Volume 26, Issue 2, 2016
Ibanga B. Ikpe
Mediating Conflicts, Promoting Peace and Preserving Relationships
Lessons From Traditional African Justice Systems
Why do Conflicts occur? Why do they recur? Why do conflicts escalate and why do they become protracted? These questions have been variously posed by scholars of conflict and there is a rich body of theory that answers them. Although these questions arise for those who intervene in African conflicts and the different conflict theories have been brought to bear trying to contain them, conflicts still occur, escalate, recur and sometimes become protracted. This paper is an attempt to understand why this happens, especially despite third-party interventions. It starts by looking at traditional African third-party conflict interventions and identifies the restoration of relationships as the most important objective of such interventions. It compares contemporary conflict intervention strategies with traditional African approaches and observes that their objectives are remarkably different. It argues that traditional approaches are more responsive to the ideals of society than contemporary approaches which place greater premium on curbing conflict behaviour. While acknowledging the shortcomings of traditional conflict intervention strategies, it argues that there are lessons to be learnt from traditional strategies especially as it relates to promoting peace and maintaining relationships.