Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The UN Intervention Brigade

On 28 March, 2013, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 2098, which authorized the creation of an 'offensive intervention brigade' for the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The DRC is currently home to MONUSCO, the world's largest and most expensive peacekeeping operation. MONUSCO has faced its fair share of criticisms, namely failing to protect civilians, suffering language barriers with the local population, and the lack of a mandate that allowed for engaging with the various rebel movements that plague the area. However, the new brigade is authorized to seek out, engage, and destroy the many non-state actors that bring chaos to the region. Some of the groups, such as the notorious FDLR, the same rebels that perpetrated the Rwandan genocide, have been terrorizing the Kivus for almost 20 years. Others, such as the M23, are revamps of older movements, but still apt to cause massive violence and displacement seemingly whenever they so chose.

The rebel movements, ranging from non-Congolese actors such as the FDLR, various Mai-Mai organizations, the Raia Mutomboki , and the former CNDP now M23, have operated in the eastern region with impunity for far too long. Scholars, such as Laura Seay, have pointed out that this brigade is well needed, if about a decade too late in coming together. The UN, the Congolese government, and the international community have offered carrot after carrot to bring the rebels to negotiations. The instances of negotiations very rarely proved successful, with some parties refusing to participate at all. Several peaceful strategies have been offered and failed. The people of the east deserve peace, and the government in Kinshasa, as well as the national army (FARDC) have proved that they are unable and lack the legitimacy to provide security. For the UN to decide to send in an offensive force to effectively drive the hostile parties out of the forests is an excellent move. Many have questioned the legitimacy of sending 'peacekeepers' to wage 'acts of war'. In the instance of the DRC, no other option has worked, and this is the best chance to bring much needed stability to the region.

The first contingent of troops arrived in Goma on May 10. The Tanzanians, under the command of General James Mwakibolwa, are the first steps to bringing a security presence to the region. The rebel groups in the area are already worried, judging by the Twitter account of M23. While the first troops of the brigade are just arriving, many are looking forward to the future and the potential success of the operation. If it works, it will allow a region that has been the site of almost non-stop violence for 20 years to finally have peace, and all of the opportunities that come along with it.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

What's AFRICOM to do?

If you weren't paying attention to Africa during the Bush administration you might have missed the creation of United States Africa Command, or AFRICOM. Basically, the Bush administration took three separate 'Africa' military departments (EUCOM for West Africa, CENTCOM for East Africa, PACOM for Indian Ocean waters and islands off the east coast of Africa) and combined them into one. Why? Well, originally, AFRICOM was branded as a new partnership between African states and the US as a force for 'good'. You know, we'll train the rag tag armies of African countries and make them in to real forces, and we'll dig some wells, and build some clinics, and be sure to take lots of pictures so that everyone across Africa and around the world sees what 'good' the US is doing with its military.

Lately, though, with the rise of Islamic terrorism on the continent, congressmen and senators have been looking to AFRICOM for answers and action. On Thursday, while most wonks and policy addicts were watching the debacle that was the Hagel hearing, Army Gen. David Rodriguez was also undergoing a hearing. Rodriguez was nominated last year to lead AFRICOM. Just a few months ago no one, outside of those who follow Africa, really cared. Now, since Mali, Libya, and the influence of al-Qaeda, Congress seems to have decided to start to pay attention. Even senators that would fail a map quiz locating African countries (looking at you, Inhofe) want MORE troops for AFRICOM, MORE money, and MORE results.  See, according to Rodriguez, there are four major threats on the African continent at the moment:al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb; al Shabaab in Somalia; Boko Haram in Nigeria; and Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.  Congress feels that's bad for the US. Bad for the world. Because of terrorism. So we should do something.

Yet, Obama doesn't want the US to expand its military engagements in Africa. But now Congress does.

It will be interesting to see what use AFRICOM can be in combating the spread of terrorism throughout North Africa and in the Sahel. The point of the organization was to strengthen military ties between the US and African states, as well as the whole 'force of good'. For AFRICOM to function properly, it can't be seen as the US attempting to gain a military foothold on the continent. It has to be a willing, mutually beneficial relationship. That's hard to accomplish, due to the long history of western domination of Africa. Obama has almost a 'hands off' approach to Africa and its myriad issues; he let France deal with Mali, has allowed the UNSC to handle the tragedy of the continuing war in the DRC, and, in truth, has barely mentioned the continent at all (except Mali in the State of the Union, and that was only in the context of the larger 'war on terror'.)

