P014 – Authority and Resistance in African Peacemaking: Between Experiments and Experience
10 July, 09:00-10:30

Witt Antonia / University of Bremen


Whether after contested elections, armed rebellions, or unconstitutional regime changes, African regional organizations are increasingly demanded to engage in peacemaking activities within their member states. As a consequence, they are also more intrusively governing the lives of African people and societies and contribute to the re-organization of African states. While in many ways their local visibility, institutionalization, and professionalization have increased dramatically, peacemaking remains a political and contested endeavor. Resistance can come from within the organizations, but also from the subjects of the interventions themselves. The key question thus remains how and what kind of authority African peacemakers establish and how they deal with often multiple forms of resistance to their mission? This panel seeks to bring together in-depth case studies of recent African peacemaking experiences that reflect upon the play between authority and resistance. The overall aim of this panel is not only to contribute to theory development on the formation of new locales of (international) authority, but also to close a gap in current research on the evolving African security regime by addressing both (localized) practices as well as the politics involved in contemporary peace interventions.

Autorité et résistance dans les processus de paix en Afrique: entre expérimentation et expérience
Que ce soit à la suite d’élection ou de rébellions armées, les organisations régionales et sous-régionales africaines sont de plus en plus impliquées dans les négociations de paix entre leurs leurs Etats membres. Même si elles sont basées sur des mandats officiels, ces interventions sont toujours politiques et, par conséquent, elles suscitent très souvent des formes multiples de résistance profonde. L’origine de ces résistances ne découle pas exclusivement du contexte local, elle est aussi très souvent liée à des enjeux au sein des organisations intervenantes elles-mêmes. Ce panel vise à analyser les expériences des organisations régionales et sous-régionales africaines dans le cadre de leurs diverses interventions au regard de la dynamique entre le défi d’instaurer l’autorité nécessaire à ces interventions et les diverses formes de résistance qu’elles génèrent en pratique.

Paper 1

Iniguez de Heredia Marta / University of Cambridge

Coping in times of Peacebuilding: The Subversion of Authority and Political Order through Survival Strategies

Peacebuilding missions generate an extra layer of authority in the spaces where they operate. This authority places on target societies the obligation to obey and cope in return for restoring state authority and security. However, an analysis of popular classes’ coping strategies reveals that there is limited obedience and extensive resistance to these claims. In the conflict/post-conflict context of Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, rural classes’ self-delivery of multiple services (electricity, health, education, refugee flows and security) enacts alternative forms of social and political organisation. Although these could signal accommodation to forms of dispossession and upwards redistribution of wealth and privilege, they create mechanisms for re-appropriation and political participation. This alternative organising shows important aspects about the way authority is exercised and contested during peacebuilding. While peacebuilders’ authority largely comes from the claim to know and be able to bring peace and security, survival strategies not only demonstrate that this is far from being achieved, but also, that popular classes have their own goals about participatory forms of distribution and decision-making. In this process, survival strategies not only resist a particular agenda or a modus operandi, they generate alternative forms of authority in the process, simultaneously subverting a context of marginalisation, coercion and extraction.

Paper 2

Grauvogel Julia / GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies

Wodrig Stefanie / GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies

Talking past each other: Regional and domestic resistance in the Burundian intervention scene

Peacebuilding attempts invoke a considerable amount of friction. In this paper we argue that these frictional encounters can be made visible by focusing on the articulations of resistance voiced by the different actors in the intervention scene, including national elites and interveners. Departing from the discussion of the regionally led facilitation in Burundi, we show that the respective national elites and African interveners referred to different scales in order to legitimise their resistance: the Great Lakes Peace Initiative for Burundi resisted sedimented continental practices as well as international attempts to impose their conceptions of peace, whereas the Burundian elites repeatedly rejected regionally sponsored ‘solutions’ with reference to the domestic situation. Drawing on interviews with and statements by diverse national and regional forces, we show how claims to resist were articulated with respect to different spatial reference points and thereby explore how regional and local actors talked past each other.

