The quest for peace is a legitimate aspiration to all people because it is an essential condition for the normal deployment of all activities oriented toward human development. Women, generally considered as the weaker sex, are often marginalized, especially in decision-making processes. Women are often relegated to the background in the analysis of the management and resolution of armed conflict. However, meaningful inclusion of women in conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes could help accelerate pacification. Due to their intrinsic abilities, women deserve to be put at the center of peace management initiatives. The role of women in conflict would then leverage their real ability to act on social relationships. The Central Africa subregion, known as the Economic Community of Central African States, is one of the subregions in Africa that suffer from violence and is generally affected by numerous crises. This subregional is made up of eleven countries. In view of the above, would the real involvement of women contribute to promoting peace in Central Africa?
Masculinities, conflict, and peacebuilding
According to the Judeo-Christianity tradition, men have always been at the center of all actions. Patriarchy is still present in all spheres of society. The participation of women in politics and indirectly in the management of security is minimal. In most communities, men generally occupy powerful positions and are the main actors in resolving conflicts and peacebuilding. For instance, we can cite in Central Africa, great mediators like the former Gabonese President El Hadj Omar Bongo, who intervene in RCA in 2008, and the President of the Republic of Congo Dénis Sassou Nguesso, who initiate negotiations in RDC, in 2016, to name just a few. Each of them played an essential role in easing crises in Africa.
Moreover, Omar Bongo represents a significant figure in the history of African mediations. He has taken on the role of a traveling salesman of peace companies, adept at the African palaver. This Head of State began a reconciliation policy, particularly in the crisis in Angola, Chad, the Central African Republic, and Congo, to name just a few.
From the above examples, no woman is on the list. This, therefore, emanates from the fact that, within national and regional communities, women have not been recognized as essential mediators or peacebuilders. Women are often considered passive subjects because they undergo or execute the decisions taken at the top. This virtual absence in decision-making positions before, during, and after conflict accentuate marginalization and victimization. Despite the despicable acts such as rape, sexual slavery, and murder they undergo, women must no longer be seen as mere victims of war.
The post-conflict peace and reconciliation process is not inclusive; even when women participate, they have only a simple observer status at the negotiating table. The patriarchal model and the weight of traditional fossilization has focused on the primacy of the male, thus widening the gap between men and women, especially in the decision-making processes. Emphasis must be placed on the equal participation of women in conflict resolution at the decision-making level.
Empowerment of women in the promotion of peace and security in Central Africa
The desire to ease tensions in a society or pacify a community depends on its inhabitants’ ability to manage their differences. If Judeo-Christian thought tends to make male domination prevail, ancient African thoughts, especially in the Egyptian civilization, put women at the center of all preoccupation. In ancient Egyptian civilization, men and women were regarded as equals. Thus, women occupied high positions in society, and even as far as being Pharaohs. In the 17th century, Anne Nzingha from Angola led an army, and within it, women played a significant role. They were Amazons who knew how to handle weapons and rode horses. More recently, in the Central African Republic, a woman Catherine Samba Panza was named the transitional president. She played a crucial role in mitigating the conflict in the country was able to organize peaceful elections. In addition, women have intrinsic abilities that can help in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
Women by nature are gentle and comprehensive and could find lasting solutions to conflict. For example, women’s intuition could serve as agents of conflict resolution and peacebuilding because women can anticipate conflict and prevent them before they aggravate. As mediation and conciliation are methods that require the intervention of a third party, women can serve as better mediators and conciliators. They are non-violent by nature and generally participate in the sustainable development of their society.
Conflict prevention necessarily requires increased participation and inclusion of all stakeholders, including women. The fact that men predominantly lead the processes of armed conflict resolution, peace negotiations, and security operations may impact the mixed results that they present. Equal rights and increased participation of women and women’s organizations at all levels of responsibility are essential to prevent, resolve and foster a culture of sustainable peace. To this end, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 recognized the importance of women’s involvement in peace and security issues to achieving long-lasting stability. This resolution also states the need to increase women’s participation in decision-making at all levels. It is also insisted on women’s participation and empowerment in the peacebuilding process. It encourages national, regional, and international institutions to ensure that women are more represented in settlement of disputes.
Furthermore, women embody the values of communication and traditions and, as such, are better peacebuilders and mediators. It is not just a matter of women’s involvement but their ability to play an active and equitable role in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Equality and participation of women at all levels of responsibility are seen as a means to prevent, resolve, and foster a peaceful culture. These responsibilities concern the reconsideration of the positions relating to peacekeeping forces, peace negotiations, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, and security sector reform. The role of women as an actress in conflict resolution will highlight her potential in the negotiation process.
Women can play a vital role in instituting peace in the Central African subregion by highlighting their intrinsic values and capacities. The real involvement of women in conflict resolution in this subregion will contribute to the emancipation of women and, in turn, lead to efficient conflict resolution and peacebuilding initiatives. The woman who moderates the ardor in times of war could positively influence the decision-making processes in national and community bodies. With women’s intrinsic values, it is necessary to maximize their access to high offices in the subregional security system.
Ph.D in Political science
International Relations Institute of Cameroon