Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Re-Empowering Indigenous Principles for Conflict Resolution in Africa: Implications for the African Union

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Re-Empowering Indigenous Principles for Conflict Resolution in Africa: Implications for the African Union

Article excerpt


Since attaining independence in the 1950s and 1960s, many African states have done little to explore ways to re-empower indigenous systems that were systematically degraded during the colonial era. Rather, post-colonial elites that took power from colonial masters made rapid efforts to align states with capitalist and socialist order of imperial powers in a bid to meet up with so-called international standards. Indeed, colonialism portrayed indigenous knowledge, religion and practices as primitive and irrational expressions of an inferior race (Ani 2017). The coverage of Africa in popular literature and media networks in the post-colonial era continue to lean on negative practices in such a way that many Africans also feel negatively about their traditional values. This is evident in the way Africans continue to depend on external actors for solutions to their contemporary challenges.

In terms of peace and security, the African Union which leads Africa's conflict resolution initiatives have also not made remarkable efforts to build on indigenous values and systems. Yet, many authors highlight the crucial role of indigenous conflict resolution mechanism in bringing fresh solutions to contemporary security issues alongside mainstream approaches (Boege 2011; Run 2013).

An African Union commissioned research that explores the viability of a 'United States of Africa' surmises the on-going concern that the expertise and education in Africa are over-dependent on foreign systems thereby requiring African actors to collectively enhance the capability and capacities of Africa to fully participate in shaping continental and international norms and agenda (AU 2006: 6-8). This paper thus revisits some common traditional values in Africa and the role of the AU in providing legitimacy and support. This is to ensure that Africa plays a key role in conceptualising solutions to its security challenges and by extension contributing in constructive global debates on peace and security.

Increasingly, there is a growing recognition that the foundational paradigms for peace and security in Africa are based on models of imperial powers to the detriment of society-centric outlooks that could contribute to sustainable peace and stability in the continent (Avruch 2002; Lacroix and Neufeldt 2010, Salem 2007; Bukari 2011). For Salem (2007), the mainstream conception of conflict resolution portrays fundamental ideas, assumptions, beliefs, values and thought processes of western powers. Jeng (2012, 6) affirms that the "dominant peace advocacy had generally conceptualized peace and peacebuilding in the context of Eurocentric thinking". In Culture and Conflict Resolution, Avruch (2002) maintains that even though mainstream conflict resolution tends to be presented as being neutral and objective, culture has a significant sway in people's action at the subconscious level. Avruch (2002) continues that western actors have intentionally and unintentionally dominated conflict resolution method with western cultural values and approaches.

Bob-Manuel in A cultural approach to conflict transformation (2000) notes that the upheavals and tensions in Africa are consequent from the breakdown of the order and context that African values and principles were developed and applied. The intractability and resurgences of conflicts in a number of African states and elsewhere point to the failures and limitations of the mainstream state-centric peace and security paradigms that are applied to resolve disputes in the continent. In an Op-Ed in Daily Maverick in June 2017, Tim Muruthi and Ashanti Kunene argue that 'the chaos that is now engulfing the world has a very Western origin. It would therefore be self-defeating for the rest of humanity to permit the self-same authors of chaos to frame the contours of a new global order. It is now time for the rest of the world to assert its right to remake the next international order. …

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