Saturday, November 28, 2015

Women, Peace and Security and China - Possible Opportunity for Canada

The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

This year marks the 15th Anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the 20th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action that was adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. To mark these anniversaries and to prepare for the Security Council High-level Review on Women, Peace and Security, the Secretary-General has commissioned a Global Study on the implementation of UNSCR 1325, which was published in October 2015.  During the high level debate, and in the Global Study, it was clearly stated that international community is failing to implement Women, Peace and Security Agenda.

UNSCR 1325 calls for gender training in peacekeeping operations, gender mainstreaming in policies and programming, increased participation of women in all aspect of peace and security, and respect for the women’s human rights. Canada took a lead role in the development and implementation of UNSCR 1325.

In June 2012, when China was the President of UN Security Council, China has indicated its support for UNSCR 1325. China also developed the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2012-2015) that contains a section on women’s rights.  Although the engagement with China on women’s rights will be difficult, China’s actions indicate that there may be opportunities for dialogue on this matter. Since Canada has been a leader in this area, we should re-engage with China and find opportunities to share our WPS-related knowledge and expertise and help China develop its own strategy to implement Women, Peace and Security Agenda.

Canada should open a dialogue with China about the possibility of creating a knowledge-exchange network that would help China address the objectives of UNSCR 1325, when it chooses to do so. Such a network would enhance Canada’s reputation as the leader on this subject matter and could help China improve human rights within its own territory and within its interaction with a variety of countries abroad.

This knowledge exchange network would have the following advantages:
  • It would start a conversation about women’s rights in China, without creating any obligations for the Chinese government. 
  • It would create a stronger relationship between the two governments.
  • Showing support for UN SCR1325 would improve China’s relations with other countries, since many Western countries care about women’s rights, while remaining uncommitted to certain actions at home. 
  • It would demonstrate Canada’s continuing leadership in this area.
  • It would not be a financially costly initiative for either country.
The pitfall is the possible politicization of the network by Canada. Thus measures should be taken to ensure the network exists as a pool of information/expertise, rather than a political pressure tool.

It should also be noted that China has been very sensitive to calls for protection of women’s rights in international forums due to the fear that its support could jeopardize its sovereignty if the international community decides to go into China on the basis of women’s rights protection. Consequently, it is imperative for Canada to have a non-threatening mechanism to engage with China on women’s rights issue without setting of any alarms. A knowledge-exchange network could potentially be the right mechanism.

China is also of the view that UNSCR 1325 should be applied externally, rather than within its borders for the above-mentioned reason. Canada's implementation of UNSCR 1325 is also outward facing (for a very different reason) thus knowledge exchange would be work well. For instance, China is heavily engaged in Africa, where women's right abuses are wide-spread, and contributes a lot of troops to peacekeeping. Therefore, there would be great benefit if China subscribes to WPS Agenda, even if it's only outward facing manner at this point. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Ethnic Quotas and Ethnic Representation in Afghanistan

Many countries have been involved in Afghanistan in the past decade. However, one would be pressed to say that their presence has brought or greatly contributed to achieving stability in the country. Nevertheless, some progress has been made. For instance, USA`s biggest achievement in Afghanistan was establishing fairly ethnically representative defence and police forces. This post will analyze the method used to attain this ethnic representation.

In Afghanistan, prior to the past few years, the dominant ethnic group, the Pashtun, was under-represented in both the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP).  Based on the ethnic representation of the general population, the USA set ethnic targets for the defence and the police forces as follows:  Pashtun – 44%, Tajik – 25%, Hazara -10%, Uzbek – 8%, and others 13%

The USA has clearly made some significant gains in this area. For instance, in 2009, the Tajik made up 70% of ANA officer corps. Today, they make up 39.6% of the officer corps and are moving closer to the 25% target. They are still over-represented in the police force, at the expense of the Hazara, the Uzbek, and the other smaller ethnic groups. Moreover, the largest ethnic group the Pashtun still falls short of the 44% target, both in the ANA and the ANP. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the establishment of ethnic quotas has greatly increased the ethnic representation in the defence and police forces.

Yet, one has to question the utility of using ethnic quotas for the ANP. Since ethnic quotas ensure that the force represents the general population of the country rather that of the community, it means a unit might not be ethnically representative of the community in which it is stationed. To illustrate, in the case of Afghanistan, ethnic group dominate certain territories: the Pashtun occupy the majority of the south, while the Tajik are found in the north. Currently, the ANP is representative of the general population as mentioned above; however, it would be more beneficial if the ANP units were ethnically representative of the community they are located in. Thus in a Pashtun dominated territory, police officers would be mostly Pashtun. As a result, they would be better able to relate to the community and would be better positioned to gain its trust. Conversely, if a police unit meets the current ethnic quotas, the majority of officers in that unit will be Pashtun. However, the unit could still be based in a Tajik-dominated area. Consequently, a Pashtun dominated police unit in a Tajik dominated area can be a recipe for police abuse and ethnic predation.