All bets are that this will be another area of tension between the White House and Congress. And that is not good for anyone.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

On Mali and France.

First, if you haven't read Laura Seay's piece in Foreign Policy on Mali, you should. She gives a brilliant critique of the media coverage on Mali, and also some background on what is going on. So, what is happening in Mali? In short, it has a lot to do with a weak state and a tense domestic situation that spiraled out of control, now involving a France and ECOWAS, with several other African states promising and sending military support.

For almost a year, Mali was of no real concern to the international community- the coup and then takeover of half the country by rebels and militants was on the back burner of international issues. The United Nations Security Council passed a vague, open ended resolution back in December, but outside of that there was little haste to act.

Then France stepped in, and began what has amounted to a successful campaign against the militants in Mali. With over 3,000 troops on the ground, France is waging a real war, and winning. Yet, you can't have European intervention in a former colony without the conspiracy theories abounding, and almost as soon as the bombs began to fall, the op-ed pieces about 'France attempting to recolonize Mali' began to appear. This however, is far from the reason why France got involved. Hollande said it was due to 'one sovereign state asking for the help of another.' Hollande has made it clear that France will withdraw once the battles are done (March at the earliest). There is no reason to think otherwise. The bulk of the military engagement and peacekeeping will be done by an UN-backed African military force (AFISMA), not France. France is not after resources, not after colonies. It is simply waging its own fight against Islamic militants and doing a bang up job. While France mops up the al-Qaeda backed groups, the government of Mali attempts to set up peace talks with the MNLA to bring long term stability to the north.

So where does Mali fit in the 'War on Terror?' As Seay so brilliantly points out, Mali is not going to be a long, protracted engagement by France. It will not be an occupation. What Mali will be, and currently is, is an attempt by states working together to turn the tide of extremism, and roll back the influx of al-Qaeda backed movements in Mali.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Burundi’s 2015 General Election: Fear or Hope?

As far as Central Africa goes, Burundi is overlooked. Landlocked between the DRC, Rwanda, and Tanzania, Burundi's history is one of military government, ethnic cleansing, and civil war. Yet this small state is intimately tied to its neighbors. It was violence in Burundi during the 1970s that set the paranoia of the Habyarimana regime in Rwanda, laying the framework for genocide. Two Burundian presidents died within a year of each other in 1993-1994, and then all hell broke loose. Burundi emerged from a long civil war, holding elections in 2005 that set the CNDD in to legitimacy and democratic government, but the election cycle in 2010 broke down with opposition parties boycotting the general election after early results seemed to be rigged in the favor of the CNDD. Burundi is set to hold elections again in 2015. The CNDD faces new and old rebel groups and there is an uneasy peace holding the country at the moment. Which brings me to today's post- a guest post explaining the current situation of democracy in Burundi.

Stany Nzobonimpa is currently working towards a degree in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution in Kenya. He also runs the Association AJC Burundi, a political organization for the youth of Burundi. This is his opinion on the future of democracy in his country of Burundi. He will be writing frequently on working towards peace and solutions for the heart of Africa.

Burundi’s 2015 General Election: Fear or Hope?
Now 3 years, the CNDD FDD’s second term is flowing...and with, I must say, little proof that the Nyangoma found party is well positioned and trustful enough to win the coming election.
It was in January 2005 that the former rebels registered CNDD FDD (Burundi’s ruling party) as a political party creating hope for the future of the country. Many analysts saw the coming of a new ruling system mainly controlled by the Hutu, the major ethnic group who had been denied power since independence as a new era, an open door to democracy and good governance. However, that hope could not last longer. Only a few years after their emerging to power, the party was accused by some of its members of ‘changing and migrating’ in terms of ideology, accusations which gave way for the CNDD FDD to lose many of its committed and historical officials. The situation became even worse when the outcomes of the 2010 general election were contested by all of the opposition parties whose leaders decided to withdraw their candidates from continuing with the electoral process.
On December 4, 2012 in the famous ‘Palace’ of Kigobe, the news surprised almost every Burundian: the CENI team (National Independent Electoral Commission), chaired by the same individuals of 2010, was voted for by the majority in parliament to head the new commission for 2015 leaving anger in the midst of the opposing parties and doubt in independent observers. Those individuals were accused by boycotters in 2010 of being ‘used’ by the ruling CNDD FDD and ADC Ikibiri (Coalition of opposing parties) blamed the chairman, Ambassador P. Claver Ndayicariye and his team for the ‘trucked’ election.

