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A Look at the Role of the Mediator in African Conflicts

Former African heads of state play a significant role in mediating conflicts across Africa. However, some lack an understanding of the complexities and don’t have language skills, which dents their mediation efforts. For more than three decades, African mediators have been involved in resolving civil conflicts in the continent’s Great Lakes region: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda. To meet the regional dimensions of the conflicts, the mediators — who have included presidents, foreign ministers, elder statesmen and special envoys — have intervened to help combatants rebuild the institutions of political order, social cohesion and economic stability. Some of the former presidents who later became mediators — such as Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta — never had to deal with rebel movements during their respective terms in office. That being the case, how effectively could they expect to have resolved the crises which have beleaguered Africa’s hot spots?