Does Northern Ireland Offer a Model for Resolving Conflicts in Africa?

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Literature Review
Numerous discussions among politicians have delineated the role(s) of Northern Ireland in the resolution of conflicts in Africa. As posited by Hain (2007), “The Troubles” conflict took place from 1968 to 1998 in Northern Ireland, and it is responsible for the delineation of the nation as a model for resolving conflicts in Africa (Hain, 2007). The provision(s) of a model for this cause is, in fact, still under debate as some leaders [and politicians] do not necessarily ‘approve’ its existence. Fortunately, enough, Bill Clinton was on the affirmative side of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) or Belfast Agreement claiming that it impacted conflict resolution in various regions in Africa. The 42nd President of the U.S. was pleased with Northern Ireland’s model of conflict resolution which sort to augur peace in most of the unstable places in the world. Furthermore, according to Hughes (2011), an in-depth look into the Belfast Agreement brings about enlightenment apropos of Arend Lijphart’s consociationalism in Northern Ireland (Hughes, 2011; Dunn & Nolan-Haley, 1998). There is the need to place the GFA hand-in-hand with consociationalism in Northern Ireland as a way of understanding the nation’s role in conflict resolution.
Delving further, it is salient that consociation demands states and regions to embrace any form(s) of differences and diversities in the society (Hughes, 2011). Just like the leaders under this ‘conflict resolution’ instrument set aside their differences; they work toward bringing people together. It is possible to implement these strategies in African countries such as Kenya, Uganda and South Africa which have a diversified populace (Traniello, 2008: Hughes, 2011; Dunn & Nolan-Haley, 1998. Different cultural groups have a way of working together and handling conflicts in a peaceful and cooperative manner. It is quite ironical that people with similar cultural beliefs are bound to thrive through conflict(s) and instability, regardless of their commonalities (Hughes, 2011). Borrowing the issue(s) of cultural diversity from Northern Island’s consociationalism is conversant with the idea(s) that the nation offers a model for conflict resolution. Actually, an exploration of the Belfast Agreement desists from supporting any form(s) of antagonist behavior(s) (Hughes, 2011; Dunn & Nolan-Haley, 1998). The main point(s) of upholding these consociational states is to ensure that varied and diverse social groups are at par.
Dunn and Nolan-Haley (1998) understand that the GFA’s role in ending the Northern Ireland’s conflict indicated clearly its prevalence in conflict resolution. It was inclined toward the tenets of power-sharing whereby division in various societies would be eradicated (Dunn & Nolan-Haley, 1998). Additionally, the agreement that was signed in Northern Ireland strived to avoid any prevalence of conflict by ensuring that each human being received equal rights (Dunn & Nolan-Haley, 1998). For instance; in various societies, there are minority groups such as the disabled, the poor and members of the LGBT community who do not receive the ‘deserved’ treatment. As a result, Vollenhoven and Els (2013) extrapolate that there is an inevitability of conflict(s) as these individuals strive to acquire full rights, as human beings (Vollenhoven & Els, 2013). There has been numerous Pride parades and marches held by the LGBT community in an attempt to eradicate the prevalence of homophobia. Unfortunately, in such a case, conflict(s) arises between homosexual and heterosexual parties since the latter is not deprived of their freedoms [and rights] (Vollenhoven & Els, 2013). With classism, also, it is unfortunate that people in the lower class bracket often suffer due to their economic status. Giving the elites an upper hand in a particular society is a ‘direct’ ticket to economic instability and conflict.

Does Northern Ireland Offer a Model for Resolving Conflicts in Africa?

Another perspective of the North Ireland’s consociationalism, according to Zuhair (2008), reiterates that power-sharing is essential in ‘avoidance’ of conflicts in African nations (Zuhair, 2008). When two or more leaders of different ethnicities collaborate to make feasible decisions for a particular country, it becomes much easier to placate the prevalence of conflict(s). Power-sharing has a way of auguring democracy and consensus which is a way of advocating for peace and stability in a particular territory (Zuhair, 2008). It is forlorn, for instance, to realize that African countries such as Uganda are thriving through dictatorial rule. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has ruled the Ugandans ever since 1986 and ensured that ‘power-sharing’ is a foreign concept in the country. Additionally, when Robert Mugabe retired as Zimbabwe’s president, after ruling since 1987; the people’s elated reactions are an indication that dictatorship is prevalent in many African countries. Having such governments and dismissing the idea(s) of democracy creates room for conflict. With a grasp of the GFA and consociationalism, there is the need to understand that unfair leadership is one of the causes of conflict (Zuhair, 2008). It is impossible to compare these African countries with the U.S., for instance, since the latter is well-aware that the peoples’ vote and the choice are important (Katho, 2013; Zuhair, 2008). Uganda’s Museveni has continuously rigged the elections and even issued threats to the opposition parties. Despite being the president, it is uncanny that he is one of the propagators of conflict and instability in Uganda. A further look at the GFA which upholds the rights of all human beings acts as a model for conflict resolution in African countries.
