This article explains the role of coercion in international mediation of violent conflict involving atrocity crimes from the parties’ perspectives. It draws on coercion theory and expands the framework of atrocity mediation, examining the successful yet controversial African Union mediation in Kenya. Coercion theory aims to solve what this study reads as the agent-coercion problem in the international system: agents retain choice despite coercion by more powerful actors. The framework argues that conflict parties are rational, legitimate voluntary agents who always have choices. Strategy requires mediators to create ripeness using enticing mediation or settlement proposals. Then coercion’s role would be to build consensus on peace offers, persuading reluctant parties that compromise is the better choice than resistance. Coercion infuses a sense of urgency in the parties’ contemplation of the cost/benefit implications of their choices, accelerating decision-making. The study contributes to understanding the limits of power mediation in international relations.
This version clarifies the research question and the conceptual framework.