A version of this post originally appeared on the Enough Project blog. The views expressed are the authors' own.
Imagery of Leer town in Unity state, which journalists and aid workers have been unable to visit since the latest bout of violence, shows huts engulfed in flames.
Speaking by satellite phone to the Sudan Tribune, Tang Both, a resident of Leer, said he was forced to run into the bush due to the attack. "As [I] am talking now we are on [the] run, because this morning our area went under fire from government soldiers. We were forced out" he said, adding that "many children and women [...] died while trying to cross [the] river [...] for safety."
Although the Satellite Sentinel Project.cannot determine if the forces that attacked Leer were government soldiers or government aligned militias, confidential sources do confirm the attack itself.
According to the United Nations, 188,100 people were already displaced in Unity state as of January 31, 2014. This latest attack will only increase those numbers. Leer is the home town of South Sudanese “resistance” leader and former Vice President Riek Machar, who recently re-confirmed his continued opposition to the South Sudanese government led by President Salva Kiir.
Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) analysis of imagery taken on February 2 found evidence of intentional damage and destruction of civilian structures in the town.
Last weekend a UN Mission in South Sudan spokesperson confirmed that the mission had received credible reports of ongoing fighting in the town, but said that it was not in a position to verify and confirm the fighting independently.
According to the Associated Press, South Sudan military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer stated that he was unaware of the clashes in Leer. Radio Tamazuj reported that South Sudan Vice President James Wani Igga was unable to comment on Leer during a press conference on Monday, but emphasized that the army would follow its commitment to the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, adding “The government is a disciplined force, we are a disciplined army.”
Brig. Lul Ruai Koang, a spokesman for Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army In Opposition, told Voice of America that a combined force of Justice and Equality Movement, or JEM, and South Sudan Liberation Army, or SSLA, militias advanced on Leer over the weekend.
The SSLA, which accepted President Kiir's offer of amnesty and integration, have been openly fighting alongside the South Sudanese government during the latest round of hostilities. Reports of JEM's involvement have been heavily disputed.
Much of the South Sudanese army in Unity state defected from the government and aligned themselves with Machar’s opposition forces in December 2013.
The humanitarian organization Médicins Sans Frontières, or MSF, evacuated 240 staff members from Leer on Jan.31, before the latest bout of fighting began. MSF staff took several dozen of the most vulnerable patients from the hospital with them to the bush in an effort to continue providing care to them. Those staff are still hiding in the bush and have limited medical supplies, according to Enough Project sources.
MSF head of mission Raphael Gorgeu warned that the hospital’s closure has left 270,000 people without access to health care since the southern part of Unity state is now without an operational hospital. The UN estimates that at least 863,000 people have been displaced by the recent violence in South Sudan, of which 123,400 have fled to neighboring countries as refugees.
After Michel Djotodia’s removal from the presidency of the Central African Republic (CAR) on Jan. 10, speculation and rumors about his successor were rife. Would it be Josué Binua, who had been a minister under Djotodia but was previously a confidant of the ousted Jean-François Bozizé?
No, it soon became clear that members of the newly-resigned government were excluded from consideration. This was fortunate. The choice of Binua, an evangelical preacher, at a time when religion has become politicized in new ways in the CAR, would not augur well for building trust after the past year’s violence.
The strictness and extensiveness of the presidential criteria left some joking that they would exclude almost everyone.
Almost, but not quite. On Jan. 23 members of the National Assembly elected Catherine Samba-Panza, Mayor of Bangui and a businesswoman and lawyer. Diplomats and aid workers knew Ms. Samba-Panza as a founder of the Association des Femmes Juristes Centrafricains (AFJC), an organization they tripped over each other in a race to fund. Unlike many other civil society organizations, the AFJC had developed its own capacity to manage and develop projects, all supporting the rights of women.
Whether Samba-Panza’s election will be a silver lining to these months of strife is still unknown. Someone with her background would never have been elected in other circumstances. Recent elections in CAR have been far from free and fair, and they accord a huge structural advantage to the incumbent, so relative outsiders like Samba-Panza find it hard to develop constituencies.
Samba-Panza is the first woman to lead the CAR, a country in which powerful women face particular challenges. To give just one example of the complicated, little-studied workings of gender and power in the CAR: the HIV rate among professional women is one in four, as compared to about one in sixteen in the population as a whole, or one in four among men in the security forces.
Now that the issue of who will be president is settled, what next? Some of the main ways the CAR has made it into the media lately dangerously misrepresent the dynamics at work, as a glance at the country’s history makes clear.
Instead, I can offer two small ideas that I think would help.
Over the past few months, the CAR has been subject (as usual) to misdiagnosis by advocates of particular action, disguised as disinterested analysts.
The present misdiagnosis comes in the form of warnings about the possibility of genocide. In November, French officials first invoked the pending genocide. As recently as last week, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Jean Ging, warned that all the elements were present for a genocide in the CAR.
The French sought greater support for a UN peacekeeping mission. OCHA faces major shortfalls in its requests for humanitarian funding. "Genocide" remains a word people pay attention to. Though, as Alex de Waal noted, it is subject to boy- who- cried- wolf’ dynamics.
