West African sub-region is locally and internationally described as an oasis of peace and stability on a continent circumvented by conflicts. The countries has not experienced any form of large-scale violence or civil war since independence apart from the Nigerian civil war. Nevertheless, it is faced with pockets of relative violence, including chieftaincy conflict and land dispute, killing several people and destroying many properties. In an effort to help resolve these conflicts, the Ghanaian government ends up prolonging it due to its position in some of the conflicts. However, the review of secondary data revealed that many of the conflicts in West Africa have often needed the intervention of civil society organizations to end them, or to bring relative peace since warring parties often, do not see the government as neutral. The study recommends that government should create the enabling environment for the civil society organizations to operate smoothly in their quest to resolve conflicts and to promote peace without the civil society organizations compromising their neutrality and objectivity.
- Background of the study
One of the hotly contested concepts in contemporary times is civil society. Civil society is believed to comprise all institutions, formal and informal, between the family and the state, characterized by legality, plurality and association. Two decades of introducing numerous variables such as structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) to impact the renaissance of development, democratisation and integration in Africa has failed. Civil society has been suggested as the key, at both theoretical and policy levels, to achieve this impact. What may not be very prominent in the literature are the perceptions of the specific roles of civil society at the community level in building peace; the level where majority of community residents and associations operate and where the root causes of conflict emerge and escalate. Peacebuilding, which comprises all the post conflict actions to consolidate peace and prevent a reoccurrence of the conflict, is potentially more efficacious with civil society. Civil society’s role in peacebuilding occurs at the micro level, but deemed to be a bottom-up approach when the focus tilts to the macro level, success of which then depends on the support of the international community. Adejumobi (2017) has reiterated the belief that peace building should strengthen the indigenous capacity of a society to manage conflict without violence, which would culminate in building human security. Peace is a necessary condition for all development. And for development to be felt at the community level, the role of civil society in helping communities to identify and address root causes to conflict, resolve conflict and identify solutions for lasting change, is vital. Civil society’s visibility and influence in conflict prevention and peacebuilding has grown globally. Civil society actors have increasingly become vital forces in discourses, initiatives and programmes that foster peace and security across the world. Specifically, civil society has been instrumental in the reconceptualization of security from a “state-centred” process to one that is “people centred”. This focus on people-centred security emanates from the belief that fundamentally the sustainable security of states can only be attained through the security of its people. This belief is shared in regions across the world that have experienced open conflicts and civil wars, which have ravaged communities and brought devastation to the lives of ordinary people. West Africa has witnessed a number of protracted civil wars and intra-state conflicts. These conflicts have resulted in millions of deaths, the displacement of communities, proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW), and the stagnation of growth and development in the region. The nature of these conflicts exposes and draws in local populations: West African conflicts are intricate, multifaceted and multi-party, and as a result it is impossible for state actors to prevent, manage or resolve them without the assistance and involvement of non-state actors. Civil society in particular has been at the forefront of promoting localized peacebuilding initiatives, initiating reconciliation processes, advocating for adherence to peace agreements and building capacities in peace education. In spite of playing such laudable roles, however, civil society still faces a number of challenges, ranging from poor organization among actors within the sector, poor funding for activities, governments’ mistrust and the often antagonistic interaction between civil society and government. This article examines the various contributions civil society organizations (CSOs) have made to conflict prevention in West Africa. Defining civil society and identifying which organizations fall within the framework of civil society continues to be a challenge. The difficulty of conceptualizing civil society in West Africa is that there is a tendency to focus on non-governmental organizations (NGOs), excluding groups and associations that reflect West Africa’s associational culture, e.g. traditional governance structures. The Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) of the African Union defines civil society as comprising social groups; professional groups; NGOs, community-based organizations (CBOs), voluntary organizations; and cultural organizations, among other segments in which women, youth, children, national diasporas and elements of the private sector such as market women’s associations and the media are listed. Civil society has also been described as the arena outside the family, the state and the market, where people associate to advance common interests. The notion of an arena where people associate to advance common interests has strong resonance in West Africa as it enables the definition of civil society to include formal and informal groupings such as traditional chiefs, Queen Mother associations, youth movements, market women, religious groups and the media.
- STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
CSOs in Africa have a strong history of being at the forefront of movements that dislodged entrenched authoritarianism to introduce democratic governance on the African continent. In West Africa, civil society, through trade and student unions, women’s groups and professional associations, was active in the struggles for independence. As the political context in different West African countries evolved from the post-independence era to military and autocratic rule, to current endeavours to build democratic states, the role of civil society also evolved. CSOs across West Africa have been important catalysts for ending military dictatorship, advocating for pluralist and open societies, and promulgating democratization and good governance. Civil society actors have also filled a vital role as primary providers of basic social services in war torn societies where viable public institutions and state apparatus are non-existent or considerably weakened. In these anarchical environments, CSOs have become important actors in the processes of mitigating conflict and building peace. Thereby exposing herself to the anger of the dictators and the conflicting parties.
- OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDIES
The study has one main objective which is sub-divided into specific and general objective; the general objective is to examine the role of civil society in conflict management in West Africa sub-region. The specific objectives are;
- To examine the role of civil society in conflict management in West Africa sub-region
- To ascertain if there is any significant relationship between civil society and conflict management in West Africa sub-region
- To examine the effect of civil society on conflict management and the development of west Africa sub-region
- To proffer suggested solution to the identified problem
- RESEARCH QUESTION
The following research questions were formulated by the researcher to aid the completion of the study;
- Do civil society play any role in conflict management in West Africa sub-region?
- Is there any significant relationship between civil society and conflict management in West Africa sub-region?
- Does civil society have any effect on conflict management and the development of West Africa sub-region?
- SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The significance of this study can be viewed from the following perspectives.
One main significance of this study is that when completed, it would serve as a bridge for the gap that have been created between where previous works on this subject area stopped and today. This study is significant in the sense that it’s finding would serve as a base and framework for future researchers to carry out further studies in the field of knowledge under study. The Civil society would benefit from this study in view of the fact that they would learn how efficacious Civil society Organization is and in reaction, effectively and adequately implement this programme in all organization organizations.
- SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The scope of the study was delimited to the role of civil society in conflict management in West Africa sub-region.
- LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
In the course of the study, there are some factors that limited the scope of the study which were out of the researcher’s control;
AVAILABILITY OF RESEARCH MATERIAL: The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study
TIME: The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.
FINANCE: The finance available for the research work does not allow for wider coverage as resources are very limited as the researcher has other academic bills to cover.
- Research methodology
The research methodology adopted for this research is doctrinal. That is, it is a library oriented research. By this research methodology, primary research materials will be sourced from treaties, protocols, conventions and other international legal instruments and case laws. Secondary research materials will be sourced from text books, journals, magazines and newspaper publications etc. This study is historical and library based as most of the articles and material for the study were sourced from library and other secondary sources. Therefore the sources of data of the study is secondary data. It is apparent the CSOs has recorded massive improvement on the achievement of her objective of managing conflict. The study is based the assumption that all CSOs member state are committed to the regional development of every member state.
1.9 OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF TERMS
Civil society: society considered as a community of citizens linked by common interests and collective activity.
Conflict: a serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one.
Conflict management: is the process of limiting the negative aspects of conflict while increasing the positive aspects of conflict. The aim of conflict management is to enhance learning and group outcomes, including effectiveness or performance in an organizational setting
Crisis: a time of intense difficulty or danger.