Success And Prospects Of Traditional Rulers In Conflict Resolution

Project and Seminar Material Under Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution

Success And Prospects Of Traditional Rulers In Conflict Resolution


Traditional method has been involved in solving conflicts in Africa for many decades yet their input in international conflict resolution have not been documented widely compared to the modern conflict resolution techniques. These leaders are still highly respected and used in conflict resolution in Africa and Asia compared to the European States, therefore their input in conflict resolution should not be overlooked, instead they should be encouraged, facilitated and included especially in mediation to be able to have local ownership of peace processes.

The research findings were based on broad literature review and were supplemented with focus group discussions, informant interviews and questionnaires. Different categories of respondents were interviewed on the traditional method of conflict resolution; Traditional and religious leaders, political leaders, representatives from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), academicians, civil societies and special groups (involving the Nigerias in Diaspora).

The study established that traditional method has continued to be fundamentally involved in mediation of communal conflicts in Africa since most conflicts in Africa are as a result of unequal distribution of resources, widespread corruption and ethnicity. The study acknowledged that traditional rulers role in mediation has been successful in peace processes citing the religious violence and it’s resolution in Jos Metropolis in Nigeria land as an example. Furthermore, the study found out that the role traditional method in mediation has not been given enough support and recognition by the international community hence weakening their role in international conflict resolution. The study realized that despite the continued support for the use of traditional method in mediation, most societies have also disregarded them terming their techniques as old fashion ideologies due to the presence of modern practitioners of mediation and conflict managers.

The study concluded by giving some recommendations on how the role of traditional method can be strengthened in international conflict resolution. The study recommended international recognition of these important leaders in mediation processes, facilitation of the traditional method of conflict resolution and more research by conflict resolution scholars on traditional method input in international conflict resolution.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

In the traditional setting, conflicts were solved by traditional elders whereas today, conflict resolution is as a result of increased interdependence among actors and complexity of issues that underlie the interests leading to conflict which under rates the role played by the traditional method of conflict resolution. Conflict resolution refers to the management of conflicts by which parties of a conflict come together to solve their conflict or differences.

Traditional method have long been involved in mediation by creating a balance in the process of mediation and tribal disputes and in some cases led in restoring peace and reconciliation ventures.

Traditional ruler have been given prominence in mediation of disputes especially in Africa and Asia and are often perceived as leaders with wisdom to navigate negotiation process, they are also highly valued and regarded in our African institutions as important part of the African culture however, this is just in theory since their input in solving conflicts is not put in practice in both international and regional organizations that are entrusted with resolution and management of conflicts such as the African Union, Inter-Governmental Authority on Development and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. From the crisis in Angola, to the post genocide reconciliation process in Rwanda and Liberia, traditional elders have played an important role, however their role in international conflict resolution has arguably not been well documented within the realm of peace initiatives, Nigerian is particularly unique since Traditional ruler are a part of the administration system and concede an important part of Nigerian culture which forms the basis of this study.

In the past, traditional leaders were regarded as old people with wisdom who were able to participate in decision making, mediate any dispute in the community, however today the Nigerias regard them as people with economic power hence anyone can be an elder by virtue of their wealth. However this does not imply that the importance of Traditional ruler should not be overlooked in international conflict resolution especially in mediation of the African conflicts.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

With a population of over 150 million inhabitants, the major religious groups in Nigeria are Christianity and Islam. There is neither a scientific representation of the numerical strength of these religious groups nor of their geographical distribution.1 None the less, the Islamic faith preponderates in the northwestern and northeastern parts of the country (comprising Sokoto, Zamfara, Borno, Yobe, Katsina, Kano, Kebbi, Jigawa, Bauchi, Taraba,2 Gombe and Adamawa states). On the other hand, Christianity is more prominent in the South-East and South-South geographical zones (comprising Imo, Enugu, Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi, Delta, Edo,3 Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross River and Akwa Ibom states).

It is instructive to note that despite the presence and influence of the communal Traditional ruler among the Nigeria Religions they were not given due recognition in the peace processes. Instead of assuming prominent roles in the negation of peace the elders were given less prominent roles. Furthermore apart from the Arta peace process held in Mgbede, the current reconciliation efforts were and have not been inclusive of all prominent stakeholders leading to suspicion among the main players in the peace process.

These among other factors especially the non-recognition of the Traditional ruler has led to increased hostilities in Nigerian with the result being increased conflicts.

The success of Traditional ruler in solving inter-Religion conflicts stems from the fact that they form the core of Nigerian society and socialization process. When traditional leaders were engaged, their input was arguably not taken into consideration. As a result, peace outcomes negotiated were not accepted or implemented successfully by Nigerian people who are intrinsically webbed in Religion leadership as they do with internal peace agreements.

