Michelle Ndiaye, Director of the Africa Peace and Security Programme at IPSS and Head of the Tana Forum Secretariat, described the Conflict Insights as “guides towards peacebuilding and peacemaking in Africa that can be translated into reality”.
On 6 July, IPSS organized a roundtable to discuss 3 Conflict Insights reports, a new initiative of the Institute. Michelle Ndiaye, Director of the Africa Peace and Security Programme at IPSS and Head of the Tana Forum Secretariat, described the Conflict Insights as “guides towards peacebuilding and peacemaking in Africa that can be translated into reality”. The first round of reports was launched in February 2018 and featured country analyses on Burundi, Libya and Nigeria. This second round of reports, which examine the conflict dynamics in South Sudan and the Central African Republic was released on the IPSS website in August 2018. A report on Zimbabwe was also released in September 2018.
The reports have a simple format and contain links to existing AU instruments in order to better serve decision-makers and policymakers working in peace and security. Dr. Mesfin Gebremichael, Assistant Professor at IPSS and Editor-in-Chief of the Conflict Insights, explained that the countries were selected from specific conflict clusters, and that the “nature of the conflicts in these different clusters is similar”.
He added that the reports aim to “look for windows for peace in the conflict dynamics process and how the factors that cause conflicts change over time”. The research results in the identification of conflict trends and opportunities for peace within security instruments.
In the case of South Sudan, researcher Alem Kidane pointed to the main causes of the conflict – the monopoly and sweeping power of the presidency, human rights violations, and the mismanagement of the economy (particularly the oil industry). Due to shifting alliances and political fragmentation, the violence has only become more exacerbated since the civil war first broke out in December 2013. She noted that the main players responsible for the violence, as well as the emerging groups currently forming as the number of defections from the government continues to grow, are spreading the civil war into new areas and also worsening the humanitarian crisis.
Ms. Kidane mentioned several opportunities for peace, including the recent face-to-face talks between Riek Machar and Salva Kiir (in Addis Ababa and Khartoum) and renewed bilateral cooperation between South Sudan and Sudan resulting in the Khartoum Declaration.
Central African Republic (CAR)
Zaharau Shariff identified the main causes of the conflict in the Central African Republic as the weakness of the state and its inability to provide security, ethnic and religious divisions, economic mismanagement, and social disparities between the north and south. The main actors, the Seleka militia and the anti-Balaka militia, were influenced by involvement and support from Sudan and Chad (who supported the Seleka both materially and logistically to overthrow the government). Efforts to establish peace have been “non-committal and unsuccessful” Ms. Shariff stated, adding that the 2016 elections did not restore peace because the government only controls limited parts of the country, chiefly the capital Banjul.
Ms. Shariff recommended that the AU should expand support, particularly in DDR which is not well funded. She also emphasized the need for stakeholders to provide support in the rebuilding of institutions and strengthening of central government in order to prevent militias from controlling key resources in the country.
Presenting her research on Zimbabwe, Mahlet Fitiwi cited the country’s long history of dictatorship, economic decline and power struggles within the ruling party as contributing factors to the frustration and protests that led to Robert Mugabe’s resignation in November 2017. The perceived succession battle between Emmerson Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe led to a series of events the ruling ZANU-PF shifted allegiance to Mnangagwa after he was fired by the president.
Currently, problems surrounding the forthcoming elections on 31 July are calling into question whether the poll will be free and fair. The leadership transition, while non-violent, was a turning point for the country. Observers and experts alike disagree across on whether the transition was a coup. Ms. Fitiwi explained the future implications of the current situation, including the fear of electoral violence or electoral rigging (notwithstanding the presence of international and regional observers) and the role of the military in politics, given the appointment of several military officers to the cabinet.
In the subsequent discussion, the panel responded to questions from the audience. On the impact of lifted Sudanese sanctions on the South Sudanese conflict, Ms. Kidane replied that the establishment of peace and ending of sanctions is of mutual benefit to both countries as they will be able to restore oil production for economic gain.
On the role of civil society actors and traditional actors in conflict prevention, it was noted that the situation in CAR is too volatile at the moment for effective CSO engagement or involvement.
On the conditions that need to be in place for elections in South Sudan to occur, Ms. Kidane listed several requirements, including implementing the peace agreement, maintaining a ceasefire, and respecting power-sharing arrangements.
Ms. Ndiaye, in closing the roundtable, stated that the situation in Zimbabwe demonstrated how the forefathers of Africa’s independence started off well but grew to represent questionable ideals that were different from how they started. “Tensions help to renegotiate the social construct,” she said, adding that the IPSS Conflict Insights provide an opportunity to analyze conflicts at the latent, manifest and violent levels.
Click here to view photos from the roundtable.