” Chapters in part 3 examine how the rule of law, the security sector, the role of education, and trends of migration have contributed to tensions between state and society. Part 4, on inclusion and exclusion in conflict environments, is opened with a chapter by Alex de Waal (World Peace Foundation and Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts), “Inclusion in Peacemaking: From Oral Claim to Political Fact,” in which he discusses the international norm of inclusion in peace processes and post-conflict peace building as well as the opposition it faces in practice and how best to overcome this. Further chapters are on the role of civil society, the private sector, women and youth in violent conflict, and conflict mitigation. Part 5 inquires about the conditions for strengthening resilience and social cohesion in African conflict states. This part includes a chapter by I. William Zartman, the doyen of US academics on mediation and conflict management and the emeritus of the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins (Washington DC), in which he recaps his extensive previous work in the role of traditional methods of conflict management. This part also includes a practitioner’s reflections by Princeton N. Lyman, the former US deputy assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, ambassador to Nigeria and South Africa, assistant secretary of state for International Organizations, and US special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan. This part is followed by a conclusion (part 6) in which the editors interrogate how state and society in African states can be woven together. African decision makers are called on to strengthen the conflict management capacity in their institutions by “supporting social cohesion, encouraging fairness and promoting social inclusion” (p. 336).
This coherent edited volume indeed offers important insights into conflict management and resolution on the African continent by examining its challenges and opportunities. In fact, the suggested focus on inclusive processes, social cohesion, and resilience mirrors current African efforts in mediation and peace building—be it the work of the African Union Panel of the Wise, the many high-level representatives and special envoys of the chairperson of the African Union Commission, or the broad-based, more grassroots activities of the Pan-African Network of the Wise (PanWise) that was launched in April 2013 and the Pan-African network of women in conflict prevention and peace mediation (FemWise-Africa) that was initiated in December 2016. Contemporary mediation and peace building in Africa is increasingly trying to address the existing gaps between top-down continental or regional interventions and local initiatives, the lack of involvement of women or the private sector, and the challenges of professionalizing knowledge management in mediation. The debate on conflict prevention has moved from ad hoc management of conflicts and immediate conflict prevention to long-term “structural prevention” in fragile states in which social cohesion and resilience indeed play a major role.
. See the African Union Peace and Security Council, communiqué issued after the 502nd meeting, April 29, 2015, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, PSC/PR/COMM.2(DII), http://www.un.org/en/africa/osaa/pdf/au/cap_peaceops_2015.pdf; and African Development Bank, “Ending Conflict and Building Peace in Africa: A Call to Action; High Level Panel on Fragile States” (Addis Ababa: African Development Bank, 2014).
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Ulf Engel. Review of Crocker, Chester A.; Aall, Pamela, eds., The Fabric of Peace in Africa: Looking beyond the State.
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