Tetsuro Iji. Multiparty Mediation in Violent Conflict: Peacemaking Diplomacy in the Tajikistan Civil War Routledge Taylor & Francis, 2019.

Book Review

Tetsuro Iji. Multiparty Mediation in Violent Conflict: Peacemaking Diplomacy in the Tajikistan Civil War Routledge Taylor & Francis, 2019. ISBN 1000691462, 9781000691467. 206 pages.


As is known, during Tajikistan’s civil war(1992-1997), a series of talks took place between the government of President Emomali Rahmonand the United Tajik Opposition(UTO) under the aegis of the United Nationsand with the endorsement of Russia, Iran and other countries. The talks started in April1994 and ended in June 1997 with the signing in Moscow of the General Agreement on the Establishment of Peace and National Accord,putting an end to the Tajik civil war. Although the Tajik negotiators were responsible for the outcome of the talks and determined the contents of the agreements, having an external ‘third party’ mediator and assistant to negotiators were influential on how these agreements were reached. Also important was the involvement of foreign governments who were close to one or more of the Tajik parties.  These external actors had a complex influence over the peace process. Yet it was probably one of the best coordinated peace processes in recent history, with a very diverse range of institutional actors all working together to support the peacemaking efforts of Tajikistanis.

            The reviewed Multiparty Mediation in Violent Conflict: Peacemaking Diplomacy in the Tajikistan Civil War is written by Tetsuro Iji, an associate Professor at the Faculty of Global and Regional Studies, Toyo University, Japan.  In the early 2000s Doctor Iji visited Tajikistan two times and, accompanied by the author of this review, met with major Tajik negotiators, mostly representing the government as well as with international mediators. In addition, the manuscript of this book was fact-checked for accuracy and edited thoroughly by the author of this review during his visit to Japan in 2012.

            Briefly put, this book is on how the Tajik negotiators managed to reach an agreement to settle a violent conflict with the help of external mediators.  Given the rising number of conflicts all over the world these days, this book is useful for presenting the Tajik case as an archetypal conflict settlement with all its merits and omits. Why did Tajikistan resolve differences peacefully, while another fought a bloody civil war? What role did negotiators play in bringing peace in the country? These are major questions Iji wants to answer.

            The structure of the book is simple, and easy for reading. Chapter one is an introduction, that touched upon theory and methodology of mediation and negotiation. Chapter two “The Tajikistan Conflict and Early Peacemaking Efforts” and three “The inter-Tajik Negotiations and Multiparty Mediation” gives a helpful narrative history of inter-Tajik conflict providing readers with necessary information, taken from academic literature written by Tajik and Western scholars, well versed in history of Tajik conflict, negotiations and mediation.  Chapters four “Mediator Interests, Cooperation, and Consensus”, five “Coordination in Multiparty Mediation” and six “Complementarity and Interconnectedness” are more analytical and represent the most valuable part of the study. Themes include: Mediators’ Interests, Consensus and Cooperation; Coordination in Multiparty Mediation; and, Complementarity and Interconnectedness among Intermediary Roles. Chapter seven is a conclusion. Throughout the book, Iji used his own first-hand material resulting from extensive fieldwork, including participant-observation with international organizations, numerous interviews with Tajik negotiators and international mediators.  

In the core of Iji’s methodology is Christopher Mitchell’s model of third-party roles that he used, in particular, for the study of the conflict in Sudan. Mitchell suggests that third-party involvement should be understood “as a complex process, to which many entities might contribute, simultaneously or consecutively, rather than as the behaviour of a single, intermediary actor.”[1] Applying Mitchell’s notions of third-party roles, Iji studied the Tajik mediation, focusing on the pre-negotiation phase and the subsequent inter-Tajik negotiations. He goes further investigating the question of mediators’ interests and motives. In particular he tries to bridge the “idealist” (that is abstract humanitarian concerns) versus “realist” (mediator’s self-interest) gap in international mediation literature. He misses yet another – more critical – view on international intervention in conflict settlement/resolution. It concerned with symbolic significance of peace operations, which Francois Debrix call hegemonic and simulative façade of “riot control” that has little to do with liberalism as ideology, but relates to neoliberalism on global scale.[2]

I particularly support Iji’s statement that acceptance of the lead mediator’s coordinating authority by other third parties is essential for a well-coordinated mediation process. Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Tajikistan Gerd Merrem was accepted as the lead coordinator of peace process and his role in bringing peace is tremendous.

I also think the idealst/realist dichotomy as presented in the book, is rather overrated, as the border between the two is blurry at best. In the Tajik case, third parties (countries and regional organizations) joined the process as mediators and peacekeepers as soon as they saw that negotiations started to bore results and there a perspective of low-cost intervention and acquisition of an honourable status of a peacemaker, emerged. They supported peace-making out of both humanitarian as well as selfish interests and concerns.

