War is Boring: Africa Round-Up

Mali

There hasn’t been much of a change in the overall situation during the last weeks: the northern half of Mali — an area about the size of France — is occupied by a range of rebel groups. While neighboring states and the international community are deeply concerned over the Islamist policies of some of these groups, the Malian state has proven to be incapable to act, due to a coup d’etat which send the government into a deep crisis.

There is a lot of confusion and uncertainty about what lies ahead. The regional organization ECOWAS and especially its member Niger would like to send an intervention force to set things straight in the north and south. […]

Read the rest of the Round-Up on Mali, the DR Congo, Côte d’Ivoire and Somalia over at WarisBoring.com!

War is Boring: Africa Round Up

DR Congo
The eastern Congo is about to enter a new cycle of violence. The rebels of the new organisation “M23” only control a limited area so far, but reportedly get stronger by the day. M23 is the result of the mutiny of several army units around Easter. These units were part of a former rebel group, the CNDP, which was officially disbanded and integrated into the army in 2009.

As a reaction on the limited success of operations against the mutineers the army is concentrating more and more forces in the area surrounding the rebel strongholds on the border with Rwanda. But this leaves other areas in the vast and inaccessible east bereft of security forces. In these areas violence by ethnic militias against civilians is on the rise andseveral thousand people have fled already in fear of atrocities. […]

Read more on the DR Congo, Mali, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire over at War is Boring!

War is Boring: Africa Roundup (Congo, Mali, Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau)

Fighters of the MNLA in Mali. Photo via Maghrebia on Flickr.

The latest installment of my regular Africa conflict roundup for warisboring.com

Congo

A large-scale mutiny-come-rebellion rocks the eastern part of the Democratic Replublic of Congo since Easter. Never the most peaceful of places, the situation in the Kivu provinces bordering Rwanda escalated, when army general Bosco “The Terminator” Ntaganda decided to defect from his position.

Ntaganda is searched for by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity. (The ICC recently sentenced Ntaganda’s former superior Thomas Lubanga in a related case.) A military commander of a powerful rebel group, the CNDP, Ntaganda protected himself from prosecution by leading an internal coup against CNDP leader Laurent Nkunda and bringing the CNDP into the fold of the government. This deal — in which Rwanda played an important part — gave Ntaganda the highest army command in the Kivus and didn’t touch the CNDP structures, which persisted in parrallel to the normal chain of command. […]

Read more on the current situation in the DR Congo, Mali, Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau here.

A way forward in Uganda

Joseph Kony. Zeit.de photo.

The internet has erupted over the Kony2012 video, produced the advocacy group Invisible Children. It has gone viral instantly, collection over 75 Million views until now, but has also drawn vicious criticism from other NGOs, researchers and (perhaps most importantly) Ugandans. While everybody agrees that the video is an incredible piece of marketing, the critics argue that it distorts the realities on the ground, advocates for a military (non)solution and disregards Ugandan agency.

I’m squarely on the side of the critics after seeing the video. But this won’t be another post explaining you what’s wrong with this publicity stunt (others do this just fine).

Instead, I want to ask what an alternative strategy to end this misery might look like. Mahmood Mamdani is certainly right in arguing for a peaceful solution. I myself have argued as well, with respect to Somalia and al Shabaab, that demonizing an enemy and escalating violence against him has the potential to make the situation much worse instead of better.

But the fact remains that Kony is on the loose in the Central African Republic and in Congo. While we can be happy for the people in northern Uganda that they got rid of him, we shouldn’t forget that he is still a threat to many people in other countries.

And in difference to Mahmdani, I’m not a fan of a general amnesty for Kony and his inner circle. These guys have committed unspeakable atrocities and if there is any way that they could be brought to justice (before an impartial judge and with the benefits of due process, of course), one should take it.

And such a way exists, I think. It is more complicated and expensive than taking Kony out with a drone and will take more time than sending in the SEAL team six, but I think it will be worth it.

The general idea would be to approach the problem from two sides: 1. provide meaningful security to the population living in areas with LRA presence and 2. degrade the operational capacity of Kony and the LRA by peaceful means.

The first part of the strategy would require a peacekeeping force with sufficient resources to deny the LRA easy attacks on civilians. As others have pointed out, the LRA is neither well equipped, nor highly trained. Their main advantage is the remoteness and inaccessibility of the area they are active in. Taking away this advantage will require a far more sophisticated and better equipped force than the current peacekeeping mission in the Congo has to offer, but maybe Invisible Children could convince the US government to pick up the tap for this …

The second step would be to pick the LRA apart, but not by killing as many of its members as possible. The rank and file of the LRA are probably mostly abducted minors and as much victim as perpetrator. Instead, one could take demobilization efforts like the one targeting the FDLR in the Kivus as inspiration to convince the normal fighters of the LRA to come out of the bush voluntarily. Once the rank and file lays down their weapons, Kony himself will be a much smaller threat and much easier to catch alive.

What do you think? Is this a strategy that could work?

the guardian: My view on ending gender violence in developing countries

This is a comment from me that was recently published in the Global Development Voices section of the guardian online. Find it here, together with other excellent commentary and an interesting discussion.

To end violence against women, it may be best to talk less about it and more about other forms of violence. That, at least, is the argument a new report by the Nordic Africa Institute makes about the case of sexual violence against women in eastern Congo, and I would agree.

Violence against women does not exist isolated from other forms of violence in a society. It is part of what Johan Galtung would describe as structural violence, and it can only be fully understood – and hence adequately addressed – if all forms of violence in a society are tackled.

In some cases, like for example in the eastern Congo, sexual violence has become almost an exclusive perspective on ongoing conflicts. While the intent behind this is laudable, it is likely that it actually hurts the interests of women, as any action taken will only be able to mitigate violence against them, not eradicate.

So to end violence against women, it is essential that policymakers, advocacy groups, NGOs and the media start to address the hard questions. It is easy (and right) to condemn the soldier in eastern Congo who rapes a woman, but it is much harder to find a satisfying answer to what made him do it. Only by answering this question will we be able to really abolish violence against women and violence in general.