Accepted Paper:

Spatiality, power and peace in Africa: revisiting territorial power-sharing  


Franzisca Zanker (Arnold-Bergstraesser Institute)
Claudia Simons (Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung)
Andreas Mehler (Arnold Bergstraesser Institute)

Paper short abstract:

Using fieldwork data from Burundi, DRC, Kenya and Liberia we find a broader definition of territorial power-sharing more useful for understanding conflict resolution. This is reflected in the historical separation of power and spatiality, making “classic” spatial autonomy tools less relevant.

Paper long abstract:

Power-sharing agreements have become a blueprint solution to end violent conflicts in many world regions, most notably in Africa, despite criticism of their suitability and long-term repercussions. An influential categorization distinguishes four types of power-sharing, one being territorial power-sharing - the only type that intends to affect the local level of conflict dynamics. These local conflict dynamics have often been neglected in the current literature, despite the impact they can have on levels of peacefulness within a country. In order to add to the current debate we argue that a review of the importance of the relationship between spatiality and power in Africa is necessary. Finding that historically control and power over space is not deemed as important as over people, it is of no surprise that federalism especially, but also fully implemented decentralisation policies remain scarce in African post-conflict politics. Nonetheless, a broader understanding of other dimensions of territorial power-sharing - including indirect effects and informal arrangements - permits a more nuanced and sophisticated approach towards its usage as a conflict resolution tool. Informed by our fieldwork in Burundi, DRC, Kenya and Liberia, we show some of the complexities of these broader dimensions of territorial power-sharing.

Panel P027
Territory and community: the scalar dimensions of political authority, identity and conflict in contemporary Africa