Boko Haram thriving in an institutional vacuum!

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Boko Haram made a sudden apparition on television screens around the world in April 2014 with the abduction of more than 200 school girls in Chibok. Following the kidnappings, a worldwide campaign “Bring Back our Girls,” was organized to plea for the safe return of these students. The worldwide campaign” as well as other social media outlets inevitably gave Boko Haram undeserved publicity. Today, the transformation of Boko Haram from a marginalized domestic terrorist group initially fighting for systemic changes (end of corruption, impunity, instauration of Sharia Law) in Northern Nigeria; to a terrorist insurgent group controlling swaths of Nigerian territory, exposes the decay and dysfunctions of some key institutions in Nigeria and the region.

Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in Hausa; its official name is “Jamāʿat ʾahl al-sunnah li-l-Daʿwah wa-al-Jihād “ meaning in Arabic “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.” Boko Haram started in the 2000s as a Muslim sect under the leadership of the Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf who denounced the corruption of leaders and preached a non-violent way of social change. While advocating for Sharia law; terrorism was not yet part of the group arsenal. The popularity of the leader soared as his criticisms against politicians became louder and resonated with disenfranchised and marginalized youth. In 2009, there were frequent clashes between Boko Haram and security forces. The same year, during a series of raids, the army crushed the group, killed hundreds of followers, destroyed their main mosque, the Al-Haji Muhammadu Ndimi Mosque in Maiduguri, and arrested its leader Ustaz Yusuf who would be later executed without due process. The group’s remaining members went underground to re-emerge later in 2010 under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau, now more organized, deadly, and committed to the goal of creating a “caliphate Islamic state” in Northern Nigeria.

Most insurgent groups generally go after two main prizes: territory and populations. Their strategies are terrain centric (conquer and hold territory) and population centric (win over and control population) and in most cases, to win over population, these groups will kill people of their own group and leaders who stand against them and intimidate through public display of gruesome acts of violence; they will also attack security apparatus and symbols of state power.
Let’s look at Boko Haram today:

Terrain centric – The goal is to create an Islamic Caliphate in Northern Nigeria. The towns of Bara, Marte, Gamboru Ngala, Dikwa, Bama, Gwoza, Damboa, and Banki in Borno state, and recently Buni Yadi and Bara towns in Yobe state have fallen and Boko Haram is advancing toward Maidaguri the capital city of Borno State.

Population centric – None of these towns have the type of resources Nigeria is so well endowed with, but Boko Haram is also trying to win the hearts and minds of the local population (in their own way) and regulate social relations and interactions. The fall of these towns was done without the kind of mayhem Boko Haram is known for. According to eye witnesses, instead, Boko Haram combatants were preaching and asking people not to be afraid. However, in order to control populations, they will eventually use extreme violence.

Boko Haram violence is not senseless and blind as people may think. It is purposeful and strategically aimed at: a) degrading the state security apparatus, killing, demoralizing, and intimidating individual soldiers; b) provoking the Nigerian army to overreact and alienate the populations they seek to protect (there are reports of the army using child soldiers, harassing civilian populations, and other abuses); and c) stretching the Army thin by mounting attacks in different cities, suicide bombings, kidnappings, bank attacks, and other activities that require important deployment of Nigerian armed forces without impacting Boko Haram capability.
The metamorphosis of Boko Haram from an obscure Islamic sect to a well known terrorist insurgency led by Abubakar Skehau unclothes many institutions in the region:

