Political mediation 101 (through the use of case studies)

Dear reader.

For the politically inclined, I created this very simple and straightforward overview of the key steps of political mediation, making not use of theory but of practice, for your consideration. As always: comments and critiques and additions are welcome!

Mediation entry

Step1: Preparing entry

Case study: Burundi mediation

Mediator is identified and commissioned:

The initiative to begin the process of peace negotiations for Burundi was mainly made in 1995 by Governments and Heads of State of the Great Lakes Region. In other words, it was a Regional Initiative. The Late Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere was requested to mediate in the Burundi peace negotiations in 1995. (Mpangala, 2004: 14)

Nyerere died in 1999 and former South African President Nelson Mandela was appointed as the new mediator in November 1999. Mandela had his first meeting with Burundians parties on January 16, 2000 to provide a new impetus to the peace process. (Kitevu and Lind, 2001:2)

The profile of the mediator is presented to the parties for consideration and endorsement

After studying the situation in Burundi Mwalimu accepted the responsibility as mediator and began work in April and May 1996 in Mwanza. Mwalimu was chosen because he had long experience on the affairs of Burundi as a nationalist leader and President of the United Republic of Tanzania. As a retired President he was a respected national and international figure with enough knowledge and wisdom to enable him play the role as mediator for Burundi. He was also accepted by the Burundi negotiating parties in Mwanza and later on in Arusha. (Mpangala, 2004: 14)

Despite his limited knowledge on Burundi politics, Mandela also came in as the second mediator. While Nyerere was viewed as having been opposed to “whites”, Mandela scarcely opposed to “apartheid” had sought reconciliation with them. It is precisely this reputation as reconciler which paved his way as Nyerere’s successor. The parties argued that Mandela had the capability to identify and correct a number of weaknesses in the methodology and management. Also, coming from a regional super-power, Mandela was considered influential to the process bearing in mind that South Africa had the military capacity to support any agreement (Bentley & Southall, 2005: 68; Daley, 2007: 341)

Step2: Entering the conflict scene

First direct contact between mediator and parties

First meet the parties separately: Nyerere insisted on assurance that Burundian Politicians were both ready to engage in mediation. To receive this assurance, he made quiet visits to Burundi in October and December 1995, where he spoke with the Government, all major parties, civil society, religious leaders, the army, and former Presidents Bagaza and Buyoya. (Arusha I: the background to the Arusha Peace Accord. Available at http://www.hsrcpress.ac.za/downloadpdf.php)

Mandela had known little about Burundi before he was drawn into the process. He therefore spent much time initially following his appointment as mediator getting to know the delegates and leaders of the different parties and factions. He visited Burundi in preparations of the negotiations, and made two visits outside the capital to meet different stakeholders to the conflict. The negotiations had to be included now if an ongoing peaceful settlement was to be agreed upon (Van Eck, 2000)

Secure a commitment to start mediation: After studying the situation in Burundi, Mwalimu accepted the responsibility as mediator and began work in 1996 in Mwanza, Tanzania. (Mpangala, 2004:13)

Step 3: Mediator analyses parties’ positions and clarify his/her assumptions

Mwalimu preferred to use the methodology of facilitation as an entry point to the mediation process. Facilitation created a special relationship between the facilitator and the negotiating parties such that it provided greater freedom, openings and space for the negotiating parties to make decisions and arrive at consensus. Given the nature of conflicts in Burundi the facilitation approach was viewed by Mwalimu as the best option (Butiku, 2004).

Mediation Middle phase

Step 4: Broadening stakeholder’s engagement 

The issues negotiated were based on five areas of concern, i.e.;

  • The nature of conflict and the problems of genocide and exclusion and solutions to these.
  • Democracy and good governance, dealing with the transitional institutions: the institutional, judicial and administrative systems and questions regarding justice and impunity
  • Peace and security, the cessation of hostilities, the terms of a permanent ceasefire and the question of the security forces.
  • Reconstruction and economic development

Guarantees of the implementation of the agreement            (Daley, 2007: 343; Mokoena, 2005: 65)