In fact, the Tajik peace process shared a trait common to peace processes all over the world: a tendency toward collision between a “security first” peace approach (Iji called it “conflict settlement”) and a more comprehensive, representative, transparent, liberal and democracy-promoting peacemaking (as Iji put it, “conflict resolution”). In Tajikistan, the UN intervened in order to settle the conflict and opted for a relatively narrow but realistic formula that focused on ending warfare. Because of this “security first-justice second approach”, the interests of some political forces (regions, parties, ethnic communities) that did not also resort to the use of weapons did not get a place at the table or seat in the transitional government. This approach was very successful in stopping the war, but it has not yet been as successful in establishing a more democratic system of governance.

This book is another case study-based valuable contribution into ongoing conflict management and conflict resolution debate. It is useful for those interested in:  1) security studies, 2) area studies, 3) international relations, and 4) political theory.

Scholars and policy makers, who deal with the Middle East, Asia and Africa, will find this book useful, as these countries are eager to promote peaceful environment and sustainable development. In particular, the book may help in overcoming the ineffectiveness of efforts at conflict management via suggesting realistic strategies and tactics, which should be put in place for mediation to yield effective results in Zimbabwe, Syria, Yemen and South Sudan. Because UN played a central role in mediation in Tajikistan, its Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) and its regional offices covering Central Africa, West Africa and Central Asia, DPPA’s Mediation Support Unit (MSU), and UN’s Standby Team of Mediation Experts also will find this book useful.

The Tajik case studied by Iji, can help, in particular in understanding and settling the Afghan conflict. Both Tajik and Afghan conflicts share some characteristics and the two nations relate to each other as total 20 mln Tajiks live in both countries. Afghans and Afghanistan were important in both causing and relaxing the conflict in Tajikistan. Historically, insurgents of both countries used neighbouring territories as base for mutiny and riot. 

As for secondary audience, the mediation industry as a whole, might be interested in this book including commercial and non-lawyer mediation community. Skills of negotiation, solving problems, making deals, building consensus, avoiding violence, and managing intractable disputes are vitally needed in the world. Mediation theory and practice as a discipline emerged in their modern form over the past half century. This book may enhance this subject’s importance as mediation is quickly growing as an alternative means of resolution on variety of issues including community affairs, national and international businesses, and international affairs. Teaching on international mediation is also making its first steps. It emerged in the early 1980-s and includes law, business, government, psychology, economics, anthropology, the arts, and education academic and teaching perspectives.

              As for another academic publications on Tajik peace process it is worth to mention books by Abdullaev, K., & Barnes, C. (Eds.). Politics of Compromise: The Tajikistan Peace Process. London: Conciliation Resources, 2001, and Heathershaw, J. Post-Conflict Tajikistan: The Politics of Peacebuilding and the Emergence of Legitimate Order. London: Routledge. 2009. The first book is written by a team of Tajik and Western authors. It provides insight into the main political factions that dominated Tajikistan’s public life during the 1990s and explores the negotiation process leading to the 1997 General Agreement.A chapter written by Goryayev and Rigacci Hay describe the design and methods used in the inter-Tajik negotiations.  A monograph by Heathershaw uses discourse analysis exploring the relationship between international peacebuilding initiatives and practises of local politics. As it comes from the title, this book chronologically covers post-conflict period (1997-2009), while Iji’s book is mostly about the 1994-1997 negotiation period. Heathershaw tries to ask the question why Western intervention into Tajik politics did result in authoritarianism instead of democratization?  While, the primary focus of Iji’s book is the external dimension of peacemaking in Tajikistan, characterized by the rather successful management of a diverse range of third-party efforts. The analysis of “ethical dilemma” between “order and justice,” which mediators often face in international peacemaking efforts, relates Iji’s study to Heathershaw’s critique of the neo-liberal peacebuilding and international development efforts that fail to bring more justice and democracy in Tajikistan. 

Multiparty Mediation in Violent Conflict: Peacemaking Diplomacy in the Tajikistan Civil War is the first and the only research monograph devoted to the examination of the Tajik peace negotiation and mediation. It is for anyone interested in the practice and analysis of negotiation, mediation, and conflict resolution including educators, researchers, diplomats, lawyers, business leaders, labour negotiators, government officials, and mediators. It is also designed for those involved in Central Asian affairs and Tajikistan in particular as a scholar, analyst, INGO official, diplomat or politician.

Kamoludin Abdullaev is a historian studying modern Central Asia with focus on Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. He also policy analyst and independent consultant in international non-governmental research organizations involved in conflict resolution, conflict prevention, peace-building, civil society building, and education in Central Asia. Abdullaev authored and edited 10 books including Historical Dictionary of Tajikistan, three editions published in 2002, 2010 and 2018 in Lanham-Toronto-Plymouth, UK: The Scarecrow Press Inc., as well as series of articles in English, Russian, Tajik, and translated into French, Farsi and Japan.


[1] Christopher Mitchell. “External Peace-making Initiatives and Intra-national Conflict” in Manus I. Midlarsky (ed.). The Internationalisation of Communal Strife. London: Routledge. 1992, p.140.

[2] See: Francois Debrix. Re-Envisioning Peacekeeping: The United Nations and the Mobilization of Ideology. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999