Implementing Peace Agreements: Lessons from Mozambique, Angola, and Liberia

Bekoe, Dorina A.
Palgrave MacMillan
Reviewed by or other comment: 

Panighel, Margaret

Dorina A. Bekoe
Implementing Peace Agreements: Lessons from Mozambique, Angola, and Liberia
New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008, ISBN: 978-0-230-60259-5, 218 pp.

One of the greatest challenges in the field of conflict resolution today is how best to bring about an end to intense and brutal civil conflicts. As history has shown, creating a sustainable peace is a monumental task which can be undermined at any time. Much of the literature places the importance on the peace agreement itself, specifically whether or not it includes a power-sharing agreement, and the support that the agreement receives within the international community. Yet the failure of peace agreements that have ticked all of the boxes necessary for a 'successful' transition to peace indicates the need for a greater understanding of the time following the signing of the agreement: the implementation phase. It is during this phase that the true negotiation between the parties occurs, as it is here that the peace is maintained or broken.

Game theory is central to peace processes, because it determines many of the actions that are taken by the parties involved. It is essential that both sides feel a sense of mutual vulnerability during the implementation phase, in order for the peace process to be successful. This is because all the parties involved 'continually reassess their vulnerability in light of their present positions and by the actions recently taken by other factions' (p. 15). The parties are guided by their perceptions of how each of the required tasks positions them in comparison with other parties involved. Therefore mutual vulnerability 'determines the credibility of the reform' (p. 12) by ensuring that the tasks required of each of the parties are costly. Any task that leads to asymmetrical vulnerability will result in the withdrawal of parties and a return to conflict. As a result, careful attention must be paid to ensure the mutual vulnerability of all the parties involved for a peace process to be a success.

This book consists of five chapters. The first begins with an examination of the various opinions regarding what is necessary for the successful implementation of a peace agreement, highlighting respective strengths and weaknesses. Attention is then turned to developing a new understanding of the implementation process, specifically regarding the role of vulnerability. The chapter also outlines the methodology regarding the case studies, as each one represents a protracted civil conflict that is centralist in nature (where the warring parties are attempting to gain control of the state: to be the party in power). Additionally, the success of the peace process varies between the cases, a fact which provides the basis for the analysis of the implementation process.

The three case-study chapters examine peace processes in Mozambique, Angola, and Liberia. Each of the case studies selected focuses on a specific time period within the respective peace process. For Mozambique, the examination concentrates on the implementation of the 1992 General Agreement for Peace, as well as the preparation for the elections in 1994, 1998, and 1999. With Angola, the analysis focuses on the implementation process for both the 1990 Bicesse Accord and the 1994 Lusaka Protocol. And lastly the chapter on Liberia focuses on the first seven years of the civil war, and the implementation of the sixth and final peace accord in 1997.

In the final chapter of the book Bekoe uses her findings to determine what conditions are necessary for the successful implementation of a peace agreement, along with what research is needed in future to improve the success rate of peace agreements.

By the end of the book Bekoe has successfully argued the need not only to pay greater attention to the implementation phase, but also to recognise the critical importance of mutual vulnerability to sustainable peace. While Bekoe's meticulous analysis of the implementation phases of the three peace processes may seem tedious at times, she successfully highlights the 'constant reassessment of political and military positions by the factions as they contemplate their next move' (p. 134). Therefore what makes or breaks the process (and is most important to each party involved) is not what power they may have in the future, but how they feel the current decision will affect them in the present.

Bekoe also argues that other factors affect the implementation phase, including the timing of events, international pressure, internal party consensus, and finances. Despite the clear arguments put forward in support of such findings, it is difficult to determine whether or not such conditions have actually been created or have simply developed naturally.

The book is recommended to academics in the field of conflict resolution. Despite the valuable information gained through the book's analysis, further research is still needed, which Bekoe herself acknowledges. A larger number of case studies, including cases outside the African continent, would increase the strength of the findings and thus create a more robust argument. In addition, while readers directly involved in peace processes may also find the book of interest, the book lacks any concrete recommendations for the application of the knowledge that has been acquired. As such, this book cannot serve as more than a starting place for new and expanded research on peace processes, and more specifically the implementation phase. However, although the overall impact of Bekoe's analysis remains to be seen, it does seem to be a step in the right direction.