REOPENING THE NEPAD DEBATE FROM A PEACE PERSPECTIVE
By Jean-Marie Kasonga Mbombo, PhD
This study is centred on the debate which followed the launching of the New Partnership for
Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in Abuja (Nigeria) in 2001. By reopening the said debatethe
paper contends that the question as to whether this blueprint for development has the
potential to turn the conflict-ridden countries around and produce a peace-friendly
environment does not come out clearly in the literature.Far from being an oversight, the
omission of its potential for promoting peace in Africa seems to imply that most critics
subscribe to the power politics which only calls for military intervention on the continent to
quell internal as well as interstate conflicts. This desk research adopts a content analysis
method in an attempt to unveil the peace agenda of the NEPAD base document in the light of
the liberal peace theory. Findings from the paper indicate that the pacifying dimension of the
NEPAD rests on the interplay of its core objectives, namely political and economic
governance, regional integration and partnership with the world at large. At the national level,
good governance precludes civil wars and stimulates interstate cooperation which in turn
facilitates a strong partnership between Africa and the rest of the world.However, the study
observes that the plan has remained largely unknown to the general public owing mainly to
the bad press which surrounded its launching fifteen years ago. As goes the saying, a bird in
the hand is worth two in the bush. Thus the paper recommends that a reactionary approach to
policy formulation which dominates African scholarship gives wayto the emergence of
innovation and creativity if critics mean well for peace and development on the continent.
Keywords: African Union, NEPAD, peace, conflict, development
About the author
Dr. Mbombo Jean Marie Kasonga is a graduate of Trinity College, University of Dublin. His
areas of interest include International Peace and Development in sub-Saharan Africa; Border
and Refugee Management in the context of Regional integration; Conflict Management and
Counter-terrorism. Currently he is a lecturer at the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies,
University of Ilorin, Nigeria; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Since the beginning of the 21stcentury, the African Union (AU) has become the new
policymaking body for Africa. It has adopted the New Partnership for Africa’s Development
(NEPAD) as a blueprint that fosters the renaissance of the continent. As far as the promotion
of peace on the continent is concerned, it is worth stressing that the launching of NEPAD in
October 2001 in Abuja (Nigeria) coincided with a critical period during which a good number
of African states were being torn apart by civil wars. As a matter of fact, rebel movements
backed by foreign troops (Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi) fought the Congolese government and
its allied forces (Angola, Chad, Namibia and Zimbabwe) in what came to be known as
Africa’s World War (Prunier, 2009). In the meantime, a crop of democratically elected
leaders pushed for the adoption of the development plan as a panacea for peace with little
support from the grassroots. This paper is centred on the debate which followed the launching
of NEPAD. By reopening the said debate fifteen years later, the paper seeks to identify the
gap in the literature from a peace perspective by way of addressing the question as to whether
this blueprint for development has the potential to turn the conflict-ridden countries around
and produce a peace-friendly environment in Africa. The study adopts a descriptive content
analysis method based on the NEPAD document in the light of the liberal peace theory and
takes into account a relevant critique emerging from the debate. The argumentation is thus
articulated around four sections as follows. The first section takes a cursory look at Africa’s
challenges that propounded the creation of the NEPAD plan with a special attention to its
main protagonists.The second section re-opens the debate by highlighting the positions of
Western scholars and their African counterparts so as to bring forward the missing item on
the table of discussion.In the third section, a brief literature review of the liberal peace theory
providesthe study with a theoretical framework in order to associate NEPAD with peace.The
last section of the paper attempts to fill the gap in the literature by describing NEPAD as a
peace project before concluding with a recommendation.
Africa’s challenges leading to NEPAD
The wind of change that blew across Eastern Europe and precipitated the fall of the
Berlin Wall eventually reached African shores in early 1990s. Pushed by the wave of
democratisation, a few dictators quickly organized multiparty elections; accepted the ballot
verdict and gracefully stepped down. Others held national conferences to delay positive
changes but allowed the formation of political parties in a desperate attempt to either buy in
opposition candidates or gerrymander a part of the electorate altogether. The unlucky among
them who led their respective countries into civil wars lost the battle when rebel movements
overran national armies in the absence of foreign support (Francis, 2006: 142).Strikingly, a
new generation of African leaders emerged in the 1990s as architects of change and staunch
supporters of the renaissance of Africa. In particular, the democratic election of President
Nelson Mandela is worth celebrating. Not only did it mark the end of the apartheid system of
government in South Africa, it also opened a window of opportunity in subsequent
continental summits. As Meredith (2005:676) argues, it was Mandela who led his peers into
self-examination at the Organisation of the African Unity (OAU) summit in June 1994: “We
must face the matter squarely that where there is something wrong in how we govern
ourselves, it must be said that the fault is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are ill-
governed.”This self-examination culminated in the Cairo Agenda for Action, which was
adopted at the OAU summit the following year and constructed around what African leaders
could do for themselves in addition to what would come from their external partners. It was
indeed a commitment made in favour of inter alia “democracy, governance, peace, security,
stability and sustainable development” (Maloka, 2006: 97).