On the other hand, ethnic quotas still work well in the ANA (or in any military). Since the army protects all citizens, it should be ethnically representative of the general population especially if there are ethnic tensions in the country. An ethnically representative army will demonstrate to the population that people from different ethnic groups can work together thus, hopefully, inspiring cooperation between groups. Moreover, by requiring soldiers from different ethnic groups to work together, it teaches them to put aside their ethnic differences and regard each other as brothers in arms. As a result, the approach will promote loyalty to the army thus enhancing its cohesiveness and efficiency. Furthermore, if each unit is ethnically representative of the general population, then the unit will have a link to the community in any area of operation.  

However, some criticize this approach by pointing out that if an ethnic group was to rebel then it would undermine a part of each unit. They propose the British regimental system as a solution: small units (battalions) are ethnically homogenous, while the encompassing larger group (a brigade) is ethnically representative. For example, in the case of Afghanistan, an ethnically representative brigade would be made up of four ethnically homogenous battalions: the Pashtun, the Tajik, the Hazara, and the Uzbek. Proponents of this method claim that ethnic links within the unit can improve morale and the efficiency of battalions, while enabling the brigade to exercise control over them when it engages in combat against the ethnic kin of that battalion.

However, the homogenous battalions would have to be different sizes in order to proportionally represent the size of an ethnic group in general population, which could lead to issues such as abuse of the smaller battalions. Moreover, this approach promotes stark separation, which could lead to competition or tensions between the battalions. Any such tensions would hinder the ability of the army to work harmoniously as a unit. In addition, the approach would forgo the benefits of having an army that is as a whole ethnically representative of the general population.

Therefore, the ANP should be representative of the community where its posts are located, while the ANA should be ethnically representative as a whole of the general population. Furthermore, the above reasoning could also apply to other countries where majority and minority ethnic groups dominate certain territories (as is the case in Afghanistan), and there are tensions between them.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

ISIS and Women

The emergence and the onslaught of ISIS have received a fair amount of media attention; however, the complex relationship between women and the newly formed terrorist organization has been largely ignored by the media and the academia. Women are no longer just victims: some women are being radicalized and join the ranks of ISIS, while others put their lives on the line to fight it. To fully understand ISIS impact on women, it is important to examine these different roles in detail.

Women as Victims of ISIS

ISIS is a Sunni extremist group that adheres to an ultra-conservative interpretation of Sharia law. Their views have led to human rights abuses and sexual abuse of captured women. For instance, at the beginning of August, ISIS kidnapped between 1, 500 to 4,000 Yazidi women and girls as it took over the town of Sinjar. The women are now being pressured to convert to Islam and marry a jihadi militant or face indefinite imprisonment.  Many captured women were able to get in touch with their families using cell phones; however, some women have been taken to undisclosed locations and were not heard from again. The Middle East Media Research Institute believes that ISIS plans to sell Yazidi women or use them as sex slaves.

This development is not new or surprising. Women are often targeted victims during insurgencies, wars, and civil wars. However, the new development is that ISIS is not only trying to just humiliate the enemy by raping the women, but it is actively working towards its goal of creating a caliphate by forcing women to convert and marry ISIS militants. By adding women to their group, and more importantly creating families and communities that believe in ISIS ideology, ISIS moves away from being a terrorist/insurgent group towards ultimately becoming a likeminded group of people that wants to live in a state that unites them. Indeed, ISIS is already slowly moving towards its goal of creating a state as it is starting to perform some functions of a state such as taxing.

Women in ISIS

Some women believe in ISIS’ cause and have joined its ranks out of their own free will. It is estimated that as many as 15% of ISIS' foreign recruits are women. The numbers are likely to be increasing since ISIS women are actively working on their social media recruitment campaign. The analysts at the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium (TRAC) believe the current role of ISIS women is mostly limited to being a wife and a housekeeper, and social media recruiters. However, that is rapidly changing. Women are now being trained in how to use and clean weapons, while others are aspiring to have an active role on the battlefield. Furthermore, TRAC states that ISIS formed an all-female police unit called al-Khansaa brigade, which inspects the women at check-points and enforces the strict dress code. All of the members are believed to be under the age of 25.

Women joined insurgent and terrorist groups in the past, but not in such high numbers. What is causing these young women to join ISIS today? Well, they are entering an important stage of their lives where they try to find their own place in the world, outside of their parents’ home. However, in many countries, economic opportunities for them are scarce as unemployment is highest among those under 25 years of age. Moreover, in many countries, 2nd generation youths often feel marginalized. As a result, the appeal of running away to create your own future, be your own boss, make your own family, and shape the forging of a new country may be too tempting. The solution to radicalization of youth is quite simple: provide more economic opportunities to the youth, facilitate integration of the immigrant communities with the “native” population, and set up anti-radicalization and de-radicalization initiatives. European countries are already actively working on these initiatives, but it is important for them and other countries to remember not to exclude women out of such activities as they are also clearly vulnerable to becoming radicalized.

