n African Journal on Conflict Resolution - Third-party intervention in the Mbindia enthronement conflict : containment or transformation?

Volume 6, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1562-6997


The intervention of a third party in the conflict around the appointing of a local Chief is analysed. Traditions for selecting and installing a successor to a Chief who had passed away were in place and were followed by the local community concerned. The ruler of the Administrative District, however, used all his power to control the selection and enthronement of the new Chief. The Government intervened as a 'neutral' party (under armed protection!) in the ensuing conflict. 'Problem-solving' mediation was used, but the actual objective was to contain the conflict as soon as possible and restore 'peace' and 'order'. The interests and emotions of the local party were not listened to, and an outcome was imposed that left the people of Mbindia totally dissatisfied. A year after the conflict, the perceptions and feelings of the people on both sides were explored by means of interviews.

The contrast between the paradigms of individualistic containment and relational transformation is discussed. Views on what a successful outcome should be are given. Special emphasis is placed on transformative mediation in which parties are empowered to resolve their conflict themselves, and in which they are guided towards recognising and understanding the concerns of each other. It is such an approach that can lead to an outcome that satisfies all the parties, provides a lasting solution and preserves community relationships.

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