The pursuit of inclusion: Conditions for civil society inclusion in peace processes in communal conflicts in Kenya

Date01 June 2022
Published date01 June 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Cooperation and Conflict
2022, Vol. 57(2) 171 –190
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00108367211047136
The pursuit of inclusion:
Conditions for civil society
inclusion in peace processes in
communal conflicts in Kenya
Emma Elfversson and Desirée Nilsson
Why are some peace processes in communal conflicts more inclusive of civil society actors
than others? Inclusion of civil society actors, such as churches and religious leaders, women’s
organizations, or youth groups, is seen as important for normative reasons, and studies also
suggest that civil society inclusion can improve the prospects for durable peace. Yet, we have
a very limited understanding of why we observe inclusion in some communal conflicts but
not others. We address this gap by theorizing about various forms of civil society inclusion in
local peace processes, and examining to what extent involvement by different types of third-
party actors—governments, inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), and non-governmental
organizations (NGOs)—may contribute to inclusion. Empirically, we draw on a combination of
cross-case and in-depth data covering peace negotiations in communal conflicts in Kenya. The
findings show that civil society was less frequently included as facilitators when the government
was involved as a third party, while inclusion in the form of direct participation of civil society
in negotiations, or via involvement in the implementation phase, was equally common across
different types of third-party actors. Our study thus provides important new insights regarding
how inclusion plays out in communal conflicts.
civil society, communal conflict, conflict resolution, inclusion, Kenya
Why are some peace processes in communal conflicts more inclusive of civil society
actors than others? In the 1990s, a grassroots-driven peace process in northeast Kenya
gained attention for its achievement in restoring peaceful relations among local commu-
nities following years of conflict causing hundreds of deaths (Ibrahim Abdi and Jenner,
Corresponding author:
Emma Elfversson, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Box 514, Uppsala, 751
20 Uppland, Sweden.
1047136CAC0010.1177/00108367211047136Cooperation and ConflictElfversson and Nilsson
172 Cooperation and Conflict 57(2)
1997; Ndegwa, 2001). The peace process in Wajir was notable not least because of its
inclusivity: it was spearheaded by a group of women at the market, who initiated dia-
logue and gradually enlisted the support of professionals, elders, and other local stake-
holders to create an inter-clan peace committee, which eventually produced the Al-Fatah
peace agreement. Acknowledging that all segments of society were affected by, and in
different ways were involved in the conflict, different civil society groups were assigned
active roles in maintaining the peace; for instance, specific measures were taken to
include the youth in implementing the agreement in light of the fact that young men
tended to be the ones carrying out the violent attacks (Ibrahim Abdi and Jenner, 1997).
Women, clan leaders (elders), religious leaders, and local businesspeople also played
active roles in this broader peace process. In contrast, many peace processes after com-
munal conflict take place without the inclusion of civil society actors. One such example
is the armed conflict between the Dassanetch and Turkana communities in northwest
Kenya, in the border area to Ethiopia, in 1997. This conflict was addressed through high-
level negotiations between Kenyan and Ethiopian officials, with no inclusion of local
civic actors in the talks (Reuters, 1997).
As these cases illustrate, in some instances, efforts to resolve communal conflict
include local civic stakeholders, whereas other peace efforts entail negotiations only
between political leaders or group representatives without active efforts to involve civil
society. How can such variation in the inclusiveness of peace processes be understood?
This article takes a first step toward systematically addressing this question, by theoriz-
ing about different forms of civil society inclusion—facilitation, direct participation in
negotiations, and involvement in implementation—and exploring under what conditions
inclusion becomes more likely. In particular, we examine to what extent involvement by
different types of third-party actors may influence whether civil society is included in a
peace process or not. We draw on novel data covering negotiations after communal con-
flicts in Kenya (1989–2018) in combination with qualitative evidence from field inter-
views and secondary sources.
The outcome of interest in this article is civil society inclusion in peace processes in
communal conflicts. We recognize that civil society comprises a diverse set of actors, in
some cases may be as polarized as society at large, and not necessarily always mobilize
for peace (Belloni, 2008; Krznaric, 1999; Orjuela, 2003). We also acknowledge that
there is to date limited evidence as to whether inclusive peace processes are more effec-
tive in ending the fighting or in preventing new episodes of communal conflict. However,
we argue that understanding the conditions for civil society inclusion is imperative for
several reasons. First, we think there is good reason to expect that it can increase the
chances that the peace process results in durable peace. A large body of work—in par-
ticular within a civil war context—investigates the role that inclusion of civil society
actors plays in negotiating high-quality peace agreements (Krause et al., 2018), anchor-
ing the peace (Nilsson, 2012), and thereby producing more durable settlements to violent
conflicts (Wanis-St. John & Kew, 2008). Overall, while some works problematize the
role of civil society or point to how inclusion can make negotiation processes more com-
plex (Orjuela, 2003; Wanis-St. John & Kew, 2008), substantial evidence exists that the
inclusion of civil society actors often pays off in the sense that agreements to end conflict
become more durable (Krause et al., 2018; Nilsson, 2012; Wanis-St. John & Kew, 2008).

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