In Mwanza in 1996 there were only three negotiating parties that is the government, the UPRONA Party and the FRODEBU party. This means that many parties to the conflict were excluded. After the second session the negotiations broke down due to disagreements on basic principles of the negotiations and the coup d’etat on the 25th June, 1996. When the negotiations resumed in Arusha in 1998 the number of negotiating parties was greatly expanded to include the Government, the National Assembly and seventeen political parties. Altogether there were nineteen negotiating parties. Towards the end of the negotiations a fifth committee to deal with issues of implementation of the peace agreement guarantees was established. In each committee all the 19 negotiating parties were represented. Periodically committees presented their work to plenary sessions for overall discussions. (Mpangala, 2004:14)

Later during the negotiations, parties focused on two main issues:

  • the question of ceasefire and secession of hostilities
  • leadership of the transition period

Step 5: Facilitating negotiations of appropriate options

Mediator assists parties to generate options: Human Rights Watch has noted the “moral tone” which former President Nelson Mandela adopted when he succeeded Nyerere as mediator in the Burundi peace process. From the moment he took on the role in December 1999, he warned parties of the dangers of wasting time whilst ordinary Burundians were dying.

The rebels’ exclusion was widely regarded as the weakest link in the negotiations, as without their participation and agreement a permanent peace was likely to prove elusive. Mandela has secured the agreement in principle to enter negotiations, albeit with conditions, of not only CNDD-FDD, but also the FNL. This won him the respect and praise of President Buyoya who himself agreed to meet with the rebels in South Africa in July 2000. (HSRC Report 1999-2002: Africa: Burundi, http:/www.hrw.org)

Like Nyerere, Mandela used his international status to garner support for the process and to bring pressure to bear upon the Burundian players to come to an agreement. This facilitated in parties generating options to reach an agreement, such as:

  • advocating ethnic power-sharing solutions such as the idea of the presidency revolving between Tutsi and Hutu
  • the demographic composition of the army should reflect that of the population, therefore integration in the army should be based on equal representation of Hutu and Tutsi in order to allay the latter’s fears of domination
  • utilizing the notion of “sufficient consensus” to ensure an inclusive negotiation forum between all parties
  • Cease-fire agreement

(HSRC Report 1999-2002: Africa: Burundi, http:/www.hrw.org)

Shift of viewpoints from position to interests and needs: First, the FRODEBU militants suspect Colonel Epitace Bayaganakandi of some responsibility in the assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye in October 1993. The militants accuse him of having become aware, several days in advance, of the plotting against the elected President, having been forewarned by the gendarmerie, and of having done nothing to save the head of state. They also accuse Epitace Bayaganakandi of being responsible for the killings in the ‘triangle of death’in the Gihosha quarter, situated to the North of the town of Bujumbura, perpetrated by members of the national army, in February 1994, a few days after the investiture of President Cyprien Ntaryamira. (ICG Africa Report No29, 14 May 2001)

However, the attempts to control the rebellion during the Arusha process, ‘in the name of imposition of the principle of the interests of the majority’, were not fruitful. Despite its efforts and repeated meetings with the rebels since Autumn 2000, FRODEBU, which obtained postponement of the threat of regional sanctions in order for FRODEBU to intervene with the rebels, did not succeed in imposing its political leadership on the armed movements.

Step 6: Designing and constructing an agreement

Case study: The Arusha Peace Agreement

From Nyerere to Mandela, parties in the Burundi conflict generated options for a peaceful agreement know as the Arusha Peace Agreement signed in Arusha on the 28th day of the month of August 2000.

The Parties acknowledge the need for the Agreement to be accompanied by and to be a condition for lasting peace and a cessation of violence in Burundi. The Parties accordingly call upon armed wings of non-signatory parties to suspend hostilities and violent actions immediately, and invite such non-signatory parties to participate in or engage in serious negotiations towards a cease-fire. The Parties agree that in addition to this public invitation included herein, they will as a priority take all reasonable and necessary steps to invite such Parties to participate in cease-fire negotiations. (HSRC Report 1999-2002: Africa: Burundi, http:/www.hrw.org)

Mediation Closure

Step 7: Monitoring Mechanisms

Following the groundwork by former mediators Nyerere and Mandela; the implementation and subsequent agreements to the Arusha accord were left to the current mediator Jacob Zuma. The accord for Burundi provided for a 30-month power-sharing arrangement irrespective of the fact that much of the details regarding implementation of the Accord were not decided. As such, Mandela’s role was to continue well into 2001 through meetings with the various parties until agreement could be reached on the nature of the power-sharing agreement, as well as the leadership of the interim government. (Bentley & Southall, 2005: 79; Africa: Burundi, http:/www.hrw.org)

