New handbook out now: The International Mediator

Dear reader.

After a long time of promises and little bite size intellectual snippets, I have been able to write it all down and I am able to now offer you a glimpse into a soft-launch price offered by one of the platforms supported by the publisher:

International mediation is both an art and science. In order to shed some light and to learn from instances of political mediation, this study will focus on political mediation as a means of conflict regulation, whereby a violent conflict is terminated and the mandated third party assists the parties in finding new or different structures and mechanisms to address their underlying grievances. Based on 5 distinct phases, the handbook will attempt to illustrate and demonstrate the general mechanisms of the mediation process, from starting the mediation process to reaching a mediated outcome. Finally, a complex case study of the Sudan Mediations will be used to make sense of the presented mediation model. The handbook will then conclude with some key lessons learned from the case study and general overall final thoughts. As such, it is dedicated to inform the curious one, to serve as a thinking companion for the more learned practitioner, and to provoke further conceptual designing and innovation with the policy maker in order to continue working toward the establishment of a basic epistemology of mediation.

Therefore, if you can purchase a few books also for your local library to spread the message, please check the site, get your discount and then spread the word.

Always looking forward to your comments, feedbacks, critical thinking!




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My new handbook is out soon!

Dear reader.

It has taken me some time to come back to this site. As you certainly will know, the fact of accumulated experience sometimes drives you to re-evaluate the way the knowledge is being distributed, reflected on and processed.

After posting a lot of insights on this webpage, I thought that the best way to continue the conversation is to start from a position of proposition. And, this is now coming true. Due to my relentless editor and great support from my family and local community, I can say that the first attempt to get out and to start a conversation is to provoke. Which is why I decided to work on and publish about international mediation in the form of a popular and non-scientific approach to an art of conflict management which is more and more become science.

I will advertise is it on all relevant social media and I will be returning to this website as soon as the product is finally available.

Looking forward to be reading about your comments and suggestions.

See you around.


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Presenting at MPSA 2017 in Chicago

Dear reader!

Time to get back into the field of academia and research and share with esteemed colleagues the latest from the field.

This year, one can find me at the 75th annual MPSA conference to be held in Chicago from April 6th – 10th, 2017 at the Hilton Palmer House.

With a packed schedule, you can listen to my findings in the following tracks:

1.) On political mediation: Political Mediation

2.) On the Africanization of democracy: Elections

3.) On International Relations in Africa: International Relations in Africa

4.) On non-violent resistance and the Battle for Freedom: Non-violent resistance

And follow me under @urduz and #MPSA17

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Prudence or caution? ECOWAS interventions

Dear reader.

Good to have you back.

Many of the African experts wonder whether ECOWAS’ most recent intervention in The Gambia marks a turning point in the history of the community’s unstable dealing with challenges to peace and security in the region.

Likely not.

The overall trend in West Africa suggests that ECOWAS takes political crisis case by case, and that its m.o. is to proceed with caution.

Three cases in point:

1.) In Niger in 2009, then President Mamadou Tandja forced through a referendum under flawed voting conditions that lifted the country’s two-term presidential limit. In response, ECOWAS said it no longer recognized Tandja as Niger’s president and demanded that he step down – but a military intervention was not in the works. Tandja was ultimately removed by his own military, which turned over power to a new civilian government in 2001.

2.) In Senegal in 2012, when then President Abdoulaye Wade was running for a third term, Wade argued that Senegals’ two-term limit did not apply to him, since his first term had started before the limit was imposed. His opponents viewed his candidacy as unconstitutional. ECOWAS promised a compromise: If elected, Wade should serve a two year term and then hold elections. Military intervention was, again, not on the table. Perhaps fortunately for ECOWAS, Wade list the election, rendering the compromise moot.

3.) In Mali in 2012, a complex crisis took shape that included a coup against the outgoing president, a separatist rebellion and a jihadi occupation of the northern cities. After the coup, ECOWAS swiftly imposed sanctions that pushed the coup leaders to step down in exchange for amnesty. Putting Mali back together again, however, was more difficult. The coup leaders initially retrained significant influence in politics, and northern Mali remained in jihadi hands for months. ECOWAS slowly prepared for a military intervention, but in January 2013, when the jihadis pushed into Central Mali, it was France that invaded.

While a bit of a different context, the case of Guinea-Bissau shows ECOWAS becoming more embroiled as an actor to the conflict than as an actual mediator.

In the Gambia, a many supporting factors came together, not without mentioning the fact that Jammeh did successfully negotiate immunity for himself.

Guinea-Bissau, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali still need to see a stronger and more robust ECOWAS take responsibility and overcome the internal schism created among its members.

See you then.



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Essential mediation skills

Dear reader.
Good to have you back.

I get asked what I consider to be the most important skills in mediation.

Three things are important when it comes to political mediation: (1) good management: you need to understand the context, the history of the conflict, the parties involved, and those who can be a positive force for change and those who can be detrimental to the peace process. You also need to have patience, empathy and the ability to forge alliances and coalitions of those interested in the peace process. Finally, you need to be mentally and physically healthy as the job is very challenging and stressful. (2) good will: we face many difficult conflicts, especially those that are violent and against humanity – while it is at time difficult to do so, assume that the people you are dealing with at the negotiation table have good intentions. They are still people. And you have to find a way to deal with them as people. You will need to carefully distinguish between the human in front of you and the person with an agenda. There are also many other actors who are willing and ready to help you out. It has worked out quite well for me to have a network of like minded individuals. (3) good luck: though we love to be in control as human beings, there are times when things are outside of your control. The only thing you can do for yourself and for the people around you is to set the path, but let them do the journey on their own. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. At times, you have a break through as a mediator, most times not. You have to learn how to live with mistakes and failures without guilt.