Therefore it can be argued that social strands of Nigerian are weaved within traditional tenets, making it necessary that any attempted effort for reconciliation considers Traditional ruler in mediation, therefore it is on this basis that this research study seeks to find out the role of Traditional ruler in mediation in the Nigerian National Reconciliation Process especially the Jos peace process where the Traditional ruler inputs was not prominent.

1.3 Study Objectives

The overall objective of the study is to examine the Success And Prospects Of Traditional Rulers In Conflict Resolution: a Study Of Jos Metropolis Of Nigeria

1.3.1 Specific Objectives
  1. To examine the role of Traditional ruler Of Conflict Resolution in mediation.
  2. To examine the role of Traditional ruler in the peace process in Jos Metropolis Religious violence.
  3. To establish the opportunities and challenges facing the use of Traditional ruler of conflict resolution globally.

1.4 Research Questions

  1. What is the role of Traditional ruler in Of Conflict Resolution mediation?
  2. What was the role of Traditional ruler in the Nigerian peace processes?
  3. What are the opportunities and challenges facing Traditional ruler in international mediation?
  4. How the role of Traditional ruler can be strengthened in the international conflict resolution?

1.5 Justification and Significance of the Study

1.5.1 Academic Justification

Mediation can be defined as an extension of negotiation according to Schelling meaning that if negotiation fails a third party can be brought in to help with the negotiations. Though the conflict has subsided in Nigerian, it is witnessed in some areas especially where the Traditional ruler have not been recognized even after the peace processes. It is these leaders who organize their Religions to either fight against the government by supporting terrorist activities or encourage stability for example, Alshabaab terror group has thrived in the rural areas of South Central and the semi-autonomous region of Puntland because of the support they have received from those extremist traditional and religious leaders who believe that the Nigerian Federal administration is occupied by Fidels.

The omission of these vital actors during the Jos Metropolis Religious Peace Process or their input is of importance since it will bring out the fact that though regional organizations are mandated by the United Nations to institutionalize the Traditional ruler of conflict resolution at the international, regional and local levels, it is not done in practice because despite IGAD taking the lead in trying to manage the Nigerian Conflict, it undermined the authority commanded by these leaders through thinking that the vital parties to the conflict were businessmen and Religious leaders which left loopholes in the Jos Metropolis Religious Peace Process. As tendencies hence, traditional strategies may be more relevant in mediation of modern conflicts since most African people and especially the Nigeria still remain mainly attached to their traditional ways of life and their traditions are present in today’s politics, there is a sufficient reason to consider the inclusion of Traditional ruler in prominent roles when it comes to mediation and strengthen them appropriately to help in resolution of international conflicts especially in regions where the traditional rulers are still held in high esteem

1.5.2 Policy Justification

According to the UN Charter11, the regional organizations are mandated to solve regional conflicts to maintain international peace and security, therefore as an institution of conflict resolution they need to incorporate Traditional ruler in mediation to maintain peace among communities, at the national and international level.
This study will be of use to both the government institutions and other organizations. The regional governments may use the study outcomes as the backbone to effect improvements of relationships in communities. Conflict resolution institutions could also use the study to develop policies and procedures of including Traditional ruler in the resolution of conflicts amongst their stakeholders and staff. The UN and other NGOs can be able to use the study to improve their mediation efforts all over the world especially in Africa and Asia where the Traditional ruler are still held in high esteem.

1.6 Scope and Limitations of the Study

The study focused on Nigeria peace processes and how the role of Traditional ruler can be strengthened in mediation. The research was carried over a period of three months and was done in Nigeria, particularly the Mgbede people.

During the study, the researcher experienced financial problems because the most of the interviewees were located in Nigerian. There was also a language problem since most of the respondents were Nigerians who could not speak English, hence an interpreter was involved. Some respondents exhibited negative attitude during the interview while others did not quite understand the terms mediation or international conflict resolution while there was also a time factor since not all respondents were conducted because time for the research study was limited.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations

5.1 Summary

Here the study identified the problem which it set out to research that is: the Success And Prospects Of Traditional Rulers In Conflict Resolution: a Study Of Jos Metropolis Of Nigeria where the Traditional ruler’ inputs were not prominent. The study started by giving a background by elaborating how traditionally conflicts were mitigated and often solved by respected members of a community who were referred to as Religion or Traditional ruler. This background also gave various examples of some conflicts in Africa and how the Traditional ruler solved these conflicts amicably showing the importance of involving Traditional ruler of conflict resolution especially in Asia and African societies like Nigerian who still values their Traditional ruler. The background of the conflict informed the statement of the problem whereby the role of Traditional ruler was found to be diminishing in international conflict resolution yet they form the backbone of the Africa culture.

