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Conflict Transformation in Afriac

In: Historical Events

Submitted By benedict77
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The concept of conflict transformation gained support with the evolution of conceptualization of human security by the international community. Due to the continuous recurrence of conflicts, conflict transformation has proved to be an ideal model in peace studies as it works in conjunction with conflict management, conflict resolution, disarmament and also truth and reconciliation. Hence it has been supported by various scholars such as Gaultang and Krisberg.Thus the essay will look in detail in relation to why conflict resolution is becoming more popular with reference to case studies.
Conflict transformation has been defined by as the use of the holistic and multi faceted approach to managing violent conflict in all its phases. Thus the term signifies an ongoing process of change in relations, behavior, attitudes, and structures from negative to positive (Lederach 1995). Conflict transformation views peace as centered and rooted in the quality of relationships, It moves beyond the episodic expression of the conflict and focuses on the relational and historical patterns in which the conflict is rooted. Harrington and Merry (1988) advocate that societies are transformed when fundamental social and political changes are made to make correct inequalities and injustices and to provide all groups with fundamental human needs. Thus they regard conflict transformation as the restructuring of social institutions and structures so that people can realise their potential. Conflict transformation refers to outcome, process and structure oriented long-term peace building efforts, which aim to truly overcome revealed forms of direct, cultural and structural violence.
The ideas of Lederach have heavily informed peace practioners as to avoid the ideas of quick solutions to deep social political problems .Thus he favoured a holistic approach to peace building based on justice ,the building of right relationships between the different groups and also changing of social structures so as to allow expression of divergent social thinking whilst encouraging group cohesion( Lederach 1997). Whereas conflict management separated deals with the separation of conflicting parties as noted between the Hutu and the Tusti, it did not deal with the underlying issues which had cause the conflict and also it did not look beyond the immediate situation nor did it deal with the effects of the genocide. However conflict transformation managed to deal with the genocide causes and also its after effects. This can be noted in the success of the gacaca system in Rwanda which sought to transform relations between the Hutu and the Tustin. Thus conflict transformation he does not favour negotiation as it is reached through bargaining and compromise .thus conflict transformation provides peacefully means of settling disputes through a long lasting solution(Blalock 1989).
Conflict transformation is becoming more popular in peace studies as it relies on the capacity to see the immediate situation without being over whelmed by the demands of presenting issues and it also does not push for a quick solution but provides a look through the immediate issues to discover the relational context and the underlying causes of conflict. On the other hand conflict management deals with the separation of the conflicting parties but it does not provide a solution(Burton J 1990). This can be noted in the NATO ( Northern Atlantic Treaty Organisation) led intervention in Libya. However it failed to deal with the underlying issues hence forth conflicts are erupting between the transitional government and rebels in Tripoli and Benghazi . Hence forth some scholars have accredited conflict transformation with the capacity to see the difference between content of a conflict and its emotional and relational context(Annan 1998).
Conflict transformation also provides peace studies with knowledge of how to a conflict is expressed .Before a conflict could have been expressed competively in a violent manner such as targeted killings and violent protest .Through a conflict transformation intervention the conflict is transformed to a peaceful protest through actions such as non violent advocacy ,street protest ,boycotts or through media campaign. On the other hand Traditional mechanisms of conflict resolution are similar in that they rotate around the concepts of mediation, compensation and restitution(Woodhouse 200). Thus conflict transformation uses nonviolent advocacy to escalate and confront the conflict , this can be through mediation which provides an alternative to express and transform the conflict from mutually destructive modes towards dialogue between the conflicting parties. This can be noted in Zimbabwe during the 2008 political violence in which the two main political parties ZANU PF and the MDC were involved in political violence were the police and soldiers were accused of attacking MDC members. Thus through conflict transformation , the SADC intervened through mediation and sough to transform bad relations by forming an inclusive government .This was also done through peace media campaigns such as “Peace begins with me peace begins with you” (Herald newspaper 2013).Thus conflict transformation is vital in providing an alternative from pursuing violence.
Conflict transformation provides peace studies with the opportunity to peace achievement through systematic transformation involving the process of increasing justice and equality in the social system as a whole. This may involve the elimination of oppression, improved success and sharing of resources basing on equality and nor religion, ethnicity and tribalism.This ac be noted in South Africa when it gained independence .There was conflict transformation through national and reconciliation programmes and also commissions of inquiry which was led by Desmond Tutu .Thus the reconciliation sought to bring about change in personality between the black and white community. One can note that conflict transformation provides an alternative to violence e for peace studies and puts restoration of relationships at the core through peace building activities such as public commissions. Conflict transformation is always a non-violent process, which is fundamentally opposed to violent expressions of conflict, which is a vital approach to peace studies.
Lederach poses that conflict transformation is vital for peace studies as it suggest that conflicts if left alone have destructive consequences. Thus it advocates that if treated well, the consequences can be modified or transformed so that relationships and social structures improve as a result of conflict instead of being harmed by it. This can be noted by the gacaca process in Rwanda which sought to improve and transform perceptions of issues, reconciling interest values, needs between the Hutu and the Tustin after the 1994 genocide.
