Stabilisation and Conflict Learning Resource

Elite Bargains and Political Deals

The Stabilisation Unit’s ‘Elite Bargains and Political Deals’ project has sought to provide a more robust evidence base for the UK’s approach to stabilisation and help policy makers deliver more effective interventions in conflict contexts.

The Synthesis Paper draws together the key project findings: this shorter briefing paper provides an overview of the project and its conclusions. The analysis considers the relationship between elite bargains, political settlements and peace agreements, given the degree to which the interactions between all three shape transitions out of conflict. There is a particular emphasis in the report on the importance of the elites and elite bargains, given the important role they play in generating support for reductions in violence and those more formal peace agreements. 

It establishes a framework for analysing elite bargains and understanding how external diplomatic, security, economic and transitional justice interventions can affect them and pathways out of violent conflict. It describes the forms of violence that surround bargaining processes, and how resources and rents and degrees of inclusion and exclusion can affect the extent to which bargains ‘stick’. The paper concludes with a summary of the implications for policy and practice.

The material contained here has been produced by independent experts. The views contained within do not necessarily reflect those of the UK government or its policy. 

01. Briefing Paper

 This paper provides an overview of the project and its conclusions.

02. Synthesis Paper

The Synthesis Paper draws together the key project findings.

03. Case Study: Bosnia Herzegovina

The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was the most violent of the conflicts that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia. This paper explores the various international interventions in the conflict, and the process that led to the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement.

04. Case Study: Colombia

This paper explores the national and international interventions that sought to help end decades of violence between the Colombian state and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP). It documents and analyses the political, security, juridical and socio-economic interventions that were most effective in facilitating and sustaining progress towards the deal reached in November 2016.

05. Case Study: DRC

The conflict between the Congolese government and the M23, a rebel movement, took place between early 2012 and late 2013. This case study explores how the final resolution of the M23 crisis was achieved via the shifts in the geo-political context, bilateral aid suspensions, behind-the-scenes high level diplomacy, and the willingness of key SADC states to commit significant military and political resources.

06. Case Study: Ethiopia - Eritrea

In May 1998, Ethiopia and Eritrea went to war, ostensibly over contested portions of their shared border. Although the war ended in December 2000, its repercussions and aftermath continue to destabilise the region. This case study analyses how the Algiers Agreement has led to a ‘no war, no peace’ scenario.

07. Case Study: Guatemala

From 1960 until 1996, Guatemala witnessed a conflict between the state and a left-wing guerrilla insurgency. The 1996 Peace Accords did little to address the structural causes of the conflict and saw elites continue to dominate the political landscape. This paper maps the context of the armed violence, describes the key features of the peace process, and offers insights into its sustainability.

08. Case Study: Indonesia

In the years between 1976 and 2005, Indonesia’s north-western province of Aceh was wracked by an intermittent armed insurgency led by the Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM). In August 2005, the Indonesian government and GAM agreed on a comprehensive peace deal. This paper presents an analysis of a peace process that is regarded as one of the most successful attempts to achieve lasting resolution to an internal conflict in recent decades.

09. Case Study: Iraq

The Sunni insurgency in Iraq that followed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 initially took the form of resistance to the presence of international military forces, but evolved with the emergence of Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI). A further shift that came about when Sunni opinion turned against AQI, and some local leaders formed ‘Awakening’ groups, which sought US protection against AQI reprisals. This case study looks at the efforts by the US to develop and engage with the Awakening, and the reasons that led to its eventual collapse.

10. Case Study: Libya

In this case study, Libya expert Wolfram Lacher argues that efforts to broker a deal to end the Libyan civil war in 2015 were stymied by the deepening fragmentation of political forces, the limited leverage the UN and Western states had over the conflicting parties, the failure of Western governments to exert pressure on meddling regional states as well as the UN’s and Western governments’ haste in concluding a deal.

11. Case Study: Malaya

This case study explores the Malayan ‘Emergency’, a British-Malayan counter-insurgency campaign fought against the armed wing of the Malayan Communist Party between 1948 and 1960. It sets out how the conflict ended through of shifts in the underlying political settlement, brought about by a series of elite bargains between Malay rulers and politicians, and between Malay and Chinese politicians, actively encouraged by the British government.

12. Case Study: Mali

This report considers the failure of Mali’s 2006 Algiers Accord. It argues that short-sighted attempts to end cycles of conflict have instead planted the seeds of new rounds of violence, as they have systematically failed to reconfigure the political settlement and address the core drivers of the conflict.

13. Case Study: Mozambique

This case focuses on a series of elite bargains made between Mozambique’s ruling party (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique, (FRELIMO) and the armed opposition, Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (RENAMO) since 1992, that have sought to end reoccurrences of violence. The study examines the background to these bargains and why they (partly) failed.

14. Case Study: Nepal

This case study describes how shifts in the underlying political settlement, changes in the bargains that existed amongst Nepali elites and pressure from regional players fed into both the conflict and subsequent peace agreement, signed in 2006. It also outlines how some of the transformative changes sought in the early post–agreement years have been highly contested, creating a period of ‘political unsettlement’.

15. Case Study: Philippines

This case study charts the lengthy period of negotiations that occurred between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and its off-shoot, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It outlines the challenges that the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, agreed in 2014 between the government and the MILF, still faces, and consider the degree to which external actors were able to support the peace process.

16. Case Study: Sierra Leone

A lasting political settlement in Sierra Leone was reached through a combination of decisive military power applied against the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), parallel diplomatic overtures to moderate elements in the group’s leadership, and a concerted international and regional effort to diminish the influence of Charles Taylor, a rebel leader in neighbouring Liberia. This case study charts these developments, and considers why the country is widely regarded as a post-conflict ‘success story’.

17. Case Study: Somalia

The long-running Somali crisis has led to an incomplete and unstable peace. This paper assesses how a series of elite bargains led to the 2004 Mbagathi peace process, and sets out how elite politics continue to define the Somali political settlement. It covers how external resources, opposition to Al-Shabbab and the protection offered by AMISOM forces have contributed to the ‘stickiness’ of the deal.

18. Case Study: South Sudan

This case outlines two contrasting peace agreements: the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the 2006 Juba Declaration. While the CPA promised political liberation, for many South Sudanese it resulted in political exclusion. The 2006 Juba Declaration was a more explicit elite bargain and alleviated demands for the immediate use of armed violence. But international perceptions that it was illegitimate prevented the UN and Troika (the USA, UK and Norwegian governments) investing in transforming this bargain into a stable political settlement.

19. Case Study: Tajikistan

Armed violence in Tajikistan’s civil war (1992-1997) reflected an ethno-regional struggle in which elites fought over the spoils of the new post-Soviet republic. This case study sets out how the partial military victory of the regime, the pledged allegiance of many militia to the state, the stalemate in fighting, and the commitment of all foreign powers were crucial antecedents to an elite bargain, which evolved into the formal agreement signed in 1997.

20. Case Study: Vietnam

This case study focuses on the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, an agreement between the then Governments of North and South Vietnam and the US, to bring an end to the Vietnam War. It sets out how the agreement failed because it attempted to freeze the conflict, rather than resolve its underlying causes, and as such, the North Vietnamese remained fundamentally committed to capturing the South.

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