Now that almost ‘every’ hope is gone for a fair election, what will 2015 bring us? Wait and see. The general election is coming when majority of the leaders who ‘think things should be done differently’ are living in exile, having been forced to do so by fear of death in 2011. The era approaches with war memorandum and attacks in some provinces. In the year 2011, according to a Human Rights Watch Report (2012), violence increased and, 3 years after election, the political situation has failed to stabilize. Impunity for killing and other human rights violation has been an obstacle to peace and stability in the country. With the ruling party’s youth wing (Imbonerakure) and the intelligence services (SNR) largely accused in many reports of being violence promoters, the future for the political stability of the country seems to disappear by the ‘horizons’.
In a country where more than 400 people were killed in one year (2011) because of their political opinions (Anonymous Report 2011), concerned should be careful and prepare an open, fair, democratic and accepted election to prevent violence in the coming 2015 Burundi general election. I think that it is NOW that constructive talks between ALL parties should start to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence. People should understand that unless there is TRUE democracy and good governance, respect of individuals’ rights and understanding between blocks, the reconciliation process will NEVER take roots in that country known as the heart of Africa.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Army integration in post conflict enviroment: Game plan for failure?

One thing the international community loves is negotiated peace accords. Central Africa is a  graveyard of broken peace agreements, which more often than not unravel in the area of rebel-military integration. Integrating former rebels into the military structure of a state is a vital part of keeping the peace in any region torn by war, but it has yet to be undertaken with positive results. The script goes as follows: rebels feel powerless once weapons are set aside, the central government feels it no longer has to honor agreements, causing rebel forces to quickly reorganize, usually stating that demands of successful integration have not be implemented to the degree necessary. The cycle then repeats- war, negotiations, agreements. Currently, there three rebel groups that have rearmed under claims that integration agreements were not fulfilled- the MNLA in Mali, the M23 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and SELEKA in the Central African Republic. 

Why is it that rebel-military integration strategies fail? Current strategies in peacekeeping call for rebels to be integrated in to new national armies, yet this policy doesn't seem to work very well, if it works at all.

 One problem facing military integration is the willingness/ability of a state to fulfill the commitment. The ability of a weakened state to successfully integrate rebels in to the military apparatus can be greatly diminished due to conflict. The state could have every intention to implement agreements, but simply lack the capacity to act. The flip side is the state could intend to never fully implement rebel integration. Either way, the longer it takes to successfully integrate rebels in to a national army, the more likely it is that hostilities will return (usually within three years). Once the process begins, if it begins, former rebel leaders can feel that agreements are slow to be honored or that the state is simply ignoring the necessity for integration, whatever the true motive of the state may be. In cases where there has been some success at rebel-military integration, like in the DRC with former CNDP combatants, rebel leaders have been dissatisfied with the results and rearmed.  

Successful implementation of rebels in to national armies involves reorganizing current armies in to new national armies, with former rebels given positions at all levels of command. In most cases, such as in the DRC, the agreements call for former combatants to be spread throughout the armed forces. If former rebel groups are placed in areas that were once strongholds and are placed under the command of former rebel leaders, mutinies happen (see M23). Reorganizing an army takes resources and work, which can be daunting for states recovering from war. The UN and international community tend to help the state with restructuring, but once policies and frameworks have been laid out, the state is left on its own.  If there is no trust between the former rebel groups and the central government, the resurgence of hostilities is likely. 