The year 1999 witnessed the accession to power of other democratically elected
leaders in a number of countries. These include Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria), John Kufor
(Ghana), Abdelaziz Bouteflika (Algeria), Joachim Chissano (Mozambique), Alpha Oumar
Konare (Mali) and Abdoulaye Wade (Senegal). The outstanding contribution of this new
breed of politicians can be captured in the fact that for the first time at the next OAU summit
in Algeria the heads of states agreed to disown unelected governments. The Algiers
Declaration on Unconstitutional Changes of Government was indeed a milestone in the
African politics hitherto marred by dictatorship and frequent military coups d’état. In Lome
(Togo) the following year, African leaders adopted the Solemn Declaration of the Conference
on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA), establishing a
‘triangular relationship between democracy, peace/security, and development.’ The Lome
Declaration outlined a common understanding of what constitutes democratic governance and
unconstitutional changes of government (Maloka 2006: 99). Eventually in the spirit of the
Great Jubilee 2000 dominated by a global call for a fresh start, world leaders came together
and adopted a worldwide agenda for development which produced eight Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs). On their part, African leaders deemed it necessary to overhaul
the regional organisation (OAU) in order to work closely with the international community
and achieve the said goals. Discussions around debt cancellation led African leaders to move
beyond the rhetoric of blaming the colonial past in order to become actors of their own
destiny. They decided therefore to take charge of their own problems through joint efforts
instead of leaving it to the rest of the world to dictate the solutions to them.The question of
transforming a declaration into a policy led political leaders to design appropriate vehicles for
change. On top of the list was the drafting of a development plan that could facilitate the
integration of the continent in the global economy while improving the life of African people.
The mandate to develop such an integrated socio-economic development framework for
Africa went to four Heads of State (Algeria, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa).
The Lusaka OAU summit (July 2001) decided that the three important plans still in
the making should merge into the New Africa Initiative (NAI). These include (1) the
Millennium Africa Recovery Plan (MAP) initiated by the then South African President Thabo
Mbeki with the support of his Nigerian and Algerian counterparts O. Obasanjo and A.
Bouteflika respectively; (2) the Omega Plan proposed by the then Senegalese President A.
Wade; and (3) the Compact Initiative for Africa coming from the Economic Commission for
Africa. Indeed the merger of these three plans informs the urgency of a continental strategy
for the development of Africa as a whole. The rationale behind these plans is based on the
premise that “Africa must assume the primary responsibility for that effort” (Nabudere 2002,
54). Finally on October 23, 2001 in Abuja (Nigeria) the approved plan (NAI) was baptised
the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). At the first meeting of the Heads
of State Implementation Committee (HSIC) on the same day, the leaders also set up a seven-
member Steering Committee, an Implementation Committee of twenty Heads of State and a
Secretariatto be located in Midrand (South Africa). The foregoing indicates that the NEPAD
builds upon the legacy of the OAU whose many achievements include among other things the
adoption of the Lagos Plan of Action (1980); the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention,
Management and Resolution (1993); Solemn Declaration on the Conference on Security,
Stability, Development and Cooperation (2000). Against this backdrop, the plan appears both
as a vision and a strategy for the renaissance of Africa that takes into account many issues
including human development, peace and security. However, the NEPAD’s potential for
connecting countries through joint development projects and preventing interstate
conflictsappears as the missing item on the table of discussion. By reopening the debate
which greeted the launching of NEPAD, the next section attempts to identify the gap in the
literature from a peace perspective.
Reopening the debate
At various forums, many analysts have dealt with the crucial question as to whether
NEPAD is a blueprint development plan for Africa or another false start. As early as April
2002, two major gatherings took place in West and East Africa simultaneously. The Council
for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) in conjunction with
the Third World Network-Africa (TWN-Africa) formally launched the NEPAD debate at the
Accra Conference (Adesina 2006). Under the auspices of the African Academy of Sciences,
the Heinrich Boll Foundation and the Mazingira Institute, a similar forum took place in
Nairobi (Kenya) to reflect critically on the NEPAD concept and agenda. Putting more weight
on the need to use African values in defining core concepts such as peace, democracy and
development, the Nairobi forum produced a set of interesting recommendations. These
include among other things (1) the development of a concept of peace and justice, which are
anchored on Women’s liberation and participation in governance, and the prevention of the
use of biotechnology for promoting conflict; (2) the commissioning of a group of scholars
charged with the task of overhauling NEPAD as it is, and developing a viable, alternative
framework (Anyang Nyong’o, 2002, viii.).Four years after the adoption of NEPAD by the
AU (November 2005), the African Finance and Economic Association (AFEA) and the
United Nations Institute of African Economic Development and Planning (IDEP) convened
another international conference in Dakar (Senegal) which brought together African and
Africanist experts, researchers, academics and representatives of civil society drawn from
Africa, North America and Europe with the mission of finding ways of improving the
implementation of the plan (Boko, 2008). There are certainly many more contributions that
cannot be listed here but taken together they point to the growing interest in this development
plan which is worth studying in detail. Maloka (2006) recapitulates the debate by grouping
the NEPAD critics into two clusters, namely Western-backed and African scholars.