Women fighting ISIS

Other women are fighting against ISIS in order to protect themselves, their community, and the right to their religion. Near Derek City, 7,000 volunteer soldiers have joined the Women’s Protection Unit or YPG, an all-female Kurdish resistance group. Although they are usually only  between 18 to 24 years of age, they played an integral part in liberating the Yazidis who were trapped on a nearby mountain top after their city Sinjar was taken over by ISIS. These women are especially feared by ISIS militants, who believe that being killed by a woman will prevent them from going to heaven. Consequently, women can have a very important role in stopping the onslaught of ISIS. Since ISIS is the biggest threat to peace and stability in the Middle East, Middle Eastern countries that want to defeat ISIS should consider how they can use ISIS fears against it.

In conclusion, ISIS impacts women in various ways. Women have often been targeted victims when a territory is taken over by Islamic extremists i.e. take-over of the Northern Mali by terrorists/insurgents in 2012. Women have also joined terrorist groups in the past but not in such a large numbers. However, women actively fighting against an insurgent group is a more unusual and encouraging development. Hopefully, this new development will continue and give strength to women under the threat of ISIS.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Roadblocks to a Professional Security Sector in South Sudan

"This piece was first published in the SSR Resource Centre's The Hub ( and is republished here with permission from the Centre for Security Governance"

South Sudan’s security sector faces a multitude of issues, including lack of funds, lack of equipment, low institutional capacity, as well as poor training and education. Thus far, the government has made certain improvements in policy formation and in the provision of resources, equipment, and training for its forces. However, they have yet to successfully address two issues crucial for the achievement of a professional security sector:  disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR), which would help reduce the size of the armed forces, and ethnic patronage and ethnic imbalance within the army and police.

South Sudan’s government and its international donors recognize that the country’s bloated and oversized army is a serious issue. For example, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) currently consists of upwards of 210,000 personnel. The force consumes about one third of the government budget, 80 percent of which are given out in salaries (see here and here). Given the size of the SPLA, which is widely regarded as unsustainable, DDR initiatives have been implemented to try to correct this situation.

In 2009, as part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the South Sudan DDR Commission was established to oversee its side of the National DDR Strategic Plan which entailed DDR activities in both Sudan and South Sudan. The Commission worked closelywith the UN Mission in Sudan, the UN Development Programme, and other key agencies to carry out its DDR mandate. Phase I of this programme ran until 2011with the aim todemobilize 90,000 ex-combatants in South Sudan, with an equal number to be demobilized separately in (North) Sudan.

Over the course of two years, however, Phase I only saw 12,525 soldiers demobilized and5,000 reintegrated before the country’s independence and this CPA-mandated period ended. Overall, DDR efforts were clearly failing in the South (and indeed in the North as well). The ranks of the SPLA continued to swell for a number of reasons, not least the continuing high levels of recruitment, the integration of militia forces, and the return of former soldiers enticed by the increase of soldiers’ salaries.

With South Sudan’s independence, the new country began its own National DDR Programme, as its Phase II follow-up to the CPA-era process. Yet this programme also did not start out auspiciously. It was postponed a year until 2013, due to “logistical problems, lack of funds, and political wrangling over ownership.” For instance, disagreements between the government and the donors over the objectives and modalities of DDR, with the SPLA being keen to simply use this program to expel unfit soldiers in sharp contrast to the expectations of DDR planners, have seriously stymied its function.

Moreover, Phase II aims to process 150,000 personnel from the SPLA and the organized forces over a six to eight-year period. However, this goal is widely seen as overly ambitious. Phase I only processed just over 6,000 personnel per year, so Phase II would require processing around 18,000 per year to reach its targets.
Undoubtedly, South Sudan has shown some initial signs of being more committed to DDR. For Phase II, it did promise to provide wages to the participants to help with career establishment once they finish the programme. Moreover, it developed an official strategy  the SPLA Objective Force 2012-2017  to transform and downsize the army forces. However, the current civil war will likely alter the priorities of the Government and possibly divert its attention away from DDR. Moreover, South Sudan’s government may not have enough resources, funds, or political will to successfully complete such an ambitious project, even if the conditions were more ideal.

The ethnic patronage is another issue that has not been effectively addressed by way of security sector reform. Ethnic patronage corrupts, weakens discipline, reinforces a sense of impunity, and fosters public distrust of the state itself. In South Sudan’s case, it also leads to an over-representation of the Dinka ethnic group in the security sector.  For example, in the South Sudan National Police Service, 70 percent of the senior officers are from the Dinka group. Yet South Sudan has 60 ethnic groups, most of which are not being properly represented in the security sector. So the over-representation of the Dinka– even if they are the largest ethnic group in South Sudan – remains a serious concern.