Still, on power-sharing, Traniello (2008) understands that South Africa and Rwanda are enough proof that Northern Ireland’s model assists with conflict resolution in Africa. Unlike Rwanda, South Africa managed to impede the prevalence of conflict through mitigation and mediation augured from power-sharing (Traniello, 2008). Rwanda was not classified as a consociational state due to issues such as poor leadership. South Africa, Traniello (2008) explains; is one of the countries that have holistically embraced the conflict model of power-sharing from Northern Ireland. It consists of a framework and ideologies that are important to any society that appears divided, unstable or non-peaceful (Traniello, 2008; Jakala et al., 2017). During the 1980s, South Africa suffered greatly due to the predicament(s) [and consequences] of apartheid, and with a touch of consociationalism and power-sharing, the nation managed to attain democracy. Jakala et al. (2017) look into the necessity to particularly refer to South Africa’s inclination toward consociationalism in 1993 as it was the most effective in reducing conflict and creating a peaceful co-existence (Jakala et al., 2017). Just like in Uganda, there was a dictatorship by Rwanda’s Habyarimana who interfered with any form(s) of peace in the country. There were numerous cases of assassination which were the extreme opposite of peace instigators in any particular country. At the time, it was impossible to instill power-sharing techniques in a country that was under dictatorial rule (Traniello, 2008). A comparison between South Africa and Rwanda apropos of Lijphart’s consociationalism shows that the Northern Ireland model of conflict resolution only works for democratic states.
Kenya, as detailed by Katho (2013), is undoubtedly part of the debate while understanding Northern Ireland’s role in mitigating conflicts in Africa. The country in East Africa is well-known for its notoriety in conflicts affiliated with the electoral process (Katho, 2013). Unfortunately, Nyamato (2014) delineates that the diversity and multi-ethnic groups in Kenya only work to its disadvantage due to the overt tribalism that is deeply rooted in its people (Nyamato, 2014). The nation delineates a controversial outlook since the Belfast Agreement advocates for diversity to attain peace and stability. During each and every election, Kenyans often put forth and uphold their tribal differences; making it impossible to succeed as a country (Nyamato, 2014; Katho, 2013). For this reason, therefore, there is the need to delve into power-sharing techniques that will work toward eradicating [or controlling] such conflict(s). The power-sharing technique should be utilized to impede both ethnic discrimination and electoral conflict since they are interrelated. The former gives rise to the latter and allows individuals to harm one another simply due to matters that are beyond their control (Katho, 2013). Additionally, the powerful elites should also ensure that equality prevails in the society by understanding the needs of people in the lower classes. There are numerous politicians that resort to bribing the minorities for the purpose(s) of electoral votes. When these leaders are chosen incompetently, there is room for conflict that often arises from dictatorial rule. The 2017 repeat election in Kenya shows saliently that most of the leaders in office are guilty of corrupting their way(s) into respectable governmental positions. Upholding the idea(s) that a society is ‘supposed’ to have a majority group impedes the existing nature of consociationalism as a peacemaker and conflict resolver. Kabanda (2012) advocates for the embrace of power-sharing models often acts as a way of placating the prevalence of majority groups (Kabanda, 2012). In 1972 Northern Ireland, for instance, there was an influx of these majorities that worked against the instigation of consociationalism. Today’s Kenya, Kabanda (2012) understands; depicts similar characteristics particular due to the fact that there are two majority groups- the Luo and the Kikuyu-who surpass the other tribal affiliations (Kabanda, 2012). However, by adopting ideologies from the Belfast Agreement, these Kenyans become aware of the importance of diversity, tolerance, and accommodation in conflict resolution.
Evidently, Hain (2007) understands that creating room for cooperation and collaboration shows that consociationalism depends greatly on ‘tem work’ rather than individualism. Peace and stability cannot be achieved if a society dwells more on the majorities while leaving out the minorities (Hain, 2007; Kabanda, 2012; Katho, 2013). The deep division in a particular society may only be rectified in the case where the wealthy groups are tolerant of the non-wealthy ones. As a model borrowed from Northern Ireland, consociationalism does not concur with decision making from a unilateral point of view rather; it strives to facilitate the inclusion of various parties. Retaliation from the ‘unwanted’ groups in a particular community is inevitable especially when their rights are not prioritized to a given extent (Katho, 2013). For instance; in African countries, there are individuals of different religious affiliations. Most Christians do not understand the concept of atheism or agnostics; therefore, they resort to dismissing these beliefs without probable cause. As a result, therefore, these individuals may ‘fight’ for their rights [and recognition] through retaliation. Each person should carry out their beliefs while respecting those of other people. Conflict is bound to arise when a particular group of people does not support or endorse other peoples’ beliefs.
