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Revisiting the Utility of the Early Warning and Early Response Mechanisms in Africa: Any Role for Civil Society?



This paper aims to contribute to on-going research on ways of operationalizing and improving Africa’s existing conflict prevention mechanisms, from the perspective of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). Drawing on the insights provided by Ghana and Kenya, it unpacks the roles CSOs can play as agents of conflict prevention within the framework of the Early Warning and Early Response processes at national level. This arises from the fact that CSOs are often relied upon for their wider reach, link to the grassroots and ability to access information through the instrumentalities of their networks. Hence, they are of immense benefit to any process aimed at conflict prevention. The paper also examines existing continental and Early Warning and Response systems in Africa, their level of efficacy and the role of CSOs as possible instruments for conflict prevention. This is achieved through conceptualization of civil society, drawing on the experiences of Ghana and Kenya, including an analysis of the varying perspectives and probable lessons that can be learned from their activities. The paper concludes with key recommendations that could enable Africa to be freed from its plethora of conflicts using CSOs as conflict prevention agents.
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
Revisiting the Utility of the Early Warning and Early Response Mechanisms in Africa: Any
Role for Civil Society?
Olumuyiwa Babatunde Amao, Dorcas Ettang, Ufo Okeke-Uzodike, and Clementine
This paper aims to contribute to on-going research on ways of operationalizing and
improving Africa’s existing conflict prevention mechanisms, from the perspective of Civil
Society Organizations (CSOs). Drawing on the insights provided by Ghana and Kenya, it
unpacks the roles CSOs can play as agents of conflict prevention within the framework of
the Early Warning and Early Response processes at national level. This arises from the fact
that CSOs are often relied upon for their wider reach, link to the grassroots and ability to
access information through the instrumentalities of their networks. Hence, they are of
immense benefit to any process aimed at conflict prevention. The paper also examines
existing continental and Early Warning and Response systems in Africa, their level of efficacy
and the role of CSOs as possible instruments for conflict prevention. This is achieved
through conceptualization of civil society, drawing on the experiences of Ghana and Kenya,
including an analysis of the varying perspectives and probable lessons that can be learned
from their activities. The paper concludes with key recommendations that could enable
Africa to be freed from its plethora of conflicts using CSOs as conflict prevention agents.
Olumuyiwa Babatunde Amao is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Politics,
University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. He holds a Master of Arts degree (Cum-
Laude) in Political Science from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Dorcas Ettang is a doctoral candidate of the School of Social Sciences, at the University of
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Ufo Okeke-Uzodike is Professor of International Relations at the University of KwaZulu-
Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa and Editor-in-Chief of Affrika Journal and the UBUNTU
Journal of Peace and Conflict Transformation.
Clementine Tugizimana is a doctoral candidate of the School of Social Sciences, at the
University Of KwaZulu- Natal South Africa.
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
Evolving from their broad conceptualization as the “private sphere of material,
cultural and political activities resisting the incursions of the state” (Fatton 1995, p 2), Civil
Society Organizations (CSOs) have grown to become an integral part of society, and have
served as critical agents of democratization. As Wood observes, CSOs have been identified
as a new pattern of political participation outside of formal state structures and a one party
system (1992). This perhaps explains Bayart's definition of civil society as the political space
between the household and the state (1998), a view that portrays CSOs not only as active
from outside the state or a formal political arena, but as agents that can also be drawn on
during a political crisis, particularly as agents of conflict prevention or resolution. Motivated
by the need to put an end to the destabilizing effects which conflicts have had and continue
to have on Africa’s socio-economic and political development, a combination of state
and non-state actors have endeavored to establish capacity required to deal with conflict.
Such measures included the enactment of a Constitutive Act by the Organisation of
African Unity (OAU) in 2000, shortly before its transformation into the African Union (AU),
and the constitution of a Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in
Africa (CSSDCA), and the African Citizens Directorate (CIDO), to help create synergy between
the activities of the AU and CSOs as well as to encourage those in the diaspora to participate
in the affairs of the organization (Bayart 1998). These institutional frameworks led to the
establishment of a Peace and Security Council (PSC) in 2002, ostensibly to function as a
collective security and early warning instrument and to provide a timely and efficient
response to both existing and emerging conflicts and crisis situations in Africa (AU 2010).
This was followed by a Continental Early Warning System (CEWS) in 2006, to serve as an
observation and monitoring centre or Situation Room where information is gathered and
sent as advice to the Peace and Security Council on potential conflicts and threats to peace
and security in Africa, including recommendations on the best course of action (AU 2010).
Consequently, the onus for ensuring the success of these conflict prevention efforts
have fallen on sub-regional organizations; as they are expected to provide the socio-
political and economic support that is crucial to the successful implementation of these
conflict prevention efforts. Prominent among these sub-regional organizations are: the
Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS) whose early warning mechanism is
the West African Early Warning and Early Response Network (WARN), and the Inter-
Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) which hosts the Conflict Early Warning
Response Mechanism (CEWARN) (Birikit, 2012). Based on the foregoing, this paper
interrogates the potential conflict prevention roles of civil society in Africa; particularly
when situated within the framework of existing Early Warning and Early Responses systems
on the continent.
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
Drawing on the experiences of Ghana and Kenya, it examines the role of CSOs in the
efficient discharge of Early Warning signals to the sub-regional institutions related to peace
and security in both countries. The paper also unpacks the concept of civil society, including
its anticipated role and the challenges often associated with functioning as agents of conflict
prevention. To achieve these objectives, the paper is divided into four sections, with the
first serving as an introduction; while the second conceptualizes the notion of civil society
and the Early Warning and Response mechanism. The third section examines the nexus/or
otherwise between CSOs and the Early Warning /Early Response mechanisms (EWERMs) in
the selected countries; including the identification of the gaps and challenges in the
EWERM. The paper concludes with a discussion of the findings, and offers policy
recommendations on how CSOs can be used to stem the tide of violent conflicts in Africa.