Western scholars along with some NGOs maintain that NEPAD is a renewed form of
securing aid from donor countries to keep alive the patron-client relationship which is
characteristic of African politics and unless this relationship is broken, the plan is doomed to
founder in the same way it happened in the past. As the title of his book suggests, Taylor
(2005) questions the assumption that NEPAD provides a road map for Africa’s development
before concluding that the plan is another false start for a number of reasons. How the plan
emerged and what makes it different from the previous initiatives constitute the opening
chapters of his book, thus setting the stage for the debate about African development.
According to him, most of the previous initiatives have been elite-driven and their failure
should be attributed to the lack of capacity, resources and political will (Taylor 2005: 32). On
their part, African critics and activists on the continent join hands in rejecting the NEPAD
base document. Little wonder that the launching of the plan was followed by the African
Social Forum in Bamako (Mali) which produced a joint declaration in 2002: “We do not
accept NEPAD!! Another Africa is possible”(Maloka, 2006: 87). Indeed most African critics
perceive NEPAD as a disguised way of doing business as usual in Africa by rich countries
and their financial agencies. Their campaign aims at clamping down what seems to be a new
vehicle for the exploitation of African by foreign agents. Co-editor of the book under review,
Adesina begins with a portrait of the prevailing crisis in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) resulting
from violent conflicts, civil war, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, economic stagnation and poverty.
The scholar then argues that the plan has embraced the core policies of the Bretton Woods
Institutions which have crippled Africa’s development for the past two decades. Accordingly,
the plan appears as a repeat prescription of old cures. Though he endorses the conditions laid
down in the document for sustainable development, namely peace, security and good
governance, he remarks that these issues have been addressed long before the launching of
the NEPAD and should not be part of the debate. The scholar strongly believed that only in
confronting global inequality will the African predicamentbe adequately addressed (Adesina,
2006).The short review below highlights a series of emerging issues from the debate before
pointing to the gap in the literature as far as building peace on the continent is concerned: a
top-down initiative, gender and HIV/AIDS, African peer review mechanism and neoliberal
project among other things.
A top-down initiative
NEPAD appears in the eyes of its many critics as a top-down initiative that “has not
been a part of the discourse and the subject of debate within African countries from its
inception” (Taylor, 2005: 134). Bond (2005:233) argues that, “in spite of its proclaimed
recognition of the central role of the African people to the plan, the African people have not
played any part in the conception, design and formulation of NEPAD.” It seems however that
NEPAD critics are putting the cart before the horse in their demand for popular participation
because only a democratic society can produce a civil society that is participative in the
decision making through popular consultation and not the other way around. As Eade (2000:
128) contends, “civil society groups coalesce not on the basis of primordial attachments
(ethnicity, language, religion), but rather on ‘small issues’ that cut across such boundaries and
bring people together in new coalitions.” Given that the political space in Africa has been
hitherto the abode of the junta in most countries, “only the courageous or the foolhardy would
insist on linking economic development with freedom of association, human rights and
peoples’ participation” (Adedeji, 2008: 245).So far, any popular movement that seems to
oppose the interests of the ruling party has always been framed in terms of ethnic clashes by
the same experts of African politics.
Contrary to most critics however, the plan translates the mandate of elected leaders
that supposedly must act on behalf of their respective constituencies. According to the base
document, “while African leaders derive their mandates from their people, it is their role to
articulate these plans and lead the processes of implementation on behalf of their people”
(NEPAD, 2001: #47). This was not the case in the 1980 Lagos Plan of Action that was
mainly supported by undemocratic governments under the auspices of the OAU. In an
interview with Newsweek magazine as quoted by Tadesse (2002), the then Senegalese
president A. Wade contends that “what distinguishes NEPAD from the preceding recovery
plans is that while previous plans were written by experts and never read by Heads of State,
NEPAD was worked out by Chiefs of State.” This is one of the plan’s strengths because its
architects have recognised the triangular link between development on the one hand, and
governance, democratisation, and peace and security on the other (Landsberg, 2008: 208).
Interestingly the initial rejection of the elite-driven NEPAD seems to originate from an
appraisal of the then South African President Thabo Mbeki’s handling of the Zimbabwe crisis
(Taylor 2005: 122). As it appears in the analysis of most Western-based critics, the inability
of the African leaders as a whole to openly challenge the notorious regime of President
Robert Mugabe has downplayed the credibility of the NEPAD plan. In particular, “Zimbabwe
is NEPAD’s credibility test, and so far Mbeki has failed to pass it (Sparks 2003: 326;
Meredith, 2005: 326; Taylor 2005: 125).It begs the question as to why should one single
country out of fifty four, say Zimbabwe, become a test case for the NEPAD’s credibility
which Thabo Mbeki has failed when at the UN General Assembly, President Robert Mugabe
continues to occupy the country’s seat? Is the UN less important than the AU when it gives
voices to the world dictators? Would NEPAD be more marketable if South Africa under the
ANC leadership enforced democracy in Zimbabwe just the way the United States under the
administration of President George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, captured its leader and left
What the critics of South Africa’s leadership role seem to conceal is the fear that the
anti-White virus which has crippled the Zimbabwean economy under President Mugabe
would soon infect South Africa where the dominating ruling party (ANC) has the tendency to
turn the government into a one-party system to the detriment of the White minority.In an
interview with Sparks, Mbeki has this to say:
I am not saying the things that are going on in Zimbabwe are right. But I am
saying the extraordinary preoccupation with what is going on in Zimbabwe in
reality has got to do with white fears in South Africa. What they are afraid of
is, here are these black people across the border doing these terrible things to
white people. What assurance do we have that they won’t do the same thing to
white people here? That is the issue. And that’s all (Sparks, 2003: 327).
