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The Local Arena of Power Sharing: Patterns of Adaptation or Continued Disorder

Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG)
(conducted by German Institute of Global and Area Studies - GIGA)

Research Questions
The overarching question behind our research from the beginning has been whether power-sharing agreements and other related forms of post-conflict reforms have an effect on levels of peace (order) in former hotspots of violent conflict. These former hotspots, or "local arenas" have been the primary unit of analysis throughout our research, though the focus has shifted. In the first phase we considered the effects of national elite pacts on local peace/order and in the second phase we were looking at the effects of institutional reform on local peace/order. In the last phase we have shifted the focus onto agency namely local power-brokers. We ask what effects specific agency has on peace as an ordering practice. This comes from the finding of the first two phases that agency remains a key element of the adaptation processes we observed and analysed. In addition, by moving from an event (Phase 1) to an institution (Phase 2) to actor behaviour (Phase 3) we can comprehensively map the consolidation of peace in local arenas in post-conflict settings from a variety of angles.
Throughout the three project phases we have considered the following questions:
•    Which variants of power-sharing are adequately adapted to national and local circumstances to enhance order (peace)?
•    How does the local adaptation of national peace agreement provisions affect local peace?
•    What are the determinants of elite strategies straddling between the local and the national sphere? What determines the room for manoeuvre of such actors?
•    To what extent do actors reshape spaces and reconfigure ordering practices informally – compared to effects of formal institutional reforms? Do their actions contribute to the reproduction of or rather curtail local agency?

Contribution to International Research
This project closes several literature gaps and seeks to further consolidate this in the third and final phase. In the first phase, the gap between the theory of power-sharing and its concrete effects on sustainable peace especially on the local level was addressed. Research on the effects of power-sharing agreements at the local level and the repercussions for the national level is lacking (for a notable exception see Heitz 2009). This is despite the understanding that conflict is often rooted in local dynamics and that the latter are important to national dynamics, and thus play a key role in peace processes.
In the second phase, the project build on the growing body of literature on peace "engineering", local ownership and "hybrid" peace by closing an important gap in this literature, which has often linked the disappointing results of peace-building to a lack of "capacity" or "local ownership". The latter are technocratic notions that tend to depoliticise the interests of those involved in reordering war-torn societies. In the third phase, the specific role of agency in peacebuilding at the local level will be further analysed. We are interested on the impact of these actors on the (creative and adaptive) reconfiguration of space in post-war contexts, and in turn, the impact of post-war re-territorialisation on power relations.

Research Design and Methods
Throughout the project we have applied qualitative research methods, based on extensive empirical data collection in four post-conflict countries: Burundi, DRC, Kenya and Liberia. In the first phase, fieldwork was conducted in Gbarnga/ Bong County and Ganta/ Nimba County, Liberia (June-August 2011); Sake/ North Kivu and Kalehe/ South Kivu, DRC (DRC) (July-September 2011); Nakuru and Eldoret, Kenya (October-December 2011) and Bubanza and Gitega, Burundi (October-December 2011). In total we conducted 26 focus group discussions and 219 interviews. For the second phase, fieldwork was conducted from August 2013 until February 2014 in Liberia (August-September 2013; January – February 2014) and Burundi (December 2013 – February 2014). In addition, a total of nine focus groups were conducted including three in the capitals (Bujumbura, Monrovia) and three in each local arena (Bubanza and Gitega in Burundi and Ganta and Gbarnga in Liberia). Overall, on top of the 18 focus groups, 163 interviews were carried out in the two countries. In the final phase further fieldwork is planned in Kenya for January – February 2016. The empirical data is analysed using process-tracing and content analysis.

Preliminary Results
Findings from the project indicate that the production of political order and the reordering of socio-political relations in war-torn countries by means of power-sharing has been fairly successful when measured against the very modest concept of "negative peace". The implementation of power-sharing however has proven to have somewhat complex consequences, including in relation to understandings of spatiality and territoriality. In terms of peacebuilding processes more generally, we have found that that it is not the outcome of reform implementation that produces hybridity (i.e. an 'adapted' outcome), rather there is an implementation process that consists of multiple hybridisation processes. These processes are at times multidirectional and cyclical. Secondly, a multitude of actors are involved, which are themselves internally not homogenous and pursue varying strategies in shifting alliances.


Franzisca Zanker / Claudia Simons / Andreas Mehler
Power, Peace, and Space in Africa: Revisiting Territorial Power Sharing
African Affairs, 114, 2015, 454, 72-91

Claudia Simons / Franzisca Zanker / Denis Tull / Andreas Mehler
Power-sharing in Africa’s war zones: how important is the local level?
Journal of Modern African Studies, 51, 2013, 4, 681-706

Andreas Mehler
Why Security Forces Do Not Deliver Security: Evidence from Liberia and the Central African Republic
Armed Forces & Society, 38, 2012, 1, 46-69

Franzisca Zanker / Andreas Mehler
Intervention in der Côte d'Ivoire: a recipe for disaster
in: Margret Johannsen / Bruno Schoch / Corinna Hauswedell / Tobias Debiel / Christiane Fröhlich (eds.), Friedensgutachten 2011, Berlin: Lit-Verlag, 2011, 248-261

Andreas Mehler
Peace and Power Sharing in Africa: A Not So Obvious Relationship
African Affairs, 108, 2009, 432, 453-473

Project staff at ABI:
External project staff:
Charlotte Heyl, Franzisca Zanker (beide GIGA)
Duration of the project:
Research cluster: