Volume 9, Issue 3
Getting In: Mediators’ Entry into the Settlement of African Conflicts. Mohammed O. Maundi, I. William Zartman, Gilbert M. Khadiagala, and Kwaku Nuamah. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2006. 256 pp.
Getting In is a well-written piece that delivers on its promise of a systematic study of the entry stage of mediation in macro-level African conflicts or wars. A comparative approach is used to make universal claims supported by interpretations of case studies from
The book reads like a skillfully done write-up of a positivist research proposal, and it apparently emerged from the doctoral dissertation of Maundi, which was supervised by Zartman. The approach is grounded in concepts associated with Zartman such as the realist paradigm and the hurting stalemate, and Getting In is essentially an extension of his well-known work. A processional framework is used to situate the primary object of study, pre-mediation or initiation of mediation entry, as the first of three stages of international mediation. The second and third phases are issue negotiation and implementation of the agreement.
The authors employ a pragmatic, conflict management perspective. One of their conclusions is that international mediators do not need to change the parties’ zero-sum (win/lose) orientation. The focus is on getting agreements that will reduce, contain, or end ongoing armed conflict. They do not substantively discuss reconciliation or the recent work on conflict transformation and peacebuilding. The core concept is summed up on page 175: “Prospective mediators are motivated by their own self-interests in either initiating entry or accepting an invitation to mediate and parties to a conflict are equally motivated by self-interests in accepting mediation and entry of a particular mediator.” The volume masterfully presents the mainstream, rational choice theory type view prevalent in political science and international relations. The text is effective in illustrating the considerable explanatory power of the utilitarian, interest-based analytical framework for inter- and intra-state conflict.
The narrow focus is beneficial insofar as it makes for a tight, concise discussion. However, a dialogue with relevant Africanist scholarship would have made the work more interesting and broadened the potential readership. The citations are primarily drawn from media reports or policy-oriented scholarship from the northeastern
Getting In is appropriate for policy-oriented readers interested in political science and the international relations approach to conflict resolution. It should be considered more as a product of those fields than as an example of specialized African Studies as it originated out of what Avruch (1998) has called “the generic approach” to conflict resolution. As the authors aver, the conclusions of their comparative study are potentially applicable beyond the African continent. In this regards, several intriguing points mentioned in the case studies could have been given further consideration. It would have been interesting to see greater development of the more innovative aspects of the text such as the discussion of layered mediation (p. 90).
Getting In is not a provocative work likely to make waves or create debates but a very competent and well-organized examination of core concepts in the realist school of international conflict management. The first and final chapters would make good primers for students interested in that subject, and they also offer a nice illustration of the end product of a positivist research project. In fact, these chapters exemplify the scientific approach to research and could be assigned reading for some doctoral students preparing for their dissertations; they present a clear research problem and propose a number of hypotheses which are then addressed in the text.
The authors deserve praise for writing a clear and succinct book geared toward highlighting straightforward, practical lessons of interest to policymakers. As they point out, this is a relatively unexplored topical area; perhaps the next step could be a more creative extension of this substantial work. There are many theoretical issues that could be explored without losing sight of the laudable goal of producing practical insights of potential value to peacemakers. Getting In offers a good foundation and it will be a key reference for subsequent research and literature on the initiation of conflict mediation.