Moreover conflict transformation helps in addressing the most affected group in the track 3 of Lederach peace building through addressing the victims who are the mainly affected .Moreover bottom up track 3 strategies help to support and also generate struggles for social justice and also structural change. A great example can be noted in Liberia were intermarriages are practised between the family of the perpetrator and the victim through marriages which helps to foster relations. Thus conflict transformation helps to build peace through a relational change which is gradual and foster peace in a society .Moreover conflict transformation provides the key to move conflict from destructive processes and towards constructive process .Hence forth one can note that the primary task of conflict transformation is not to find quick solutions to problems but rather generate creative platforms that address underlying structure sand relationships. Thus conflict transformation is vital to peace studies as it is also a mechanism of peace building through a transformative way which is a long lasting solution.
Conflict transformation provides an alternative to violence through reducing violence and an increase in justice. Thus conflict transformation sees peace as centred and rooted in the quality of relationships .This can be noted in South Africa were the government set up the Truth and reconciliation process led by Desmond Tutu which sought to reconcile the whites and the blacks .On the other hand conflict management seeks to end conflicts but does not provide a solution to bring an end to it through long lasting solution. One therefore notes that conflict transformation provides the opportunity to develop and engage in life changing processes at the interpersonal level, intergroup and social structural levels. One can note that conflict transformation does not provide peace studies with violence or suppression abut conflict transformation provides peace studies with peace full means of solving disputes in a peaceful manner.
Conflict transformation is vital for peace studies as it emphasises on the need for democracy as means of achieving peace (Holtzman 1998).This can be done through security sector reforms ,empowering civil society the empowerment of individuals and groups; the strengthening of communities, support for organisations that can influence public affairs and the sponsoring of existing intermediary institutions which have proven their ability to deal peacefully with conflicting interests of different parties. Thus conflict transformation provides peace studies with the opportunity to destroy the environment which promotes violence through public media campaigns and also awareness. Therefore The nonviolent theory of consent, first formulated by Etienne La Boetie and further developed by early European and American proponents (the Quakers, Thoreau, Tolstoy), stipulates that the authority of any ruler rests on the continued voluntary obedience of its subjects and violence is a choice which can be avoided, hence forth one can note that conflict transformation is a motor for change that keeps relationship structures dynamically responsive to human needs.
Conflict transformation theory defines conflict as a positive agent for social change (Lederach1995, 17).Most of its instruments are based on the notion of impartiality and quiet diplomacy, and the idea of resolving conflict through a process of dialogue and problem solving designed to address the needs of all parties. In other words, they emphasis conflict mitigation or de-escalation .One can note that the conflict transformative approach is also means of achieving peace .This can be noted in South Africa during the apartheid which M Gandhi fought the apartheid system in a non violent manner
Recently the goal of peacemaking has been described as conflict transformation. Lederach favours this description. First, the language of transformation captures the dialectical nature of conflict, and reflects a holistic approach to understanding conflict processes. Second, speaking in terms of transformation recognizes the positive potential of conflict and is consistent with the social science view that conflict is a vehicle for change if driven well. It captures conflict's potential to change parties' perceptions of self and other (Lederach 1990). Lederach concludes that transformation as a concept is both descriptive of the conflict dynamics and prescriptive of the overall purpose that building peace pursues. Thus conflict transformation is becoming more popular in peace studies due to its approach of relational reconstruction and adaptively approach which dismisses the one size fits all approach.
Conflict transformation has been gained ground in peace studies as noted by Duke (1993) who poses that major structural transformations are necessary to obtain greater social justice, more participatory democracy, development peace and prosperity. This is also in line with good governance practise .This can be noted in Zimbabwe were the new constitution was drawn up after the participation of all citizens in addressing gender inequality and also the devolution of power. On the other hand conflict resolution has a tendency to concentrate upon the immediate and the shorter term, its advocates arguing that dealing with the issues and the deeper interests producing a current situation of intractable conflict is enough of a problem in itself. One can note that the Conflict transformation adjusts to the ever changing nature of a conflict, particularly during pre- and post-violence phases and at any stage of the escalation cycle hence it is becoming more popular.
The prescriptive concept of conflict transformation has made it popular .This is based on the assumption that if conflicts are left alone they can be destructive. However there is the assumption that if consequences can be modified or transformed so that self-images, relationships, and social structures improve as a result of conflict instead of being harmed by it. This involved the transformation of how the people are changed their perceptions .
Due to is relationship centred approach and its ability to prevent the reoccurrence of conflicts during and after, conflict transformation has gained more popularity in solving conflicts and providing peace studies with hope of a violent free society. However in its endeavour to end conflicts, conflict transformation does not work alone but actually supported by other conflict solving methods such as conflict management, conflict prevention and the use of disarmament and truth and reconciliation commissions.


Annan K 1998 Democracy and deep rooted Conflict. Options for negotiations. Stockholm

Burton J 1990 Conflict Resolution and Prevention .New York. St Martin’s press

Blalock H 1989 Power and Conflict .Newbury Park CA Sage
Dukes, Frank. 1993 Public Conflict Resolution: A Transformative Approach, Negotiation Journal. January

Herald newspaper May 5 2013 retrieved online at

Holtzman, Steven, Ann Elwan, and Colin Scott. 1 998. Post-Conflict Reconstruction: The Role of the World Bank. Washington, DC

Lederach JP 2000. Conflict Transformation and Peace Building; moving from violence to sustainable peace. London Routledge

Woodhouse T and Ramsbotham 2000 Peacekeeping and Conflict Resolution London Frank Cass

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