If the face value of the NEPAD is associated with individual leaders, much of the critiques no
longer hold water because some of the targeted figures have proved to be true democrats
when they peacefully handed over power to the winners of presidential elections in their
respective countries (Mbeki, Obasanjo, Kufor, and Wade among others).
Gender and HIV/AIDS
With regards to the issues of gender and HIV/AIDS, Taylor (2005: 128) argues that
both represent the two missing dimensions of the development project under review. The
scholar does not see how a recovery plan devised by elite men for elite men can speak for all
the people, including African women. Whatever is said about gender equality should be
interpreted as “a contentless, politically-correct gesture of window-dressing probably
required by donor ‘partners.” Does the mere absence of women among the elite male who
drafted the NEPAD document constitute an affront against women on the continent? Are we
talking about single or married women, careerists or caring mothers, city dwellers or rural
peasants, educated or illiterate, Christian or Muslim? Apparently these many attributes of
women are not taken into consideration when some critics of NEPAD claim that gender is not
properly addressed in the plan (Randriamaro, 2006).To have a few women in top position
does not necessarily mean that a given policy is gender-friendly.Given that in Africa, most
women happen to be caring mothers, uneducated and rural dwellers, it may be misleading to
ignore these clusters when gender issues are being addressed globally. Gender must rather
challenge the so-called African culture and her many values that cause African women to
suffer and die in silence as ordained by the tradition.
NEPAD sceptics strongly contend also that African leaders have failed to
acknowledge the HIV/AIDS pandemic as a development setback. According to them, these
leaders simply expect the means to fight such pandemics to come from outside of Africa
when they appeal to the donor countries for an increased financial support to fight HIV/AIDS
(Taylor,2005: 137). Though more prevalent in Africa than elsewhere, HIV/AIDS is still a
global issue to be addressed with global means just as it is the case for climate change and the
war on terror. In Conversations with Myself, Mandela (2010: 329) argues that AIDS is a
major problem to be tackled by the entire world with a worldwide multi-faceted strategy. To
add insult to injury, a colossal amount of money is badly needed not to finance education,
infrastructure or health generally but to secure the high cost of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to
the affected population to the benefit of Western pharmaceuticals. Heeding the clarion call
from analysts as of July 2006, most African leaders have finally incorporated the HIV/AIDS
issue in the healthcare budget of their respective nations. In concrete terms, they have agreed
to channel 15% of their national budget to healthcare in order to implement “an African
Common Position that calls for Accelerated Action towards Universal Access to HIV and
AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Services in Africa” (Ndinga-Muvumba, 2008: 171). This is
probably a technical way of getting back what goes out as development aid.
African peer review mechanism (APRM)
Under the old regime (OAU), solidarity among leaders became somehow
synonymous with complicity in evildoing when no one was expected to challenge their
counterparts on internal affairs of state. The creation of the APRM concretises the proposal
made by the Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee of the AU in Abuja
that “NEPAD countries should subject themselves to a voluntary self-assessment process to
review progress in the achievement of mutually agreed targets and compliance with mutually
agreed standards” (Afekhena, 2006: 132).According to Adedeji (2008: 242) the mechanism
“has the potential for holding leaders accountable, for seeking collective sustainable and
equitable solutions to common problems, and for making all forms and levels of governance
transparent.” However, even before the APRM panel of Eminent Persons began its work in
2003, NEPAD scrappers had already reduced it to a quid pro quo for more aid from donor
countries as if the law of nature has ruled out the improvement of African politics. In other
words, APRM is perceived as a disguised mechanism for extraversion that only “facilitates
increased aid and foreign investment into the country, depending on the grade achieved.”
(Collier 2008: 63).
APRM concretises a search for African solutions to African problems with the
willingness “to let outsiders examine national findings and express a view on how a country
is governed is a new experience that should be encouraged” (Afkhena, 2006: 147).Landsberg
(2008: 221) contends that “African states have repeatedly asserted that they will police
themselves, not through punishment, but using the APRM to encourage good democratic
behaviour.”Countries already reviewed so far include Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya and Nigeria.
To illustrate the merit of the APRM, the review report on Ghana underscores among other
things the country’s best practice in its commitment to build and sustain peace within a
volatile sub-region. Such a laudable effort to promote civil peace is palpable in the peaceful
elections and transfers of government from one political party to another over the years. The
post-genocide Rwanda’s review recommends among other things that the country harmonizes
its domestic laws to international legal norms and standards; deepens national reconciliation
efforts; and encourages a policy of inclusiveness that wins the trust of all citizens (Afekhena,
2006: 138). Commenting on the country review report, the Nigerian government
acknowledges the role of traditional rulers as custodians and promoters of the culture and
tradition of the people but the report strongly recommends that the institution of Royal
Fathers be insulated from partisan politics and made accountable to higher authorities
(African Peer Review Mechanism Country Review Report, 2008: 12).