Paper 3

Newbery Katharina / University of St Andrews

Becoming a regional peacemaker with the authority to intervene: Ethiopia’s identity politics and peacemaking interventions in Somalia (post-1991)

The proposed paper will present an argument in favour of studying regional peacemaking interventions in Africa through a poststructuralist approach to the identity politics of intervening states. I will argue that exploring how African peacemakers assign meaning to themselves and others in forming and implementing their response to conflict is central to understanding how they establish the authority to intervene, and shape the political options for their engagement.
Drawing on the case of Ethiopia’s contested peacemaking interventions in the Somali civil war I will develop a theoretical framework to analyse how identities are constructed in the key Ethiopian, and ‘external’, foreign policy discourses that shape Ethiopian engagement in the conflict, and how notions of Ethiopia’s authority as a regional peacemaker are created and maintained through these political processes and practices. By examining how authority and hierarchies are (re)produced through dominant discourses, I argue that a poststructuralist theoretical framework also helps to understand how, and by whom, the political meaning and space for resistance to Ethiopian interventions in Somalia is negotiated. Finally, I will demonstrate that this theoretical approach allows me to analyse the role that relevant regional organisations – the IGAD and AU – and key external actors play in shaping, and legitimizing, the specific forms of authority that Ethiopia establishes as a regional peacemaker in the Horn of Africa.

Paper 4

Makauskaite Mante / Centre of African Studies, University of Copenhagen

Towards Understanding Normative Behaviour of the African Union: Responsibility to Protect and Pan-African Norms during Crises in Libya and Mali

The AU is often referred to as a toothless bulldog not only because of the lack of material capabilities, but also because of a blaming narrative for its assumed priority of regime security over human security. It is claimed that even though the AU has appropriate institutional setting, its normative commitments are not there. To be more precise, Article 4(h) of the AU’s Constitutive Act, which allows humanitarian intervention to a member state in grave circumstances and can be related to such leading international norms as human security and Responsibility to Protect (R2P), has never been invoked. However, these claims are often taken out of the context, without an attempt to understand why the AU behaves with and towards norms the way it does, and how this behavior could be understood.
Stressing the importance of contextualization and history, through the concept of normative behavior, this paper is an attempt to understand how historical and structural constrains affect construction of the AU’s normative behavior in the context of conflict resolution. The analytical distinction is made between the R2P and Pan-African norms of continental jurisdiction and solidarity, in order to question the dominant narrative, and the historical contestations around these norms are discussed. Ideas are then put to test in the cases of Libya and Mali and the AU’s normative behavior is analyzed from its stances on these crises.

Paper 5

Witt Antonia / Goethe University Frankfurt

Frictional encounters: international intervention and mediation in Madagascar

Political crises within African states are increasingly subject to African-led interventions. This paper conceptualizes these interventions as social space that is both constituting and constituted by authority. It therefore scrutinizes the SADC-led mediation that followed President Marc Ravalomanana’s ouster in March 2009. In this sense, the paper analyses the nature of SADC’s authority during its encounters in Madagascar as well as the multiple forms of resistance SADC was faced with. These resistances are in themselves claims to authority and thus reflect the conflictual and dynamic social space produced by intervention practices. Faced by three sources of resistance—from among its own member states, from competing interveners, as well as from various Malagasy actors—SADC turned into a “minimalized authority from afar”. This was characterised by a restricted recognition of the subjects and objects of the mediation, co-optation of political allies, an ad hoc and confrontational mode of engagement, physical absence and ambiguous responsibilities, and a strategy to de-politicize the initial conflict on the ground. The theoretical perspective offered here provides new conceptual avenues to think about the limits of peace interventions. Moreover, the analysis of practices of intervention—in contrast to policy strategies or declarations—points to the various agencies and authorities that turn interventions into an opportunity rather than a mere tool of (regional) governance.

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