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uni'wissen 01-2016_ENG

If only I did,” sighs Andreas Mehler. The Univer- sity of Freiburg professor of developmental theories and developmental policy and director of Freiburg’s Arnold Bergstraesser Institute for Socio-Cultural Research doesn’t have a solution for the conflict in Syria either. His research focuses on the countries south of the Sahara. However, his findings might one day also help to overcome the Syrian Civil War, which has come to claim the attention of the entire world. But if there’s one thing Mehler’s research has demon- strated, it’s that “there’s no standard formula for resolving civil conflicts.” The countries in francophone Central and West Africa he studies have provided plenty of illustrative material in recent years on how to manage conflicts and on what can go awry even with peacemaking efforts motivated by the best of intentions. Power sharing, for example, is a magic formula on which many hopes rest after civil wars – both in the region itself and interna- tionally. It seems reasonable to include both rebel groups and the country’s government in peace talks following an armed conflict – if possible with an external mediator – and it seems plausible to allow them to share power. But why are peace agreements based on such negotiations often so fragile and short-lived? Bombing Oneself to Power Mehler cites Ivory Coast as a classic example. Founded in 1960 out of a former French colony, the nation found itself divided by the turn of the century. A collective feeling of discrimination in the north precipitated a rebellion that quickly overwhelmed large parts of state territory after the outbreak of the civil war in 2002. In 2007, the president of Burkina Faso helped the country to negotiate a transitional peace agreement for the time up to the 2010 elections. It helped the only 35-year-old former student activist Guillaume Soro to ascend to the position of prime minister, an office he had practically bombed himself to as rebel leader. Today he’s the second most power- ful man in the country as president of the national assembly. But how does that benefit the political rank and file and the civil opposition? As a standard resolution to civil wars, whether in Ivory Coast, in Chad, or in the Central African Republic, power sharing “is often more a part of the problem than the solution,” says Mehler. For rebel leaders like Soro, the prospect of receiving a high government post provides a perverse in- centive: If you want to come to power, all you need to do is attract enough attention with vio- lence. This reduces the worth of civil opposition. The situation is similar in Congo, where the vio- lent parties prevailed at the negotiation table. This marginalization of civil opposition is one of the difficulties facing peace development today. Moreover, it is almost impossible to get all par- ties to participate in a comprehensive solution to conflicts: “Those who aren’t sitting at the nego- tiation table feel excluded and keep fighting” – in the hopes of at least receiving as much material compensation as possible if they agree to stop. And so, everyone speculates about snatching whatever pieces of the pie are still available. Cushy Jobs for the Elites According to Mehler’s observations, the as- sumption that the main protagonists in peace negotiations are actually interested in achieving peace and establishing a democratic state is more a pious hope held by the international mediators: “Power sharing is usually not much more than a matter of distributing cushy jobs among ambi- tious elites.” In his eyes, Soro is practically the Interviews with local informants is one method the political scientists are using to analyze the current situation in the Central African Republic. Source: Tim Glawion “There’s no standard formula for resolving civil conflicts.” 17uni wissen 01 2016 17uni wissen 012016