But genocide-mongering does nothing to help us understand the messy dynamics of conflict in the CAR today, particularities that analysts and policy-makers alike increasingly recognize as the crucial starting point for any attempt to help.
The standard "genocide" framework gets tricky to apply to CAR as soon as we try to figure out who is the victim and who is organizing that group’s destruction: the levels of violence are high all around.
The violence in the CAR has frequently been described through reference to an imagined religious divide between Christians and Muslims. That perspective obscures more than it clarifies. Religion has indeed become politicized in the CAR over the past decade (former president Bozizé led an ‘église de réveil’, as evangelical churches are known in the CAR).
But like the use of "ethnicity" in the 1980s and 90s, it confers not a whole identity, but just one element of a cosmopolitan sense of self, various elements of which become useful for political alliance-building at various moments; the categories of "Christian" and "Muslim" are incredibly diverse.
When the Seleka alliance took power in March, much was made of Seleka fighters’ "Muslim" origins. Journalists asked me if Mr. Djotodia, the country’s first Muslim president, would impose Islamic law or foster Boko Haram-style extremism.
However, in subsequent months, Seleka commanders recruited in Bangui and the surrounding mostly-Christian areas, and today fighters describing themselves as "Seleka," are as likely to be found in a church as a mosque.
During the violence and insecurity in Bangui at the end of 2013, the head imam and the bishop of the Catholic Church both sought refuge in the same building.
In short, the conflicts are certainly not as simple as religion-versus religion, and they are the products of a range of dynamics that are by turns highly local, as well as regional.
History is important here: At the end of the nineteenth century, Central Africa was being incorporated into trans-Saharan (Muslim) networks through the establishment of raiding-and-trading outposts. The arrival of the French first caused a spike in the slave-raiding. The French found the raiding sultans useful as intermediaries, and armed and equipped them. But eventually they assassinated the most powerful raiding sultan when they thought he would decamp for a new base where he would be harder to control.
Trans-Saharan networks remained important, but after the first decade of the 20th century, the active trade and warfare were replaced by stagnation, and French administrative energies stayed centralized in the capital. They leased most of the colony to concessionary companies. The area that is home to most Muslims, the Northeast, was declared an "autonomous district" because it was too isolated and depopulated to keep up with the circulars issued in the capital.
As a result, everything that is "state" and "nation" in the CAR grows out of the French-Christian enterprise centered on the capital. Central African administrators from the south and west who are sent to the northeast (the few who actually take up their posts, that is, since most prefer to reside in Bangui or other better-appointed places) such as the town of Ndele, where I did much of my research -- consider it Central African territory occupied by foreigners.
However, these "foreigners" may have lived in the country for generations. In making these claims, the government officials echo their colonial predecessors, who justified killing the raiding sultans because they were "foreign" invaders with no right to rule over people here.
The foreignness of the French to this area went unremarked, of course….
Since this territory is occupied almost exclusively by "foreigners," the central government does very little there. People in northeastern CAR feel neglected. People with Islamic-sounding names are made to pay more at the roadblocks that proliferate especially in the southern and western parts of the country than people with Christian names, and it is harder for people from the northeast to obtain national identity documents.
Many Muslims, like former president Michel Djotodia, take a Christian name in order to minimize the discrimination they face.
Members of the rebel groups that emerged in northeastern CAR between 2006 and 2009 and eventually became part of Seleka took up arms not so much to replace the government as to force it to distribute more largess to them. Among their grievances: the largest town in northeastern-most Vakaga prefecture, Sikkikede, had not seen a government official in nearly a decade. People in the northeast are in a bind: They are not Central African enough for the CAR, but not foreign enough to count as citizens of other countries, either.
Another source of tension stems from the high levels of migration after upheaval in Chad and economic crisis in other neighboring countries, such as Cameroon. Many of these migrants are Muslim, and many profit from commerce, whether running shops in markets or trading diamonds.
Legally, immigrants’ children who are born on Central African soil are CAR citizens. In popular opinion, though, they remain foreigners. The migration has bolstered Central Africans’ widespread fear that the country is being invaded by foreigners, as it was once by trans-Saharan raiders and French concessionaires.
The out-sized roles of the Chadian president and men-in-arms in the CAR’s politics, especially over the past decade, also adds to people’s frustrations.
Given all of these dynamics and histories of mistrust, what can be done?
Even those of us who warned in 2011 and 2012 that violence was likely coming did not foresee the inter- and intra-community score-settling and cruelty that has emerged in the past few months.
Since the change in power, diplomats in the region and in the international community have pushed for rapid presidential elections. This is a mistake. In the fighting, voter registries (both paper and electronic) have been destroyed. Re-establishing them will be a massive undertaking that risks exacerbating the tensions around nationality described above. It will consume scarce resources when necessary emergency humanitarian aid is underfunded.
To satisfy the widespread desire for democracy (Bozizé’s electioneering made Central Africans very unhappy), it would be better to start with local elections, which have not been held in the CAR for decades. Préfets and their adjuncts have been appointed by the president, and chefs de village have assumed their roles through a variety of means, such as informal elections -- often involving only men -- and heredity.
These elections would lay a foundation for more substantive national elections, and might also help establish trust in communities riven by looting and brutality.