Nonetheless, before succumbing to consociationalism and power-sharing, Kabanda (2014) notes that there is the need to look into its drawbacks (Kabanda, 2014; Hughes, 2011). It is important for these African nations to carefully advocate for power sharing to avoid focusing on power division(s) (Kabanda, 2014). There is a possibility that leaders such as Uganda’s Museveni are afraid of losing their power by adopting this Northern Ireland model. When the nation resorts to the division of power in lieu of power-sharing, it becomes an unbearable situation in the given territory. The countries may end up being weaker economically and strategically when power-sharing is mistaken for power division. Again, there is the debate about the extent to which elites and leaders are capable of cooperating with one another. Most of them strive to become more powerful than their counterparts; therefore, a power-sharing model proves somewhat condescending and demeaning (Kabanda, 2014). As a matter of fact, the situation in Rwanda is a clear representation of non-cooperative elites. It was regrettable that the consociational government in Rwanda gave rise to the Genocide.
It is important to maintain that consociationalism and power-sharing does not eradicate all the problems of a given nation. Regardless of the model’s success in Northern Ireland and South Africa, for instance, it is quite evident that these countries still battle other issues (Traniello, 2008; Jakala et al., 2017). South Africa succeeded in implementing a consociational government, but the country still lives through societal issues such as xenophobia. It should not be assumed that consociationalism eliminates all the problems of a country since it only works toward conflict resolution and management for a peaceful co-existence. In fact, even with the success of the Belfast Agreement, the Northern Irish people still suffer from conflict and war-related issues (Hain, 2007). With this, therefore, there is a comprehension that the model only controls the prevalence of conflict. The inevitability of these wars and conflicts; in fact, makes it quite difficult to completely wipe out their existence. Evidently, the future apropos of conflict in Northern Ireland and the African countries is unpredictable.
Power-sharing and consociational, as seen in Rwanda, emphasized the necessity of particular factors. Inasmuch as the Northern Ireland model advocates for an inclusion of all human beings, the elites still surpass the minorities in facilitating a peaceful co-existence. The situation in South Africa is useful in showing that consociationalism can be achieved without interferences from a major conflict(s). The in-depth exploration of Northern Ireland’s model of conflict resolution has a close relationship with African countries and their role(s) in conflict management. Particularly with the utilization of a similar model for conflict resolution, it is easy to realize commonalities in the root cause(s) of conflict in Northern Ireland and African countries. A good understanding of the happenings in countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa show that the Northern Irish people also suffered under leaders that did not embrace democratic leadership. Both social and political concerns were examined under the GFA making it easier to embark on managing the various instances of conflict(s) and altercation(s) in Northern Ireland. Conflict resolution requires the prevalence of equality, tolerance, and accommodation which are all constituents of consociationalism [and power-sharing].
Dunn, S., & Nolan-Haley, J. (1998). “Conflict in Northern Ireland after the Good Friday Agreement.” Fordham International Law Journal.
Hain, P. (2007). Peacemaking in Northern Ireland: A model for conflict resolution? Chatham House.
Hughes, J. (2011). “Is Northern Ireland a “Model” for Conflict Resolution?” London School of Economics and Political Science.
Jakala, M., Kuzu, D., & Qvortrup, M. (2017). Consociationalism and power-sharing in Europe: Arend Lijphart’s theory of political accommodation. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.
Kabanda, U. (2012). “Consociational Democracy in Africa.” American Scientific Research Journal for Engineering, Technology, and Sciences.
Katho, D. (2013). “Power-sharing in Resolving Africa’s Electoral Conflict.” Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, University of Nairobi.
Nyamato, N.W. (2014). “Power-sharing as a Mode of Conflict Management in Post-conflict Societies in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities.” Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, University of Nairobi.
Traniello, M. (2008). “Power-Sharing: Lessons from South Africa and Rwanda.” International Public Policy Review.
Vollenhoven, W., & Els, C. (2013). “The human rights paradox of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in South African education.” De Jure.
Zuhair, A. (2008). “The Power-Sharing Experience in Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka.” International Public Policy Review.

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