15 Jan

Togo, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Failed Peace Processes

Posted By Politybooks

Football is a global sport. It is watched by millions across the world and on every continent. The African Nations Cup has assumed even more significance as the global mobility of players brings many African players to the Premier League to be cheered from English terraces and become part of British popular culture. But football is also glocal, with its global dimensions mediated by local circumstances.

The attack on the Togo national football team coach from rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) has propelled into the news two little-known countries in Western Central Africa; it is usually countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia from the region that dominate the news. Togo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) both have failing regimes, weak states, stalled peace negotiations and high levels of what is called ‘spoiler violence’, which is violence intended to disrupt peaceful political settlements to communal conflict. In this respect they parallel Sierra Leone and Liberia. Elections are held in Togo and the DRC, with different degrees of fairness, but without a democratic civic culture and a vibrant civil society, democratic norms are not strong enough to consolidate their peace.

This point is worth reiterating; institutional reform of the governance structures is insufficient on its own to stabilize peace processes. Sociological approaches to the study of peace processes advance the importance of a range of social issues to the success of democratic transitions. A key factor is an active and progressive civil society, linked to global civil society networks and thus able to traverse local, national and international arenas. Other important processes highlighted by sociological study include: gender mainstreaming to promote the position of women in post-conflict reconstruction; the social, educational and economic reintegration of former combatants; the management of emotions and the cultivation of spaces for reconciliation, hope and forgiveness in the public sphere; the emergence of truth recovery procedures along with citizenship education programmes to manage memory and remembrance; informed public policies to deal with victimhood and the deconstruction of violent masculinities, etc.

Amongst these issues must be policies to implement social and economic redistribution. Part of the problem of good governance approaches to peace processes is the emphasis on the introduction of Western market economics rather than social democratic models. Eliminating poverty has to be part of a peace process; without it, ‘war economies’ are encouraged, in which the conflict is kept going for economic benefits, such as warlord patronage, organized crime, corruption (among rebels, national armies and governments), and illegal trade in natural resources.

This describes the problems not only of Western and Central Africa but Africa generally, as well as Sri Lanka and many other zones of conflict. It prompts the reminder that peace processes are very fragile and that serious attempts by the international community and academics are needed to address both the political and social dimensions of peace processes. Political science, International Relations and human rights law have done much to identify what is necessary for the political peace process to succeed; sociology is now beginning to chart the sort of issues important to the social peace process.

John Brewer’s new book, Peace Processes: A Sociological Approach, released this month, takes a bold new approach to the study of peacebuilding by beginning from the premise that sociology can identify those factors that help to stabilize them.