Civil Society-A Contested Definition
While there are no generally accepted general definitions of ‘civil society’ as a
concept, scholars have nevertheless attempted to provide insightful explanations as to what
it constitutes. For Diamond (1994), civil society represents the realm of an organized social
life that is voluntary, self-generating, largely self-supporting; independent from the state,
and bound by a legal order or set of rules. Diamond adds that, any functional civil society
should possess the ability to engage citizens and act collectively in the expression of their
interests, passions and ideas; exchange information; achieve mutual goals; make demands
on the state; and hold state officials accountable for their actions (1994). Kasfir (1998)
identifies the four principal characteristics of civil society as (1) its ability to maintain
absolute autonomy from both social interests and the state, (2) its capacity for collective
action and the promotion of the interests and passions of the broader society, (3) it must be
devoid of all intentions to seize power and (4) it must be able to act in concord within civil
rules through the conveyance of mutual respect.
The above elucidation suggests that civil society comprises of a vast array of
organizations, whose origins are usually traceable to private individuals. It is established to
protect and pursue public good in all its engagements with the state or government.
Diamond (1994) notes that the movement includes both formal and informal organizations;
including groups that are economic, cultural, informational and educational interest-based,
developmental and issue-oriented, or civic in aim. White (2004) views civil society as an
arena of voluntary collective action around shared interests, purposes and values and as an
intermediate associated realm, between the state and family, populated by organizations
which are separate and independent from the state.
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
By way of classification, Merkel and Lauth (1998) note that the (a) political (state
administration, political parties and parliaments), economic (business and companies) and
(c) private spheres are the main lines along which civil society is drawn. Consequently, they
defined civil society as the space where all of these interests overlap. At the sub-
regional level, civil society is regarded primarily as non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
that offer post-conflict regeneration and other peacebuilding efforts (Ropers 2002). For
example, CSOs are engaged in early warning activities, preventive diplomacy through third-
party intervention, facilitation of dialogue workshops and mediation, negotiations,
networking and initiatives for cross-cultural understanding and relationship building (Ropers
2002). Setting the stage in terms of the provision of early warning signals on the continent is
the West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), with a civil society-based initiative
called the Warning and Response Network (WARN) expected to operate in 12 of the 15
member countries of the ECOWAS and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa,
a key organisation in Early Warning analysis and crisis reporting in Africa (Suifon 2005;
Austin 2004). Ghana has established a national Early Warning system, known as
‘Ghanawarn’ while Kenya has the Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism
A brief historical and conceptual clarification of the notion of Early Warning and
Early Response mechanisms is crucial to an understanding of how CSOs can function as
effective agents of conflict prevention.
Early Warning and Early Response Mechanisms: A Historical and Conceptual Clarification
Austin (2004) argues that an Early Warning system refers to any initiative focused on
the systematic collection of data, its analysis and/or the formulation of recommendations,
including risk assessment and information sharing; regardless of whether the topic is
quantitative, qualitative or both. According to Wulf & Debiel (2009), the quantitative and
qualitative methods are the two major ways of categorizing the EWERM with its origins
dating back to the 1950s. While it was a product of several intelligence and military
reconnaissance initiatives, it was later used as a tool for the prevention of natural disasters,
humanitarian emergencies, diseases and catastrophic economic events (Wulf & Debiel
2009). Between 1960 and 1980, there was progressive movement towards the use of
information technology to statistically analyze and project people’s political behaviour for
the purposes of detecting early signs of conflict between the state and its subjects. The
system was later abandoned due to its inability to predict the complexities associated with
deep-rooted conflicts, including those that occur in remote locations.
From the 1990s onwards, there was an increase in the level of interest shown by
practitioners at both local and international levels in using programming to scientifically
analyze potential conflicts (Wulf & Debiel 2009).
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
Matveeva (2006, p 10) observed that, as a product of the historical transition of the
The first generation Early Warning systems had their entire Early Warning
mechanism (including conflict monitoring) based outside the conflict region
(namely, in the West). The second generation amended this approach by basing
the monitoring mechanism in the conflict zones, namely by having the field
monitors to gather primary event data. The analysis, however, still remained
conducted outside the conflict region. The third generation Early Warning systems
are entirely located in the conflict regions.
They integrate Early Warning and Early Response together as simultaneous
processes. At the international level, the United Nations, through its Department of
Humanitarian Affairs is credited as being the first to establish a ‘Humanitarian Early Warning
System’, which later became known as the Relief Web and the Integrated Regional
Information Network (Wulf & Debiel 2009). In Africa, the concept is often seen as a
response to the high prevalence of crises on the continent (Birikit 2010). This necessitated
the setting up of the Continental Early Warning System (CEWS), although only two sub-
regional institutions (ECOWAS and IGAD) appear to be pro-active in adhering to the purpose
for which the idea was conceived. The distinguishing characteristics of the Early Warning
system include its ability to identify a perceived potential armed conflict at a very latent
stage, and subsequently take the necessary steps to reduce, resolve or transform the
conflict situation into a new peaceful order.
As Dorn (2004) argued, Early Warning can be seen as a way of alerting a recognized
authority (such as the AU) to a potential threat to peace at an early stage. Therefore, the
essential concerns of Early Warning include: detecting rising tensions which could lead to
violent conflicts and putting mechanisms in place that can stem these tensions; although the
concept may not necessarily have the ability to prevent the tensions from arising (Aldeman
1998). It not only includes the gathering of data, but also engages in evaluation with a view
to developing a mechanism potent enough to prevent the occurrence of a conflict or
capable of facilitating an accompanying response when faced with a conflict situation. Other
responsibilities of the EWER include: estimating the magnitude and timing of the relative
risks of emerging threats, analyzing the nature of these threats and describing plausible
scenarios, and communicating warning analyses to decision makers (Woocher 2008).
