Basic Concepts

Please find here a few statements that we consider to be fundamental:

1. Debating AfSol “substance” and “opportunities/limits”

2. Three dimensions of AfSol – Ownership, Identity, Locality

1. Debating AfSol “substance” and “opportunities/limits”
Is there are real debate on AfSol? (AfSol being our abbreviation for “African-centered solutions in peace and security”) So far, the few articles that explicitly address this topic are scanty and scattered, dealing with specific observations and events rather than taking recourse to established positions. Apparently, AfSol is still very much a political battle cry for some, and an opportunity for pot shot cynicism for others.

A good debate needs structure, and the minimal workable solution we propose is to distinguish between the “substance” (WHAT are AfSol?) and the “opportunities and limits” (WHEN, under which circumstances, should and can AfSol be applied?).

Actually, these are the two fundamental question that this blog shall help to answer.

We have established blog categories along this line and kindly ask contributors to align their posts with one of these questions.

(To be very precise, there are more questions: how, why, where, … but we believe these can often be summarized under one of the two questions mentioned above.)

 2. Three dimensions of AfSol – Ownership, Identity, Locality

One important lesson we learned in our initial work on the topic is that it may be helpful to distinguish between three different meanings or dimensions of AfSol:

i. Ownership (African political / institutional ownership):This is the dimension where most progress has already been made, mostly within the framework of building the African Peace and Security Architecture. Nowadays, African institutions (RECs, the AU) are often the first port of call when it comes to dealing with an emerging conflict situation, and are driving the interventions. We may call this the “political” dimension.

ii. Locality / Participation (“African” as “adapted to a specific local environment”):  Conflicts are diverse and subsist in different historical, socio-cultural, geographical and political contexts. Solutions should, ideally, be developed and owned locally, in order to take into account the specifics of the respective local environment.  We may call this the “local participation” dimension.

iii. Identity (“African” as “born out of and adapted to general social characteristics of Africa”):In spite of the diversity mentioned above: can we identify specific social characteristics of Africa – or its major sub-regions – that could be used to inform the design of specific “African” interventions? For example: is the concept of reintegration/reconciliation instead of punishment an African notion of justice that should be promoted across the continent? We may call the “identity” dimension.

This distinction helps us to see how debates on AfSol relate to each other, and they save us from the fallacy of over-generalisation. For example: the debate on “transitional justice” is very much tied into the question of identity, but in the case of Rwanda also addresses the questions of ownership and local participation. The position of Thabo Mbeki – for example in his work with the High Implementation Panel on Darfur or his comments on the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire appears to emphasise the dimension of local participation. The AU-mandated intervention in Somalia – AMISOM – appears to be very much owned by Africa (which brings up a controversy on African vs. Somali ownership), but then appears to be a very conventional military operation, with relatively few indications of African know-how and sensitivity to local culture and circumstances being at work.