What roles have been played by Belgium in the crises that have devastated the Congo? The purpose of this paper is to depict the tensions and potential contradictions between these roles. To do so, the analysis is divided into three parts. The first underlines the specific elements of the context. The second examines the variety of postures adopted by Belgium towards Congo since its independence. It shows a broad spectrum of ambiguous attitudes, from direct interference – and even destabilisation ‒ to military and political support, as well as withdrawals and silences. The third part highlights the divergent – and sometimes incompatible - strategies launched by two Belgian Foreign Ministers towards Congo, namely Louis Michel and Karel De Gucht. These two approaches have been selected because they reveal the extent of the internal tensions undermining the whole of politics in Belgium.
The purpose of this article is to question some basic assumptions regarding reconciliation after wars and mass atrocities. Indeed, how can numerous policy-makers, practitioners, and scholars contend that reconciliation is necessary while it is often distrusted and rejected by victims? Are there not cases where calls for reconciliation would prove to be fruitless and even detrimental for peace and/or democracy? To answer these questions, it is worth looking at the interactions between reconciliation and negotiation. Beyond a theoretical interest, this question has a direct impact for practitioners; a better understanding of the issue is actually a sine qua non condition for more efficient interventions. In terms of methodology, this study refers to various examples as illustrative cases (Afghanistan, Rwanda, South-Africa, and the Franco-German case). Its objective is not to capture the complexity of each case study but to determine to what extent reconciliation can be considered as negotiable.
Do parties handle conflicting justice notions when they negotiate about the legacy of a colonial past? This question is at the core of an increasing number of judicial and non-judicial processes around the world. In settler-colonial societies, this debate is far from new. The objective of this article is neither to consider the general debate about reparations nor to study theoretically how communities can digest “a past that is hard to swallow.” It is to detect the conflicting justice notions mobilized in the negotiation process when seeking to come to an agreement or other kind of conclusion to the process. Do the parties explicitly refer to these conflicting justice notions or do they avoid them? To address this question, the article focuses on one in-depth empirical case study, namely the Belgian case.
This article questions the role of historical analogies in reaching – or not – effective and durable agreements. It compares two emblematic cases, the Israeli-Palestinian case and the Franco-Algerian case, and focuses on the tension that exists between the weight of the past and the need to move forward. The purpose of the article is not to reduce the hardest cases to their historical dimension. It is rather to show that the ways in which the memories of past events are interpreted, misinterpreted, or even manipulated create the context that shapes peace processes. The analysis is structured on the three main functions attributed to historical analogies: representing the unfamiliar, assigning social roles, and framing action. The examination of these functions helps us to better understand how negotiators and mediators can try to live with the memories rather than without them or against them.
The focal point of this essay is the duration of intractable conflicts. The mere passage of time has no magical effect on conflicting notions of justice. On the contrary, a succession of crises and tensions accentuates entrenched positions concerning historical grievances. First, we present the processes through which parties defend a particular notion of justice on behalf of previous generations as rational games that depend, to a large extent, on parties’ interests. Second, we examine these processes from a moral perspective. Rather than emphasizing strategic dynamics that are based on political interpretations of the past, we focus on ethical quandaries related to the “paradoxical absence” of those who remain at the center of the justice claims. Third, we go beyond rational and moral dimensions to focus on the emotional weight of traumatic events and their long-lasting impacts on victims’ descendants.