- Implementing Peace Agreements: Lessons from Mozambique, Angola, and Liberia
Few civil wars end in negotiated settlements. Even when there is a settlement, there is a great likelihood that the agreement will break down and fighting will resume. What determines, then, whether an agreement will last? This important question is the subject of Implementing Peace Agreements: Lessons from Mozambique, Angola, and Liberia. The author considers the conditions under which peace settlements are likely to hold and argues that parties will advance the implementation process only when there is mutual vulnerability—a sense that military or political concessions made by the warring factions are equal. Her hypothesis rests on the proposal that the credible promise of political participation and demobilization will keep the implementation process on track. Bekoe supports her argument with detailed studies of three African civil wars (Mozambique, Angola, and Liberia), which together demonstrate the varying effects of degrees of vulnerability and political reform.
Bekoe distinguishes vulnerability from insecurity by examining the timing of actions and the impact that has on a leader's assessment of his capacity to protect himself and his position. Many scholars of conflict management propose power-sharing arrangements, such as proportional representation and territorial autonomy, as strategies for promoting peace. According to Bekoe, these studies do not sufficiently address the issue of why and how leaders stay the course during the implementation phase. Despite the presence of these power-sharing tactics, the implementation of settlements can [End Page 195] break down if the parties are unable to concede the promised political or military reforms or believe that promises for reform are credible. By focusing on the leaders and their perceptions of what they are conceding in relation to what is being conceded by others, Bekoe ascribes agency to the implementation process.
To be sure, the sense of mutual vulnerability is not created by the parties alone. Central to Bekoe's thesis is the role played by the international community. Here she builds on the work of Donald Rothchild and others to consider the salience of incentives offered to the leaders in exchange for concessions. She contends that these incentives can prevent faction leaders from defecting by altering their perceptions of vulnerability. Third parties can also support the establishment of temporary dual administrations to advance the implementation process. This type of political arrangement can help leaders balance vulnerability, bring them into the political process, and encourage the development of institutions. It is important to note that while Bekoe focuses on political and military vulnerability, she finds economic vulnerability less relevant. An extension of her study could be an analysis of the role played by economic vulnerability, especially in those cases in which aid is offered as an incentive for implementing peace.
Bekoe's study is informed by her position as a senior research associate at the United States Institute of Peace. Her research makes an important contribution to the growing literature on conflict management. Her primary audience, however, is policymakers who work in postconflict environments. She concedes that her hypothesis has limitations: in cases in which civil wars are complicated by wars with neighboring states (as in Sudan's Darfur region), mutual vulnerability may not be relevant because countries have limited incentives to compromise in order to coexist: they could instead choose to sever diplomatic relations. Despite the limitations of her argument, her work has salient normative implications. Scholars and practitioners of conflict management would do well to consider the strategies she suggests to manage the implementation of peace accords. [End Page 196]