Also immediately valuable: more money. The levels of violence got as bad as they did in part due to the weak economy and the piling-up of arrears in civil servant salaries, especially over the second half of 2013.
Market purchases and bar sociality cultivate a day-to-day "getting along" with each other that is no less real for being bred of practical necessity. The drying up of money removed any such possibilities for social lubrication. An injection of cash, such as by paying those salaries, would do much more for people’s well-being and the establishment of security than a strictly "humanitarian" distribution.
The CAR, an improbable country on a variety of levels, has never had a tightly-woven social fabric. It’s always been more of a loose netting that has become dangerously frayed over the last few years.
But it can be mended, and these small-scale processes, plus technocratic governance from President Samba-Panza, are good ways to start.
A version of this post originally appeared on Opalo's Blog. The views expressed are the author's own.
Right after the political fallout in Juba and escalation of hostilities between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those behind his former deputy Riek Machar, Mr. Museveni threatened Mr. Machar with military action if he did not come to the table to negotiate with Mr. Kiir.
Museveni’s military involvement in the conflict has caused concern in Nairobi and other capitals in the region.
For one, Uganda’s military intervention in the conflict may yet jeopardize the ceasefire agreement that was signed on January 23, 2014 in Addis Ababa. The regional body IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) is supposed to be a neutral arbiter and monitor in the conflict. Museveni’s clear leanings towards the government in Juba may bring to question IGAD’s neutrality in the mediation effort.
Sudanese leader Bashir has already shown his hand in support of Juba against Machar, possibly for two reasons: First, Khartoum needs Juba’s help in weakening the rebellion by the rump SPLA (SPLA-North) that is still active in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan, regions that border South Sudan. Second, Mr. Bashir needs to keep the oil flowing in order to ward- off internal turmoil within Sudan due to rapidly deteriorating economic conditions (see here).
Kiir’s willingness to throw SPLA-N under the bus comes as no surprise since it is an offshoot of the “Garang Boys” (mostly PhDs) who occupied a special place, unlike Kiir and others, in John Garang’s SPLA.
SPLM-N’s leader Malik Aggar shared Garang’s vision of one united reformed Sudan, as opposed to secession by the South.
At the same time, however, Khartoum does not want a super strong South Sudan free of rebels. Total cessation of conflict in South Sudan would rob Khartoum of proxies to keep Juba in check. Uganda’s involvement could tip the balance in Juba’s favor vis-à-vis potential Bashir allies.
Meanwhile in Nairobi and Addis Ababa concern is growing over Uganda’s claim that the IGAD should foot the bill of UPDF’s adventures in South Sudan. Both Ethiopia and Kenya prefer settling the conflict at the negotiating table, partly because both have their security forces stretched by domestic armed groups and bandits and the war in Somalia.
Kenya has said categorically that it will not send troops to South Sudan, even under IGAD. The wariness in Nairobi and Addis to send troops or cash for a military cause in South Sudan contrasts sharply with Kampala’s choice of military action from the moment the current flare up started in Juba. This, despite the fact that Uganda also has troops serving in Somalia.
Which raises the question: What explains Uganda’s international military adventurism under Museveni?
The answer lies in the confluence of history, international geopolitics, and Uganda’s internal politics.
Uganda is one of the more militarized states in Africa, with the military having direct representation in parliament (10 seats). It is also interventionist, with a history of combat engagement and support for rebel groups in six neighboring states – Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Somalia, and South Sudan.
More recently, the nation has been a key advocate for greater integration within the East African Community (EAC). Indeed, Uganda's Museveni fancies himself as a possible head of an EAC political federation should it ever materialize.
Uganda is also a key player in the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC), a proposed standby force with capacity to rapidly deploy troops to trouble spots in Africa (other key supporters include South Africa, Chad, and Tanzania).
Museveni and his kadogo (little) soldiers
President Museveni’s military adventurism and internationalist outlook have deep roots. As a young student in Tanzania, Museveni was involved in exile organizations opposed to Idi Amin. Indeed, Museveni’s National Resistance Army (NRA), started off as the Popular Resistance Army (PRA) in Tanzania. (As testament to its Tanzanian roots, NRA borrowed the idea of political commissars from the Tanzanian military to educate civilians in “liberated” Luweero Triangle).
In Tanzania, and even after returning to Uganda, Museveni made regional connections that he maintained even after he ascended to power in 1986 – including Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Sudan’s John Garang, and leaders of Mozambique’s FRELIMO.
Before rebelling against Kigali, Mr. Kagame was Museveni’s Chief of Military Intelligence. Museveni supported Garang’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
Once in power, Museveni styled himself as the guarantor of peace and stability in Uganda. Many (both at home and abroad) evaluated his performance relative to the disastrous years under Amin and the ensuing civil war. The resulting peace dividend (albeit restricted to the south of the country) was marked by relative macro-economic stability, with growth averaging about 6 percent for much of the 1990s. This made Museveni a darling of Western donors and international financial institutions.
However, Museveni’s record with regard to democracy and human rights remained dubious. This put him in awkward position vis-à-vis the West, especially since the 1990s was the zenith of Western promotion of liberal democracy.
