Book review: Peace and Conflict Resolution in Africa: Lessons and Opportunities

Researchers, academics and students of conflict and peace will find this book beneficial and its disposition meticulous. The volume’s strength is its exploration of the subjects of conflict and peace from various dimensions.  One can compare this volume with other illustrious books in the field of conflict and its obvious strength is its focus on Africa because the Continent still needs more work to redeem it from the vestiges of ills such as famine, poverty and strife that continually arise due to wars and conflicts. The rigour of the volume is then its ability to portray the challenges currently, as well as those that Africa has had over the decades; the Continent has experienced so many intractable conflicts that have displaced her children. Many people have exacerbated the refugee crisis and hunger in the various African states. The atrocities in South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Northern Nigeria, and Kenya are all indicative of the areas that have witnessed bloody violence. Some of these areas have been totally neglected and for many citizens of war-torn zones there is dim future as women and children are maimed and raped whilst their men are brutally murdered.

This edited volume by Ernest E. Uwazie searches for elusive solutions in these times of unending conflicts. Informed by optimistic Pan-African belief that Africa will rise the essays rummage for social justice, culture of peace and the serious search for identities in a field of ravaged war-torn savannahs. Africans need not obliterate the vision of a better land and a more promising world. The promising Africa though is destroyed by actions such as the abduction of girls in Chibok, the decades-long Western Sahara conflict between the Polisariao and the Kingdom of Morocco as well as the government abuses in Central Africa Republic, to cite but a few.

Various chapters in the volume firstly explore approaches of understanding the anatomy and history of intractable conflicts before the focus on possible paths of peace that would steer Africans away from gloomy agendas mired in African disputes. The volume also covers a number of themes that although not exhaustive may help the reader comprehend a broad view of conflicts in Africa. Leadership; Peacekeeping intervention programmes; ethnicity as an identity of conflict, human rights and democracy as well as traditional values are all bigger themes tackled in this book with sub-themes such as youth activism, gender and religion. These are all critical to the understanding of conflict in any country. The volume does not delude itself by pretending that there are silver bullets and quick fixes when it comes to peace building and sustenance thereof in Africa. Deadly conflicts in several African states have been on and off for years. Civilians have in many instances been bearing the brunt of insurgency in the entire Continent; Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, Muslim Brotherhood, Lord’s Resistance Army are just some of the role-players in momentous conflicts. The contributors in this volume are aware of the continuing challenges on peace initiatives and how the rule of law is destroyed by conflicts. Africa also dawdles when it comes to sustainable development. The conflict and the absence of peace in African states brings with it an Africa that is perpetually seeking donors to help them out of the deadly conflicts. Yet Africa needs to develop own programmes and solutions, be self-sustained if peace is to prevail for epochs to come.

Several chapters demonstrate that peace is attainable and the future not so disconsolate. This is summarized by Baker in Chapter two who writes about an Africa that would turn her past as she marches towards the future of resilience. “There will be setbacks. And there are no easy shortcuts. Success depends upon good leadership, generational change and most important of all – improved political legitimacy in the eyes of all people” (Baker, 2017). This captures the thrust of the volume. The volume also demonstrates how Africa ought to take charge of the future whilst entrenching the atmosphere of optimism. It is also commendable in an age of decolonisation and the search for epistemic freedom to explicate how Africa can bring forth her own solutions by extrapolating from own cultures and identities. Africa has always had homebrewed ways of living; Nyerere spoke of Ujamaa, in Malawi there is Munthu, in Zimbabwe they speak of Munhu and the Nguni in South Africa talk about Ubuntu. These are philosophies that are part of African ontologies that we can glean from as we search for peaceable societies. These refer to the idea of communalism, solidarity, connectedness and dependability. It is commendable to read about the role of Umuada in Igbo (Chapter eleven), the traditional values and methods in Africa as well as Indigenous Knowledge Systems in general. In a variety of cases the West’s involvement in Africa has aggravated relations amongst people. The demarcation of some borders led to conflicts especially when these were combined with ethno-religious conflicts that Ugorji explores in Chapter eighteen.

Overall, the voices in this volume are cogent, forthright, pragmatic and lucid. These are realistic and authentic voices that confront the roots of African conflicts and the search for peace with scholarly rigour. This is an excellent addition to the literature of Conflict Studies as well as Conflict Management and Transformation. It is also a wonderful, thought provoking, critical resource for all those interested in the systematic study of conflicts. Whether in the academia or outside, this collection of essays will enable many examine the management of conflicts with zeal and creative passion. The volume is amongst the worthy references that help in simplifying the complex labyrinths of conflicts in Africa. It explicates the nature of conflict and the essays ensure that the book never loses its potency in exposing the travails of conflict journeys around the Continent.

Yet, this entire narrative is interwoven with hope and peace agenda for a future Africa that will struggle against all odds. The volume should also be lauded for enhancing the decolonial episteme in the field of peace studies and conflict. To a huge extent the book responds to culturecides and epistemicides in a land that continues to seek for its place in a planetary world. The content also demonstrates that Africanists and African intellectuals can indeed deprovincialise Europe and assert Africa’s role in bringing peace and stability. It may not be the absence of conflict that Africans aspire for that will be critical for future generations, but it can be the inability of Africans to transform and manage conflicts that would irk generations to come – and the book has brought forward some of the necessary strategies to confronting conflict and embrace peace judiciously.

Africa is vast with more than fifty states and perhaps the major gap is that it does not touch many other cases from the various (other) parts of the Continent. It would have been scholarly exalting to include contributors from places in North of Africa, Central Africa as well as some in the southern parts where there can be more lessons to glean from for Africa and the world.

Reviewed by Vuyisile Msila, University of South Africa. Msila received a Master of Philosophy in Conflict Management and Transformation from Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He is currently a Director in the Change Management Unit of the University. Her interests include governance, leadership and management, conflict transformation, and decolonisation of Knowledge.

Peace and Conflict Resolution in Africa: Lessons and Opportunities is available now from Cambridge Scholars, and can be purchased by clicking here.

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