18 Apr 2022


Negotiating in West Africa: Article Summary

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Kouassi, Edmond K. “Negotiation, Mediation and other Non-Juridical Ways of Managing Conflicts in Pre-Colonial West African Societies.” journal International Negotiation 13:2 (2007): 233–246

Research Question 

The article by Kouassi attempts to refute claims that diplomacy never existed in Africa in the pre-colonial eras by conducting a preliminary literature review. So as to justify his stand, Kouassi revisits literature of West African societies by studying how the ancient people in this region handled and managed conflicts. The author approaches this task by assessing procedures, methods, personnel and methods used in addressing conflicts. He believes that this study can benefit current efforts aimed at resolving conflicts in African. 

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Article’s Claims and Conclusions

Kouassi claims that African societies had invented an array of conflict prevention, termination and management methods that provided the basis for disputes negotiation. All these events were taking place prior to colonization. Although some remained indigenous to Africa, Kouassi finds that many of these methods are equally observed elsewhere. In other words, negotiation is said to be an invention of a certain human society, but it appears to be a shared practice of humankind across the globe. Peaceful societies are not left out because, in the process of interaction, dissension and misunderstandings can arise, necessitating resolutions through negotiations. What the colonialists did was simply the importation and reinvention of something that was already in practice. 

Evidence to Support Claims and Conclusions 

From literature analysis, the author established that conflicts prevention and peace preservation in the traditional Africa was through family linkages and recourse to security tokens, oaths, marriage, and the utilization of war methods. Further, the article cites that arbiters or rather “masters or men of disciples of the earth” assumed the responsibility of conflict management. Lastly, the ancient Africans restored peace through the use of non-juridical mechanism (the armistice technique). The author believes that the reason why negotiations in Africa have succeeded is because of its long-standing local ways. 

The organization of the article (First, second, third, fourth, etc.)

The article is organized into six sections, which comprise of theoretical observations, technical procedures and method of conflict prevention, methods of conflict management, non-juridical mechanisms in the peace restoration, conclusion, and reference. 

Understanding Etic and Emic influences from the Article 

Regarding “Technical Methods and Procedures of Conflict Prevention,” Family relationships assumed a political role of conflict management. For instance, between 18 and 19th century, four independent states of Nsuka, Bekway, Dwaben and Kokufu joined forces to form the famously known Ashanti Empire of Ghana. According to the author, this union succeeded because the top member came from the same clan- Oyoko. Marriage was also another method of avoiding conflicts. African cultures not only view marriage as a unification and integration of two people and two families respectively, but also avenues to advance harmonious relationships between the communities.

Moreover, elders/wise men, arbiters and god exchange between communities acted as negotiators. In the presence of conflict, the arbiters would reinstate peace by making several visits back and forth between the conflicting groups while floating dust along the way. Similarly, conflicts pitting members of a given village were addressed through a framework of institutional structures consisting of councils of wise men and elders or arbiters.

Lastly, peace restoration was achieved through the use of the armistice technique. When parties wished to end war, a neutral party, dressed in palm leaves was chosen as a mediator. Palm leaves symbolized deference to one’s enemy. If there was acceptance to truce proposal, resolution meetings were then held at a border point. 

Lessons from the Article

Africans have great respect for elders’ role and kinship bonds. The community organizations follow the lines of lineage, village and families. Elders impact people’s lives, maintain social control, and hence, lessening the necessity of formal laws. Here, negotiations can be successful with the promise that one is never going to invoke, curse or bewitch the ancestors’ power. 

How the culture of Negotiation differs from mine

For this case, conflict negotiation style differs from that of my country. First, this culture embraces collectivism while mine tends towards culture of individualism. Because of this, my community negotiations styles are distinctively legalistic, forceful, explicit, urgent and result-oriented. Although these traits depend on the circumstances and personalities, they are often determined by enduring and powerful cultural and structural factors such as courts. 

The most interesting thing about the Article

The most interesting part of this article is the use of proverbs and parables to in developing solidarity and agreements. The parables and proverbs related to the society way of living but delivered in an amusing manner. They are educative and funny at the same time and totally relate to the autopsy of society. These proverbs sharpen the mind of an individual- one can grasp a deeper meaning behind the words used in parables.

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Negotiating in West Africa: Article Summary.


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