A neoliberal project
As it emerges from the debate, most critics concur with the view that NEPAD is a
neoliberal project in consonance with major international financial institutions (WB, IMF,
and WTO) whose policies are designed to keep the exploitation of Africa going under the
disguise of a new partnership with the developed nations.Actually the document under review
contains a number of references to financial institutions dubbed neoliberal (NEPAD 2001,
#184).The rejection of the NEPAD plan among African scholars reflects a general
disapproval of IMF-imposed SAPs on poor economies but it runs the risk of absolving
corrupt and autocratic leaders whose personal assets exceeding national debts of their
respective poor states are safely kept in Swiss vaults.However, the question as to whether the
renaissance of Africa can escape the predatory system of neoliberalism in this era of rapid
changes without turning the continent as it were, into an epicentre of growing poverty and
armed conflicts does not come out clearly in the debate. The failure of Structural Adjustment
Programmes to turn African economies around is not enough to decry neoliberalism in Africa
when one party-system of government and nationalisation of the economy have proved to be
detrimental to the socio-economic development of Africa over four decades (Saad-Filho et.al
2005). Moreover, opponents of NEPAD seem to overlook the political zeitgeist at the turn of
the new millennium in which democracy and state legitimacy are tied together by the
international community. These two concepts “have been redefined to include accountable
government, a culture of human rights and popular participation as central elements”
(NEPAD, 2001: #43).
Baylis (2008: 132) contends that peace and prosperity necessitated that “independent
states pool their resources and even surrender some of their sovereignty to create integrated
communities to promote economic growth or respond to regional problems.” Countries that
fail to go with the flow run the risk of falling apart. Accordingly, cooperation among states
rather than autarky is central to the neoliberal ideology. As Steans et.al (2005: 40) argue,
“Neoliberalism is built upon the assumption that states need to develop strategies and forums
for cooperation over a whole set of new issues and areas.” For instance, collective security is
no longer confined to the realm of the military and intelligence. It rather includes issues of
common interest ranging from climate change, environment, poverty, pandemics and natural
disasters among others. A cooperative multilateralism suggests a plethora of actors both state
and nonstate, local and external, each according to their areas of interest and expertise,
sometimes referred to as global governance (Dufield, 2001). What matters therefore is for the
leadership in Africa to learn from past mistakes instead of trying to reinvent the wheel in the
midst of sustained propaganda unleashed by prevailing colonial scholarship. One of the many
lessons that can be learnt from the IMF-bailout policies is that in the past, financial deals in
Africa were signed behind closed doors between International Financial Institutions (IFI)
officials and autocratic leaders. Such secret bailouts were treated like generous loans issued
by donor agencies to some leaders in support of their longstanding friendships and as a result,
much of the money ended up in private bank accounts. But in democratic countries such as
Ireland, Italy and Greece, both IFIs and respective cabinet ministers with the support of
parliaments engage openly in a series of high-level meetings to determine the kind of
conditions which must be attached to the loans without compromising the life of future
Everything considered, it may be easy to visualise another Africa unstained by
neoliberalism but as the saying goes, ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.’Even
though NEPAD is donned in the neoliberal outfit, it does not put Africa on sale as long
potential buyers still perceive the continent as a high-risk zone for foreign investments.
Neither does a continental initiative concerned with developmental strategies need to become
a tool of subversion against globalisation in order to attract the approval of its many
scrappers. Landsberg (2008: 214) critically observes that “many NGOs appear to have
developed ideological hang-ups with NEPAD that they battle to overcome. They are not very
good at offering policy alternatives to redirect and redefine NEPAD.”Fifteen years after the
launching of NEPAD, African scholars and their corresponding sponsors (NGOs) are yet to
come up with an alternative plan that is bottom-up, peace-friendly and unique to Africa in
order to concretise the total rejection of NEPAD.Moreover, much of the discussion
concerning the relevance of the plan has eluded the question as to whether NEPAD has the
potential to turn African nations around as far as peace is concerned.This is the missing item
on the table of discussion which this paper puts forward by reopening the debate. But before
proceeding any further, the next section discusses the liberal peace theory as a theoretical
frameworkthat sheds light on the peace agenda of NEPAD.
Most scholars concur that the liberal peace theory originates in the classic work of
Immanuel Kant,To Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch (1795). The philosopher
contrasts what he describes as ‘the lawless state of savagery’ with a project of long-lasting
peace among nations whose foundation requires the implementation of three principles
(articles), namely republican constitution, federation of free states and universal hospitality
(cosmopolitan right). First, a focus on the highest political authority of a state unveils three
types of sovereignty, namely aristocracy, monarchyand republicanism. The Kantian
republicanism, contend Danilovicet.al (2007: 399), is different from the Greek notion of
direct democracy in which all citizens exercise executive power: “The question that matters
most to Kant is not who rules – he goes so far to note that even monarchy can be republican –
but rather whether the policy reflects the general will of the people.”Kant makes it clear that
democracy in its narrow meaning (people’s rule) parallels with tyranny of the majority
(despotism) when it is reduced to an executive power in which all citizens make decisions
about and, if need be, against one who therefore does not agree (Stewart, 1997). In the
absence of checks and balance, the despotic ruler applies the laws he alone has made, thus
transforming the public will into his own will.Only in the strict observance of the republican
constitution underpinned by the people’s representativeness can a government be guarded
against the double evil of anarchy and despotism.