From the foregoing analyses and as noted by Barrs (2006), it can be inferred that the
basic assumptions of the EWERM are deeply rooted in the belief that international actors
have a responsibility to act as protectors once the available information is processed in line
with the rules and procedures that can prevent the occurrence of conflicts within an
international or regional organization. Consequently, the central argument embedded in the
concept of Early Warning is the purpose it serves as a potential warning instrument within
conflict zones, and its ability to achieve a reduction or overcome the gap between Early
Warning and Early Response (Wulf & Debiel 2009).
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
Arising from this background information, the following section examines the role
which CSOs could play as conflict prevention agents.
Reconsidering the Effectiveness of Civil Society Organizations as Agents of Conflict
Civil Society Organizations include but are not limited to think tanks, academia,
community- based organizations, women’s groups, youth movements, and faith-based and
religious groups. These groups have become critical actors in conflict prevention and
peacebuilding initiatives across the globe. They have been applauded for their
understanding of local contexts and conflict dynamics, for working closely with the
communities they are situated in, their ability to mobilize individuals and their established
trust with citizens. Furthermore they are situated where the conflict occurs and can
therefore be relied upon to provide accurate and certain information that other regional or
international actors may not be able to access. They are therefore primary sources of data.
Traditionally, CSOs are expected to inspire and ensure a bottom-up, citizen-
centered, and locally-owned environment capable of empowering communities and citizens
at the grass-roots to actively engage in the political process. This idea is also at the core of
Early Warning and Response systems. These systems are only effective when there is active
involvement and inclusion of communities (and citizens) in providing relevant information
and in developing adequate responses. CSOs contribute to this process by bridging the gap
and increasing communication between communities and administrative governance
structures; particularly in the development and implementation of these systems.
Furthermore, the successful implementation of national Early Warning systems requires
the in-depth involvement of CSOs. Peace committees in Liberia and Burundi and the
emergence of formal participatory community security plans in Somalia provide just a few
examples of how locally inspired response mechanisms have involved CSOs and also show
how they can become more engaged as agents of conflict prevention and mediators (QUNO
Generally, CSOs employ a number of strategies to achieve immediate, long-
term conflict prevention efforts. These range from participating in crisis intervention groups
in collaboration with government representatives, to embarking on joint peace missions to
volatile areas with representatives of the parties to the conflict, and facilitating
mediation/negotiations between warring parties (Matveeva 2006). In their application
of long-term conflict prevention approaches in the community, CSOs use interactive peace
dialogues amongst stakeholders, problem-solving workshops, and awareness raising and
advocacy, among other strategies (Matveeva 2006). In terms of their contribution to
knowledge and information for prevention, CSOs collect, analyze and disseminate data, and
development peace and conflict indicators. As repositories of information they are central
to providing Early Warning information.
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
They provide evidence-based documentation and can be effective in conflict
assessment and analysis. Civil Society Organizations are equally useful in identifying the
underlying and proximate causes of the conflict, facilitating communication between
relevant parties, and working with policymakers and security sector actors. Similarly, their
wide reaching networks and presence in remote areas make them valuable as Early
Response actors. They can be used as Early Response actors by providing services such as
stakeholder alerts (via fax, email, or telephone), engaging in and conducting dialogue and
consultations in the field, providing verified and validated information to decision makers,
and preparing timely evaluation/assessment reports (Rupesinghe 2009). It is, however,
important to note that information for an Early Response must be relevant and useful to
policy makers. Civil Society Organizations are therefore important in designing and
developing policy relevant information that can induce rapid action.
Using the AU’s Continental Early Warning System as a basis, three key requirements
are central to the operationalization of the EWERS. These are the (1) collection and analysis
of conflict data based on an indicators model; (2) production of effective early-
warning reports to facilitate engagement with decision makers; and (3) coordination and
collaboration with relevant stakeholders including RECS, the UN Security Council (UNSC) and
Secretariat, CSOs and the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa. Civil
Society Organizations not only play a solid role in continental and regional Early Warning
and Response systems, but also at the national level. Thus their role in responding to
national conflict requires greater focus (USAID 2011). It is in light of this that this paper
considers it apt to examine the emerging cases of the National Early Warning and Response
systems (EWERMs), operational in Ghana (West Africa), and Kenya (East Africa). This will
enable identification of the role which CSOs can play as agents of conflict prevention,
particularly within the framework of existing national Early Warning and Response systems.
The ECOWAS Warning and Response Network (ECOWARN), operates in partnership
with ECOWAS and the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), an umbrella body
for CSOs operating across the region. This partnership has positively enhanced Early
Warning and Response within the West African region. The Observation and Monitoring
Centre (OMC) located at the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja, Nigeria, is linked to four
observation and monitoring zones across the region headed by zonal bureau heads. These
four zones are based in the zonal capitals of Banjul (Gambia), Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso),
Monrovia (Liberia), and Cotonou (Benin Republic). ECOWARN is adequately spread across
the region. It boasts the presence of focal points and field monitors in member states of the
community. Ghana falls under Zone Three (3) with other countries including Guinea, Liberia
and Sierra Leone. Country specific Early Warning systems are currently being developed and
strengthened to feed into the regional system and vice versa. Ghana’s Early Warning and
Response system is one such initiative.
