Saturday, 18 January 2014

DIPLOMATIC PRACTICE & THE USE OF ADR

On the 15th of January, 2014, I delivered a 22-page paper at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja, Nigeria. The paper was titled DIPLOMATIC PRACTICE: STRATEGIES & PERSPECTIVES ON CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN AFRICA. My paper was one of those for the In-house Refresher Training for Batches B & C of the "36+1" Mid-Career Officers. It was a comprehensive three-day training program (15-17 January, 2014). Prof. Ehiedu Iweriebor, Chair of the Department of Africana & Puerto Rican/Latino Studies, Hunter College, The City University of New York, coordinated the "Affirmative Nigeria Narrative" program.

The kernel of the argument in my paper goes thus:

Experience has shown on many occasions that resort to Eurocentric adjudication is unsuitable for resolving African disputes because of the inadequate attention paid to significant regional peculiarities and realities. Perspectives to conflict resolution between and among nation-states differ. However, there is a spectrum as regards means of dispute resolution, with the adversarial judicial system at the exit point.

When we talk about Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), the question is often asked: which is the real alternative? Which came first, the egg or the chicken? The argument is that since Africans had their traditional methods of resolving conflicts before the introduction of the court system, then the latter is the alternative to the former! The debate rages on.

Without prejudice to the importance of the main international courts and tribunals that deal with boundary and territorial disputes, there is no convincing reason to believe that many of the African boundary and territorial disputes cannot be satisfactorily resolved through other means of dispute resolution. Diplomatic practice could be given a boost if other means of conflict resolution are exhausted before heading for the courts.

Some of such means are carefully conducted plebiscites, preferably organized and monitored by the African Union (AU) or the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); setting up of Truth & Reconciliation Commissions and Traditional Methods of conflict resolution. Other methods, nay strategies for conflict resolution between states are Negotiation, Mediation and Arbitration.

These methods are faster and more cost effective than the court system. Our case study of the Cameroun-Nigeria boundary dispute brings out in bold relief the fact that dogmatic adherence to colonial treaties upon which many of such disputes are decided presently, is insufficient, and may indeed be inappropriate in the African situation...   

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