Second, the federation of free states targets a kind of collective security pact known as
a league of peace.Just as self-interested individuals ratify common laws and observe them
without losing their individual freedom, sovereign states can form an association of like-
minded nations based on common aspirations (international laws) in order to transform the
anarchical behaviour of states into cooperation at the international level.According to Kant, a
league of peace (foedus pacificum) is different from a treaty of peace(pactum pacis) because
“the latter seeks merely to stop one war, while the former seeks to end all wars forever”
(Kant, 1795: 8).Third, from a perspective of people living in each state, the league of peace
affirms the citizens’ common right to peace with a snowballing effect beyond national
boundaries (cosmopolitan right). Taken together, the people’s right to peace overtakes the
right of nations to go to war with other nations (anarchy). In the long run, this cosmopolitan
right will facilitate the emergence of “a nation of peoples (civitas gentium), that (continuingly
growing) will finally include all the people of the earth” (Kant, 1795: 8). Not only does the
cosmopolitan right of people embody universal hospitality, it also makes economic exchange
(trade) an important dimension of the global society. In short, the Kantian peace has a triple
dimension. It is a process of coexistence among citizens under the provision of the rule of law
(republican constitution), which enablessimilar independent states to form a federation. The
latter confers a cosmopolitan right upon people beyond national boundaries and promotes
universal hospitality. How does the Kantian peace with its vision of a cosmopolitan society
put on the mantel of the liberal peace?
Toward the end of World War I (1914-18) which pitted great powers against each
other, US President W. Wilson sought American intervention for a post-war settlement in
Europe which was to become a milestone for international peace. According to Mansbach et
al. (2008: 25), Wilson’s contribution at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1917 was “to
make the world safe for democracy.” He thus became “the first statesman to articulate what is
now called the democratic peace thesis” (Paris, 2004: 41).On his part, Michael Doyle
undertakes to test Kant’s principles of perpetual peace in his famous article, Kant, Liberal
Legacies, and Foreign Affairs (1983) with a focus on the behaviour of liberal states in their
foreign policies over a period of 180 years. His empirical study reveals not only the growth in
number of constitutional republics but also the development of a pacific union among them
“as if the Kantian treaty had already been signed” (Doyle, 1983: 227). Doyle is credited for
being the first scholar to establish a correlation between liberal states and peace by stating
thatliberal states by their very nature do not go to war against each other.Referring to Kant’s
three articles of peace, he argues that “No one of these constitutional, international or
cosmopolitan sources is alone sufficient, but together (and only where together) they
plausibly connect the characteristics of liberal politics and economies with sustained liberal
peace” (Doyle, 1983: 232).Although Doyle’s study is concerned with the way liberal states
behave toward each other and toward their non-liberal counterparts, the article devotes an
important part of the argument to the appreciation of the legacies of liberalism espoused by
Immanuel Kant and centred on individual freedom. As the scholar contends, this particular
kind of freedom is “a belief in the importance of moral freedom, of the right to be treated and
a duty to treat others as ethical subjects, and not as objects or means only” (Doyle, 1983:
206). Thus, a liberal state refers to a nation of citizens whose rights are respected under the
rule of law. However, the application of the Doyle theory raises the question as to whether
any correlation exists between peace and demos-kratos (democracy) to support the
democratic peace theory.
MacMillan argues that the distinction between democracies and other systems of
government serves as an alibi for the use of violence by some states in the name of
democracy, thus misreading the work of Kant. As he puts it, “Liberals will presume other
liberal states to be just and therefore deserving of accommodation; but presume non-liberal
states to be unjust, and therefore regard them with deep suspicion” (MacMillan, 2006: 54).
Rasleret. al. (2005: 33) contend that the role of democracy (as regime type) in creating the
Western zone of peace has been overemphasized. The scholars rather suggest that whatever
has caused the emergence of this political system may also be responsible for the ensuing
peace among such states. Newman (2007: 109) argues that the democratic peace does not
develop into a more broad liberal peace: “while the ‘democratic peace thesis’ has attained
empirical validity in terms of peaceful relations between states, the ‘liberal peace’ is now
promoted conceptually and in policy circles as a panacea for peace and development within
states.” In the democratic peace theory, democracy is treated as the only independent variable
for a dyadic peace/war relation associated with the Wilson approach (interventionism). It is
therefore misleading to use democratic and liberal peace interchangeably as it appears in the
literature. Whereas the democratic peace focuses only on dyadic behaviours of democracies
and the rest, the liberal peace provides empirical explanations for international cooperation of
republics (federation of free states) by means of international laws and trade. The foregoing
has provided the study with a theoretical framework which is central to the assessment of the
NEPAD from a peace perspective in the next section.