The SPLA is the most ethnically representative force in South Sudan; yet it still falls prey to quick mobilization of ethnic loyalties. In January 2013, the government discharged 100 high ranking officers from active service, which led to the mobilization of ethnic loyalties and unrest within the military. Moreover, the current civil war began with a political disagreement between President Kiir and former Vice-President Machar, which quickly resulted in a quick mobilization of ethnic loyalties and the SPLA’s split along ethnic lines. Since the conflict quickly turned into a civil war with a district ethnic undertone, ethnic patronage/imbalance within the security sector need to be addressed aggressively and promptly by SSR – once the ground situation permits to do so.

Ethnic balance would foster positive internal dynamics within South Sudan’s security forces and improve the forces’ relationship with the communities. Moreover, since the country is increasingly plagued by inter-ethnic civil conflicts, it is crucial for the security providers to be impartial, which in part depends on them being representative of the ethnic diversity of the general population. Yet it is almost impossible for external donors to tackle the issue of ethnic patronage within a country’s security sector without the full support of its government.
Still, South Sudan’s government could find ways to begin to address the ethnic imbalance within the security sector. One possibility is to ensure that DDR programmes are focused on trying to create an ethically balanced security sector. The upcoming peace agreement is a great potential opportunity in that regard. The agreement could have a provision ensuring that a certain percentage of organized forces personnel comes from certain tribes and that each force is ethnically representative of the general population. Although this would not end the practice of ethnic patronage, it would work towards a more ethnically balanced (and thereby professional) security sector. More importantly, by making it more difficult for a politician to successfully mobilize ethnic loyalties, it would do much to decrease the chances of repeating the current conflict.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

South Sudan: Next Steps?

Brief Overview of the Current Situation

In a Nutshell: political rivals agitated ethnic tensions in order to gather support for their side/cause and it all resulted in ethnic cleansing. Such moves are a very common occurrence in Africa. Considering the fact that  the ethnic tensions existed in South Sudan for decades, if not centuries,  the current situation is hardly surprising.

What Happened : On the national level, there are two main players: President Salva Kiir vs. the former Vice-President Riek Machar. Kiir is from the Dinka tribe, while Machar is from the Nuer tribe. In a press conference on 6 December, 2013 Machar publicly accused the President of dictatorial tendencies. On 15 December, 2013, in-fighting occurred between the Presidential Guard, which Kiir described as an attempted coup d’état perpetrated by forces allied with Machar.  Machar dismissed the accusation as a pretext for Kiir to get rid of the political opposition and fled. Soon the infighting spread throughout SPLA, which effectively split into those siding with Kiir and those siding with Machar. Both sides committed grave human rights abuses. On 21 December, Machar told the press that he was in rebellion against the Government[1]

Now, the Nuer militia that support Machar is called the White Army or the SPLM/A in Opposition. It seems these men seem to be more driven by ethnic hatred, rather than politics. The peace talks are currently a majestic failure, as neither leader is actually interested in making any concessions because they both desire total political control. However, even if Kiir and Machar did come to some kind of a political agreement, it makes one wonder if the ethnic violence would just stop. It seems as that it spiraled out of the control of either leader.

Some Background: During the Second Sudanese Civil War, Macher and his Lou Nuer allies, revolted against Garang's SPLM/A and formed a splinter group - the South Sudan Defence Force. They eventually re-joined the SPLM/A, but Lou Nuer's "treachery" still plays a big part in the conflict between South Sudan’ tribal communities. Thus the speed with which the infighting has spread throughout the SPLM is not surprising since the division within it was stark and had existed for a long time.

Ethnic Tensions: It is also important to remember that South Sudan has many ethnic groups that often have deadly disagreements - usually over land/pastures. Indeed, there are more than 60 ethnic groups in South Sudan. The Dinka is the largest ethnic group, making up 35% of the total population, while the Nuer group is about half the size. It makes sense for the political leaders from these tribes to incite “us vs. them” mentality, because it diverts the attention of the ethnic group from their own leader and his intentions to “them”.

The current conflict is happening against the background of  longstanding ethnic tensions within South Sudan. One of the causes for those tensions is the competition over land and pastures. Since climate is changing, the competition over pastures is increasing and becoming more deadly. Inter-tribal conflicts arise when pastoralists from one tribe enter the territory of another. In addition, conflicts between farmers and cattle-keepers are a recurring problem. These problems have been going on for decades, if not centuries. Cattle raiding and reprisals have been a part of life for generations between the Nuer, Dinka and Murle tribes. Raids are undertaken to increase stocks and to compensate for those lost. At this point, these thefts are accepted as part of daily life and contribute to culture of retaliation/vengeance between the tribes. Since South Sudan's independence in 2011, ethnic violence and cattle raiding have been on the rise - usually the clashes were between the members of the Murle tribe and the Nuer tribe. Thus the current conflict between the Nuer and the Dinka adds a whole new level of complexity to the situation. Thus the solution to current ethnic conflict will be intertwined with the solution to the pastoral conflicts.

