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105 CHAPTER 7 Panel of the Wise and the Future of Conflict Resolution in Africa Azeez Olaniyan INTRODUCTION The transition of the African continental body from the OAU to AU seems to have ushered in a new way of re-thinking the African situation, particularly the myriad of challenges confronting it, one of which, undoubtedly, is security. Indeed, for a long time, one major challenge confronting the African states has been the lack of effective mechanism to manage the spate of dysfunctional and protracted socio-political conflicts prevailing on the continent.1 Recognising the need to develop African capacity to respond to the security challenges plaguing the continent therefore, the newly emerging African Union put in place the Peace and Security Council (PSC) as a critical institutional mechanism to spearhead its role in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts across the continent.2 What seems the master plan of the PSC in meeting its raison d’être of a peaceful Africa is codified in what is referred to as the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). In essence, therefore, the putting in place of the Peace and Security Architecture represents, in a fundamental way, the re-engaging of the African security condition. But the problem with Africa is not a dearth of initiative to address the myriad of conflict assailing it; for there exists, in the history of the continent, a plethora of initiatives for conflict management. As catalogued by Abdul Mohammed, Paulos Tesfagiorgis and Alex de Waal, such attempts include grassroots peace-building efforts such as the ‘People to People’ reconciliation process in Southern Sudan and numerous peace education workshops; specific programmes to curtail the trade in small arms and prevent ‘blood diamonds’ from reaching the market; special peace initiatives such as the Burundi peace process, and sub-regional country-specific efforts such as the IGAD Sudan Peace Secretariat, and the Ethio-Eritrean peace agreement; sub-regional mechanisms to monitor indicators of insecurity; the OAU’s 106 CHAPTER 7 Conflict Management Centre and the CSSDCA, and international efforts such as the African Crisis Response Initiative; a number of military interventions and peacekeeping forces, such as those in Sierra Leone and DRC; several livelihoods initiatives to rehabilitate war affected communities; efforts to demobilise child soldiers, and World Bank-sponsored post-conflict reconstruction programmes.3 The argument in the foregoing is that the Peace and Security Architecture of the African Union was not the first attempt at rescuing the continent from the vicious grip of violence. What then makes this new arrangement different? Perhaps, the answer lies in two fundamental reasons: the first is that the APSA represents a theoretical blueprint for how to move Africa from its current state in which armed conflict is widespread, to a condition of prevailing peace and security; for the previous attempts have been operating without a theoretical foundation.4 The second reason is the institutional pillars upon which the APSA is erected, which are basically five: the Peace and Security Council (PSC), Panel of the Wise, the Continental Early Warning System (CEWS), African Standby Force (ASF) and a Special Peace Fund. Of the five pillars, this study focuses on one – the Panel of the Wise – for close analysis. It seeks to examine the relevance, philosophical underpinning , prospects and problems of its operation as a peace and conflict resolution mechanism. THE PANEL OF THE WISE The Panel of the Wise is one of the critical pillars of the Peace and Security Architecture of the African Union. Article 11 (1) of the protocol establishing the PSC sets up a five-person panel of highly respected African personalities from various segments of society who have made outstanding contributions to the cause of peace, security and development on the continent with a task to support the efforts of PSC and those of the chairperson of the Commission, particularly in the area of conflict prevention. Article 11 (2) gave the chairperson the express permission to appoint the members in accordance with the general guidelines enunciated in Article (1) in the following words: The Panel of the Wise shall be composed of five highly respected African personalities from various segments of society who have made [an] outstanding contribution to the cause of peace, security and development on the continent. They shall be selected by the Chairperson of the Commission after consultation with the Member States concerned, on the basis of regional representation and appointed by the Assembly...


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