To this Museveni reacted cleverly, and worked hard to position Uganda as a strategic player in the wider region’s geopolitics. In order to maintain his international stature and secure his position domestically, Museveni labored to bolster Uganda’s relevance to the West.
Museveni enters Kampala (Source)
Beginning in the early 1990s, Uganda got militarily involved in a number of neighboring states. Support for Garang’s SPLA drew the ire of Khartoum, which in turn supported the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda.
Subsequently, the Ugandan military conducted raids against LRA bases in Sudan while also offering combat assistance to the SPLA. For instance, the 1997 battle at Yei featured Ugandan soldiers alongside the SPLA against the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). It is around this time that the seed was planted for future military involvement abroad at the turn of the century (this time in Somalia under the Western-funded AU mission, AMISOM, to help stabilize the country).
After US President Bill Clinton designated Sudan as a state sponsor of terror, Uganda positioned itself as an ally in the frontline of “Global War on Terror.” Kampala served as an intermediary for US aid to SPLA, thereby further strengthening US-Uganda military ties. It is telling that in 2003, Uganda was among only a handful of African states that supported the US-led Iraq War. About 20,000 Ugandans worked in US military bases in Iraq (this was also an excellent job creation tool; and a way of earning Forex).
So far Uganda’s most complex military adventure was in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). A mix of strategic geopolitical positioning combined with the need to secure markets for Ugandan goods, private greed, and domestic politics, drove Uganda’s invasion of the DRC.
The first Congo War (1996-97) was swift, aimed at helping Laurent Kabila oust Mobutu Seseseko (Rwanda and Angola also helped). Soon after, Uganda and Rwanda fell out with Kabila, occasioning the Second Congo war (1998-2003), which involved four other African states. It is then that the façade of intervention for regional stability completely broke down. Ugandan and Rwandan commanders exploited existing and new cross-border smuggling and semi-legitimate trade networks to orchestrate massive pillaging of natural resources in eastern DRC (Competition between the two militaries later intensified, resulting in the “Kisangani Wars.”)
For instance, in the year 2000 and despite only producing 0.00441 tonnes of gold, Uganda exported 11 tons. A UN report indicates that well-connected generals (including Museveni’s half-brother) created entities headquartered in Kampala to facilitate the illicit trade. It’s important to note that Museveni’s tolerance of the semi-autonomous activities by his generals was strategic (it generated revenue through Kampala-based entities and kept the generals happy) and did not lead to fracturing within the military. Indeed, many of those involved were later promoted.
Incidentally, the present involvement in South Sudan also reflects the multifaceted logic of Ugandan international military adventurism. Historical alliances with the SPLA against the LRA and SAF make Kampala and Juba natural bedfellows. But the intervention is also about securing markets for Ugandan goods.
According to figures from the Bank of Uganda, in 2012 the country’s exports to South Sudan totaled an estimated $1.3 billion. About 150,000 Ugandan traders operate across the border, not to mention countless more primary producers in agriculture who benefit from cross-border trade with their northern neighbor.
The above account explains Museveni’s efforts in the recent past to build an image as the regional powerbroker: heading peace talks between the DRC, Rwanda and eastern DRC rebels; intervening in Somalia to prop up the government in Mogadishu; and in the latest episode siding militarily with Kiir in South Sudan’s domestic political- cum- military conflict.
Domestically, Museveni’s grip on power is as strong as ever. Recent reshuffles in the military removed powerful legacy figures (the original “bush war heroes”) thereby leaving Museveni (and his son) firmly in control of Uganda’s armed forces. There is no end in sight for Uganda’s international military adventurism.
In many ways Uganda’s international adventurism has been a case of agency in tight corners. The country is landlocked and has neighbors with sparsely governed borderlands that provide rear-bases for Ugandan armed groups. Kampala also needs Western aid to maintain the regime, a situation that necessitates acts of geopolitical positioning -- especially with regard to the “Global War on Terror” and maintenance of regional peace and stability.
Furthermore, oil discovery along the conflict-prone DRC border on Lake Albert and the need for pipelines to the sea to export Ugandan oil will necessitate even greater regional involvement.
So while Uganda’s present outward adventurism is primarily because of Museveni’s peculiar personal history, it is correct to say that even after Museveni (still far into the future) the country will continue to be forced to look beyond its borders for economic opportunities, security, and regional stature.
A version of this post originally appeared on the Africa in Transition blog. The views expressed are the author's own.
According to the media, the traders had lived in Rivers state for many years, traveled to the north to buy vegetables to sell and returned home in a bus convoy because of poor security on the roads.
Now, in adjacent Imo state, there is a media report that the authorities have sent home to Katsina state in northern Nigeria, 84 Muslim students taking a skills acquisition course at the Imo College of Advanced Professional Studies.
The local branch of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) had “raised an alarm that they might be Boko Haram insurgents.” According to the media, the authorities sent the students home for their own protection.
Like Rivers, Imo state is mostly Christian, and Boko Haram has never operated there.
However, over the past week in the northern states of Borno and Adamawa, Boko Haram has killed more than 138 people in attacks on churches, according to the media.
This set off a new wave of refugees crossing over to southern Niger and Cameroon. So, sensitivity in the south to Boko Haram killing of Christians is particularly high.
