More women needed in peace negotiations, especially in Africa

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JOHANNESBURG, June 6 – It is imperative that more women are involved and included in peace negotiations internationally and especially in Africa if these negotiations are to succeed.

Ndubuisi Christian Ani, from the Peace and Security Research Programme at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, said the previous involvement of women in peace processes has proven their negotiating skills.

Pointing to Africa specifically, Ani said a small number of outstanding woman leaders have played a role in African Union (AU)-led mediation, such as Liberia’s former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former interim president of the Central African Republic Catherine Samba-Panza, Uganda’s former vice president Dr Specioza Kazibwe, and Graça Machel, head of the South African-based Graça Machel Trust.

Some studies further prove that peace agreements can be reached faster and the deals last longer when women are included.

“For example, in Burundi, since 2015 when the country was plunged into turmoil, many women still serve as community mediators, addressing social and political conflicts,” said Ani in his recent “FemWise-Africa set to boost women’s role in peace process” report.

Their efforts have reportedly averted several violent incidents despite the inadequate reporting of such cases.

“This shows that women’s involvement in leadership positions can eventually contribute to enlarging the pool of women mediators in Africa,” he stated.

However, the ability for women to contribute has been limited.

High-level African Union (AU) mediation efforts have in the past included very few women.

Almost all AU special envoys to conflict zones are men – mostly former heads of state and other former senior officials.

A July 2016 AU report indicates that while the AU Commission is the only continental organisation to have achieved gender parity in its executive leadership, “representation of women among Special Representatives and Envoys, as well as Heads of Missions/Liaison Offices, remains significantly low”.

Out of nine special representatives and 11 special envoys, the AU has only one female special envoy – the special envoy on women, peace and security, Bineta Diop.

FemWise-Africa, also known as the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention, is an AU initiative established in July 2017 which aims to change women’s limited participation.

The organisation is an example of instruments and policies developed by the AU to ensure gender equity by mainstreaming gender into the African Peace and Security Architecture.

But its success will depend on whether it has the necessary support and capacity to carry out its mission.

– African News Agency (ANA)