Competition over Oil: I should also mention the current struggle over the oil resources: oil=money=power. Machar wants to cut of Kiir from the oilfields and thus economically undermine him. So, understandably, Machar is against the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) (that consists of neighbouring states) sending in forces to protect Kiir's oilfields. At this time, the first monitoring and verification team was deployed to Jonglei state capital Bor on 1 April, followed by a second team, which was deployed to Unity state’s Bentiu on 5 April. They are charged with "assessing, monitoring, investigating, verifying and reporting allegations of violations against the cessation of hostilities".

South Sudan and the Neighbours

South Sudan is surrounded by CAR (resource rich but unexploited), Uganda (resource rich), Sudan, Kenya (resource rich) and Ethiopia (resource rich). Once the conflict started and people started fleeing, the neighbouring countries were flooded by refugees – around 254k of them.

Uganda is pushing the refugees into settlements or camps, which can be expensive for Uganda and dangerous for the refugees. Uganda is also fully supporting Kiir: it sent thousands of troops to South Sudan to protect some of the installations in South Sudan, but then it joined government forces in the fight against Machar's forces. Machar naturally protests Uganda’s involvement in South Sudan and its inclusion as an observer in IGAD led peace talks. Machar threatens to boycott the upcoming peace talks in Ethiopia if Uganda takes part in them as an observer. Since Uganda is clearly not impartial, the rebels believe that it should simply join Kiir’s negotiating team.

Sudan has an adversarial history with South Sudan, the country that gained independence from it in 2011. However, it is providing some diplomatic support to South Sudan in this crisis. South Sudan arrested eleven officials from the SPLM  that it did not want to participate in the peace talks and Sudan did say that it will support South Sudan in not allowing these officials to participate in the talks, even if Uganda does not withdraw its forces. So even though Sudan was at first against Ugandan force being in South Sudan, it has soften its stance. Seven  of the eleven officials in question have been released.They are now located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the peace talks are taking place. Four are waiting trial for treason. 

Ethiopia is taking in refugees as well. There are about 85 000 refugees at the Ethiopia- South Sudan border. However, the conditions in these camps are poor as the camps are grossly over-crowded: holding sometimes twice the amount of people than they are meant to accommodate.

Ethiopia is also accusing Eritrea for having a hand in the current South Sudan conflict and for supporting Kiir’s forces. Relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia have been adversarial since Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia in 1991, after 30 years of war. For its part, Eritrea claims that it is acting in hopes of promoting peace and stability in the region. Kenya, another neighbour of South Sudan, supports Eritrea’s rhetoric and looks to deepen its relationship with that state.

Kenya and Ethiopia oppose to the presence of Ugandan troops in South Sudan believe that their presence threatens regional peace and stability.

Another South Sudan’s neighbour is Central African Republic (CAR). Its current security situation is just as alarming as the one in South Sudan, if not more. Some analysts warn that the current crisis in CAR, which started in December 2012, has the possibility of repeating the history of Rwandan genocide. The situation then reversed in the country as Christian militias took power and started targeting Muslim minority, which lead to thousands of deaths, 650k internal displacements, and 290k refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries.

Next Steps

If the issue is elites' struggle for power (which I think it is, but it’s a debatable point) than the international community should resolve the situation in a decisive manner. This leaves little room for power-sharing, which is usually international community’s go-to solution to every power struggle. However, since Kiir and Machar were not able to successfully share power, there is little likelihood that they will be able to do so in the future or that the resulting government with two warring factions will be able to function. 

A better resolution to the conflict is to elect another government that is more representative of the different sections of society and work on local conflict resolution and reconciliation. It is important to take Kiir and Machar out of the picture as the current conflict is almost intimately linked to them. It is unlikely that the Nuer people will allow Kiir to govern in peace after this conflict, even if he did win the elections – and the Dinka will not allow Machar to govern.  This does not mean that once Kiir and Machar are out of the picture that the conflict will end. However, the conflict is more likely to cool down if the agitators were not inciting further violence.  Kiir should be pressured to resign by the international community or the people of South Sudan. Neither Kiir nor Machar should be allowed to run again – I am not sure how this could be accomplished, but since both are guilty of inciting human rights abuses  it should not be too hard for the South Sudan's Supreme Court to rule on.

Interim government should be established to fill the power vacuum.  It should busy itself with diffusing ethnic tensions. First of all, the interim government needs to attempt Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) + Reconciliation . This step will be next to impossible since the rebels (the Nuer) will not want to disarm without fully knowing they will not be retaliated against by the Dinka. Unless, one reorganizes DDR.  First, international community would send in its peacekeeping troops to prevent retaliation and foster security. Second, interim government should work on creating the mechanisms for reconciliation in order to combat the culture of vengeance. These mechanisms have to ensure that people feel that their suffering is recognized. It is important to remember that reconciliation cannot be based on retribution. It should be based on forgiveness and the desire for a better future. The reasoning behind this is that when ethnic cleansing takes place and human rights abuses are committed on the same scale by both sides, it is hard to pin point the perpetrators and “eye for an eye” mentality just makes more opportunities for vengeance.Third, soldiers should be re- integrated into the society, which will make it easier to accomplish the fourth step demobilization and disarmament, that is disbandment and disarmament of armed groups . It is easier to give up the arms if first you have a good vision for a different future i.e a good civilian job. 