But, all may not be what it seems.
The governor of Imo state, Rochas Okorocha, is in opposition to President Goodluck Jonathan’s PDP. Now that the Independent National Electoral Commission has announced that national presidential elections will take place in February, 2015, the country is rapidly moving into a partisan political mode. It could be that the PDP denunciation of Muslim students from the north is part of a local political struggle.
Nevertheless, the apparent resumption of Boko Haram attacks on Christians in the north, and the singling out of Muslims in the south in Rivers and Imo may be the start of a worrisome trend.
A version of this post originally appeared on the Freedom at Issue blog. The views expressed are the author's own.
But the talks are undermined by the glaring absence of women, who account for most of the millions of people displaced by the conflicts and will have an important role to play in any post-conflict political process.
The South Sudan peace talks, being held in Ethiopia, are notable for the fact that women, for the first time in such discussions, are part of one of the delegations.
The opposition’s 10-person contingent includes three women, all members of the national parliament in Juba.
However, the government’s delegation consists entirely of men.
Even worse, the Syrian peace negotiations in Geneva are being conducted by male-only delegations on both sides. Syrian women peace activists have been sidelined, and their efforts to present a Syrian Women’s Charter for Peace have so far been unsuccessful. The charter seeks to prevent the movement of more armed combatants into Syria, and takes a broad view of peace that extends beyond simply ending the fighting.
Specifically, the document addresses the urgent needs of refugees and internally displaced persons (over 80 percent of whom are women and children), and demands that women have an equal role in the forging of any new political consensus and constitution.
Syrian activist Kefah ali Deeb has argued that by excluding the voice of half of Syria’s population, the conveners of the Geneva talks are seriously damaging their chances for lasting success.
The Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace has laid out a Seven-Point Roadmap to a Gender-Sensitive Peacebuilding Process to address the problem, but it has made little headway to date.
While Britain urged the United Nations to ensure women’s participation through a consultative body at the Geneva talks, such a backseat role is hardly the answer, as decision making would remain in the hands of men who have demonstrated no inclination to consider women’s demands, ideas, and concerns.
Insisting on women’s participation in critical peace talks is not a new concept. Over a decade ago, UN Security Council Resolution 1325 explicitly called for all parties in any conflict to respect women’s rights, and to support their participation in peace negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction.
However, the practical reality since then has been deeply disappointing. Of 24 peace negotiations from 2000 to 2011, more than half featured women’s participation of 5 percent or less. In 9 of these 24 -- Somalia (twice), Côte d’Ivoire, Nepal, Central African Republic (twice), Zimbabwe, Iraq, and Yemen -- women were completely excluded.
This track record eventually led to a progress review by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, and then to the unanimous adoption in October 2013 of Security Council Resolution 2122, which details a systemic approach to implementation of the prior commitments.
The Geneva peace talks on Syria are seen as the first real test of Resolution 2122 -- and of a US National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security that was passed two years ago. The speed at which these commitments have been swept aside or forgotten is remarkable.
There had been reason to hope that things might be different this time. Consider the spotlight shone on the peace-building role of women when the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 went to Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee and Yemen’s Tawakkul Karman.
In another positive sign in 2012, the UN gender-equality organization, UN Women, acted as a champion and facilitator for Malian women’s demands to participate in the peace negotiations for that country, held in neighboring Burkina Faso.
More recently, delegates from the Central African Republic chose a woman, Catherine Samba-Panza, as their new interim president, entrusting her with the responsibility of ending protracted fighting between rival militias.
The victimization of women and children during periods of conflict is an established fact, as is the recognition that decisions to resort to violent conflict remain almost entirely in the hands of men.
Both the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa have a long way to go in demonstrating respect for the human rights of all persons, but women are singled out for further disrespect when they are excluded from critical negotiations on matters that affect them, their children, and their communities directly.
The Syrian and South Sudanese negotiations must follow a more inclusive path toward peace if they are to produce durable settlements that end the extreme suffering of both countries’ populations.
A version of this post originally appeared on the Lesley on Africa blog. The views expressed are the author's own.
If you’ve been following the news on the Central African Republic over the past 13 months, you have probably seen many references to the country’s abundant mineral wealth, chronic instability, crushing poverty, sectarian (Christian vs. Muslim) strife, and allegations of genocide.
Some of the recent analysis and media reporting goes beyond these clichés, so I thought I’d highlight them and explain why these pieces present the reader with a more complex understanding of recent developments in the country.
Collectively, this reading list offers four things:
First, these readings offer background on Catherine Samba-Panza, previously the mayor of Bangui, who was elected last week as the interim president of the Central African Republic (CAR). Beyond the fact that Samba-Panza is the first female to hold this position in CAR, these pieces offer insight as to why she’s different from previous leaders and what challenges she will face as she spearheads the transition to an elected government by February 2015.
Second, these readings offer a background of the events leading to and during the transition earlier this month, such as why Michel Djotodia (former leader of the Séléka rebel coalition that toppled former president François Bozizé last March) had to go and the process that dictated the selection of candidates for interim president.
