African Journal on Conflict Resolution Volume 15, Number 3, 2015: Special issue on the theme - Social cohesion in post-conflict societies

A comparative analysis of the Post-Arab Spring National Dialogues in Tunisia and Yemen

Hannah Hamidi

Abstract

Post-conflict societies are in a fragile state in which social cohesion needs to be gradually rebuilt. One of the tools employed to restore social cohesion in a fragile society is the organisation of a national dialogue which would allow most, if not all, of society’s political and civil society actors to air their grievances and make concrete recommendations for the long-lasting resolution of conflict. In the MENA region, both Tunisia and Yemen have organised national dialogues after the Arab Spring with different results. This article uses Jane Jenson’s model on social cohesion to determine why Tunisia’s national dialogue has been more successful than Yemen’s in bringing about social cohesion.

Social cohesion, sexuality, homophobia and women’s sport in South Africa

Mari H. Engh and Cheryl Potgieter

Abstract

In the post-Apartheid era sport has been consistently celebrated as an avenue for fostering social change, curing various social ills, and uniting South Africans across the divides of race, class, gender and geography. The argument for using sport to foster social cohesion in South Africa rests on two main assumptions: firstly, that direct participation in sport and physical activity promotes sustained communication, collaboration and understanding across social divides; and secondly, that the success of national teams and athletes promotes national pride and unity. In this article we raise the question of whether sport can indeed foster social cohesion in a context where women’s sports participation and symbolic embodiment of the nation give rise to regulatory schemas that enforce compulsory heterosexuality and mainstream constructs of ‘feminisation’. We explore these issues by drawing on media reports of cases in which South African elite women athletes have had their gender or sexual identities questioned, challenged or regulated according to heteronormative gender regimes. By so doing we argue that efforts to increase women’s sports participation or the promotion of women athletes as embodiments of the nation can contribute to facilitating social cohesion. To realise the potential of sport as a tool for building social cohesion, a conscious and dedicated effort must be made, we argue, to deal more directly with narrow heteronormative gender regimes and the homophobic attitudes and prejudices that these foster.

Student leadership and advocacy for social cohesion: A South African perspective

McGlory Speckman

Abstract

This article utilises the insights of sociology and social psychology in defining social cohesion, outlining the ideal state and making a case for the role of student leadership in social cohesion. It draws from personal experience as former Dean of Students while it relies mostly, not entirely, on secondary sources in the disciplines of sociology and social psychology. The conclusion is that given the numbers behind them and the position of influence derived from student structures, student leadership is ideal for advocacy and activism.

South Sudan’s December 2013 conflict: Bolting state-building fault lines with social capital

Robert Gerenge

Abstract The December 2013 violent conflict in South Sudan, the world’s newest and most fragile state, has shown that a state-building trajectory that only emphasises formal institutional development is not viable. Like any state at its formative stage, formal institutions in South Sudan have demonstrated limited capacity to meet the high demands by citizens for ‘peace or postsecession’ dividends. The state’s limited capacity has further been eroded by political constructs claiming ethnic supremacy by both the Dinka and Nuer, the main parties to the December 2013 conflict. This article argues that the entitlement tied to post-secession dividends claims by the Dinka and Nuer has (re)produced a generally volatile social space for South Sudan by defining the mode of political settlement of the state, and undermining the generation of social capital for conflict management in the society. By constructing a nexus between state-building and social capital, this article shows that the state-building process in South Sudan requires the hybridity of formal and informal institutions. This helps in transforming the volatile social space created through the supremacy constructs of the Dinka and Nuer and high citizen demands placed on the fragile state.

Towards Pentecopolitanism: New African Pentecostalism and social cohesion in South Africa

Chammah Kaunda

Abstract

This article evaluates the challenges that militate against the full engagement of New African Pentecostalism (NAP) in the process of social cohesion in South Africa. It argues that this new religious phenomenon in South Africa has been preoccupied with the promotion of internal social cohesion within its ecclesiastical boundaries to the neglect of national social cohesion. Employing the notion of ‘religious cosmopolitanism’ (Cahill 2003) as theoretical underpinning, the article proposes a new concept termed Pentecopolitanism, as an ethical frame for New African Pentecostal engagement in democratisation and social cohesion in South Africa. The notion of Pentecopolitanism is envisaged to function as an antidote against sectarianism and fundamentalism within NAP and a framework for its constructive engagement with pluralism in the current South African search for national social cohesion. Pentecopolitanism is a philosophy which arises out of the need for recognition of the social function of religion, so as to enable human beings to discover their humanity through the humanity of others.