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
Furthermore, Ghana is home to the WANEP’s headquarters. WANEP provides weekly
alerts on peace and security in West Africa, focusing on key incidents within the region,
casualties and possible responses to these. Early Warning and Response in Ghana has made
progress through the work of WANEP’s Ghana office. Through its national networks of local
peacebuilding organizations across the country, WANEP is able to provide Early Warning
information. In the context of its 2004 elections, power contestations and chieftaincy
disputes have threatened peace and stability in the North-western region of Ghana. This
raised the need to develop an appropriate Early Warning and Response mechanism in order
to prevent conflict. Local Peace Committees and District Peace Advisory Councils were
developed to provide adequate responses through community dialogue and meditation
(Odendaal & Olivier 2008).
It is important to note that these peace advisory councils, in conjunction with the
National Peace Council, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the
National Electoral Commission were very instrumental in the minimization of the post-
election conflicts witnessed during the 2008 elections in Kenya. This was achieved through
the initiation of dialogue with the relevant stakeholders (IPI 2012). Ghana’s National Early
Warning System, known as ‘Ghanawarn’, has been described as a web-based system to
“capture early warning information on possible crime and conflicts in the form of incident
and situational reports so as to elicit early responses” (Nurudeen 2009). Ghanawarn
maintains a database to obtain and coordinate incident and situation reports from 75
member Community Surveillance Teams (CSTs) spread across 15 communities (largely
susceptible to violence in the country) in the five regions making up the country (Nurudeen
As at May 2012, the database center had 116 members across the country. The CSTs
are provided with mobile phones, and access to the internet and other media to facilitate
the transmission and processing of credible information that can aid conflict prevention.
This primary information is then processed through the conveyance of a quarterly interface
meeting, where efforts are made to respond to the signals and also to provide adequate
early responses (Nurudeen 2009). Civil Society Organizations have been involved in various
conflict prevention efforts in Ghana, especially the prevention of election violence. For
instance, WANEP, the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), Centre for Democratic
Development (CDD)-Ghana, the media and religious leaders formed a civil society-
led coalition, the Civic Forum Initiative (CFI), to monitor and mediate disputes before,
during, and after the 2008 general elections in the country (USAID 2011).
Situation rooms were set up to monitor the elections and related matters, and the
coalition engaged in numerous negotiations and dialogue sessions with presidential
candidates with the collaboration of the National Peace Council and religious leaders. They
have also been useful in providing information on inter- and intra-communal violence as
groups’ battle for depleting resources. WANEP-Ghana’s Ghana Alert Program has been
involved in enhancing and increasing collaboration amongst stakeholders and building the
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
capacity of groups in early warning peacebuilding. Leading up to the 2012 elections, early
warning alerts were provided through WANEPs GHANAWARN database and information
received from WANEP-Ghana's Inter-Party Youth Dialogue Committees (IPYDCs). A total of
14 incidents were recorded, ranging from assault, to burning of properties, leading to one
over administrative demarcations and polling centres and various electoral offences
(WANEP 2012). WANEP-Ghana has also contributed to a number of other peacebuilding
initiatives, including the development and sustenance of a working relationship with
ECOWAS. In collaboration with InWent, a German-based training consultancy group, the
organization trained 30 monitors (15 each from civil society and government), involved in
collecting early warning information, on first level data analysis.
The Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism (CEWARN) covers the seven
member states of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Djibouti,
Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. The mechanism focuses on preventing
violent conflicts in the sub-region. CEWARN relies on Conflict Early Warning and Response
Units (CEWERU) within the member states and its network of National Research Institutes
(NRIs) and Field Monitors (FMs). CEWARN is focused on key three clusters namely: the
Karamoja Cluster (covering the cross-border areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda);
the Somali Cluster (covering the cross-border areas of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia) and the
Dikhil Cluster (covering the cross-border areas of Djibouti and Ethiopia). Although CEWARN
is extremely useful in harnessing and coordinating regional responses to regional threats to
peace and security, it only deals with the pastoralist clusters, thus covering a specific area of
a broader area of conflict.
As a member of CEWARN, Kenya has developed its national Early Warning and
Response mechanism that remains one of the most advanced and prominent systems
among the seven CEWARN member states. The country’s Conflict Early Warning and
Response Unit (CEWERU) were officially launched on 25 November 2010, in a move that was
seen as an effort to mitigate violent conflicts within its borders. CEWERU’s establishment
was timely and necessary as the 2007 elections showcased the need to develop sufficient
structures to prevent violence from erupting into a full- blown disaster. In addition to
CEWERU, Kenya also has a National Research Institute (NRI).
The National Steering Committee on Peace Building and Conflict Management (NSC)
is not only responsible for the co-ordination of all peace-related activities in Kenya, but also
serves as Kenya’s Conflict Early Warning and Response Unit (CEWERU), as the country
implements the CEWARN Protocol of 2002. In 2010, it developed a web-based platform
known as the National Conflict Early Warning and Early Response System (NCEWERS) that
describes itself as monitoring “essential conflict indicators, analyzes and disseminates
information to prevent and address potential conflicts”. Kenya’s CEWERU is designed to
feed into the sub-regional CEWARN and it has developed a system to monitor developments
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
in conflict and identify successes in prevention. Peace structures, such as government
and non-governmental institutions are central to Kenya’s CEWERU, including District Peace
Committees (DPCs) and Peace Monitors. These stakeholders and institutions have proved
useful in obtaining and analyzing information to rapidly devise and undertake responses to
Furthermore, their presence across the country (in both rural and urban areas) is
extremely useful. CEWERU also relies on Short Message Service (SMS) messages, social
networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter and a website, Amani Kenya @108, to obtain
information from the public that is used to prevent wide scale violence erupting. The
sources of Early Warning and Response mechanisms vary. An online platform, the National
Early Warning Information System, is used to obtain information from three sources: DPCs
and Peace Monitors provide situation reports; SMSs received from members of the public
and media reports. Beyond these various mechanisms and tools for Early Warning, two key
platforms are very visible in Kenya, namely Ushahidi and Uwiano, both of which employ the
technique of ‘crowd sourcing’ to identify cases of violence and peaceful responses across
the country. The Uwiano platform appears to be more effective due to its use of a wide
range of resources to gather information.
