Conflict Trends 2014/1

ACCORD Conflict Trends 2014/1

"Last year, the African Union (AU) celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding as the Organisation of African Unity, at the 2013 AU Summit. Our continent’s leaders took a crucial decision that Africa and her people must write their own narratives. True to form, the AU Commission Chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has taken the lead and written an ‘email from the future’, highlighting her vision of a united, prosperous and peaceful continent in 2063. This vision, buttressed by continent-wide economic integration, large-scale infrastructure development and an ‘African Renaissance’ in areas of education, energy, health and trade, paints an optimistic and tangible expression of our continent’s future...

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The year 2013 was a benchmark for African countries to assess how far they have come since 1963 – and, more importantly, how much further they must go to reach their 2063 aspirations. The continent has continued to sustain growth rates upwards of 5%, despite the pressures of the global economic recession. Rising domestic investments, strong agricultural harvests and higher domestic earnings highlight the significant progress occurring in Africa. There is momentum for increased regional economic and infrastructure integration, led by the regional economic communities, along with more favourable global trade relations.

Most importantly, as AU Deputy Chairperson Erastus Mwencha recently noted, peace is becoming the norm on the continent: "90% of Africa's population lives in places which are peaceful. We do have 10% of the continent still facing challenges of peace and security, but that 10% cannot define the continent."1 Peace and development remain two sides of the same coin; one cannot flourish without the other.

It is precisely because of the plight endured by this 10% that Africa must continue to secure peace throughout the continent. Although important gains have been solidified over the past decade, Africa still faces complex crises. Recent developments in the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the African Sahel highlight the challenges of both making peace and reconstructing societies following conflicts. In our experiences, we have witnessed many African countries struggle for years, if not decades, to rebuild in the aftermath of conflict. Infrastructure must be repaired, economies must be revived, institutions must be reimagined and the social fabric of societies must be rewoven if these countries are to successfully alleviate the conditions that instigate such conflicts.

We must redouble our efforts to prevent the outbreak of violent, protracted conflicts and rebuild those societies that have endured their devastating impacts. Conflict prevention, operationalised through some combination of the AU's African Peace and Security Architecture with support and input from civil society, academia, business and community leaders, should seek not only to identify potential conflict hotspots but also bring different leaders to the table and promote the peaceful and constructive resolution of such disputes before further escalation occurs.

Africa is on the right track: we have come to realise the importance of writing our own narrative as we learn from our successes and failures in dealing with complex conflicts on the continent. While we are encouraged by the progress made thus far, we remain committed to developing innovative resolutions and interventions to address the many significant conflict challenges we still face. A prosperous and peaceful Africa in 2063 is attainable!

Vasu Gounden
Founder and Executive Director of ACCORD.

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