Third, these readings offer a better understanding of identity in the CAR beyond the Muslim/Christian labels, and gives the reader some perspective on notions of foreign-ness in the CAR and how they have come into play throughout the country’s history.
Finally, the readings offer context on the historical and contemporary role of foreign – European AND African – influence on conflicts in the Central African Republic, which is critical for understanding the geopolitics of the region. Major headliners are France (bien sûr!), Chad, Libya, and South Africa.
So without further ado, here’s some of the good coverage I’ve read over the past few weeks:
- Central African Republic’s new president ‘a fresh start’ from the Institute for Security Studies
- Central African Republic: The Third Government in Thirteen Months Gets Under Way from the International Crisis Group
- Genocide-mongering does nothing to help us understand the messy dynamics of conflict in the CAR on African Arguments (by Louisa Lombard, who also blogs at Foole’s No Man’s Land)
- France, Chad, Gaddafi and the CAR: years of meddling should not be ignored now on African Arguments
- South Africa in the CAR: Was pulling the troops a catastrophic mistake? from the Daily Maverick. (Last March, I had weighed in on the aftermath of South African casualties in the CAR with South Africa inspires a “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” in the CAR. Best title EVER, right?)
Si vous lisez français, the articles below offer background on the new interim president, and why her civil society roots and Chadian/Central African heritage may make her the right leader at the right time:
- Catherine Samba-Panza: «Maire de Bangui, j’ai toujours eu de bonnes relations avec tout le monde» (Q&A with Catherine Samba-Panza: “Mayor of Bangui, I have always had good relations with everyone”) from Radio France Internationale
- Centrafrique : 5 choses à savoir sur Catherine Samba Panza la nouvelle présidente de transition (Five things to know about Catherine Samba-Panza the new transitional president) from Jeune Afrique
- Catherine Samba-Panza, nouvelle présidente de Centrafrique: pourquoi elle (Catherine Samba-Panza, the new president of the Central African Republic: why her?) from Radio France Internationale
A version of this post originally appeared on the Lesley on Africa blog. The views expressed are the author's own.
Yesterday in Addis Ababa a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement was signed between the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement / Army in Opposition (SPLM/A in Opposition).The agreement enters into force 24 hours from the time at which it was signed.
Contrary to what some media are reporting, this cessation of hostilities is not the same as a ceasefire, and I would recommend reading this very informative Watch International post on the lexicon of peace agreements to understand the difference between the two.
That said, an astute fellow analyst has pointed out that the cessation of hostilities has some elements of a ceasefire:
"Practically, since this agreement also includes provisions for a joint monitoring and verification mission, it mirrors a lot of the components of a ceasefire. However, unlike a lot of ceasefires, it doesn't call for the United Nations to be involved in monitoring violations. Instead, it leaves that in the hands of the two parties, plus their mediator, the regional IGAD organization."
Therefore, it may be more appropriate to refer to this cessation of hostilities as a "diet ceasefire" or "ceasefire lite."
The signing of this cessation raises a number of questions on the way ahead, which I will pose below:
Is the SPLM/A in Opposition as cohesive as it's made to appear in the agreement?
I've long doubted that Riek Machar has a monopoly on anti-government force since the crisis started last month, and the SPLM/A in Opposition may not be able to control violence perpetrated by SPLA defectors General Peter Gadet or General James Koang Chuol or by the resurgent White Army, which has vowed to fight on. In fact, there's a chance that SPLA defectors and members of ethnically-defined localized armed groups may see no benefit in adhering to a cessation of hostilities between political elites.
What comes after the cessation of hostilities?
It is very important to recognize that the cessation is not a peace agreement that spells out political and military power-sharing arrangements, reconciliation initiatives, and plans for Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR). Rather, it's better to think of the cessation as a "time out" that effectively freezes parties to armed conflict in place, requires them to disengage from fighting, and allows for humanitarian access.
I think the cessation of hostilities is an enabler that at least gets the warring parties apart long enough to set up a formal peace process that could address these deeper issues.
Who are the guarantors to this cessation of hostilities?
Although this is not a peace agreement, I think we can draw some insights from that body of academic literature.
Glassmyer and Sambanis (“Rebel-Military Integration and Civil War Termination,” Journal of Peace Research, May 2008 vol. 45 no. 3, pp. 365-384) and Hoddie and Hartzell ("Civil War Settlements and the Implementation of Military Power-Sharing Agreements, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 40, no. 3, 2003, pp. 303-320) argue that the presence of third-party actors can verify compliance with the terms of a peace agreement and can act as guarantors of security.
In some cases -- and I would argue that South Sudan is one of them -- third-party actors need to have the diplomatic clout to convene warring parties and ensure implementation and the military power to deter or physically separate warring parties if the agreement falls apart.
In the present case of South Sudan, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) which brokered the talks, is responsible for setting up a Joint Technical Committee (JTC) which will establish a Monitoring and Verification Team (MVT) that is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the agreement.
However, the issue of who can provide a military deterrent is unclear. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is not mentioned in the cessation agreement but even if it was, UNMISS is still in the process of receiving the additional 5,500 soldiers and 440 police to strengthen the mission, plus GRSS is in a war of words with UNMISS over what it perceives to be the UN's impartiality in South Sudan.
