On May 25, WMO held its third round-table, an online conference call uniting WMO members from all over the world and devoted to a chosen topic. This time the discussion was inspired by the article “Mediation of the 2008 post-election conflict in Kenya: Was it a case of mediator personality?” by Gordon Ogola, the Kenyan practicing lawyer and court annexed mediator.
One of the reason for taking this report as a starting point for the conversation was a whole series of insightful articles on Africa recently published by WMO members. The conflicts analyzed in those articles have been at the center of international community’s attention. Are there any similarities between the past and the present conflicts taking place across the continent? Can the lessons be drawn from Kenya’s mediation experience having become history – to reduce today’s tensions? There is only one Koffi Annen, while the conflicts are many – so how can we manage? In other words, how critical the personality of a mediator is for a process involving many parties?
Daniel Erdmann noticed in this regard that there were in fact at least 108 parties involved, the number corresponding to the parties taking part in the elections. What does it say about the context? What could be the implications of this fact?
In his article, Gordon defines ripeness, preparation and « legitimacy» as the three most important prerequisites of a successful mediation. The author argues that the first mediation attempts failed in Kenya because these three factors were neglected. Another observation made by the author concerns the three main characteristics of mediator, crucial for the successful outcome: impartiality, leverage, status. In 2008 in Kenya, both objective and subjective conditions seem to be met, what resulted in the successful outcome of the mediation process, led by Koffi Annen.
Rene Wadlow, recalls an example of “the relative failure of his more recent efforts in Myanmar (Burma) concerning the Rohingya”. Koffi Annen’s team made recommendations, none of which have been put into practice by the Myanmar government. “The violence has continued causing large-scale suffering.” Rene Wadlow makes a point that the character and basic skills of Koffi Annen were the same in the two cases. So what could potentially be the reason of that difference in outcome?
Gordon Ogola considers that in this second case Koffi Annen’s role was more of a fact finding mission, he acted as a chairman of a commission and not a mediator. Thus, “the settings of the process adopted by the commission was quite distinct from a mediation process where parties to the conflict meet in a round table. But even if it was a mediation, so many factors quite different from the Kenyan circumstance would come into play such as the mode of appointment of the mediator, identification of parties, composition of the panel and so forth.”
Ana Margarita Araujo took a word emphasizing the importance of cultural understanding and sense of belonging: Koffi Annen, having African background, was backed by the African Union what could play a vital role in the process of mediation. Ana Margarita also gives an example of the conflicts in Latin America resolved by Pope John Paul II, where it is precisely the personal condition of the mediator that favored the final result. On the other hand, she stresses that even if the efforts previously made did not have the desired success, they did play an important role in the maturation of the conflict and in the preparation of the parties for the upcoming process let by Koffi Annen.
Kristina Cukcic shares more light on the role of his leadership and the fact that the mediation continually lasted for 41 days, despites the hospitalization of the mediator, what “speaks about determination, high motivation, persistence and perseverance to end the mediation process in a positive way.”
But what are the chances for an outsider – even if he/she is super skilled and perfectly neutral – what are the chances to efficiently mediate this kind of cases?
Louisa Garbo also questions: “There are many highly respected individual mediators with great charism and expertise in the world that are not politically high profile nor world-known, they are not the “rock start” mediator or hold high positions in the UN. How did they reach a successful outcome?” What if Koffi Annan was not available at the time, would the mediation outcome be completely different despite that ripeness, nature of intensity and other elements described in the article?
Matias Lindner brings in some insights from his work in the field of conflict education, and outlines again, that the professional and effective handling conflict is highly difficult, as lots of variables interfere to the origin and development of conflict and that conflict dynamics are hardly predictable. Therefore, we might remain with many questions, …
Marina Khamitsevich: This is the circle of the questions discussed by WMO members. There probably cannot be a definite answer to most of such questions. We know that every single conflict is unique. However, it seems that more often than not, the crucial component will still be the personality comprising, in particular, the ability to bring people together, to give that energizing positive impulse, and to look for answers and solutions- together. I believe that on May 25 we had yet another opportunity to practice exactly this. Thank you for this valuable exchange and looking forward to seeing many of you at the next round-table.