Dialogue as the new mantra in responding to political crisis in Africa? The cases of Mali and Cameroon
Over the past decade several governments in Africa have experimented with diverse forms of “political dialogue” to address a variety of domestic political crises, ranging from political or constitutional turmoil to armed conflict. On the face of it most dialogues are not very successful or consequential as regards their results and impact. And yet, in political, symbolical and communicative terms they occupy a central, if seemingly short-lived place in national politics. They also absorb the attention of foreign diplomats who pin their hopes on dialogue as offering a solution to crisis. Rather than assessing these events in terms of their problem-solving effectiveness, we examine the motivations that underpin the organisation and dynamics of such events. We will explore comparatively two recent cases (Mali, Cameroon) by looking at dialogue from four different perspectives. Exploring dialogue through the prism of co-optation strategies, institutional legacies, political theatre and peacebuilding, we will examine actors, their constellation, interests and expectations, the content/process of negotiations and their outcome/impact. This not only allows us to have a realistic assessment of the chances of success of such forums, but to make political sense of a (materially) costly event.