Research objectives and questions guided the research study while the hypotheses enabled the researcher to focus on the Traditional ruler’ role in mediation of the Nigeria Conflict. Conceptual framework was used to be able to identify the benefits of using of mediation compared to other conflict resolution techniques. The relevance of the study was illustrated in both academic and policy justification which showed how the research could be used by scholars, NGOs and researchers in future to be able to recognize the importance of Traditional ruler in international conflict resolution while the academic justification showed the gap in knowledge which the research aims to fill. Scope and limitation of the study was discussed while the ethical considerations were also observed in the course of the study.

Chapter two examined the role of Traditional ruler in international mediation especially in Africa and Asian states since the United States and Europe uses them sparingly. Traditional ruler are still used in Africa to solve communal conflicts and are still held in high regard by their kinsmen. Indigenous traditional institutions have been used to solve conflicts yet their input has not been documented internationally due to the presence of educated, knowledgeable and skillful conflict managers like, Makumi Mwagiru, Ochieng Kamudhayi, Zartman William and Jacob Bercovitch which is not fair to the African culture which needs to preserve its traditional conflict mechanisms for future references.

The chapter documents the UN Charter which appreciates any form of conflict
management, be it mediation or arbitration used by the Traditional ruler so long as international peace and security is maintained. The roles of Traditional ruler in normative and institutional frameworks are also discussed to show their involvement in conflict resolution of their societies. This chapter illustrated the ways in which the UN has involved the indigenous leaders in conflict resolution and peacebuilding in conflict prone states in Africa while also showing how the African regional and subregional organizations have included involved the Traditional ruler in their conflict resolution ventures. Varied examples were also given in this chapter to show how different societies in Africa and Asia have included the Traditional ruler of conflict resolution, their roles and benefits in mediation and peacebuilding processes.

5.2 Conclusions

This study came to an end by revisiting the last objective which was to look at ways in which the role of Traditional ruler can be strengthened in international mediation of conflicts which can be used to inform hypotheses one and two since non inclusion of the Traditional ruler in Nigeria conflict resolution has in part led to continued conflicts and tensions in the region while also asserting that Traditional ruler in Nigerian will always remain an important part of the Nigeria culture forever since they are bonafide190 leaders. This study was successful in that it was conducted within the prescribed time period of three months and approved budgetary constraints. The study objectives were adequately and comprehensively addressed despite the limitations. This study concludes that most conflicts in Africa including the Nigeria conflict have continued despite varied efforts to end them.

The study also concludes that the efforts presented by various bodies as mechanisms to end the conflicts fall short of being considered legitimate means to conflict resolution thus the continuance of conflicts and war among the Africa countries. The failures to end conflicts could be attributed to the non inclusion of the critical participants (Traditional ruler) inclusion of the critical participants in passive and non prominent roles and capacities instead of activities and prominent roles and negotiating atmosphere.

Traditional ruler use their position of moral strength in society to find an acceptable solution to conflicts while the council of elders and chiefs use consensus to end disputes according to the findings, however, their status in being critical actors in mediation is slowly fading away for example traditional mediation mechanisms in Sudan, “Agaweed” has been undermined by fundamental social change due to the presence of western educated Africans who act as conflict resolution practitioners.

From the findings of this study, Nigerian peace process held in Mgbede Religious, Nigeria proved to be the best case study to showcase the importance of Traditional ruler in international conflict resolution. In the modern world today, Traditional ruler input in conflict resolution mechanisms have been largely ignored due to the increase in people with specialized knowledge and skills in peace processes and conflict resolution rendering them irrelevant as a result many peace agreements especially in Africa have failed to sustain peace in a given society especially where conflicts are mostly internal. These leaders ought to be included in prominent roles during mediation since most African societies, like Nigeria still hold them in high esteem so that the outcomes of the peace agreements could be sustainable. The role of the Traditional ruler in international conflict resolution practices should also be encouraged and recognized internationally as important, they should be equipped with modern conflict resolution skills and their role as arbitrators and mediators should not be overlooked by African governments instead they should be incorporated as local institutions for conflict resolution to manage internal

5.3 Recommendations

This study recommends that modern and best practice approaches be adopted in the mediation of conflicts in Africa with specific reference being the Nigeria conflict. It also recommends that the Traditional ruler be fully included in the mediation processes both at domestic and international dimensions.

The study recommends that Traditional ruler be given prominent and active roles in the mediation of conflicts among communities and nations to sustain peace, enhance harmony and reduction of future conflicts as currently witnessed in Nigerian.

The study additionally recommends for the inclusion of the traditional communal elders in all state negotiated peace noting their contribution in respect of the decision and outcome as arrive at. The council of leaders should be used alongside the normal court decision to supplement the justice systems in any state around the globe.
Strengthening and Recognition of the Traditional ruler of conflict resolution

The study recommends that all societies in Africa and the world over take steps to strengthen the activities of the Traditional ruler most importantly in the management of peace and conflicts. They should be provided with resources, finances and training to enable them be more knowledgeable in the current peace and mediation efforts.

