Mission without end? Peacekeeping in the African political marketplace



    1. Programme Director of the Social Science Research Council, a Senior Fellow of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and a Director of Justice Africa in London.
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Since the mid-1990s the UN, in tandem with major western powers, has embarked upon an ambitious effort of peace support operations in Africa. The results of what we may call the ‘Annan experiment’ are not yet in. But there are good reasons to fear that, in many African countries, such peace operations have defend normative outcomes that are beyond realistic expectation, so that they can never hope to ‘succeed’. This article examines the political and economic functioning of fragile African states using the lens of a ‘political marketplace’ in which local elites seek to obtain the highest reward for their loyalty, over short time horizons, within patrimonial systems. In such systems, political institutions are incapable of managing confect, which means that standard peacemaking efforts and peacekeeping operations do not align with domestic possibilities for settlement. To the contrary, external engagements can so distort domestic political markets that they obstruct national political bargaining and result in an open-ended commitment to peacekeeping in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.


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    The state failure and state fragility model is now coming under critique for precisely this reason. See Tobias Hagmann and Markus Hoehne, ‘Failures of the state failure debate: evidence from the Somali territories’, Journal of International Development 20: 7, 2008, available at www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/109866190issue, accessed 4 December 2008.

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    This analysis suggests that the model developed by Kalyvas for violence in civil war is applicable to cases of institutionalized adversaries and needs revision when applied to violence in a patrimonial marketplace: see Stathis Kalyvas, The logic of violence in civil war (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

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  • 21

    We can note in passing that humanitarians also become drawn in to the localizing process. Because humanitarian operations and outcomes are so closely linked to the nature of violence in the political bargaining process, very senior aid officials also become experts at the minutiae of community politics in DRC and Darfur.

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