IGAD has also approved a 5,500 person force to be sent to South Sudan, and there is a chance that this force could consist of IGAD member states but contribute to the new UNMISS mandated force strength.
However, the problem with IGAD troop contributors is that they may be perceived as impartial like Sudan or (Ahem!) Uganda, or like Kenya and Ethiopia, and may be militarily overextended due to their commitments to other peacekeeping missions.
That leaves Djibouti and Somalia as potential troop contributors to an IGAD force, so I'm just going to hazard a guess and say that by default, UNMISS will have to be the military guarantor of the cessation of hostilities - or there will be no guarantor at all.
The views expressed in Africa Monitor are the author's own.
The Central African Republic's long-suffering citizenry has good reason to celebrate Thursday’s inauguration of Catherine Samba-Panza as the country’s interim president. It was remarkable, but not surprising, that every faction of this starkly divided country cheered her election.
In a country where political parties often represent little more than their president, and where high political office is often a means to financial wealth, Ms. Samba-Panza is different.
She is a member of a prominent political family who nevertheless eschewed politics and became the country’s first and most successful businesswoman. However, her great passion was always civil society. Trained as a lawyer, she was a long-time leader of a women’s legal association that represented poor women battling for their rights.
Along the way, Samba-Panza built a reputation both for integrity and for being level-headed. She rose to national prominence in 2003 as the widely-applauded co-president of the national reconciliation forum that followed Francois Bozize’s arrival in power. Her performance there led to a quasi-permanent role in national conflict mediation.
As much as her resume offers, however, it is Samba-Panza’s personal style that stands out. I frequently saw her in action during my time as US ambassador to the Central African Republic (CAR). She has a gift for combining hard-headed practicality with a warm inclusiveness that disarms her critics. People also listen to her because they know she has no hidden agendas – no thirst for power or additional wealth, just a genuine desire to improve her country.
To be sure, Samba-Panza is not alone in her integrity and desire to serve her country. I know many other courageous and dedicated Central Africans. Unfortunately, they were largely sidelined in the rent-seeking atmosphere of the Bozize and Seleka regimes. In fact, many observers feared to the end that money and deals might cynically take control of this week’s presidential election.
The fact that Samba-Panza not only won, but won convincingly, demonstrates that the Central African people understood that the stakes were very high.
The new president faces daunting challenges.
First is restoring order, wresting the country away from the spiraling cycle of revenge, and refocusing the population on reconstruction.
Second is convincing the international community to provide desperately needed assistance.
The president's election by itself is by no means enough. However, it does suggest that the new government she will shortly name will be filled with people like her – of personal integrity and technical accomplishment. That will give the people and the international community alike a much-needed sense of hope.
Samba-Panza’s acceptance speech after the election set the tone. Her voice was clear, strong, and compelling. Her words called everyone together for the task ahead.
Although Central Africans have rarely seen prominent female politicians, the society does accord enormous respect to strong matriarchs. The new president played that role adroitly, calling on her “children,” including the anti-Balaka fighters, to lay down their arms and join the reconstruction.
At least initially, the relative decrease of violence since her election suggests that Central Africans are eager for her vision.
I last talked to Samba-Panza in the spring, just after she had accepted then-President Djotodia’s request to be Bangui’s mayor. I asked why she had agreed, given the seemingly thankless task of running a city with no revenue and with Seleka fighters roaming the streets.
Why didn’t she just leave for France as so many others had done?
She agreed the challenge was daunting. But then she added that she could not just throw up her hands and give up. The townspeople needed help. As mayor she would be in a position to make a difference.
That is the nature of CAR’s new president. It is why she may be the single Central African best positioned to pull the country out of its downward spiral. Yet, it will not be easy.
The question now is whether the international community will step up to the plate. The country’s situation is desperate. Even once minimum security is established, the government will still be broke, the economy flattened, and the humanitarian crisis likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
Once the new president names her government, it will be urgent for the international community to provide the comprehensive support the country desperately needs.
A version of this post originally appeared on the Lesley on Africa blog. The views expressed are the author's own.
I’d been tracking developments with regard to bilateral security cooperation and had heard about the creation of NASOC when I was in Nigeria last summer, which is why this announcement piqued my interest.
According to the Nigerian Army’s Chief of Transformation and Innovation, NASOC would be a “low density high level strategic utility force capable of conducting direct action at low visibility operations. NASOC operation will be governed by precision of conduct, accuracy, timely speed and execution, surprise to keep any adversary off balance while in special operations.” (I’m not gonna lie – I have no clue what this quote actually means, but I digress.)
Through US Africa Command (AFRICOM), US Special Operations Command, Africa (SOCAFRICA), and the Office of Security Cooperation in the US Embassy in Abuja, the United States will be helping stand up the NASOC by providing training and a limited amount of equipment.
From the information I have, it sounds like NASOC will have a force up North to deal with Boko Haram, a force in the South to deal with security in the Niger Delta, a headquarters force to focus on hostage rescue, and an expeditionary force for external use – perhaps to contribute specialized capabilities for peacekeeping operations.
Unfortunately, I don’t know the precise size of NASOC or of its component forces.