These include mobile phone text messages (SMSs) for early warning and early
responses in the form of mediators, DPCs, District Security Committees and Police
Operations (DSCPO) among others (NSCPEACE 2012). The Peace Committees are made up of
“community representative institutions that facilitate peace forums at the various levels and
bring together traditional dispute resolution mechanisms involving elders, women, and
religious leaders and modern mechanisms for conflict resolution (security agencies, NGOs)”.
They have been extremely useful in pastoral conflicts and were employed in the Central,
Coast, Western, Nyanza and the Rift Valley regions of Kenya in response to post-
election violence in the country in 2008. Their roles range from enhancing conflict Early
Warning and Response, to facilitating community dialogue processes, developing
mechanisms to resolve inter-district and cross-border conflicts, and monitoring and
reporting on various peace and nation building programmes.
Civil Society Organizations have been actively involved in the design, development,
use and review of these tools, platforms and mechanisms. Within this broad national
network, the role of CSOs, specifically those experienced in the area of conflict prevention
and resolution becomes very important in ensuring the overall success of Kenya’s CEWERU.
Not only have they been instrumental in designing the CEWERU, they are also involved in
the various mechanisms that provide warning and response. Some key examples attest to
this. The NSC has brought CSOs and government together to work on issues relating to
peace and security. The NSC, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC),
PeaceNet Kenya and the UNDP were actively involved in the development of the Uwiano
Platform ahead of the 2010 referendum. PeaceNet Kenya, an umbrella body for faith-
based, community-based and religious organizations, has been involved in early warning.
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
In developing early warning and peace building programs, CSOs work in
collaboration with the DPCs, utilize the same resources (field and peace officers) in some
cases and provide early warning information to the National Security Council (Babaud &
Ndung’u 2012). Civil Society Organizations have also been involved in technical forums such
as the one held from 22 to 23 September 2011, on how to consolidate EWER capacity in
preparation for the 2012 elections. They have also worked with government (commissions,
governmental and inter-governmental), law enforcement agencies (LEA), and the media to
collect information. Using monitors, coordinators and conflict trackers in the field, PeaceNet
obtains early warning information which they transfer to its main secretariat (NSCPEACE
2011). This is achieved through the use of the internet, its publications, and monthly reports
to a wide range of stakeholders including grassroots monitors and community elders. In
responding, PeaceNet addresses some early warning information, and in other cases, it
forwards this information to law enforcement agencies for intervention (NSCPEACE 2011).
The Inter-religious Council of Kenya (IRCK) has been instrumental in collecting
information from various religious bodies, and in the use of participatory research and
conflict mapping (NSCPEACE 2011). In responding, PeaceNet also engages with the
community through dialogue forums. Kenya’s NSC has the following national CSOs as
members: Peace and Development Network (PeaceNet Kenya), the National Council of
Churches in Kenya (NCCK), Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM), the Kenya
Episcopal Conference (KEC), Catholic Secretariat and the Interreligious Council of Kenya.
International organizations and CSOs such as Oxfam GB, Mercy Corps, PACT Kenya and Safer
world are also members of the NSC. Prior to the 2007 general elections, a civil society-
led initiative, the Partnership for Peace, was created to promote peace nationwide during
the elections. The initiative was spearheaded by NPI-Africa, PeaceNet and Africa Peace
Forum Organization (AFPO) and went on to include faith- based, youth, and women’s
A few key points should be emphasized at this juncture:
Local Peace Committees (LPCs) are established to prevent or reduce levels
of violence and engage in dialogue, consensus building, and reconciliation.
They are useful in providing early warning information and responding to
tense situations before they erupt. The linkage between CSOs and LPC is
twofold: LPCs are composed of CSOs (and a wide range of key groups) and,
civil society initiatives have contributed to the development of LPCs. Local
Peace Committees lack a national mandate; they emerge from civil society-
led processes and are bottom-up. Local Peace Committees are created
within a specific context and are needed to resolve issues, sometimes far
from the government’s reach. They have been successful because they
emerge from local initiatives and are owned by the community or locality
from which they emerge.
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
A distinction should be made between nationally coordinated or mandated
Early Warning and Response systems and civil society inspired, community-
based Early Warning and Response systems. This distinction emerges when
attempting to link lower level conflicts to broader national responses. In
the case of Kenya, the multiple LPCs existing in specific districts required a
national coordinating mechanism in the form of the National Steering
Committee on Peacebuilding and Conflict Management. The success of the
District Peace Advisory Councils in Ghana led to the creation of a National
Peace Council. However, these national bodies sometimes lack a clear
understanding of the specificities and dynamics on the ground. Kenya’s
LPCs emerged due to the inability of the state to protect local communities
from cattle rustling and ethnic conflict.
The inability of the state to protect all its citizens as well as the lack of a
clear understanding of the specifics on the ground creates a gap
which CSO-inspired Early Warning and Response systems can fill. They are
thus able to act when state officials are limited by bureaucratic challenges,
a lack of political will and political mandates.
CSOs have developed their own Conflict EWERS as part of their work in
conflict prevention and conflict management. In West Africa, WANEP
created the WARN under its West Africa Preventive Peacebuilding
Program. The success of prevention efforts in the region can be attributed
to the work of WANEP and its presence in member states.
Flowing from the above discussion, identifying the existing gaps and challenges between
CSOs and the EWERS will be useful in understanding the required policy outcomes that can
facilitate the role of the CSOs as agents of conflict prevention.