Peace through NEPAD
In his analysis of NEPAD, Seck (2008: 22) defines behavioural priorities listed in it as
the enabling factors for the success of the initiative, associated with “the way in which
Africans want to conduct their affairs.”These actors’ behaviours are apparent in their claim
for democracy and political, economic and corporate governance, peace and security,
regional co-operation and integration, promoting diversification, capacity building and
market access. In contrast, sectoral priorities target the creation of wealth (agriculture,
infrastructure, education, health, environment, energy and new technologies of information
and communication). Whereasthe study of behavioural priorities belongs to the social
sciences, an analysis of sectoral priorities requires the expertise of financial economics. In the
light of this analytic classification, it makes sense that the rest of the study centres on the
behavioural priorities in order to take the NEPAD on board the peace research discipline.
Reflecting on the causes of armed conflicts on the continent, the authors of NEPAD have this
Long-term conditions for ensuring peace and security in Africa require policy
measures for addressing the political and social vulnerabilities on which
conflict is premised. These are dealt with by the political and economic
governance initiatives, the capital flows and market access initiatives and the
human development initiative (NEPAD, 2001: 73).
Apparently, the pacifying strength of this development plan rests on the correlation of three
core concepts: political and economic governance, regional integration and partnership with
the world at large.
Political and economic governance
Landsberg (2008: 211) argues that “NEPAD is premised on the attainment of peace
and stability through sound governance based on democratic values and principles.” The
exercise of power lies at the heart of both government and governance but these two concepts
are not synonyms. Whereas government or rule is associated with the nature of power
(totalitarian, autocratic, or democratic), governance addresses the question of how power
affects the general public politically, economically and socially. State-focused, good
governance is an attribute of a government that is not only democratically elected and
accountable to the people but also capable of protecting its citizenry, defending its national
territory and developing its economy accordingly. It is tautological to state that bad
governance practice is characteristic of a government that exposes its people to poverty and
war. In a nutshell, good governance implies the respect of the rule of law (republican
constitution). Unfortunately, the concept of good governance gained currency only in the
nineties as a result of the paradigm shift in the development literature of the post-Cold War.
Since then, both Western governments and International Financial Institutions (IFIs) have
tied development aid and pluralism together and good governance has become the catchword
for popular participation, transparency, accountability and the rule of law. Given that poverty
and war are familiar bedfellows in Africa, a development plan that seeks to improve the
living conditions of the people through the mechanism of good governance offers ipso facto
an alternative to armed struggle when the capacities of actors to use natural resources to
finance conflicts are curtailed. This pro-active approach to liberal peacebuilding is more
explicit in the context of regional cooperation by ways of fostering mutual interests and
Under the auspices of the OAU, strict adherence to the UN determining principle of
non-interference in internal matters of member states implied the scrupulous endorsement of
national boundaries bequeathed by colonialism. As a result, African leaders would rush to
ratify international treaties which only guaranteed the sovereignty of the state such as the UN
and its sister agencies but remain less enthusiastic about genuine cooperation at the regional
level (Herbst, 2007). In such a context of mistrust, border rivalries and controls were more
damaging to the movement of peoples and goods as long as individual states held on to the
hub-and-spoke relationship which once characterised the colonies and their respective
metropoles (Adedeji, 2002: 300). Accordingly, rich nations took advantage of this lack of
common policies in many ways including the ratification of preferential agreements with
some African countries bilaterally (Taylor, 2010: 98). Even though the Lagos Plan of Action
(1980) underscored the establishment of regional economic communities in order to revive
the continent through self-reliance, lack of political will that dominated the minds of
autocrats coupled with a dearth of regional infrastructure impeded the implementation of such
a laudable but ‘economically illiterate’ prescription. The deficiency of regional cooperation
was more apparent in the context of civil wars of 1990s involving neighbouring states. Here
and there, economic disintegration in one state spilled over and fanned regional conflicts.
From Liberia and Sierra Leone to Rwanda and DRC to name but a few, neighbouring
countries provided logistical bases for rebel groups to fight unpopular regimes and trigger
regime change. Consequently in West Africa, the Economic Commission of West African
States (ECOWAS) that came into being in 1975 for the purpose of market integration within
the sub-region became more effective through its military wing of the Nigeria-led Economic
Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG).
