Peace negotiations and agreements in Africa - why they fail and how to improve them (policy note no 8:2018)

Originally published


Peace is not just the absence of conflict. The self-interest lying behind external ‘support’ can take many shapes. The pursuit of justice can sometimes thwart peace efforts. And, last but not least, simply adding more women to peace negotiations will not break male-centric norms.

Victor Adetula, Tim Murithi and Stephen Buchanan-Clarke

According to the UN Peace Agreements Database, 42 per cent of all peace agreements relate to Africa. However, several of these have failed to lay the foundations for sustainable peace. It is important to investigate why this is the case and why countries fall into the conflict trap, where societies that have suffered civil war later relapse into violence. The cyclical nature of African conflict is partly attributable to weak political institutions and structures.

Peace negotiations can falter if parties feel coerced into accepting an outcome. And agreements may collapse if the parties involved do not implement them in good faith.

This non-acceptance and non-compliance with peace accords is perhaps best exemplified by the current crisis facing the agreement to end the South Sudanese civil war, signed in August 2015 in the face of threatened UN sanctions against both warring sides. The culture of non-compliance fuels political instability and societal tension, as can also be seen in ongoing conflicts in Mali, the Central African Republic, Burundi, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

The foundations of peace and the potential for socio-economic and political transformation depend on vital decisions made at the negotiating table, as well as the dynamics of the peace talks, including their traditionally gendered nature. The role of moral guarantor of a peace agreement – such as that undertaken by the African Union (AU) and the regional economic communities (RECs) – is important in supporting peacebuilding and stabilisation initiatives across the continent.