Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Re-Conceptualising Leadership for Effective Peacemaking and Human Security in Africa

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Re-Conceptualising Leadership for Effective Peacemaking and Human Security in Africa

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Defining what constitutes peace is as elusive as finding a sustainable threshold within which human communities can live in harmony, while also seeking to attain their full potential. This notwithstanding, the failure of peace in society is often self-evident. Johan Galtung's time-honoured notion of peace is of something more than just the absence of war, which has since become widely known as negative peace. Rather, he advanced the notion of positive peace, which he first described as the "integration of human society" (Galtung 1964: 2). Building on this, positive peace also came to be seen as the absence of structural violence (Galtung 1969). Direct and structural violence are rooted in the structure of society and the social justice issues contained therein. As such, given the underlying justice issues, the connections between peace and security are not farfetched. Arguably, then, the prevention of both direct and structural violence would create conditions for peace as well as security.

The elusiveness of peace remains a recurring feature in conflict situations at all levels of society in Africa. This is evident in the diversity of conflict situations on the continent. This can be seen, for example, in the mutations of civil conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); grievances that linger in the memory of victims of violence in Zimbabwe; non-state conflicts that result from competing approaches to the pursuit of wellbeing among communities; and in the terror visited upon populations by insurgent groups like Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram with unconventional demands on state actors. (1) Finding that stable threshold of harmonious relations within which people can pursue their individual and collective aspirations is the challenge that lies at the heart of much conflict in Africa and elsewhere.

Indeed, violent conflict remains perhaps the single most intractable challenge to human security in Africa. It is estimated that the continent has lost about 12 million people to civil war since 1991. As Rotberg notes, "on no other continent has so many lives been lost to civil war" (Rotberg 2007: 17). There is a realisation globally, that conflict is not abating. Rather, it is constantly mutating or relapsing periodically. Available evidence suggests that the relapse of armed conflict poses a difficult challenge for regional and global actors alike. It is estimated, for example, that 42 per cent of armed conflicts that resulted in negotiated settlements between 1945 and 2004 relapsed (Lacina and Gleditsch 2005). The persistent challenge of relapse accounts in part, for the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and Security Council's effort to undertake a comprehensive review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture in 2015.

The perpetual insecurities encountered in the search for stable peace make the notion of human security particularly relevant in Africa. Earlier contestation about the intellectual usefulness of this notion (Buzan et al 1998; Paris 2001) is now less emphasised even if it remains unresolved. It is difficult to challenge the idea that the wellbeing of individuals must be central to considerations of security in the face of the extreme violence and humanitarian tragedies witnessed in Africa in the past two decades. African regional and continental institutions have embraced the human security agenda at least in principle. As such, there is an acceptance that it should be possible to pierce the veil of sovereignty in order to respond to untold human suffering and large-scale insecurities within states. This is exemplified by the AU Constitutive Act (Article 4h) which opened the door to the possibility of interventions in situations of human tragedies.

However, more than two decades after visible commitment to the idea of human security and implicit acceptance that the wellbeing of individuals should matter more in security considerations, Africa does not have sustainable peace. …

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