Next, the new government has to tackle the underlining issues for ethnic tensions.To deal with the cattle raids and  inter-tribal tensions, I propose a police task force that is made up of individuals from different tribes. This task force would patrol the areas where cattle raids are most frequent. They would also investigate cattle raids. The cattle police task force will not in and out of itself solve the problem of cattle raids, however, with luck, it might discourage the victims taking the matters into their own hands and retaliating. Granted, the police force will have to be just and efficient or it will likely to create more problems than solve.

Another way to help alleviate tensions between tribes would be to create development projects that also involve individuals from different tribes. By working together on a common project, the people from different tribes would form positive connections and relationships. It will hopefully help discourage the demonization of the other tribes and contribute to more peaceful relations. Projects that create inter-dependence between tribes will also be highly valuable in this context as they will also discourage violence. It is unwise to cause harm to those on whom you depend.

The new government should actively encourage peaceful relations between different tribes. It should have an active media campaign to bring to light the similarities between tribes, to encourage peaceful resolution of disputes, and to highlight inter-dependencies  The government leaders need to stop encouraging ethnic tensions and contribute to their resolution.

Furthermore, the leaders need to be convinced by international community that having a more peaceful society is in their interest. They will incite violence only if they believe that it is more beneficial for them. War and conflict has to be made too costly for the leaders. 

However, only the South Sudanese can actually make a lasting change.  They can begin by not killing the members of the rivaling tribe in retaliation. International community needs to step in to provide basic security, but the rest is up to the people. If the people realize that the killing is perpetrated by armed groups and not normal people of other tribe, they could stop the senseless and endless cycle of violence. If the Dinka in the SPLA  tarted the killing, then the Nuer should have retaliated against only the Dinka in the SPLA, not all Dinka people. The people should not allow themselves to get caught up in political rivalries. Better yet, the average Dinka and Nuer should band together in times such as these and retaliate against the SPLA, Kiir and Machar.

Lastly, Uganda needs to withdraw its forces. It says that it will withdraw the forces once the IGAD stabilization force arrives. Hopefully, it will be so. It is very problematic that Uganda supports Kiir since it basically involves itself in an ethnic cleansing within the territory of another country.  Also, if a Nuer was ever elected as a president of South Sudan, it could lead to tensions between the two countries.  However, getting involved in each other’s internal affairs is common for the countries in this part of the world. Very often one country will support the rebels fighting the government in another country. It is hard for anyone, except the leaders of those countries, to do something about this issue. The leaders need to understand and believe that stability in the region depends on them working together rather than fighting and trying to undermine each other....

 I have a dream… 

Further information on the current situation in South Sudan, please check out the following report by International Crisis Group:

South Sudan: A Civil War by Any Other Name

Good short video on internal politics within SPLM that play a large part in the current conflict


Friday, January 31, 2014

Life in the DRC - Local Focus

In this post, I will analyze the conflict in the DRC on the local level.

Background - This background is somewhat of a summary of an excellent book called The Trouble with the Congo by Séverine Autesserre. The main message of the book is to point out the failures of UN in the DRC, which I will not get into. However, I did think her well-rounded description of the historical issues in the DRC is a good start for my conflict analysis. But, you can skip down to more present-day analysis. J So here we go!

The DRC is one of those ill-fated countries that has not known peace for many decades.  Indeed, in the 90’s, the DRC has been through two wars. However, the DRC's issues have started at least in 1930’s when the Belgians sent tens of thousands of Rwandans to work for the plantations in the Kivus provinces. Since the Congolese chiefs allowed Belgians to bring the Rwandans only on the condition that they would not have any political rights, the Rwandans were left with a very ambiguous political status. In particular, they were denied indigenous status, which would allow them to own land. However, the Belgians did put a disproportionate amount of Rwandans into local administration, to the dismay of the Congolese.  This added fuel to fire as there were already issues with land availability.

Land was awarded by the local chiefs to those who had an indigenous status, which again Rwandans did not.  Land issue became more prominent in 60s-70s when thousands of Rwandan Tutsis fled to the Kivus in order to escape the prosecution in Rwanda. The tensions increased further when Rwandan Hutus fled to the Kivus because of 1994 Rwandan genocide.  Soon after, in 1996, the 1st Congo War began, which was closely followed by the 2nd Congo War in 1998.  The close proximity of the wars is not surprising, considering that the 2nd Congo War started in large part because of President’s Kabila alienation of his Rwandan and Ugandan war allies and the expulsion of their force from the DRC after the 1st war.[1] Although the wars have technically ended, the DRC has not enjoyed a period of peace since then.

On the local level, one of the prominent issues is the lack of land. Consequently, land disputes happen often and usually turn violent and deadly.  In 1973, Mobutu passed a General Property Law that nationalized all land thus taking power away from the chiefs, who usually handed it out. Furthermore, a lot of young peasants were deprived of the access to land due to this law. As a result, their survival opportunities decreased and tensions increased at the local level, which lead to small scale violence.