Since its inception however, NEPAD has provided the incentive for regional
economic communities (RECs) to implement their economic agendas hitherto undermined by
the colonial politics of hub and spokes. Unlike its predecessors, this continental development
plan lays a particular emphasis on the benefits of strong and reliable infrastructure networks
for the regional integration to become effective. Such infrastructure networks are clustered
into four sub-sectors: (a) energy; (b) water and sanitation, (c) transport; (d) information and
communication technology. These include: West Corridor: Inga III Power Stations on the
Congo River and transmission Interconnections; Missing links of Djibouti-Libreville
Transport corridor; Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya Interconnection Project; Isaka-Kigali-
Bujumbura Railway, Gambia River Bridge; and Brazzaville-Kinshasa Rail/Road Bridge to
name but a few.To borrow from the peace building efforts in Europe, this African initiative is
reminiscent of the Schuman plan which brought harmony between the warring parties in
Europe to date. Against the backdrop of the Second World War, French Foreign Minister
Robert Schuman argued in 1950 that the pooling together of the raw materials in high
demand for the production of munitions (coal and steel) would turn France and Germany into
economic partners, thus making war between them not only unthinkable but materially
impossible (Dinan 2005). Interstate peace is likely to prevail when cooperation between
countries translates a common destiny in terms of resource management at the regional level
and improves the continent’s relationship with the outside world. The promotion of regional
integration places the NEPAD signatories in the liberal tradition of cooperation among
independent states in the light of the Kantian second article, namely federation of free
Partnership with developed nations
The new crop of African leaders refuse to be bound by the past but hold that, “it is
within the capacity of the international community to create fair and just conditions in which
Africa can participate effectively in the global economy and body politic” (NEPAD, 2001:
#41).Under the clause of the new partnership with the developed nations, principled pressure
is needed from international actors to tie substantial flows of development assistance to the
institutions of governance (African legislatures, judiciaries, counter-corruption commissions)
in order to rid the continent of personal rule (Diamond, 2010).By engaging once again with
the West hitherto blamed for the continent’s retardation, the new leadership seems to have
overcome the conspiracy theory with the claim of NEPAD’s leadership and ownership. This
is a new way of doing business with the developed world in which Africa no longer takes the
seat of an observer but a partner whose contribution cannot be ignored. Partnership does not
imply equality of powers but a relationship that implies the sharing of burden and reward
based on mutual respect and accountability. As one of the NEPAD officials contends, “even
if Africa were the junior partner, this does not in itself, diminish the respectability that Africa
gains as it redefines and redesigns its relationship with the rest of the world” (Dogonyaro,
2002: 325). In this way, the gains accrued to Africa can be multiform.
For instance, fighting corruption in Africa will involve the commitments of Western
nations where much of the dirty money has always been laundered and granted asylum in
their vaults (Swift, 2002).Back in Africa, most countries now streamline their policies to
appreciate the valuable contribution of the Diaspora in various fields of expertise.It is
expected that the developed nations assist in making Africa more attractive not only to
foreign investors and aid agencies but also to the local manpower that is forced to leave the
continent as a result of armed conflict and lack of opportunities. To develop incentives for
African academics and other trained staff to return to or stay in Africa requires a joint effort
(partnership) between the North and the South. Africa will succeed in capping the brain drain
when the immigration policy in the developed nations help the migrant workers of African
descent to think twice before settling down in their countries of adoption without depriving
their countries of origin of their needed skills and expertise. As far as the power relation is
concerned, a new partnership with the rich and powerful nations also implies strategic
alliances that put a premium on human development instead of militarisation. Owing to the
fact that most donor countries are also the top manufacturers of weapons being shipped
around the world, the imperative of economic progress impels African leaders to recast the
‘Everything But Arms’ (EBA) initiative between EU and Least Developed countries agreed
upon in 2001 in order to cut military spending, contain the proliferation of light weapons on
the continent and focus on developmental projects. The rise of China, India and Brazil as
important trade partners adds another layer to the new partnership which goes beyond
Africa’s traditional partner (Europe). The continental vision for economic developmentstands
out as a peace project when “the resources of the world currently dedicated to resolving civil
and interstate conflict could therefore be freed for more rewarding endeavours” (NEPAD,
This study has reopened the debate on the NEPAD and found out that the plan’s
potential to prevent conflicts by ways of integrating peoples and nations through joint
development projects has not been discussed enough. Instead, many eminent scholars wish to
find in the NEPAD base document a revival of Pan-Africanism accompanied with a corporate
commitment from the African elite to break away from Western institutions dubbed
neoliberal (Murithi 2008). They decry the lack of popular consultation in designing the plan
as well as the little concern given to salient issues such as HIV/AIDS and Gender by the
political elites. What’s more, the failure of the all-male political elite to cast the first stone at
their Zimbabwean counterpart, Robert Mugabe for his record of human rights violations
discredits the claim contained in the peer review mechanism. The Zimbabwe case also
discounts the credibility of the plan to walk the talk. On the whole the blueprint for Africa’s
development appears in the eyes of its critics as a repeat of the same old cure that has failed
to heal the wounded continent.
However, as it emerges from the debate, any serious study about Africa has
something to say about NEPAD because its agenda of development overlaps many fields of
research, including peace and security. This paper has painted a rather modest image of
NEPAD that attests to the author’s association with Afro-optimism. By focusing on its core
objectives (good governance, regional integration and partnership with the developed
nations) it has described NEPAD as a peace project in the Kantian tradition. As civil rule
gains currency in post-Cold War Africa, civil wars are fast receding and within the provision
of APRM, like-minded leaders are learning from one another’ success and failure. Regional
cooperation facilitates a strong partnership between Africa and the rest of the world. It is
neverthelesstoo ambitious to credit the plan with peace on the continent when, right from the
onset, critics have rallied around to cramp it.Needless to say, the inability of NEPAD to meet
its objectives is a reflection of the growing gap between the leaders at the top and the
followers at the bottom of the ladder. As a way forward, the paper recommends that a
reactionary approach to policy formulation which dominates African scholarship gives way
to the emergence of innovation and creativity if critics mean well for the renaissance of the
continent. In other words, a constructive critique must include workable alternatives so as not
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