The idea of a common conflict management emerged in Africa together with the visions of Pan-Africanism. When in 1963 the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was founded, peaceful conflict-settlement became a principle of the newly independent states. Additionally a very modern tool to manage interstate conflicts was created within that institutional framework: the Commission of Mediation, Conciliation and Arbitration (CMCA). Unfortunately this commission never came into action. Non-formal ways were used instead to deal with interstate-conflicts.
Since the 1960s explanations of the CMCA?s failure are grouped around one central argument: African Heads of State and Government avoided binding results of an official commission as an infringement of state sovereignty.
This paper argues that a focus on the principle of sovereignty cannot fully explain the failure of a common African conflict management. Instead additional aspects have to be considered: 1) on regional level the discussion on African integration divided the independent African states; 2) on global level the Cold War was an influencing factor of many African conflicts; 3) on local level tribalism was a driving force of many conflicts.
By taking into account external, internal, and structural factors very complex situations can be explained and it becomes clear that the scope for decision-making was influenced by more than worries about state sovereignty.