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As we were preparing for this issue, interesting similarities and diversities in geographical contexts of peace, conflict and jurisprudence became apparent. These perspectives have sharpened our understanding and insights on this very thought-provoking subject. We trust that our readers will experience the same analytical perception on peace, conflict and jurisprudence in ways that contribute to our goals of a conflict-free Africa.

Interesting similarities that are reflected in this journal show the pattern of crimes against humanity committed by the former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and the five leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda. Although the crimes perpetuated occurred in different geographic contexts and time-frames, the following atrocities were committed in both instances: massive abductions of children and their subsequent conscription into the rebel ranks; forced marriages and wide-spread sexual abuses; the use of children as human shields, porters and labourers; and the forcing of child soldiers to commit inhuman acts such as ritual killings and mutilations of civilians.

Strategically, our readers will find prominence being given to achieving peace and stability before the prosecution for the odious international crimes against humanity and the violation of international humanitarian law. In the case of Charles Taylor, Nigeria granted him safe haven from the jurisdiction of the Special Court in Sierra Leone for three years, in order to realise the immediate goal of regional peace and stability. This move prevented potential retaliation by Taylor’s supporters in the region. All regional and global actors keenly monitored the outcome of balancing the goals of peace and stability on the one hand and the goal of prosecution on the other. The United Nations Security Council did not only appreciate Nigeria’s role in preventing conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone from spreading to other regional states, but also emphasised the need for prosecution, which implied the apprehension and eventual handing over of Charles Taylor to the Special Court upon his return to Liberia. Indeed, the Nigerian authorities extradited him upon receiving a formal request from their counterparts in Liberia, and now Taylor is facing trial on crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

Similarly, the Uganda Government seems to have adopted the same strategy of attaining peace and stability before prosecution. In this context, the indictment of the five leaders of the LRA has the potential of isolating the top leadership of the rebel movement, thereby causing internal divisions within their ranks. As long as the indictment does not take place the rebels may seek amnesty; thereby forcing countries that support the LRA to take concrete steps towards expelling them from their territory, which would bring about more cooperation from other neighbouring countries and the international community. We find the Ugandan conflict thought-provoking and thus remain positive as to the achievement of both goals – peace and prosecution – with the strong tendency to apply traditional conflict resolution strategies and mechanisms.

An equally interesting and intellectually stimulating article is the one on the ‘dilemma of restorative justice’ in cases where all the parties to the conflict are guilty. The reader will appreciate the context of the conflict in the Niger Delta region, a conflict that has pitted the government, host communities and the oil companies against each other. This has seen successive legislations rendering the communities as spectators to the exploitative nature of the multinational oil companies in their vicinity, with insignificant oil-related benefits trickling down to the people. In this context, the reader is introduced to the dilemma of restorative justice when all the parties have no common agenda. The reader will note that the oil sector in Nigeria has increasingly become more technical, complex and heavily regulated despite the lack of commonly defined agendas, goals and interests of all the parties. Further, our readers will note the challenges of implementing the plethora of laws – such as anti-sabotage, anti-pollution, and compensation – which have opened a floodgate of litigation, accusations and counter-accusations by all the parties affected.

The reader will find interesting claims and counterclaims made between the parties. Oil firms claim that the communities are damaging their equipment, disrupting their operations and endangering their lives. As a result, they are no longer making profit on their investments, and are accusing the government of shirking its responsibilities to the communities. The communities claim that the oil companies besides confiscating their land are polluting the remaining pieces of land and the environment, making them suffer excessive noise, breathing complications due to air pollution, and loss of livelihoods due to polluted rivers and smaller catches of fish. Secondly, they have no say in the distribution of shared revenue and receive inadequate, sometimes delayed, compensation. Lastly, they accuse government of supporting oil firms at their expense. The government blames communities for breaching public peace, law and order, which fuels higher security expenditure and undermines authorities’ use of oil revenues to satisfy other national interests. Further, the government accuses the oil firms of not being transparent in their transactions as well as not fulfilling promises made to the communities. The dilemma of restorative justice therefore relates to relationship building involving both the victim and the offender in ways that transcend the concentration on crimes and punishment.

Our readers will observe that a major weakness of the Niger Delta is the lack of the ‘Integrated Development Planning’ which the authors of the article on this topic recommend for situations where political and social actors are not yet ready to reconcile their differences in line with the national development agenda. This explains the causes for many conflicts in Africa.

Further intellectual stimuli relate to the recent work of the United Nations’ newly established Peacebuilding Commission – a body that seeks to prevent countries from sliding back into conflict despite substantial and sustained international developmental inputs. Our readers will find that valuable synergising actions of government, civic bodies and the private sector are not only missing in the Niger Delta, but also in many conflicts experienced in African countries. Our readers will also learn how South Africa has since 1994 succeeded in its ‘Integrated Development Planning’ in ways that have allowed different actors from the country to work together towards achieving commonly defined goals and/or outcomes. Lastly, our readers will notice that allowing diverse perspectives and impacts to facilitate optimal solutions to critical issues is the best way of responding to any challenge that might arise.

Another interesting opinion for our readers is the ‘Agency Theory’ which explains the civil-military relationship as an essential feature of democratic governance and an important element in the prevention of internal armed conflicts. Readers will find this analysis to be significant in the context of the democratisation project in Africa. The author postulates a professional military which is distinct from the civilian but politically aware enough to absorb the values of the society. This in our view may discourage conflicts that are contrary to the interests and will of society.

The same theory fits very well with the ‘principal–agent’ theory used to explain the ’employer–employee’ relationship in the article entitled ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution in the Workplace – the South African experience’. This article provides a perspective on labour relations and dispute resolution in an environment of high costs, prolonged legal action and low settlement rates. This entails all dispute resolution mechanisms other than the formal process of adjudication in a court of law, and brings workplace justice to more people at lower cost and with greater speed than conventional government channels. Our readers will find this mediation strategy to be fast, cheap and effective and to produce higher settlement rates. There is no legal representation involved; hence employees at all levels, from the lowest and uneducated, can easily approach this route. The model suits well any economic climate where there is a large percentage of employees who have no or very little schooling; where there are few skills and lack of training in labour relations or labour law; and where the largest proportion of employers are small- to medium-sized businesses.

With the stimulating content in these articles, we strongly recommend our readers to share their thoughts on relevant issues with those in the midst of a conflict as well as those trying to mediate and transform that particular conflict. We are also aware that the thoughts contained in this issue can be applied in other countries experiencing conflicts – in Africa or elsewhere. For instance, actors in the Niger Delta conflict might benefit from the South African model of ‘Integrated Development Planning’. Indeed, it is our hope that this issue can apply to other simmering conflicts, which are due to lack of commonly defined developmental agendas, as well as in situations where antagonists simply refuse to embrace each other’s views. We have demonstrated here that diversity of thinking leads to thought-probing, and energises the opportunity to learn and seek more wisdom necessary to solve whatever challenges the country might be experiencing. We can conclude that this edition may remind those who resist converging towards each other for a common national development goal that purging of diverse views only leads to intra-state war and eventually crimes against humanity, which can destroy one’s legacy. Many are indeed saying that if Taylor and the five rebel leaders of the LRA had listened to reason, they could have avoided this route. Our humble goal is to assist leaders on both sides of a conflict to avoid the legacies of the Taylors and the leaders who fight under positively sounding banners. That might lead to less causes of conflict, less need for jurisprudence, and more opportunities for peaceful coexistence.

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