International Relations
Online ISSN : 1883-9916
Print ISSN : 0454-2215
ISSN-L : 0454-2215
Africa at a Crossroads
Conflict Recurrence and Peace Agreements
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2023 Volume 2023 Issue 210 Pages 210_95-210_110


Why do some conflicts lead to a plethora of peace agreements? Many of today’s armed conflicts beget new conflicts, with repeating cycles of fighting and peace processes. The issue of peace agreements should be addressed alongside the question of why some conflicts generate others. Although the existing scholarship on peace agreements assumes that the negotiation and signing of peace agreements are necessary steps in the transition from conflict to peace, they do not explain why the number of peace agreements is so high in some conflict-affected countries where peace has nonetheless not been achieved.

Adopting a realist approach, this article addresses four dilemmas of international mediation. If international mediators engage, (1) the conflict parties might easily sign an agreement while hiding their true intentions, thereby reducing negotiations and the agreement to a formality; (2) political negotiation could be an opportunity for the political elites to recentralize and fix their power; (3) mediators could favor parties that follow internationally agreed terminology and logics; and (4) conflict could recur after the mediators leave. Additionally, in recurring conflicts and peace agreements, the parties to the conflict learn from the past and respond to international mediation positively or negatively based on their experiences. Applying the concept of “forum shopping,” the author hypothesizes that some conflict parties choose certain types of international mediation, while others avoid it or propose new mediators.

According to the three major databases on peace agreements, more peace agreements have accumulated in African conflicts than in other regions. As Sudan has recorded most peace agreements between conflict parties during 1990–2018, the author examines four cases in Sudan: the post-Second Sudanese Civil War and Darfur in the 2000s, South Kordofan and Blue Nile in the 2010s, and post-coup d’état Sudan in the 2020s. While the two major conflict parties positively accepted international mediation in the post-Second Sudanese Civil War negotiations, other rebel groups were left out; in turn, they resorted to conflict to secure an opportunity for peace negotiation and created a forum for dialogue under their own initiative or refused international mediation. These four cases demonstrate that the conflict parties were aware of the dilemmas of international mediation and strategically used them to increase their gains or decrease their losses in politics. As a result, Sudan has seen many peace agreements without corresponding peace dividends for its citizens.

The academic and policy implication is that there is a never-ending mutual influence between international and domestic politics. While international mediation offers the parties to armed conflict windows of opportunity for peace, their domestic politics or elite competitions also affect international mediation. The process from conflict to peace is thus unending and kaleidoscopic, as are international relations.

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© 2023 The Japan Association of International Relations
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