There are many factors that cause the failure of rebel-military integration agreements, and this is an area of research that has attracted my attention. It seems that the current framework of rebel-military integration sets agreements up to fail, yet there has not been enough data compiled to successfully revamp policies. I know that it is something I will be following with great interest. For now, it seems rebels and states are stuck in a cycle of failure.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ethnicity, Islam, and coup d'état in Mali

Mali is a west African state that is famous for Timbuktu and having a large nomadic population. It is also landlocked and poor. Recently, Mali has been in the headlines for a military coup that was in response to poor management of a Tuareg rebellion. The irony- shortly after the coup all of north Mali fell in to rebel hands. North Mali is currently controlled by two rebel groups, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) a Tuareg separatist group, and Ansar Dine, backed by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (cue United States interest). Recent articles have highlighted Ansar Dine's condemnable actions in northern Mali- enforcing Sharia law, cutting off limbs, and destroying UNESCO World Heritage sites in and around Timbuktu. Western states and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), along with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have issued strongly worded statements condemning the actions of  both the Mali junta (for staging the coup) and the jihad-driven Ansar Dine. On December 20, 2012, the UNSC issued Resolution 2085, calling for an ECOWAS military force to stabilize and reclaim the northern territory- perhaps, sometime, in the next year or so, but only after all diplomatic measures had been taken. Several policy experts have criticized the UNSC as too little, too late (Drezner at Foreign Policy on how the UNSC is like grad school). I claim no expertise on Mali or the current situation, but I can tell you that I have seen better resolutions come out of a Model UN conference.

What exactly is happening in Mali? Who are the Tuareg and why do they want the north liberated? What is al-qaeda doing in Mali, besides destroying parts of Islamic history? Why did the army find it in the best interest to stage a coup, then lose over half the country to rebels, then force out another civilian leader? What can ECOWAS do to stabilize the situation?

To start, the Tuareg rebellion is the keystone. The Tuareg are Berber, and live a nomadic lifestyle in the interior of Africa, making a home of the vast Sahara desert. The Tuareg people cover an area that stretches from Mali north through Algeria, and across in to Libya and Niger. Mali gained independence from France in the 1960s, and the new state crushed the first Tuareg rebellion, leading to deep resentments. This caused the rebellion of the 1990s, which ended in 1992 with a negotiated peace settlement. Part of the peace agreement was the decentralization of power and the integration of rebel fighters into Mali's army. Things seemed to settle down, until October 2011, when fighters from Libya's civil war returned to Mali and formed the MNLA. In April of 2012, the MNLA declared the secession of Azawad from Mali. The MNLA is a secular rebel movement, and that brought tensions and clashes with Ansar Dine. Ansar Dine managed to get the upper hand in a series of battles, leading to a recent 'peace agreement' between the two factions.

Ansar Dine benefited from the MNLA's actions at the beginning of 2012. In January, the MNLA opened hostilities with the central government of Mali. As Mali lost more territory to the rebellion, the military decided to take matters into its own hands, and in March of 2012 members of the military formed the  National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State, and took over state media and the presidential palace, placing Amadou Toumani Touré under house arrest. The stated cause for the coup was that Toure had mishandled the rebellion in the north. ECOWAS and the UNSC sprung into diplomatic action and issued condemnations of the junta. While the junta was taking over the government, the rebels were taking over Mali. The international community responded by doing the usual nothing, and the situation for civilians in Mali, especially in the northern region, went from bad to worse.

Ansar Dine is the rebel group that is getting the most press coverage, mainly due to the extreme actions of their fighters. Reports of amputations for crimes have poured out of AD controlled areas and the local economies that thrived on tourist dollars are near collapse. The destruction of Islamic tombs by AD has been thoroughly covered by the Western press and highlights just how radical the AD are in their ideology. This movement is rather different from the MNLA- while MNLA seeks independence from central government control, AD just wants all of Mali to become an Islamic state, under strict Sharia law. 

The UNSC passed resolutions in July and December calling for action in Mali, but the French seem to be the only western state ready to take quick and decisive action to restore civilian government and drive out the rebels. This stems from France's protection of francophone Africa, and the fact that France never really left most of its former colonies. The central government of Mali is at a very weak state. Coup leader Amadou Sanogo ran the country for a brief moment, before stepping down after ECOWAS pressure. Yet in December, Prime Minister Diarra was arrested by the military for 'attempting to stay in power indefinitely'. His arrest was ordered by Sanogo, which led many to speculate that a second coup had occurred. Naturally, the military denied this. Currently, the military is thought to still be in control of the government under interim president Dioncounda Traore. Mali seems unable to drive the rebels back or take control of rebel territory, which leaves the ball in the international community's court. ECOWAS has stated it will (maybe) supply troops for stabilizing the country.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International recently issued statements that any international force sent in to drive out the rebels would just make ethnic and religious tensions increase. Reports have accused both the government and rebels of torture, extra judicial killings, and other horrors. Rights groups are calling for the international community to take a measured response to the situation. The UNSC resolution is vague in nature, and doesn't have a clear plan for intervening in Mali. As always, it is the people of Mali that suffer. It will be interesting to see how the UN, France, and the US handle the situation. If any country acts it will be France, though the US is increasing military presence in Africa specifically to handle groups such as Ansar Dine. While no action is planned for some time (mid next year, maybe), for the moment it is a 'wait and see what else happens' ordeal.

