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Conflict Resolution or Transformation? An Analysis of the South African and Mozambican Political Settlements

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How much conflict must be resolved for a political settlement and its implementation to be successful? This article argues that a political settlement must satisfy the combatants' expectations regarding the resolution of the causes of the conflict. How deeply do these causes need to be resolved for the parties to be satisfied? To answer this question two concepts are introduced: the immediate and underlying causes of a conflict. Immediate causes (grievances) are specific, concrete policies that provoke some subset of a state's population to rebel against the government. Underlying causes are diverging interests that led to the introduction of these policies that caused the grievances. This article examines the political settlements in South Africa and Mozambique that terminated armed hostilities, overcame the conflict, and opened the door to normal politics. The research indicates that in both cases the political settlement satisfactorily resolved the immediate causes of the conflict. There was greater dissatisfaction in South Africa because the political settlement did not resolve the underlying causes of the conflict. A major reason for this dissatisfaction was that although the electoral outcome gave the ANC strong popular support, the political settlement limited its ability to grapple with root causes. In Mozambique, fears of reigniting another protracted armed confrontation and the close electoral outcome dissuaded either side from addressing the underlying causes of the conflict.

Affiliations: 1: Center for International Studies and Languages, Pepperdine University, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90263 USA (E-mail:


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