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Call for Papers: MIASA Conference on "The Role of Traditional Institutions in Promoting Sustainable Peace in Africa"

MIASA International Conference, Institute of Societal Sciences (Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso), 30 November - 02 December 2023

Africa has the reputation of being the continent most prone to conflict, whether intra-community, inter-community or inter-state. These African conflicts differ according to their intensity, duration and territorial extension, as well as their nature. We observe both inter- and intra-state conflicts, armed and unarmed conflicts, conflicts linked to natural resources and ethnic conflicts. In any case, conflicts or wars are not an end in themselves, but are fundamentally linked to the notion of peace. According to Simmel, the notions of conflict and peace are “so intertwined that the conditions of future combat are constituted in every state of peace, and those of future peace in every combat”. In a situation of conflict, peace – and lasting peace in particular – becomes an ideal in which various external and internal players play a part as protagonists. Once achieved, peace does not remain a permanent fact, for as Vasquez shows, "some types of peace have been quite successful in avoiding the recurrence of war, while others have rather favored the resumption of war". In other words, post-conflict peace can itself carry the seeds of a return to a more intense conflict situation. Ultimately, in the context of a post-conflict situation, the most important thing is not to obtain a sealed peace between the belligerents or the actors in the conflict, but to arrive at a situation where this peace becomes a lasting part of the relations between the said actors.

On this subject, Faget notes a certain evolution in the way political conflicts have been managed in recent years, given that the "traditional role of state diplomacy is increasingly being supplemented or replaced by more consensual and less vertical modes of resolution". Thus, conflict management and the promotion of living together and peace must consider all protagonists, including traditional institutions, which - in different ways - are often involved in conflicts. By "traditional institutions" we mean those institutions which - unlike those of the post-colonial state - represent a certain socio-cultural heritage originating from society itself, irrespective of whether this heritage is true, invented or imagined. “Traditional” therefore does not mean that practiced customs originate from an intact pre-colonial past, that they are timeless, immutable and anachronistic. Traditional institutions take many forms: chiefs, councils, courts, customary rules and norms, spiritual leaders. As actors involved in conflicts, these traditional institutions can play different roles. They may have contributed to the emergence of the conflict and be among the parties to the conflict, or they may act as mediators and thus contribute to the negotiation of social and political crises on the continent. This conference will explore the complexity of traditional institutions as key actors in conflict, and their potential contribution to promoting sustainable peace in Africa. The conference invites researchers from different disciplines to discuss one or more of the following questions:

  •  What role(s) do traditional institutions play in peace processes and the establishment of lasting peace in Africa?
  • To what extent can traditional institutions aggravate conflicts?
  • What can we learn from a historical perspective about the different roles of traditional authorities in peace processes, and their relations with state and/or international actors?
  • How are traditional institutions considered by national and international mechanisms for resolving conflicts and building lasting peace?
  • What does a feminist perspective tell us about the role of traditional authorities in conflicts?
  • How can we imagine the future of traditional mediation and peace institutions in Africa?

Deadline: 14 August 2023