Gender-Based Violence And Peace Processes In West Africa

This study offers West African mediators a first insight on which issues regarding gender-based violence should be taken into account in a peace process. It is not a concrete toolkit, but a conflict analysis, which suggests how the current context could be analysed from a perspective of gender and women when the mediation strategy is being defined. The study highlights how local, national, and transnational conflict constellations frequently overlap, and how it is imperative to consider the role of women within all these different layers.


In West Africa, peace processes laid out the bases for new societies during the first decade of the 2000s. When agreements were negotiated, conflict-related gender-based violence that had occurred during the war years was not addressed officially. In post conflict, violence continued at alarming levels. Today, issues that affect rights and gender equality are understood as base lines for inclusive peace processes. In retrospective, the conflict cycles of West Africa, and those of the Mano River Union countries in particular, can offer many lessons for mediators working in violent conflicts around Africa.

The four countries of the Mano River Union – Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – not only share common boundaries, but have been linked by instability and affected by conflict of different intensity over the past two decades. They represent a typical conflict system, in which the actors and drivers for conflict may be local or national, but their effects are regional in character. Many effects, such as displacement and disruption of trade can be felt both by immediate neighbours and more widely across the region. In the MRU countries as well as in West Africa in general, the political and economic causes of conflict are tightly interwoven with structural social problems, including, in particular, gender and generational conflicts. Gender relations have rarely been the root cause of conflict, but gender-based injustices have been significant manifestations of discontent since the 1990s. Gender-based violence still contributes to the conflict configuration in the region.

The post-Cold War proliferation of small arms changed the scenarios of war, with civilians in general and women in particular becoming more tightly involved in conflict, both as its targets and its actors. The vast majority of today’s conflicts have moved from battlefields to cities, their outskirts, and villages where civilian lives are intertwined with war and conflict actors. This has imposed them to rules of violence for extended times and changed their roles drastically. When wars are not fought by nation states and their armies, but rather by informal entities – gangs and warlords using small arms and improvised weapons – the grey zones of peace and conflict have become normalised living environments for countless people. In these daily contexts, women provide services to fighters; organise support; and manage intelligence and money. They raise their children to take part in conflict, and can be key agents encouraging their communities to engage and keep up violence. Simultaneously – and because of these new settings – women have emerged as indispensable actors in mediating peace: they lead and understand the logics of peace movements, and are essential in shaping the international normative frameworks regulating conflict.

Gender-Based Violence And Peace Processes In West Africa
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