In mediation, especially in international conflict, cultural differences matter a lot. Be it the way you start of the mediation (the arrangements of the tables or allowing an elder or traditional leader to speak first) or the way you phrase your sentences. It is essential to distinguish between what is being said and what is being said. Typically, this happens at the same time: For example, someone at the negotiation table may say: Yes, I think this is possible. But in the same breath he/she says that to make things happen, we need more time, money, or I have to talk to my superiors or my people. The way people think, process information, articulate their needs differs a lot from one culture to another. I don’t think that this is something one can learn; it is a competence that is innate (within you) and that you have to cultivate.

There are minor, but felt differences between traditional (domestic or commercial) and political mediation. When I was practicing as a divorce mediator, I had a case where I waited for the couple to return to the session on the next day, only to receive a text from both that they do not need mediation any longer and that there have been able to amicably settle their differences. In this sense, domestic and international mediation do not differ very much in regards to the fear, anger, and frustration felt by the conflicting parties. Apart from non-state armed groups that use terrorism as ideology, most armed groups fight the government because of unheard grievances, that build up to resistance and rebellion because of a politics of exclusion and marginalization. The same takes place with couples and relationships. Once you are able to reframe the issues of anger and powerlessness, you do not need to intervene any longer as you need to trust that parties will be able to move forward on their own. Conflicts are part of life, but you can try to make them less destructive and more constructive.

Yet, political mediation differs from the rest through the three following dimensions:
1.) Political mediation is highly contextual. Therefore there is a lack of an authoritative figure, such as the mediator in domestic mediation setting, therefore exposing the mediator to a messy, muddled and complex mediation environment, where his/her roles are constantly shifting and legitimacy is conferred by both the mandating organizations and the parties at the negotiation table;
2.) Political mediation puts a different pressure onto the mediator as his/her task is pretty simple and straightforward, yet very daunting: stop the violence and work toward hindering the resurgence of violence;
3.) Political mediation necessitates a different approach, not compatible with the traditional principles of mediation, especially the principle of mediation being voluntary. In most cases, political mediation is carried out with the option of peace enforcement and a highly manipulative mediator, in order to move the parties toward quick conflict containment. Depending on the context and the situation, the mediator may opt to resort to international contact groups or joint mediation missions in order to bring parties to a negotiated settlement.

Check back in soon!

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Principles of political mediation

Dear reader. 

It has been quite a while since I was able to share anything of substance on this blog. To be honest, I didn’t forget about you. Rather, I was busy responding to my commitments, which, as you know, not only took me into the world but also into some action. 

I have also learned a few things:

  • For the past decade and more, not much substance has been added to the field of conflict resolution, leaving mediation hanging dry and without basic epistemology;
  • While there are great differences between traditional, commercial and political mediation (and even with international negotiations), the practice remains unphased by these important details as they relate to the What and the How of mediation (and sometimes even the When)

That being said, and in my quest to remain short and concise in order to invite for more thoughts to flow, I would like to share with you my understanding of the principles of political mediation (in case that you are looking for a definition, please see an earlier publication on this issue):

  • Contextualitity: political mediation is played out at the highest level of state diplomacy, including access to government level resources and capacities. The mandate given to a high level mediator also emanates from an institution typically mandated to address and to contain violence and conflict in its area of operations. Thus, all mediation is contextual. 
  • Driven by the mandate: the mandate is the legal roadmap for the intervention. Nothing happens without or outside of the mandate (which then allows to clearly define what mediation support means, what is invoked and what it looks like).
  • Focus on the parties: everything that happens within the mediation activity needs to be driven by the parties. It has to be consensual, unanimous and inclusive. 
  • Timing: the When of mediation or its suitability, in addition to whether High Power or Low Power Neutral Mediation is suited to curb the violence, is critical. 
  • Sequencing: At the political level, mediation is not a single activity but embedded within a range of peacemaking activities, coordination with early warning and liaison with peace enforcement. Additionally, relevant international organizations work hand in hand to get the settlement going. Subsidiarity and tight communication between international actors is crucial and paramount to the success of the intervention. 
  • Humility: whereas the mediator receives a clear mandate to engage the antagonists, he/she should not ‘overdo’ it. A modest, humble and culturally sensitive approach is crucial for a good mediator. 
  • Leadership: leadership is a choice and cannot be learned. The mediator needs to lead, manage and coordinate various mediation teams and take ownership of the process (parties take ownership of the outcome of the agreement). 

These are my thoughts. Happy to listen to yours. 



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My new mediation study is out!

This paper provides a study of mediation experiences from different periodic and country contexts. It investigates elements that are key to mediation effectiveness. For the expert reader, it provides insights into the complexities of political mediation through four decidedly intricate cases. For the newcomer to the field of mediation, it provides an analytic and narrative account of mediation as an instrument of peacemaking.
The study is framed by an introduction, which defines the essence of political mediation as a means of conflict regulation; a description of the variables that distinguish conflict regulation from other means of conflict resolution; and lessons learned from four qualitative case studies. From the insights into the four cases, we can deduce that mediation is a skillful adaptation to clear ambiguity and flexible arrangements.
Here is the link to the download:

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