In the late 80’s, tensions began brewing between the Congolese Hutus and the Congolese Tutsis of Rwandan descent because the Hutus who came to the Kivus tried to affirm their power and diminish the Tutsi influence. As the Rwandan Hutu refugees arrived in 1994, the Rwandan Tutsis in the DRC feared that they would be attacked as their ethnic kin were in Rwanda.  At the same time, the Congolese radicalized against all Rwandans. They blamed Rwandan ethnic tensions for increasing violence in the DRC in general, in addition to already existing land and political disagreements they had with Congolese of Rwandan descent.  All of these tensions over time blew up into a 1996 war.

During the war, the militias switched alliances as it served their needs. Some militia groups fragmented and began fighting each other.  All of the fighting reinforced local tensions, led to militarization of some and decentralised others as militias followed their own local agendas, most notably in South Kivu, North Katanga, and Ituri. However, in general, militias rarely fought with each other and instead targeted unarmed civilians to gain power by either preventing them from collaborating with other groups or punishing those who have done so.


The violence in the South and North Kivu has existed for decades. A lot of it is driven by the competition over land. Since local administration and central governance is weak at best, the local chiefs fill the power vacuum. Even today, they play a prominent role when it comes to the distribution of land. However, they have been losing the support of local populations due to their involvement in patronage and sales of communal land without informing the communities.[2] Although their authority is now often questioned, there is little help for the locals from elsewhere. Indeed, even though the tribunals for land disputes are accessible, the hierarchy between them is not clearly defined, which results in of the tribunals’ overruling of each other’s decisions. [3] Naturally, this uncertainty in the rulings creates tension, which again tends to turn into violence over time.

Perhaps more importantly, there are different laws that apply to resolving land disputes and they often contradict each other. For instance, the Constitution gives investment rights to Congolese and foreigners, while the Agriculture Law states that only the ethnically Congolese people may own land.[4] Furthermore, land governance framework is in disarray. There is a multitude of systems, such as “a statutory land system, customary systems and informal governance practices” that oversee the access and the use of land. [5] There is not much harmonization among the systems, which tends to lead to conflicts when one system is pitted against another in a land dispute.

All of these issues are further complicated by the inter-ethnic competition. Since there is limited arable land, land conflicts are prominent in heavily populated areas. They often turn violent. This problem is intensified by massive displacement caused by armed groups activities or clashes with the army. In South Kivu, a lot of pastoralists are Tutsi Banyamulenge (Congolese of Rwandan descent) who often dispute with customary chiefs and farmers over land use. Pastoralists need the land for their cattle to graze on, which at least partially destroys farmers (usually ethnic Congolese) crops. Unfortunately, due to ethnic competition the land disputes often involve armed groups, and consequently, violence and death.[6] An example of a land dispute can be found in the Ruzizi plain, which is located between at the border of South Kivu and Burundi. There, the disputes between the Barundi (20% of population) and the Bafuliro (80% of population) communities about land and traditional leadership have long ended up in violence.[7]  In 2010, the chefferie (mainly made of those from the Bafuliro community) has created its own security force, the FALL armed group, to protect the Bafuliro from the Forces democratiques pour la liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) when the DRC Armed Forces (FARDC) were unable to do so. Unfortunately, the FALL quickly became predatory and began imposing “taxes” and demanding payoffs at checkpoints from the population.[8] This brings us to the next prominent local issue, the armed groups.

Armed Groups

Although not all of the armed groups are local, all of them do have local implications: massive displacement and insecurity. Before entering the analysis of the armed groups in the DRC, one should place oneself in the shoes of the local population. Massive insecurity that stems from inter-ethnic conflict, predatory armed forces, vicious armed groups, and incompetent government creates an environment of desperate people in desperate situations. This is important to keep at the back of one’s mind especially when analyzing armed groups. In particular, it is important to consider when thinking about disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration in the DRC, or elsewhere really.

For the past two years, the FARDC was actively engaged in fighting with the armed group called the Mouvement du 23 mars (M23). The group officially surrendered and signed an agreement with the government in mid-December 2013, after robust operations against it by the FARDC and MONUSCO in October 2013.[9] M23 are former members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), who turned against the government due to the poor conditions in the army and the government's unwillingness to implement the 23 March 2009 peace deal. M23 was supported by Rwanda and Uganda in 2012, especially in the offensives that led to capture of a very commercially active city, Goma.[10] However, in 2013 support from Uganda weaned, mostly likely due to international pressure and the lack of a strong incentive that Rwanda continued to have .[11] Indeed, the support from the Government of Rwanda continued mostly likely because M23 aimed to overthrow the government, and extremely resource poor country such as Rwanda could have substantially benefited from having a friendly indebted-to-it DRC government that would oversee an immensely resource rich territory.  Indeed, M23 recruited a lot of demobilized Rwandan soldiers and received support from Rwandan officers, who helped to prevent those soldiers from returning home.[12] However, when internal division within M23 began, Rwandan officials decided to support the new leader because they began to feel that they could not control the original leader Ntaganda and his network. This development is understandable since there isn't much use for Rwanda to help install a new government in the DRC that it would not be able to control.  The internal division within M23, however, weakened it, which eventually lead to its defeat.[13]