Gaps and Challenges between CSOs and National Early Warning and Early Response
In examining the contributions of CSOs to EWERM, there are some challenges and
gaps that negatively impact the success and effectiveness of these systems, particularly
within the national context. These include the following:
A wide range of organizations are involved in Early Warning and Response
initiatives, sometimes leading to a duplication of roles and a multiplicity of
actors. In the case of Kenya, for instance, different organizations collect
different information on political, inter-ethnic, humanitarian, and
environmental or pastoralist conflicts (NSCPEACE 2011). Furthermore,
there are no central databases or repositories of information, thus
rendering the information inaccessible to other organizations. The lack of
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
information sharing makes it difficult to coordinate resources in order to
develop an adequate response; particularly given the fact that CSOs cannot
and should not work in isolation from one another. In Kenya, this lack of
coordination is characterized by the duplication of initiatives and failure by
actors to effectively share information and different methodologies and
In spite of the levels of preparedness of CSOs under the Partnership for
Peace in Kenya, post- election violence erupted due to a lack of
“harnessing partnerships with state agencies or increased advocacy for
appropriate security arrangements during the electoral period” (Kut 2009,
p 18). This highlights the need to interrogate the “methods, sites of
engagement and the discourses that inform Civil Society initiatives aimed
at mobilizing early responses to conflict” (Kut 2009, p 18). Similarly, the
lack of coordination between CSOs and other institutions involved in EWER
is a major challenge to civil society’s role in Early Warning and Response.
This gap has been exacerbated by the lack of communication between
CSOs and other key actors (the security sector and government).
CSO projects sometimes have lifecycles which are incompatible with EWER
that should be ongoing (NSCPEACE 2012) and not time-
specific. Furthermore insufficient resources to develop timely and
appropriate responses to conflict and the lack of political will remain
challenges to effective Early Warning and Response systems. Daily
reporting on early warning information and underlying and proximate
causes for conflict require human and financial resources, many of which
CSOs like WANEP Ghana’s network do not have enough of. This therefore
limits the coverage that is sufficient to act upon.
In developing its preventive strategies, Kenya’s PFP has been criticized for
its failure to devise responses to address the causes of a conflict. Its use of
normative advocacy as an early response method did not address the
causes of electoral conflict in the country (Kut 2009). This has contributed
to the gap between early warning information and early response as the
focus has been on obtaining a wide range of information without
sufficiently analyzing the underlying causes of conflict in parts of the
country (Kut 2009).
CSOs also have become reactionary rather than proactive in their
responses to conflict. For instance, after the outbreak of violence during
Kenya’s 2007 elections, the creation of the Electoral Violence Response
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
Initiative (EVRI) by members of the PFP highlighted the “culture of
emergency rather than the culture of early response” (Kut 2009, p 19).
Other factors contributing to such a culture include “the inability to
respond to conflict early warning information in good time, and disjointed
or uncoordinated responses to conflict early warning information” (Kut
2009, p 20).
Furthermore, rapid responses often do not feature at lower levels of
conflict. In such instances, reports tracking new developments in conflict
focus on the capital cities rather than more remote areas. This was the
case in Rwanda in 1994, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the
late 1990s and the Kenyan violence in 2007-2008. This calls for more
decentralized and locally-based Early Warning and Response mechanisms.
In Kenya, Nairobi-centrism was observed in “expertise, decision-
making capacity and funds, as links to the center determined the type of
response received” (Kut 2009, p 19).
Another gap in developing Early Warning and Response systems is
technical challenges such as a lack of skills in the reporting and analysis
processes that are used to provide timely and credible information. For
civil society actors to be able to respond to early warning information
(even before they erupt into large scale violence), they must have the
capacity to do so. A case in point is the Kenyan National Research Institute
(NRI), where inadequate analytical capacities have impeded sustainable
conflict analysis processes and have thus limited the feedback and
communication between national and local level actors (Matveeva 2006).
In Ghana, there have been attempts to address this lack of skills by
providing training and skills development in data analysis to early warning
The review of Kenya also noted incapacity to analyze conflicts and
develop scenarios to shape responses. While NGOs might provide solid
analysis, this may not be accompanied by relevant policy
recommendations or solutions, while CSOs require institutional capacity to
actively contribute to Early Warning and Response systems. These range
from reporting, to conflict analysis, monitoring, risk assessment, advocacy
and communication. Communication channels can also be developed
through collaboration between CSOs and the community.
Another noticeable challenge inhibiting the performance of CSOs as
agents of conflict prevention is the lack of public trust and the
transparency of these organizations. Consequently, the bearer of potential
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
early warning information is sometimes forced to either distort or conceal
early warning in an attempt to avoid being labeled a ‘traitor’, especially in
situations where the community is the potential aggressor. This scenario
presented itself in Kenya, when District Peace Committees reportedly
failed to respond to or disseminate valid early warning information due to
the involvement of their specific ethnic groups and the fear of retaliation
by the community (Babaud & Ndung’u 2012). The fact that not all CSOs are
credible or reliable will impede conflict prevention efforts. This also raises
questions on how to determine the credibility of information, especially at
the national level.
Key Findings and Recommendations
At the national level, which is the focus of this paper, CSOs’ roles in providing Early
Warning and Early Response are showcased in Ghana (in West Africa) and Kenya (in the
Horn of Africa). The paper also explains the concept of Early Warning and Early Response;
what they entail, and their historical evolution. An examination of the relatively well-
established EWERS in Ghana and Kenya raises the following questions arise: (1) Can CSOs
play a role in preventing violent conflict through early warning and early response
mechanisms? (2) What challenges have CSOs faced in carrying out this task? (3) Finally, what
recommendations can be made for effective EWERS to prevent violent, deadly conflict in
African countries using CSOs’ expertise?
As noted, both Ghana and Kenya have embraced the idea of preventing conflicts
through the use of CSOs as Early Warning and Response mechanisms. Both countries have
created an environment for these organizations to work throughout the country, from
urban to rural areas. This space gives CSOs access to the grassroots population and the
ability to move from towns and big cities to expand their activities in the rural areas.
