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Women and mediation in Africa under the APSA and the AGA

The Institute for Peace and Security studied (IPSS) held a briefing session on 17 May 2018 tackling women and mediation in Africa under the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and the African Governance Architecture (AGA). The panel comprised of policy officers from the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) Philomena Apiko and Sophie Desmidt and was moderated by Tigist Yeshiwas, assistant professor at IPSS. The session discussed the role of women in conflict resolution and prevention as well as the success and challenges in specific mediation and election observation processes in Africa.


24 May 2018

The adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) in 2000 has enhanced women’s role in peace and security. The commitments to gender parity in conflict prevention and resolution through policy change are being implemented through the APSA and the AGA. These two architectures both carry mandates to promote peace and security as wells as democratic governance which includes mediation and electoral conflict and violence. They are also institutionally linked by multiple AU institutions and organs including the AU PSC, AU Commission (AUC), and Regional Economic Communities (RECs).


Women and gender equality under the AU


Under the AU, women and gender mainstreaming has been mandated in a number of the institution’s key documents, some of which include the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights, The AU Constitutive Act, the AU Gender Policy and Agenda 2063. The Women Peace and Security Agenda was implemented through the establishment of the Women Gender Development Directorate (WGDD) under the office of the Chairperson of the Commission, making it the highest political and administrative office of the commission. Further action toward gender parity was taken by appointing Ms. Bineta Diop as Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security. Although the frameworks of the AU are strong in policy, ratification and implementation are lacking as well as the need for continental action plans.


The APSA and the AGA’s commitment to gender equality also remains mainly focused on women’s empowerment and protection with little efforts to look at the gender impacts of conflict on both men and women. Research has shown that both men and women are victims of conflicts. Men are four times more likely to be victims of homicides while women suffer from more types of psychological, physical and sexual violence than men. The briefing sessions panel and audience recommended that greater focus needs to be put on the inclusion of women in mediation not just as victims of conflicts. Gender and gender norms can not only foster conflict but also promote peace.


Women and mediation under the APSA

As part of the APSA and Agenda 2063’s ‘Commitment to Silence the Guns by 2020’, the AU PSC developed the action point to train female mediators in conflict prevention. The main determining factors that measure the level of influence women have in peace processes are the early engagement of women in pre-negotiation phases and effective coalition building. The establishment of FemWise-Africa by the Panel of the Wise and the AU has pushed the agenda of developing a network of female mediators across Africa that participates in high-level mediations.


Furthermore, the AU has made tangible commitments towards institutional gender mainstreaming within all pillars of APSA. In relations to the establishment of a Women, Gender and Development Directorate (WGDD), the AU Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security established gender advisory units and recruited gender experts as part of the post-conflict mediations; they are making significant headway in addressing gender differences and issues in peace support operations (PSOs). More efforts are within the African Standby Force.


Women and conflict prevention under the AGA

Election observations have been a tool used by the AGA for early conflict prevention against political tensions. Correlations between contested elections and conflict outbreak are evident in Kenya and Burundi. The AUs election observation missions (AUEOM) manage political tension as well as undertake the technical assessment of electoral processes. The participation of women in the AUEOM increases the institutional effectiveness due to better inclusion solidifying the nexus between peace and security and good governance reflected in the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG).


The panel discussion highlighted the fragmentation between frameworks and implementation which include; social and cultural barriers that deter women’s participation in political processes. There should be gender parity, and to move away from currently male-domination, the discussion focused on how gender issues are integrated into the entire political process including in electoral frameworks, structures, campaign, and financing.


Nonetheless, an example of a successful case of women in mediation is the first all-female EOM to Seychelles. This case was recommended by the panel as the benchmark for future efforts to obtain gender mainstreaming in Election Observations.


Observations from Kenya and South Sudan

Based on case studies conducted by ECDPM on the role of women in mediation efforts particularly in Kenya and South Sudan; Post-electoral violence in Kenya between 2007-2008 used the politicization of ethnicity and sexual violence as tools in targeted attacks towards women. The mediation efforts in Kenya, led by Kofi Annan and Graça Machel, involved many women’s groups and women were encouraged by strong incentives to engage in the peace mediation which led to gender-sensitive language in the agenda and peace agreement.


In South Sudan, the conflict and widespread sexual violence and abuse impacted women and girls severely. The circulation of illegal arms, mass displacement, growing inter-communal violence and proliferation of armed groups were the main contributing factors. Women also played a role as instigators of the violence and conflict. More so, women’s groups have issued recommendations to the Task Force regarding their engagement, but support and inclusion have been minimal leading to limited structural exchanges between women’s groups with IGAD mediation.


In conclusion, the panel discussion emphasized full incorporation of gender sensitivity and gender issues are needed in mediation processes, better coordination between the APSA and the AGA is necessary to create efficient synergies for the advocacy of women and peacemaking, and the establishment of the FemWIse-Africa initiative is a timely response to the concerns on women’s participation in mediation and conflict prevention. Nonetheless, there is room for improvement and space for institutions like the Inter-Departmental Task Force on Conflict Prevention to take the lead in progressing the gender parity and gender mainstreaming agenda.