Conflict Resolution Wisdom From Africa

alt Jannie Malan
Published by: Accord
ISBN: 10: 0958412774 13: 978-0958412773

Reviewed by: By Alioune Sall, United Nations Development Programme, Abidjan, Cote d’lvoire
In Conflict Trends Issue 1 of 1998

This is a very well written and detailed book about conflict resolution wisdom in Africa. It begins with a detailed but concise narration of African history and gradually moves on towards modern times. It focuses the discussion of conflict by utilising a social context approach. It looks at how conflicts are normally addressed in the environment where they are emerging or have emerged. Talking may start informally within the families or neighbourhoods concerned. It also looks at how members of society, i.e. elders of both genders, may make meaningful contributions to preventing conflicts. Another constructive way of preventing and counteracting conflict is to promote socio-economic development. Africa’s experience of imposed, foreign types of development has led to an important change of perspective. A home-grown version of people –centred development is being advocated, and is apparently gaining support. 

People–centred perspectives have wisely been introduced into the area of ethnicity as well. When, recently, various subdued and dormant ethnic aspirations were revived, all sorts of linguistic, cultural and ethnic agendas were widely accepted and emotionally pursued. Although all the examples of conflict prevention and resolution are obviously of a practical nature, this practicality deserves to be specifically highlighted. These examples are practical, not in the sense of extemporaneous, ad hoc actions, but rather as practical procedures developed out of real life experience. In most, if not all, cases, this development could have included discussion and contemplation, but most probably such talking and thinking were constantly related to actual experience. It is this life context which makes all these methods so useful and worthy of recommend. From neighbourhood negotiation to the OAU mechanism, they were designed out of life experience for application in real life. So also, the alarming increase in internal conflicts between minorities and majorities highlights the need to address the sensitive but serious problem of majoritarianism.

The book covers many aspects of conflict resolution, and if there is any criticism, then it has to be that the book is rather too detailed. The way it is written, however, in a way that makes it flow easily, more than makes up for this excess.

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