The peace process and other areas of agreement in the Accord were to be overseen by a 29-member Implementation Monitoring Committee to be comprised of representatives of all 19 parties to the negotiations; Burundi Civil Society, member countries to the African Union (formerly known as the Organisation of the African Union). (HSRC Report 1999-2002: Africa: Burundi, http:/www.hrw.org)

Once parties have reached an agreement, an implementation plan has to be put in place to oversee that parties do not deviate from the conditions of the agreement. Lack of implementation plan often leads to an outbreak of conflict. As such, parties should be made aware of the challenges that may befall implementation so that they may consider coming up with monitoring mechanisms or indicators that may be used to monitor the implementation process. The international community may assist in monitoring the agreement by monitoring ceasefires. In Burundi, the IMC was established to oversee and coordinate the implementation of the accord. South African deployed a protection force in the year 2001 with the task of protecting returning politicians. In Ethiopia and Eritrea, the African Union proposed that there be established a peace-keeping mission that will be focused on monitoring hostilities as well as observing the security commitments that were agreed to by both parties.

Step 8: Implementation agreements

Implementation agreements elaborate on the details of comprehensive or framework agreements.

The goal of implementation agreements is to work out the specifics and mechanics of operationalizing comprehensive agreements. They come in varied forms – for example verbal notes, exchanges of letters and joint public statements. In most elaborate implementation agreements, clauses on monitoring, evaluation, verification and dispute resolution are an integral part of the drafting procedure.

Implementing agreements means that the conflict parties act on them, hopefully bringing the dispute in question to an end. Most agreements require that parties carry out specific actions and behave in certain ways. The success of an agreement, therefore, depends on the implementation strategy and the process of putting the plan into operation. It also depends on the degree to which parties feel a sense of ownership of an agreement.

Success depends on:

  • willingness and ability of parties to the conflict to comply with the agreement
  • management of expectations
  • input of locals into planning and design of the agreement
  • monitoring and observing implementation procedures and processes
  • enforcement procedures in cases of non-compliance with the agreement
  • role and power of external monitor(s).

After the Arusha peace process, the Government of Burundi signed a series of ceasefire

agreements as a follow-up to the process. These ceasefire agreements were signed

by the government and the rebel groups that had not taken part in the Arusha peace

process, namely the CNDD-FDD and PALIPEHUTU-FNL.

The ceasefire agreements outlined below were signed between 2002 and 2008:

– 2002 Ceasefire between the transitional government and the minority CNDD-FDD faction led by Jean Bosco Ndayikengurukiy, and the minority FNL faction led by Alain Mugabarabona

– 2003 The Pretoria Protocol on Political, Defence and Security Power Sharing in Burundi

– 2003 The Pretoria Protocol on Outstanding Political, Defence and Security Power Sharing Issues in Burundi (Pretoria II Protocol)

– 2006 The Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement, signed in Dar es Salaam between the Government of the Republic of Burundi and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL

– 2006 Dar es Salaam Agreement of Principles Towards Lasting Peace, Security and Stability in Burundi

– 2008 The Magaliesburg Declaration on the Burundi Peace Process


Prof. Gaudens P. Mpangala, 2004.Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding in Africa as a Process. Case studies of Burundi and he Democratic Republic of Congo. University of Dar Es Salam. The MWALIMU NYERERE Foundation

Arusha I: the background to the Arusha Peace Accord. Available at www.hsrcpress.ac.za/downloadpdf.php

Butiku, J., 2004, The Facilitation of the Burundi Peace Negotiations. In: Mpangala, G. P., and B. U. Mwansasu (eds), Beyond Conflict in Burundi, Dar es Salaam: Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation

Human Rights Watch World Reports 1999-2002: Africa: Burundi, http://www.hrw.org.

International Crisis Group (ICG) Africa Report No29, 14 May 2001

Kitevu R. and Lind J., 2001. “Enhancing the Arusha Agreement : Environmental aspects of the Burundi Peace process”, African Center for Technologies Studies, Vol1, n2 .

Author: nakawashi9

International mediator, professor, corporate trainer!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.