‘Why do some civil wars end, and stay ended, while others reignite?’ This is the central question that Securing the Peace, by Monica Duffy Toft, poses. In addressing the question, the book discusses advantages and disadvantages of terminating a war by negotiated settlements, and absolute military victory of a government or a rebel group, or ceasefires and stalemates. Based on a statistical analysis of war recurrence, the author argues that, even though negotiated settlements are the most desirable methods to terminate civil wars, they are also more likely to cause a re-ignition of conflicts in the long-term, because, generally speaking, they largely ignore the issue of deep reform of contested institutions. By illustrating different cases of conflicts, such as those raging in El Salvador or the Republic of Sudan, Toft concludes that it is necessary to revise the most common approaches to conflict resolution in order to establish a long-lasting peace and, in doing so, she suggests that victories depend on the level of order maintained by governments in the post-war period.
The content of the book is well structured in nine chapters. They include introduction to the topic of post-war stability, securing the peace, termination of civil wars, discussion around the theory of mutual benefit versus mutual harm, a statistical analysis of war recurrence and longer-term outcomes. Later, the book moves on to discussing in-depth case studies of El Salvador, Uganda and the Republic of Sudan. The central argument of the analysis is that a crucial part of ending civil wars is rooted in the establishment of hybrid strategies to ensure the strength of settlements. In its theoretical part, Toft draws the theory of mutual benefit and mutual harm as the most important of such hybrid strategies. The theory revolves around the existence of simultaneous mechanisms guaranteeing benefits to break the fighting and promising harm for resuming the fight. Toft’s subsequent statistical analysis shows that termination of civil wars by negotiated settlements poses a major vulnerability to durable peace because of their lack of mutual benefit and mutual harm mechanisms. By contrast to negotiated settlements, Toft argues that, while civil wars ceased by military victory have a negative impact on civil liberties, they are more likely to guarantee durable peace because they guarantee harm to those who continue with violence.
Based on an analysis of 129 civil wars through which Toft claims that settlements reduced the likelihood of achieving long-lasting peace, she analyses the reasons why negotiated settlements have the tendency to erupt in another series of violence. The author argues that, while the content of agreements is, of course, key this is not, reportedly, the most decisive feature as to why some agreements fail. Signed agreements need not only strong content but also the support of all parties involved in the actual conflict. A third party’s assistance to negotiated settlement tend to increase the probability that war will re-emerge, because their facilitation to negotiations may overshadow the credibility of the involved parties. In addition, in states where violence is terminated but then war is followed by injustice or abuse, the breakout of new civil wars can be expected. Only when negotiated settlements are employed to develop institutions with power-sharing characteristics, negotiated settlements have higher chances to guarantee peace in the long-term than military victories, the author argues. If those settlements are not solid enough, they might not be the best method to secure a regime of democracy following a civil war.
This review will not focus on the cases of El Salvador or Uganda, but rather the Republic of South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, in which a resurgence of political instability (possibly generating renewed insurgency) was observed in January 2019, only three months after the last negotiated settlement was signed. The book suggests that it is not easy to identify what the best possible means to ensure lasting peace in Sudan are, due to the fact that Sudan has been under a civil war for eleven of its more than fifty years of independence. Based on Toft’s findings, the Sudanese wars have been based on differences in race, language, negotiation, religion and other regional divergencies, as well as rooted in the leaders’ inability to conduct meaningful negotiations. Despite the rough path of negotiations, the Addis Ababa Peace Accord was signed in 1972 to end the First Sudanese Civil war. However, the settlement strategies were more focused on the factions’ opposition of each other’s rule, rather than on the termination of the war’s root causes. Based on the author’s conclusions, the agreement failed because it could not directly identify the question of southern autonomy and it was lacking appropriate provisions for resolution of the opposing intentions of the factions. Toft’s analysis implies that, by signing the agreement, the factions left the responsibility of collective security to two different armed forces in the southern region. She suggests that stability and democracy persist in states where the security sector remains symmetrical instead. Toft’s analysis, moreover, suggests that the agreement did not formally recognise southern requests and the demands of South Sudan for autonomy which also contributed to the failure of the settlement. Finally, while, according to Toft, negotiated settlements have a significant impact on prospects for the level of democracy and the quality of peace, this assumption does not necessarily reveal their impact on prosperity. In her understanding, the Sudanese settlements have had little impact on improving the level of prosperity in the country, as poverty and economic inequality remain key root causes for conflict today.
Overall, the author argues that negotiated settlements based on a benefit-harm structure increase prospects for peace. The author concludes that in most cases, third-party guarantees are not the best option for civil war terminations. Overall, this book is a scientific contribution reflecting on civil war terminations and providing well-documented details about their possible outcomes. However, while Toft’s analysis provides an in-depth background of what has happened in the history of civil wars, the volume certainly leaves a lot of room for fresh research on how to concretely deal with post-war reconstruction in a way that prevents conflicts’ re-ignition.