African Development Report 2008/9: conflict resolution, peace and reconstruction in Africa
In many people's eyes Africa is synonomous with conflict. Unfortunately, current and recent violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and the Niger Delta not only perpetuates the continents’ bloody roll-call but also the stereotype. However, violent conflict has declined in Africa in recent years - in 2006, seven African countries experienced conflicts, compared with about 14 in the late 1990s.
This, though, does pose a further problem, how to consolidate the peace in countries that have been riven by civil strife; who have weak institutions; low revenue base and are in need of high expenditure. Donors are, thankfully, turning their attention to such ‘fragile states’, recognising that serious support is required in order for post-conflict nations to remain as such and not slip back into civil war – most of the ongoing conflicts in Africa are, indeed, recurrent.
The African Development Bank’s comprehensive 2008/9 biennial report focuses exclusively on post-conflict reconstruction in order to highlight the critical need to strengthen such states. The authors frame their research by considering the following critical questions:
- What do we know about the nature, causes, and consequences of violent conflicts?
- How can we use this knowledge to prevent and resolve conflict, mitigate their consequences, build peace, and facilitate post-conflict reconstruction?
A number of lessons/recommendations are offered, including:
- Empirical studies seeking to explain violent conflict have been heavily contested in terms of methodology, data, and interpretation. Furthermore, African experiences demonstrate the importance of historical, political, and governance factors that are usually omitted
- Strengthening democracy as the basis of the social contract between government and the citizenry could help prevent violent conflict in Africa. A strong state is needed to prevent conflict and stimulate economic development, however, there needs to be checks and balances on executive power
- Economic policies are vital for post-conflict reconstruction and peace building. There is an urgent need to design specific socio-economic interventions to help prevent post-conflict countries from falling into a conflict trap
- State building must be at the centre of the strategy for economic recovery and peace building. The success of state building depends critically not only on the emergence of developmental national leadership but also on strong support from development partners.