When Peace Prevails: The Management of Political Crisis in Ecuador, Madagascar, Tunisia, and Venezuela

Article excerpt

This article presents a comparative study of four countries that experienced severe political crises during the past two decades--Ecuador, Madagascar, Tunisia, and Venezuela. Despite this, peace prevailed in three of them. Only in Madagascar was there an armed conflict in 2009. Based on a comparison of these cases, the article identifies a set of factors deemed crucial as constituents of a country's domestic capabilities for peaceful conflict management. The article also explains why--in the case of Madagascar in 2009--these capabilities became weakened and the crisis culminated in a military coup. The factors identified as crucial for the preservation of intrastate peace are channels of political participation, the identity and loyalty of the military, a culture of constructive conflict management, and the structure of conflict fault lines in a country. The comparative study revealed that strength in one or more of these factors could substitute for weaknesses in the others. Conflict-prevention research and conflict-prevention efforts therefore need to pay attention to all of these factors, and to the balance between them. KEYWORDS: peaceful crisis management, dialogue, comparative method, military loyalty, channels of political participation

At the turn of the millennium, most studies in peace research focus on the causes of armed conflict. Few focus on the causes of peace. This is so, despite the existence of several country cases where factors frequently associated with armed conflict are present but where peace has prevailed.

This article presents the results of a comparative study of four countries--Ecuador, Madagascar, Tunisia, and Venezuela--that all ex perienced severe political crisis during the past two decades, but also, with the exception of Madagascar, saw peace prevail during the past eighteen years. The article explores the causes of peace in Ecuador, Tunisia, and Venezuela and the long period of peace in Madagascar that finally was interrupted by armed conflict in 2009, drawing on the ories of peace and of conflict causation. The article takes the concept domestic capabilities for peaceful conflict management to explain how peace can be maintained.

In 2009, a serious political conflict hit Madagascar. That crisis transformed into a military coup. By focusing on what happened to Madagascar's capabilities for peaceful conflict management in the run up to this latest crisis, the article explains why the crisis in 2009 had a different outcome than earlier ones.

Theories: The Causes of War and the Causes of Peace

The body of theory on the causes of armed conflict is rich, spanning from the role of economic development, socioeconomic disparities, natural resources, environmental degradation, political system, democratization, and ethnic configuration to the role of identity and religion in causing conflict--to mention some of the most important. (1) However, attention to conditions that favor peace--such as a culture of dialogue, alternative channels for political participation or common interests nurtured through regional cooperation--is, in general, given only in theories on the causes of peace. (2)

Much also depends on how peace is understood. This article uses Galtung's definition of negative peace, meaning the absence of the use of direct violence, as its point of departure. (3) However, this discussion also moves beyond the negative peace, focusing on factors that make peace sustainable and lasting.

Theories on the causes of peace do add a different dimension to the picture by pointing to the importance of proactive contributors to peace, such as the existence of a culture of peaceful conflict management. In his book On Perpetual Peace, Dieter Senghaas points to a set of conditions of high importance for peace, summarized as the "civilisatory hexagon." (4) The concept "perpetual peace" stems from Immanuel Kant's philosophical essay of 1795. …