Trocaire observed after assessing the development of CSOs before and after the 1994
genocide in Rwanda that “political freedom” (Kelly 1999) is a crucial factor for the
development of effective CSOs.
The second key element in both Ghana and Kenya is that their early warning systems
have established technology-based ways of reporting events. These tools and others such as
mobile phone calls, SMSs, and social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogs provide
updated and varied information on issues of national security and public importance.
Rheingold (2010) asserted that, “people with communication and computation devices can
organise their behaviour quickly” and that, “by organizing in large numbers they are more
likely to pressure governments to be accountable.” A case in point is the use of SMSs during
the 2007/2008 general election in Kenya. This helped to disseminate messages of “caution
and restraint” to the populace, and helped to reduce political tension at the time to a
considerable extent (Rotberg 2010).
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
In Kenya, the web platform ‘Ushahidi’, developed by a private entrepreneur after the
2007- 2008post-election violence proved efficient in the recent 2013 election. Rotberg
(2010) notes that Ushahidi was used by citizens to upload “data on riots, looting, rape and
displacements…*C+itizens then gained situational awareness about geographical areas to
avoid and the government learned about where and in what manner to respond”. Another
important visible element of the EWER mechanisms in both cases is the expansion of
sources of information. The warning information no longer necessarily emanates from
governments or military intelligence agencies. CSOs have also engaged citizens in
information sharing. Information is offered by individual citizens, LPCs, DPCs, Peace
Committees etc. This creates a “decentralised, peer-to-peer…approach to conflict
management” and through these different structures, citizens are engaged in “collective
intelligence” (Rotberg 2010).
The CSOs in both countries seem to have succeeded in establishing networks and
mobilising, training and equipping local people from urban cities to remote areas. This has
solidified networking and communication so that local structures are able to feed
information to the national structures. CSOs have enabled national EWER structures in
Kenya and Ghana to work. As Wallis notes, the uniqueness of CSOs is making other sectors
work, leveraging their capabilities and enabling solutions” (Wallis 2013), the state, local
enforcement agencies and other actors therefore depend heavily on CSOs to perform their
roles effectively. Given that countries such as Ghana, Kenya and most African societies are
likely to have diverse CSOs that lack a common or shared repository, the following key
recommendations are provided to enhance the conflict prevention role which CSOs are
expected to perform, particularly within the framework of the existing EWERMs in Africa:
Concrete attempts should be made to achieve effective and efficient coordination and
communication of the activities of the CSOs engaged in the EWERS. This would also
eliminate the duplication of efforts or the concentration of efforts in one area and lack
thereof in another. Furthermore, a well-coordinated Civil Society network can effectively
influence the decision- making process of governments in developing solid warning and
response mechanisms (WACSI & SIPRI 2011). This would ensure that adequate attention is
paid to where the information gathered is processed, including a proper definition of the
recipients of the warning signals; and particularly the question of who is to be warned and
what to do about such warnings.
Given the ripple effects which the lack of effective synergy between government agencies
and CSOs had on post-election violence in Kenya, it is advised that CSOs increase their
administrative/personnel capacity and advocacy skills; particularly in the field of research,
analysis, and report writing on conflicts. As noted in a report monitored by the West African
Civil Society Institute (WACSI) in 2007, the lack of these skills affects “affected the credibility
of CSOs and their impact on policy decisions by governments in the region” (WACSI & SIPRI
2011). Upgrading their skills and capacity would confer more credibility on CSOs, changing
widely-held perceptions of their incompetence.
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
Drawing on the cases of Ghana and Kenya, particularly with regards to the growing number
of CSOs in the field of bottom-up peace building and their new technology-based tools to
access first-hand knowledge and networking, there is a need to advocate for more
collaborative effort between CSOs and governments to ensure that the early warning
information gathered is utilized by relevant government agencies at all levels. De La Haye
(n.d.) observes that, “the design of early warning and management systems should be
intimately connected with the task of determining responses to warnings.” It is therefore
believed that effective collaboration between key decision-makers in conflict prevention
would allow for a common understanding of issues relating to peace and security,
particularly on contentious issues that are likely to bring citizens into conflict.
The issue of CSOs earning people’s trust impacts on EWER. CSOs in multi-ethnic societies
such those in Africa should ensure that their field staff team and top leadership are
balanced in terms of ethnic representation. If an organization is monolithic it will likely be
biased in a way or another, thus loosing trust and credibility in the eyes of other members
of the community. CSOs taking ethnic sides not only impacts negatively on their credibility
but impinges heavily on early responses. Wanyande and Okebe (2009) noted that this trend
had taken root in Kenyan faith- based organizations in 2005. They argue that “(A)dopting
ethnic inspired position on major issues such as elections…threaten the solidarity of
oppositional Civil Society. They risk becoming reactionary rather than progressive”.
As noted earlier in this paper, a lack of or poor funding remains a major incapacitating
factor for most CSOs, particularly with regard to their expected roles as agents of conflict
prevention. This is attributed to a number of reasons, including the global economic
recession, which has badly affected many Western donors, as well as the increase in the
number of CSOs working in different domains. In view of this development, CSOs in Africa
are advised to seek ways of self- funding, through the maximization of their expertise in
particular areas. They could become involved in a variety of profit-generating initiatives, by
selling their services to the public or to government, building schools, or renting properties
and undertaking consultancy and research work. The funds obtained from such ventures
could be channelled to future projects.
Finally, considering the fact that CSOs are closer to the people than governments, they
should tirelessly invest in civic education on social cohesion, peace and peaceful means of
conflict resolution.