What's going down in the C.A.R. (Blame France!)

Let's talk about the Central African Republic, shall we?

The C.A.R. is a landlocked, 'poor' state in Central Africa. It hardly ever makes the news, except for that one time when Kony was hiding there (he still is). Also, there are around 100 US Special Forces in the country, but only to catch Kony (and not because of some stupid, misguided internet video- the agreement was made between US and Western darling Uganda far before 'Invisible Children' came around). The CAR is rich in diamonds, gold, and minerals much like its larger neighbor the DRC.  Much like the DRC, the CAR suffers from corruption and an inability to use its natural wealth to build up infrastructure and civil society. Also, rebel groups like to use the CAR as a staging ground.

To understand the current reason why the CAR is a hot mess, history is a bit important. The CAR, formerly Ubangi-Shari, was a French colony that gained independence in 1960. The next thirty years saw little legitimate government- the military mostly ran the place. In the 1990s, a civilian government was established under Ange-Felix Patasse. It lasted about a decade, but it wasn't a very bright decade for democracy in the CAR, and in 2003 the military staged a coup, installing General Francois Bozize. The military government held 'elections' in 2005 that kept Bozize in power. Just for fun, elections were held in 2011, confirming Bozize as president yet again, but as you can guess, outside observers and civilians within the country claimed that voting was 'very flawed'. This brings us to the current situation in the CAR- a military government hiding under the blanket of rigged 'democratic' elections.

So, what about the rebels that are taking the country, claiming 10 cities and heading towards the capital of  Bangui (but they pinky promise that they won't take the it) and causing civilians to riot and protest outside the French embassy? To start, the current movement, Seleka, is composed of former rebel groups:
the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), the Union of Democratic Forces for Action, the Movement of Centrafrican Liberators for Justice, and the People’s Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD). In 2008, most of the rebels agreed to a peace accord with Bozize's government that called for the integration of the various rebel militias in to the state army. In January of 2012, the leader of the APRD (the main rebel group) Jean-Jacques Demafouth was arrested on charges of trying to regroup the former militias. This was the 'spark' that set the current trajectory. Upon Demafouth's arrest, the former rebels immediately called for a halt to any disarmament, demobilisation and social reinsertion (DDR). In December of 2012, the rebels started the assault on cities in CAR, and released a 10-point list of demands to the government.  Among the demands were respect of the Birao Agreement between the government and former rebels, and the full implementation of the recommendations of the last Inclusive National Dialogue. Col. Djouma Narkoyo, the leader of the rebel movement, stated that they have no intention of taking the capital if the government is willing to talk and fully implement the 2007 peace accords, but if Bozize won't negotiate, they like, totally will sack the capital and throw out Bozize. 

From all reports, Bangui is on edge. Yesterday, residents staged protests outside of the French embassy, throwing stones and shouting for France to 'DO SOMETHING BECAUSE THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT, FORMER COLONIAL POWER'. Air France cancelled its daily flight into Bangui due to the protests, and French president Hollande stated that while France would protect its 'interests' in the CAR (minerals, expats, ect) France would in no way protect any 'regime'. This means that it is not likely that there is any willingness to stop the rapid rebel advance, outside of UN Security Council condemnations. There is a force of various Central African states, MICOPAX, stationed in the CAR to help stabilize the country, and last week Chad sent more troops at the request of Bozize. Yet, there is little chance the MICOPAX troops will stop the rebels, as it has been stated the troops are there to act as a peacekeeping force.                                     

With little support for an illegitimate regime, it seems likely that the rebels will eventually take the capital and install new leadership. It all depends on Bozize and his willingness to open negotiations. Meanwhile, residents in Bangui are very worried about the possibility of war on the streets, and humanitarian organizations are releasing reports of civilians fleeing the rebel advance, stating the situation is deteriorating rapidly. Whether the CAR will have a new military government, or another negotiated settlement, is anyone's guess at the moment.