Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

South Africa's Approach to Conflict Management in Burundi and the DRC: Promoting Human Security?

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

South Africa's Approach to Conflict Management in Burundi and the DRC: Promoting Human Security?

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Africa's investment in peace and security over the last two decades has undoubtedly yielded many peace dividends. The number of civil wars decreased by half (although on an upward trend again from 2013), many countries gained the status of being democracies (from three in 1990 to 25 in 2013), human development indicators improved, income per capita increased and there is a promise of abundance through new gas and mineral finds (August 2013). These achievements give credence to the assertions of 'Africa Rising'. However, without diminishing these accomplishments, they remain tenuous in the face of persistent instability in African countries deemed post-conflict. There is a rise in election-related violence, mounting terrorism and insurgency attacks, relentless gender based violence and expanding local and transnational conflicts across the continent. According to the Institute for Security Studies, African conflicts are becoming "increasingly fragmented and the number of actors, particularly non-state factions, involved in conflicts is rising" (Cilliers and Shunemann 2013: 3). Persistent insecurity on the continent, and the ineffectiveness of peacebuilding interventions to prevent the relapse of states into conflict, necessitate that we revisit the dominant approaches to managing violent conflict in a bid to discern why they are not yielding sustainable human security. This article contends that a key part of the explanation resides in the propensity towards stabilising states instead of building peaceful resilient societies, pursuing dated methods in the face of new challenges, continued linear modelling and a seeming inability to rethink and transform conflict management mechanisms and processes.

South Africa is at the forefront of Africa's peace and security endeavours. After 1994, it was able to quickly transform itself from international villain to Pan-Africanist peacemaker and it has since played an instrumental role in both shaping and setting the normative agenda of the African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community's (SADC) peace and security architectures as well as undertaking in-country conflict management interventions, or what Van Nieuwkerk (2014) refers to as 'Peace Diplomacy'. Scholars have provided detailed accounts of South Africa's engagement in peacemaking and peacekeeping, and to a lesser extent, its experiences with peacebuilding (Shillinger 2009; Miti 2012; Neethling 2003; Landsberg 2012; Hendricks and Lucey 2014). Their work highlights several factors. These include, for example, the motivation for South Africa's engagement (foreign policy, history, values and principles, economic and military stature, commercial interests, moral legitimacy, and so forth); South Africa's preferred forums for intervention (bilateral, trilateral and multilateral institutions and processes); its role as a 'reluctant hegemon'; the strengths and weaknesses of specific interventions, noting in particular its lack of resources, dated equipment, domestic challenges and exportation/imposition of its own conflict resolution model. Some others seek to compare the approaches of the different administrations (viz, Mandela, Mbeki and Zuma).

Few of these studies reflect on the assumptions, conceptions and methodology underpinning South Africa's approach to conflict management or provide human security impact assessments of its interventions. South Africa's interventions were largely hailed as success stories, but what was meant by success in these contexts? Evidence is mounting that the countries in which it has intervened remain fragile and/or have relapsed into conflict. Yet, South Africa continues to be "the interlocutor and destination of choice for African leaders and rebel leaders eager to cut deals" (Van Nieuwkerk 2014: 3).

It is important to begin to pay closer attention to South Africa's conflict management approach for a number of reasons. First, it is called upon to manage conflicts in many African countries. …

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