Civil Society and Conflict Resolution in West Africa

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In the last decade of the 20th century, a new kind of armed conflict has emerged in West Africa, consisting in chaotic battles, with no clearly defined political agenda, in which it is hard to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants and where the main victims are civilians. Facing these transformations in the scope and the nature of violence, preventive diplomacy, in the classical sense of the term, remains confused and powerless. Consequently, societies, states and multilateral organizations, in their search for innovative avenues for peace, endeavor to break the face to face deadlock between governmental authorities and rebel leaders, notably by calling on civilian society, which is now expected to play a key role in the eradication and prevention of violence. Taking into consideration this new environment of violence in West Africa, the option of grassroots preventive diplomacy holds great promise. However, it would be wise not to exaggerate its potentialities, to take the right measure of its real capacities and to proceed with caution, realism and common sense. – Summary AFRI-2002