The theory and practice of interconnected third-party conflict resolution : explaining the failure of the peace process in Rwanda, 1990-1994.
New approaches to third-party conflict resolution stress the significance of the interconnections
between the interventions of various external actors. Recent empirical and policy-onented work on
civil wars underscores the recurrent policy challenges such external actors face in peace processes.
Taken together, the two bodies of work provide a framework for assessing the impact of international
conflict resolution efforts.
The thesis explores the connections between different third-party conflict resolution efforts that
accompanied the Rwandan civil war, from 1990 to 1994, and assesses the individual and collective
impact they had on the course of that conflict. Empirical chapters, arranged chronologically, review
pre-negotiation efforts, mediation processes, and both diplomatic and peacekeeping efforts to secure
the implementation of a peace agreement signed in August 1993. This review considers official and
unofficial efforts by both state and non-state actors.
Applying the framework to the empirical material, the thesis explores a seeming paradox: that the
genocide that engulfed Rwanda in 1994 was preceded by a wide range of international efforts to
contain and manage what started off as a small-scale civil war. The thesis dispels the conventional
wisdom that nothing was done to prevent the genocide in Rwanda. Rather, it provides empirical and
theoretical evidence that the failure of the peace process was not a function of the weakness of any
one third-party effort, but of the paucity of the connections between them. In so doing, the thesis
generates further insights into the critical role—and current weakness—of co-ordinating elements in
The thesis then highlights the theoretical implications of the case study. First, it confirms the
significance of interconnections between third-party interventions, and adds detail as to the various
positive and negative forms those interconnections may take. Second, it highlights the fact that
recurrent obstacles to conflict resolution in civil wars may arise not only from the nature of the wars
themselves, but also from the nature of third-party intervenors. Thus, it suggests a shift in emphasis
both for empirical and theoretical investigation onto intervening actors, and in particular the systems
and processes that co-ordinate and organise their efforts—or fail to do so. The central arguments of
the thesis serve as a cautionary tale about the limits of third-party conflict resolutrnn, and as an
argument for systematic reform of the international system for managing third-party interventions.