As for financing, M23 taxed commercial trucks, from $200 to $1000 per truck that crossed its checkpoints at Kibumba and Kiwanja in North Kivu. In Goma, they looted more than $3million.[14] Other armed groups, such as the FDLR, are involved in gold mining to finance their activities. The FDLR operates in Lubero Territory in North Kivu. While in Walikale, gold mines are controlled by Ria Mutomboki and Mai Mai Simba armed groups.[15] In Orientale Province, Mai Mai Morgan group robbed miners of their cold.[16]  All of these “financing” activities have naturally contributed to the insecurity in the region, human rights violations, and displacement. Indeed, the armed groups often engage in forced recruitment, child recruitment, killings, lootings, abductions, sexual violence, and other human rights violations.[17] The armed forces were responsible for at least 135 cases of rapes from 20 to 30 November 2012 in the South Kivu.[18] The displacement of people has reached astonishing heights: in December 2013, Secretary General stated that 2.7 million people have been internally displaced within the DRC.[19] Thus for the locals, the picture is quite bleak all around. Inter-ethnic tensions, violence perpetrated by the armed groups and the armed forces, and  a distrust in the protection provided by the law are daily realities of those living in the DRC.


In order to move towards peace in the DRC, land issues need to be solved. The starting point for this should be the harmonization of the laws that deal with land disputes, usage or ownership.  Indeed, a new Agricultural Law should be passed that will be the ultimate authority on land issues and that will override parts of any other legal statues that deal with issues relating to land. The law should state all of the relevant information about owning land, using it or resolving conflicts in regards to it. It should clearly define and limit the powers of local chiefs.  It should also describe the process one should go through in order to get a hearing at a tribunal and identify a higher authority which to address when looking to for an appeal. 
That being said, one tribunal should not have the legal authority to overrule the decision of another tribunal. If one of the parties goes to another tribunal to get a more favourable ruling than the other party could present documents that the case has already been tried previously and the party that tried to launch a new case should have to pay a fee for trying to abuse the justice system. However, an entity should exist that would hear the appeals that originate from the tribunals’ rulings.  It is essential that the legal framework is not only organized, but that there is a clear hierarchy within the system, where only one entity exists per each level.  Furthermore, the land governance framework also needs to be streamlined as the current multitude of systems, practices and institutional frameworks (such a statutory land system, customary systems and a variety of informal land governance practices) creates conflicts since two people can claim rights for the same land under two different systems. The legal and land governance system should be publicized heavily by every institution (UN, NGOs, all of the government institutions) in the local languages thus spreading the knowledge as widely as possible. If knowledge is power, the DRC needs to limit the concentration of power at the hands of the few (i.e. chiefs).

A harder issue to address is the issue of armed groups. It is important to remember that often the “recruited” people have been either forced or dubbed into joining the group with a promise of pay or better life.  People in the DRC are desperate people in desperate circumstances. Always fearing for your life, never having enough to eat, being constantly immersed in violence and seeing all of the problems being solved with guns will make anyone want to pick up a gun in order to give oneself and/or his family a fighting chance.  No one likes feeling powerless.

Thus the the DRC government and UN need to focus on changing the structures that form the desperate circumstances rather than focusing on chasing down the armed groups.  As long as the desperate circumstances exist, desperate people will exist as well… and so will the armed groups. In order to change the structures which create the desperate circumstances, the government needs to begin by fixing their legal system, starting with the harmonization of the land laws and land governance systems in particular, and the legal system in general. With a clearly defined laws and legal system, a just application of the law will be easier – although granted, it will probably take decades for the application to get in the proximity of just (due to the level of corruption), but you have to start somewhere.

[1] Reyntjens, Filip. The Great African War: Congo and Regional Geopolitics, 1996–2006. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009. p. 194
[2] "Dealing With Land Issues and Conflict in Eastern Congo: towards an integrated and participatory approach". Report on Seminar held in Brussels on 20-21 September 2012, 4
[3] Ibid 3
[4] Ibid 3
[5] Ibid 3
[6] Ibid 6
[7]" Understanding Conflict in Eastern Congo: The Ruzizi Plain", International Crisis Group, Africa Report #206, 23 July 2013  p1
[8] Ibid 11
[9] p4
[11] Expert Group on the DRC - S/2013/433- p4
[12] Ibid
[13] Ibid 6
[14] Ibid
[15] Ibid 35
[16] Ibid
[17] Secretary General Report on the DRC -S/2013/388 - p.28
[18] Expert Group on the DRC - S/2013/433- p.29
[19]Secretary General Report on the DRC- S/2013/757- p6