As part of this reshuffle, former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, took over from Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim as Chief of Defense Staff (position equivalent to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the US), Air Vice Marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu took over for Badeh as Chief of Air Staff (position equivalent to the Air Force Chief of Staff in the US), Major General Kenneth Tobiah Jacob Minimah took over for Lieutenant General Azubike O. Ihejirika as Chief of Army Staff (position equivalent to the Army Chief of Staff in the US), and Rear Admiral Usman O. Jibrin took over from Vice Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba as Chief of Naval Staff (position equivalent to the Chief of Naval Operations in the US).
Air Marshal Badeh, the new Chief of Defense Staff, hails from Adamawa state, which is one of three Nigerian states (the others being Borno and Yobe states) in which President Jonathan had declared a Boko Haram-related state of emergency that is set to expire in April 2014, unless it is renewed for a second time.
At the moment, I do not know what, if any correlation there is between the Chiefs of Defense reshuffle and the establishment of NASOC to counter the Boko Haram insurgency.
One reason US support to establish NASOC is significant is that I have not gotten the sense that the US military had as strong service-to-service relations with the Nigerian military as it would like, and working with them to establish NASOC provides opportunities to strengthen the Army-to-Army relationship.
In addition, as a new command, NASOC will need to create military units from scratch, which avoids some of the tensions surrounding the vetting needed under the Leahy Amendment that have impeded bilateral security cooperation as a result of the Nigerian government’s heavy-handed approach to Boko Haram in the North.
(The Leahy Amendment requires that partner- nation military units that receive US security assistance are vetted to ensure that they have not been implicated in gross human rights violations.)
Just to give you an example of the extent to which allegations of human rights violations by the Nigerian military had recently affected Leahy vetting: One of the ways the United States provides security assistance to Nigeria and other countries on the African continent is through Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA), which trains partner nation forces to participate in peacekeeping operations.
You may recall that during the first six months of 2013, Nigeria contributed approximately one-sixth of the troops to the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) before they had to withdraw most of their troops in July. These troops likely received ACOTA training prior to their deployment.
In April, Human Rights Watch published satellite imagery from the town of Baga in Borno State, showing 2,275 destroyed and 125 severely damaged buildings, and asking the Nigerian government to investigate allegations that soldiers carried out widespread destruction and killing in the town.
Although the Baga incident was just one of many allegations of human rights violations by the Nigerian military in its fight against Boko Haram, my understanding is that most military units rotate personnel through northern Nigeria, and as a result, Nigerian military units were becoming tainted by association as far as Leahy vetting goes.
As a result, Nigeria’s domestic handling of Boko Haram was raising questions over whether the United States would be able to support Nigerian troop contributions to Mali and other peacekeeping missions.
Thus to bring us back to the establishment of NASOC and the US military’s support for this effort – will the newly-created ”clean” NASOC units be able to avoid the human rights violations that have restricted the space for US military engagement with their non-special forces counterparts?
A version of this post originally appeared on the Africa in Transition blog. The views expressed are the author's own.
Michel Djotodia’s long held political aspirations came to an ignominious end last week when he resigned as the Central African Republic’s (CAR) chief of state and went into exile in Benin. Prime Minister Nicolas Tiengaye also stepped down.
The 135 members of the Transitional National Council (TNC), many of whom were appointed by Mr. Djotodia, were flown to the Chadian capital N’Djamena to attend a summit of the leaders of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
The Central African Constitutional Court and ECCAS have charged the TNC with selecting the new leadership of the CAR. They have fifteen days.
Whoever is selected as interim president will be ineligible to run in the next elections. Alexandre Ferdinand Nguendet, the head of the TNC, is expected to be among those who put their names forward. Full elections are to be held by February 2015.
There were celebrations in the capital Bangui on the announcement of Djotodia’s resignation. Their rapid degeneration into violence and score settling, however, highlights that little has changed.
While the TNC deliberates, the majority of Central Africans continue to struggle with the consequences of government failure. Violence, chaos, poverty, and disease are rife. Nearly one million people have been displaced by the current round of fighting, over two million (half the population) are in need of humanitarian assistance, and over one thousand have been killed.
Ex-Seleka (“Alliance”) and rival anti-balaka (“anti-machete”) militias, as well as local vigilantes scour the country.
A tent city has sprung up in the shadow of the camp for the France’s 1,600 peacekeeping troops outside Bangui as residents flee continued violence. The camp grew more than five-fold from mid-December and currently shelters over 100,000 people. Others are disbursed throughout the country, fearful of returning home. Doctors Without Borders says hygiene is a “disaster” and “epidemics of all sorts” are highly likely.
Nguendet’s recent statement that “the anarchy [is] over” is false. Whatever the culmination of the current discussions within the TNC, any successor government will be hard pressed to reverse the state failure. While politicians and even some militia leaders appear to be fully engaged in wrangling for their own power, the CAR continues to implode.
David Smith, a regional expert, suggested in South Africa’s Daily Maverick that a UN transitional administration, such as was set up in Kosovo, might be the best option to ensure long term national stability and reconciliation in contrast to another short term political stop-gap.
In addition to Kosovo, Namibia is a successful African precedent for a UN transitional administration during its transition from South African rule to full independence in 1990.