Conflict Management In Africa; The Role Of The Civil Society

Project and Seminar Material for International Relations

Conflict Management In Africa; The Role Of The Civil Society


Conflicts and wars and the processes of their management and resolution are essentially state driven exercises. It is, mostly an affair between the state, the rebels and the international mediators of state diplomats and those of multilateral agencies. Little consideration is given to the civil society in terms of conflict processes. Yet the civil society is usually a key factor in the contradictory processes and struggles of conflicts and the dynamics of their resolution. Conflicts do not emerge in a vacuum, they are products of social structure and character of society of which the civil society is an integral part. It is on this premise that the researcher intends to investigate the role of civil society in conflict management.

Chapter One


1.1 The Concept of Conflict and Conflict Management

Conflict is the incompability of goals and values between two or more parties in a relationship, combined with the attempt to control each other and antagonistic feelings towards each other. It is a state of discord caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests.1 It exist whenever incompatible activities occur. An activity that is incompatible with another is one that prevents, blocks or interferes with the occurrence or effectiveness of the second activity.

The incompabitlity or differences may exist in reality or may only be perceived by the parties involved. Nonetheless, the opposing actions and the hostile emotions are very real hallmark between people in all kind of human relationship and in al social settings. As a result of the wide range of potential differences between people, the absence of conflict usually signals the absence of meaningful interaction2. A conflict can be as small as a perceived disagreement or as large as war. It can originate in the person, between two or more people or between two or more groups. Conflict by itself is neither good nor bad but the manner in which conflict is handled determines whether it is constructive or destructive.

A conflict is different from competition and cooperation because in competitive situations, the two or more individuals or parties have mutually inconsistent goals as either party tries to reach its goals, it undermine the attempt of the others to reach theirs. Therefore, competitive situations will by their nature cause conflict. Conflict can also occur in cooperative situation, in which two or more individuals or parties have consistent goals because the manner in which one party tries to reach its goal may undermine the other individual or party.3

A clash of interests, values, action or directions often sparks a conflict and conflict is also seen as the existence of the clash. The world ‘conflict’ is applicable from the instant the clash occurs. Even when it is described as a potential conflict, it is implying that there is already conflict of direction even though a clash has not occurred. As a result, conflict can occur whenever there is interaction. Leo Otoide describe this situation in the international system thus:

When states interact there is competition for power and prestige and in the process, the international system elicits a picture of perpetual conflict, of survival of the fittest, where the desire for power and influence determines the attitudes of states and the course of events.4

Conflict occurs in different levels. The first is interpersonal conflict. Interpersonal conflict is when two people have incompatible needs; goals, or approaches in their relationship.5 Communication breakdown is often an important source of interpersonal conflict and learning communication skills is valuable in preventing and resolving such difficulties. At the same time, very real differences occur between people that cannot be resolved by any amount of improved communication. Personality conflict refers to very strong differences in motives, values or styles in dealing with people that are not resolvable. For instance, if both parties in a relationship have a high need for power and both want to be dominant in the relationship, there is no way for both to be satisfied, and a power struggle ensures common tactics used in interpersonal power struggles includes the exaggerated used of reward and punishments, deception and evasion, threats and emotional blackmail and flattery or integration. Unresolved power conflict usually recycles and escalates to the point of relationship breakdown and termination.6

The next level of conflict is intergroup conflict. It occurs between collections of people such as ethnic or racial groups. It can also be a conflict between departments or levels of decision making in the same organizations. Another common source of inter-group conflict is the competition for scarce resources between groups in a nation or between union and management staff of the same organization.7 One characteristics of intergroup conflict is that group members tend to develop stereotypes beliefs of the opposing group. They also tends to blame them for their problems and lastly, tends to practice discrimination against them.8 These classic symptom of intergroup conflict is especially tenced and prone to escalation and intractability when group identities are threatened.9

Another level of conflict is multi-party conflict. It occurs in society when different interest groups and organizations have varying priorities over resource management and control as well as policy development. These complex conflict typically involve a combination of economic, value and power sources. This complexity is often beyond the reach of traditional authoritative or adversarial procedures, and more collaborative approaches to building consensus are required for solution.10

The last level of conflict is supranational conflicts. These are conflicts that involves states or in which one of the parties is a state. There are three common types of supranational conflicts, they include conflict involving maritime boundaries, dispute involving land and investor-state conflict also known as investment treaty dispute.