This paper has illustrated that the main issues incapacitating the effectiveness of
CSOs as instruments of conflict prevention in Africa are the distorted nature of many
countries’ socio- economic and political systems, which, more often than not, has been
responsible for many of the intra/inter-state conflicts the continent has witnessed.
Consequently, and informed by the potential capacity of CSOs to assist in the mitigation of
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
conflict in Africa, this paper advocates for a more defined role for CSOs in the existing Early
Warning and Response mechanisms in Africa. This is justified by the level of success
recorded by CSOs in Ghana and Kenya and also by virtue of their wide reach/networks and
their closeness to the grassroots. In both countries, CSOs have established mechanisms to
obtain information directly from the local people. They have set up networks across the
country as well as tools to provide up-to-date information. Most of these tools are
technology- based and are used by citizens on the ground.
Furthermore, taking into cognizance the apparent incapacity of most African states
to meet the basic expectations of their citizenry, the central role which agitations over
resource control play in the occurrence of conflicts in Africa, and given the description of
CSOs as “prime movers of some of the innovative initiatives to deal with emerging global
threats” (Kinyunyu, 2009), this paper argues for increased and effective utilization of CSOs
as agents of conflict prevention; particularly within the framework of the existing Early
Warning and Early Response mechanisms in Africa. This would help to mitigate the incessant
occurrence of conflicts in Africa, by ensuring a more feasible pattern of interaction and
cooperation between national governments, civil society, and other stakeholders involved in
conflict prevention to achieve sustainable peace in Africa.
Peace and Conflict Review 8.1 2014
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... 78 Episcopal Relief and Development has also created a toolkit called "Pastors and Disasters." 79 There is a large field of expertise regarding the role of religious actors as peacebuilders, such as their ability to act as early warning mechanisms 80 and mediators 81 between conflicting parties to prevent or end violence before it escalates. 82 There are institutions and networks dedicated to this field of study such as the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and United States Institute of Peace. ...
Technical Report
Full-text available
The Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLI) is working with UNICEF’s Communication for Development Section in Programme Division and the Civil Society Partnerships Unit in the Division of Communication on an initiative , titled the “Faith and Positive Change for Children: Global Initiative on Social and Behaviour Change.” The project aims to generate knowledge on the specific roles, caveats, effective strategies, and demonstrated impacts of faith-based organizations in social and behavior change communications. The initiative will support faith engagement across sectors including health, development, protection, and empowerment of children throughout the life cycle, with a strong focus on the most marginalized.
Full-text available
This paper aims to present a systematic overview of key existing early warning response mechanisms and to analyse to what extent and under what conditions these mechanisms might be a useful peace and security promotion tool for regional organisations. It analyses the strengths and weaknesses of existing EWR mechanisms and the experience of regional organisations in implementing them, as well as examining why some regional organisations have failed to establish such mechanisms.
This is the first section of a two‐part article investigating the relationship between civil society and the recent wave of democratization in developing countries. It highlights the ambiguity of the term ‘civil society’ and proposes a definition which may prove serviceable in discovering the political role played by civil society in facilitating or impeding democratization. In addition to the conventional distinction between civil society and the state, the article makes further distinctions between ‘civil society’, ‘political society’ and ‘society’. It specifies several commonly held expectations about the potential political influence exerted by civil society on the character of political regimes and the behaviour of the state, and generates certain historically rooted hypotheses about these relationships. These concepts and hypotheses are intended as an analytical framework to be applied to specific country case‐studies in the second part of the article to follow in a later issue of this Journal.
Civil Society, Democratization and Development: Clearing the Analytical GroundThe Effects of Cognitive Biases on Early Warning', paper presented at the International Studies Association Annual Convention: Centre for Conflict Analysis and Prevention, United States Institute of Peace
  • Gordon White
White, Gordon (2004). 'Civil Society, Democratization and Development: Clearing the Analytical Ground', in Civil Society in Democratization, Peter Burnell and Peter Calvert (eds.) London: Frank Cass. Woocher, Lawrence (2008). 'The Effects of Cognitive Biases on Early Warning', paper presented at the International Studies Association Annual Convention, Washington, D.C.: Centre for Conflict Analysis and Prevention, United States Institute of Peace,, accessed on 3
Defining Humanitarian Early Warning Columbian International Affairs Online Moving Africa forward-The African Peace and Security Architecture
  • Howard Adelman
Adelman, Howard (1998). 'Defining Humanitarian Early Warning', in Early Warning and Early Response, S. Schmeidl and H. Adelman (eds). Columbian International Affairs Online,, accessed on 5 December, 2012. African Union (AU) (2010). Moving Africa forward-The African Peace and Security Architecture, Assessment Study,
Development for Social Change: The Challenge of Building Civil Society in Rwanda
  • Kevin Kelly
Kelly, Kevin (1999). "Development for Social Change: The Challenge of Building Civil Society in Rwanda" Trocaire Development Review (57-80).
Civil Society in AfricaEstablishing an Early Warning System in the African Peace and Security Architecture': Challenges and Prospects
  • Jean-Francois Bayart
Bayart, Jean-Francois (1998) " Civil Society in Africa, " in Political Domination in Africa, ed. Patrick Chabal. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Birikit, Terefe Tiruneh. (2010) 'Establishing an Early Warning System in the African Peace and Security Architecture': Challenges and Prospects, KAIPTC Occasional Paper No. 29 (September). Papers/Documents/Occasional-Paper-29-Birikit.aspx accessed, 13 December, 2012.
Early Warning and The Field: A Cargo Cult Science?" in Transforming Ethno political Conflict: The Berghof Handbook
  • Alex Austin
Austin, Alex (2004). "Early Warning and The Field: A Cargo Cult Science?" in Transforming Ethno political Conflict: The Berghof Handbook, Alex Austin et al. (eds.) Wiesbaden: VS-Verlag, Pp. 129-150.