Their ventures in peacemaking and mediation should also be given due recognition by the regional, sub-regional and conflict resolution institutions around the globe.

Conflict Education and Training

There is need to constantly and regularly train and hold seminar sessions for the Traditional ruler to capacity build them in conflict resolution processes especially in mediation and arbitration to increase their skills and expertise in early warning systems, prevention and solution of both internal and international conflicts.

Merging of Formal and Informal Conflict Resolution Mechanisms

Most African states still hold their Traditional ruler in high esteem and hold onto their customary laws therefore role of Traditional ruler in mediation is still relevant197. As a result there is need to merge the formal and informal approaches in international conflict resolution, charters, and treaties especially in Africa since it has been found to have positive impact on conflict resolution and resolution.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What role do traditional leaders play in conflict resolution?

The research found out that generally people in rural communities acknowledge the important roles played by traditional leaders in conflict resolution. It was also established that some traditional leaders are biased in the execution of their mandated duties, especially when dealing with political parties issues.

Are traditional rulers more effective in conflict resolution in Nigeria?

It has been observed that in parts of Nigeria, because traditional rulers’ long establishment and the respect in which they are held makes them more effective in conflict resolution than ‘official’ mechanisms.

Why do outside governments always involve traditional rulers in conflict resolution?

…outside government have enourmous respect for the traditional rulers. This is the would always involve them in conflict resolution. Even among the academics that may answer to the calls of their Emirs and Chiefs behind the scenes. It is also a known fact

Can traditional rulers promote peace among the communities?

The government both at the federal, state level have found it necessary to effectively use traditional rulers for promoting peace among the various communities.

What is the role of traditional leaders in conflict management?

In this sense traditional leaders were accepted as a central figure in the management of conflicts, mediation of disputes and leaders with wisdom to navigate negotiation process.

What is the role of leaders in conflict resolution and problem solving?

The Role of leaders in conflict resolution and problem solving Introduction One of the roles of a leader is to bring harmony in the group. This is done through effective communication, effective listening and giving direction Lecture Notes, 2017).

Why are traditional leaders powerless to resolve conflicts?

However, traditional leaders may be powerless to address some of a conflict’s root causes—centrally-instigated conflict, predatory behavior linked to exploiting economic advantage, external meddling. Additionally, they often bring important social influence but may lack the power and the means to enforce the resolutions adopted.

What is the role of traditional institutions in conflict resolution?

Traditional institutions, sites and objects play “a quasi-religious role” in the arbitration, mediation, conciliation and reconciliation of conflicts at a micro and macro level in Kom society. The Kom geographical location, as well as its social and political history, also play a great role in conflict resolution.

What is the role of traditional institutions in conflict resolution?

Traditional institutions, sites and objects play “a quasi-religious role” in the arbitration, mediation, conciliation and reconciliation of conflicts at a micro and macro level in Kom society. The Kom geographical location, as well as its social and political history, also play a great role in conflict resolution.

How to improve the traditional rulers’ involvement in land conflict resolution?

In order to expand the horizon of the traditional rulers’ involvement in land conflict resolution, their training in the area of survey and map is recommended at regular intervals so as to be effective in the discharge of such duties.

Should traditional rulers be recognized as stake holders in conflict management?

Thus, the Local, State and Federal governments should, through their legislatures, pass legislations that recognize the country’s traditional rulers as stake holders and instruments of conflict management and peace building. Content may be subject to copyright. All rights reserved.

Can traditional rulers promote peace among the communities?

The government both at the federal, state level have found it necessary to effectively use traditional rulers for promoting peace among the various communities.

Why does the government rely on traditional rulers to keep peace?

Peace and order is vital for any economic activity to take place in a locality and in the country as a whole; therefore the government relies on the traditional rulers to keep the peace in their domains.

What is the role of traditional rulers in community development in Nigeria?

The role of traditional rulers in Nigeria as it concern to community development, in view of the fact of the introduction of local government reforms of 1976 in the said reforms, leadership roles were clearly expressed, which states that it is not the purpose of government to destroy the organic unity of the traditional institutions.

What is the role of traditional rulers in the Society?

Traditional rulers over the years from the pre-colonial society were the custodian of the people’s culture and tradition. They were also involved in the western government as introduced then from colonial days.

How traditional rulers settle land disputes?

Traditional rulers in communities, makes sure they settle land disputes before they escalate into open hostilities where brothers kill each other. As you are aware, land disputes are the major causes of conflicts in these rural communities where land serves as the primary source for creating wealth and earning a living through subsistence farming.

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