In resolving supranational conflict, it is important to bear in mind that unlike other conflicts, it is likely to arise out of a treaty. For example a maritime delimitation disputes may be govern by the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS III) or an investor-state dispute which is guided by the international settlement of the investment dispute convention. The court is also to apply international conventions, international customs and the general principles of laws recognized by the nations or parties in question.11

Regardless of the level of conflict, there are different approaches to deal with the incompabilities that exist between the parties. If conflicts are managed creatively, solutions that are mutually satisfactory to both parties are attainable. It may involve a new distribution of resources or forms of influence than before. Creative outcome are more probable when the parties are inter-dependent, that is each having some degree of independence or autonomy from which to influence one another, rather than one party being primarily dependent on the other.12 Given inter-dependence, three general strategies have been identified that one parties make take towards dealing with their conflict. These include win-lose, lose-lose, and win-win.

The win-lose approach is a strategy that forced the other side to capitulate. Sometimes, this is done through socially acceptable mechanisms such as majority vote, the authority of the leader, or the determination of a judge. Sometimes, it involves secret strategies, threat, innuendo – whatever works is acceptable that is Mechanuallian principle in which the end justify the means. The value outcome is to have a victor who is superior and vanquished who withdraw in shame.13

The lose-lose strategy is exemplified by smoothing over conflict or by reaching the simplest of compromises. In neither case is the creative potential of productive resolution realized or explored. This is base on the notion that disagreement is inevitable and thus is the better to split the differences or smooth over difficulties in a painless a way as possible. Each party gets some of what it want.

The win-win approach is a conscious and systematic attempt to maximize the goals of both parties through collaborative problem solving. The conflict is seen as a problem to be solved rather that war to be won. This method focus on one problem from the perspective of both parties and the needs as well as constraints of both parities rather short term accommodations. Communication is open and direct rather than selective and calculating. Attitudes and behaviours are directed toward an increase of trust and acceptance rather than an escalation or suspicion and hostilities.14

There are two methods of conflict resolution – the authoritative and the alternative methods.

The first approach under the authoritative methods of conflict resolution is the use of power. The stronger side promotes its interest by force regardless of interests of the other parties. There is another case of use of power in conflict resolution. In this case, some issues are won by one side while other issues are won by one other sides, both parties make no agreement but push through their interest forcefully regardless of interest of each other.15

Decision made by authority is another strategic under the authoritative methods of conflict resolution. In this system, an authority interferes in a conflict and makes a decision based on his judgement of what is the best solution for the conflicting parties.16 In many cases such solution also satisfy the interest of that authority. This is different from arbitrage. The role of the arbiter is to work as an independent third party, who hear both conflicting sides, finds legally correct solution based on valid legislation and then communicate such decisions to the disputants.17Lastly under the authoritative methods of conflict resolution is the decision of a court. Under this, a judge or jury decide a solution to a conflict based on evidence supplied by attorneys representing both conflicting sides of the issue. The judge or jury then interpret the law and use it as a basis for their decision which both parities will be forced to respect, the jury is composed of either laymen or professional judges.

First, under the alternative methods of conflict resolution is facilitation.18 In this process, a facilitator works as an impartial third party person who helps two conflicting parties direct their discussion in order to reach an agreement satisfactory to both side according to previously agreed rules. The Latin world facilatare means to ease. Therefore, the role of a facilitator is to provide both side with such methods and guidelines for discussion which will ease their communication. In mediation, the mediator is a third party and primarily a facilitator who seeks to established or restore communication between feuding parties. The mediator strives to bring the parties face to face to negotiate and this constitutes a vital objective of his endeavous, the mediator must have good influence, credibility and good standing with the parties. Above all, he must have good diplomatic skill.19

Another method of conflict resolution is conciliation which is similar to mediation except for the legal distinction that the third party is a commission or an international body whose aid has been sought in finding a solution satisfactory to the disputants.

Arbitration is a step further tan a fact finding mission since it involves the practical examination of the issues involved in a crisis and the decision is binding on the parties. Often a tribunal is set up to examine the issues and make recommendation to a superior body.20

Adjudication or judicial settlement is a process of submitting to an international covert for decision. Unlike arbitration, the covert is subjected to no preliminary litigations upon its procedures, evidence to be considered or legal principles to be applied except those stated at the statute by which it was created.21

Chapter Five

Summary Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1 Introduction

This study from the available facts is of the view that any realistic attempts to deal constructively with the conflicts in Nigeria must address the roots of conflict such as ethnic differences, poverty, high unemployment, revenue distribution, electoral malpractices, corruption and political godfatherism. It is also the position of this work that the churches and her leaders should draw the attention of their members to the fact that everything in this world is temporary and man will give account to God about his/her stewardship here on earth on the day of judgment. Again, the church leader should speak out strongly against the vices and ills of their society. Besides, the church leaders must do all within their power to inculcate in their members and general public the virtues of peace, honesty, justice, love, forgiveness, tolerance, public integrity and must also see that men/women of proven integrity, honesty and transparent character are placed in public offices.

