Peace building in a post-conflict state goes far deeper than repairing damaged buildings and refurbishing public institutions, but also involves building relations among all levels of people. It is about the ownership of the political direction of the country by the indigenous population.
Since the end of the cold war, the peacekeeping missions were directed by the United Nations mandate for state building in a post conflict state. One of the positive indications for successful operations was the desire of the five permanent members of the Security Council for peace settlement and post settlement development (Roberts, 2008).
Their objective was to achieve a friendly environment for successful state building. This cooperative environment in the Security Council changed the attitude of the superpowers when debating international conflict resolutions. A form of western state building – liberal democracy and market economy or neo liberal economy – have been forced on post-conflict countries to conform with the international governance norms (Roberts, 2008). Liberal democracy or liberal peace combined with economic market is negative peace because it favors the elites during the ‘transitional phase’ which might never end while the majority of the indigenous population remains poor (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse, Miall 2011). This can incite conflict again.
To avoid this conflict, locally legitimate indigenous institutions must be strengthened. This can be done by going back to the systems present before the colonial era. The late president of Somaliland Mohamed Egal who did great work in stabilizing my country by disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating militia factions without foreign help, coined a saying in naming his first administration ‘’I know this administration was not selected on merit but as a solution to the tribal balance of the country’’. Given deep and lengthy traditions of mistrust of the state and the elites per se in most state building environs, President Egal wanted legitimacy from the indigenous people. This yielded greater dividends in the long term by laying the ground for positive peace – a foundational element of state and peace building, but that is often low on the intervention agenda (Roberts, 2008).
In other African countries, the African leaders who replaced colonial rulers had to work in foreign conceived pluralistic institutions which were not practiced before. This allowed the elites to capture the mantle of political legitimacy and was left the general population disillusioned. A pertinent example of this de-alignment is given by Clapham (2002 in Roberts, 2008) who claimed that the elites ‘were the extension of the rich and corrupt metropolis, to which few from the far rural areas related’.
Therefore, a gap exists between the state, its elites and the international polity who only care for negative peace on one hand and the civil society and the rest of the population that require positive peace to buy into the legitimacy of the state and its institutions.
Milliken and Straus suggest that this gap can be resolved if the state supplies welfare to its citizens it can gain their trust and legitimacy, but at the same time, the authors acknowledge that those countries being poor can’t provide their citizens with the basic needs (Roberts, 2008). Roberts provides an interesting case to solve this by arguing that the international polity should put as much focus on building positive peace as it does to establish negative peace (through the strengthening of political institutions to stave off conflict in the short term). This effort would require international bodies to co-operate and focus on developing a state’s national and local level health institutions, thus allowing the state, NGOs and other local actors could create a viable national public health system that can transfer legitimacy to the state and buy-in co-operation from the local populace
Ramsbotham, O., Miall, H. and Woodhouse, T. 2011. Cotemporary Conflict Resolution. 3rd. Wiley: New York.
Roberts, D. 2008. Post-conflict Statebuilding and State Legitimacy: From Negative to Positive Peace? Development and Change. 39: 4. pp. 537-555
Ismail Abdi Abdillahi ( Bashe Abdi Gaboobe), holds Marine Engineer Certificate from Arab Maritime Transport Academy in Alexandria-Egypt, Marine Engineer Certificate from Sharjah- UAE, Post Graduate Diploma in Peace Building from Hargeysa University and Master degree in Peace Building from Coventry University, UK.