Horn of Africa Bulletin, Volume 22, No. 8, September 2010
The significance of "prevention is better than cure" fits well in preventing violent conflicts in the Eastern African Region (EAR)1. This paper presents the need for preventative diplomacy in the EAR as a conflict prevention mechanism. It will first clarify preventative diplomacy, from definition to forms and elements. Second is a brief elaboration of the nature of conflicts in EAR and third is the importance of it. Fourth are lessons learnt in the previous application and the fifth is an indication of existing challenges. Sixth are the suggestions for enhancing effective preventative diplomacy in this region. The conclusion finishes with policy recommendations. The argument is, despite looming challenges and mounting conflicts in EAR, there are plenty opportunities for applying preventative diplomacy given its beauty of viability in the region and beyond.
Preventative diplomacy is an "action taken in vulnerable places and times to avoid the threat or use of armed force and related forms of coercion by states or groups to settle the political disputes that can arise from the destabilizing effects of economic, social, political and international change" (Lund 1996, p.37). It is "actions to prevent disputes from arising...prevent existing disputes from escalating...to limit the spread of the latter when they occur" (Ghali 2000, p.11). But it should address the root causes and be designated at the right stage of the conflict cycle.
Various forms of preventative diplomacy exist. These include: peacemaking, peacekeeping, peacetime diplomacy, crisis diplomacy, post-conflict peacebuilding, preventative development, preventative deployment, mediation, track I and track II diplomacy. Mediation is a process of assisted negotiations by third parties in order to transform conflict from hostility to cooperation. Track I diplomacy involves efforts by official representatives and the elites focusing on positive and negative incentives in the process of mediation using economic and political support. Track II uses unofficial representatives, non-governmental organisations, regional and local leaders and grassroots groups as actors and uses the methodology of back-channel discussions, educational programs, workshops and grassroots reconciliation, among others.
Preventative deployment is rightly under-girded in the philosophy of UN Preventative Deployment (UNPREDEP) through proactive measures premeditated to facilitate a political solution by avoiding or limiting violent conflict. Unlike peacekeeping, it does not support any political solution already reached. It can happen without a settlement reached. Peacekeeping entails a dynamic instrument developed to keep existing, promising, made peace through military and or civilian operations. Peacemaking incorporates measures undertaken to persuade belligerent parties to cease hostilities and negotiate, among themselves or through third parties, for peaceful settlement. Peacetime diplomacy prevails where states co-exist in harmony of reciprocity, cooperation and communication. The application of these forms largely depends on the time and place, actors, situation, and goals.
Elements of preventative diplomacy include strategies and measures of building confidence; fact finding missions; early warning mechanisms to detect potential conflicts; conflict impact assessment systems; measures to promote democracy and human rights; preventative deployment of peacekeeping forces; establishment of demilitarised zones; and measures to monitor and restrain the trade in small arms. The philosophy under-girded here is the prevention of violent conflicts.