5.2 Summary

While the challenge of conflict .prevention, mediation and resolution are enormous in Africa, they are not unrealizable. Some have suggested that Africa may be riddled with conflicts for the next two decades, I do not share that pessimism. Africa can and must indeed put behind it the scourge of war, famine and destruction. Such, a process will have to involve disaggregating and harnessing the potentials of some civil society groups in the process of peace building, and sustenance in Africa.

5.3 Conclusion

Nigeria from 1960 until now has been experiencing, ethnic divisions, confrontations, re-occurring conflicts both in politics, economy, leadership, religious, and class and so on. Nigeria’s political crisis keeps degenerates the more (Bradshaw York and Wallace Michael, 1996; 86). The table below shows few major conflict statuses, the parties involved, place, date, cause and the result effects, from 1963 to 2008 in Nigeria. Ethnicity emergence of Nigeria federalism has without measure caused feelings of ethnic identity and as a result; rejection became the basis of distinguishing individuals in the cities and at the national level (Nnoli, 1976: 14). It is phenomenon that each ethnic groups in Nigeria belief is that they can only receive help from members of their ethnic group alone (Sillo, 1999: 1).

The recent bloody conflict that was named “Christians and Muslims” conflict at Jos, take for instance is a repeated evidences of what I called fact or colour, which resemble the truth, but not really the root (truth) of the escalation of the action (the war). The truth behind the action was that some cow reared men took their cows into the farms of another group which destroyed the crops in those other people’s farm, and when the owners of the farms came and was both angry, being hurtled because of their labored farms and crops been selfishly destroyed by other groups cows, in return against such unreasoning malpractices was the conflict. By reasoning, who will not agree that cows can destroy crops sown in any particular farm? Critically, if view in the right perspective, could such minor incident cause so many blood shedding and finally lost of lives to such an extent, the whole world can noticed? Why and how should such unusual trespass and individual wicked behavior be taken to be “Christians’ and Muslims” conflict? In education and it’s ramification, does politics means injustice, assassinations, killing, violent actions, corruptions, etc., as it is being experiencing in the modern politics among the political leaders’ and parties so called? In view of the above questions, let us take a look on the report below: “A new journey begins for Nigeria after incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan was re-elected and sworn in as President over the weekend. However, from the trappings of the recent past, that journey seems to be on the same path of corruption, government ineptitude, official sleaze and waste and general hopelessness.

Virtually everywhere you look on the Nigerian polity, all you see is how governance should not be done. If you expect that the new administration of President Goodluck Jonathan will usher in the much needed drive towards fast paced development and economic liberalization, then you expect too much. We see no reason how a man who has been at the helm for the better part of the last one year will suddenly do things differently now, simply because this term is his “personal mandate”. It does appear so though, as given the fact he said he would not be seeking a second term, then you’d expect an all out style of governance without fear and prejudice. There would be no need to satisfy the powers that be as he wouldn’t be in need of them again for any re-election purposes. If there is any man who owes Nigerians a huge debt, it is Goodluck Jonathan. Despite the PDP’s notoriety, they came out in their numbers to vote for him. Most of these voters said something in the line of “I am not voting for PDP, I am voting for Jonathan”, this despite the fact that Jonathan on the ballot paper was the symbol of an umbrella and the acronym PDP. In Nigeria, reason is always beyond reasoning. Words are bandied and used as if Nigerians were its creator. Well, they voted PDP and Jonathan won in a free and fair election. The question is whether Jonathan will stand by the masses now he has what he asked for. He has a lot to do.

Outgoing Governors have handed over some 48 hours or so early. The two term Governor of the South Western State of Ogun, Gbenga Daniel is as we speak somewhere in the United Kingdom having handed over to the new government well ahead of schedule. Fully cognizant of his imminent arrest for corruption and his immunity, he chose to outrun justice early while justice cannot yet run after him. A man whom the people of Ogun state trusted with their future eight years ago as he promised them an agenda for a secured future, would not even wait to be cheered (or booed) out of office as he chose to leave in the cloud of suspicion and the fear of his own demons. Jonathan has the responsibility of making sure people like Gbenga Daniel, AlaoAkala of Oyo state, IkediOhakim of Imo state, Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano state and their ilk face the wrath of the law.

5.4 Recommendation

Haven completed the study, the researcher recommends that;

A larger number of respondents should be considered when doing the same study so that the level of accuracy can be improved.

To remove any doubt or bias each and every one of these two areas should be studied differently.

The three ways of conflict resolution; avoidance, competition and collaboration aught to be studied deeply so that there could certainty to the level at which they can contribute to conflict resolution.

Other stakeholders in conflict resolution such as the government, the religious community and the locals themselves need to be keenly studied because this study assumes that 100 percent of the conflict was solved by Civil Society alone. This may not be entirely true.

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