The Nigerian Army: a paper tiger – The debacle of the more than half of a battalion of the Nigerian Army who found refuge in Cameroon after the fall of the town of Bama (the second largest town of Borno state) is symptomatic of an Army that is demoralized and underequipped. The retreat of more than 500 Nigerian soldiers following a standoff with Boko Haram in Cameroon is really unsettling! We are talking of the Armed forces of the largest economy in Africa, an army of more than 160 000 men and women, with a budget of more than 5 billion US dollars (20% of the country’s GDP). The only logical conclusion is that long gone are the days when Nigerians and countries of the ECOMOG (Liberia and Sierra Leone in particular) could be proud of the Nigerian Army.
One of the most preeminent senators from Kaduna state and member of the Senate Joint National Assembly Committee and former General Hamed Saleh offers the following explanation, as reported in Allafrica.com : For us to understand why that is happening, we need to go back to the Babangida (Gen. Ibrahim Babangida) era. After the 1990 Okar coup, the Federal Government of Nigeria systematically and comprehensively disarmed the military…All the tanks, all the artillery guns were disarmed and locked up. All the aircraft were parked in Ilorin and other places, flying stopped, training stopped to ensure regime security, not national security…”All the good officers of the Nigerian Army were hounded out of the military…The attendant result was decay. Training was no longer going on at the battalion level, soldiers lost their skills and since then, no additional military equipment was purchased for the Nigerian Army. Even things as little as machine guns were in short supply, ammunition was in short supply…
This analysis of the Nigerian Army can be applied to many countries of the region where politicians’ mistrust of the Army and their own illegitimacy have transformed the mission of Armed forces from protection of the country to suppression of dissenting politicians and unarmed activists.

The African Union (AU): Missing in Action – On May 17, 2014, France organized and held a Summit on Security in Nigeria and the region. While the list of participants was impressive with the presence of head of states of Cameroon, Benin, Niger, Chad, Nigeria, and representatives of the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union, equally noteworthy was the list of absents, particularly the African Union (AU). The AU was simply not welcomed nor invited. Asked why the AU was not invited, one adviser to the French president gave the following answer: “AU has no intelligence capability”; to my knowledge the EU has none either. Beside the Paris Summit, AU itself did not initiate any summit or action to address the issue. This situation is an illustration of the increased apathy of the AU (not necessarily regional economic communities-REC) towards security issues and more unfortunately the lack of trust some African leaders have in this institution when it comes to security matters.

Regional security cooperation: Elusive catch word! – Should the Boko Haram Caliphate become a reality, it will have as neighbors: Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and Niger. It will be a landlocked caliphate. How will it survive? The answer probably lies on how the current insurgency is thriving. Experts argue that Boko Haram makes money by attacking banks, kidnappings, and other illegal endogenous activities. in addition there are ungoverned spaces, corrupt politicians and military officers, and weapon traffickers in these neighboring countries. These favorable factors build on the weak collaboration between security forces of the region and the mutual suspicion that exists among leaders of these border countries who would rather meet in Paris than in Abuja, Ndjamena, Yaoundé, Niamey, or Addis Ababa.

The response of the Nigerian government and neighboring countries so far has been enemy-centric that is, focusing on killing Boko Haram combatants and degrading their capabilities; unfortunately alienating the populations they are supposed to protect. It is worth mentioning that the enemy-centric approach has been so far productive in Cameroon, for the simple reason that Boko Haram has not shown any interest in controlling territory nor population in that country. Apparently it is well served by ransoms it received from kidnappings in Cameroon and the intelligence it receives from young disaffected Cameroonians, some of whom are joining the group for economic reasons. Hopefully, Cameroon will learn from Nigeria’s mistakes and be mindful of the importance of working for and with the local populations and addressing local grievances and sources of disaffection.
Boko Haram will eventually be defeated; unfortunately many people -many girls – will not live to see that day. A lot of innocent blood will be shed and thousands will be displaced and made refugees. It is time for the AU, particularly the African Union Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) to become proactive and more assertive as far as terrorism is concerned, working closely with other regional bodies; strengthen the collaboration of countries in the region; and rebuild the capacity of the Nigerian military. But in strengthening these institutions to defeat Boko Haram, policy-makers should not forget this principle from the field of medicine and now adopted by development practitioners, that is: “Do no harm” to the populations you are trying to protect. “Do no harm” in this case will also mean implementing “population- sensitive security and military operations” that work with and for the populations, protecting them from physical violence, but respecting their rights and guaranteeing their access to basic services (education, health, shelter, etc.). They should do more than winning the hearts and minds, and leverage local resources so that populations have the means (not only the will) to express their gratitude and support for the Nigerian government and other border countries in the fight against violent extremism.

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Conflit en Casamance : Peut-être la lumière au bout du tunnel ?

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Le 14 octobre 2013, les représentants du gouvernement sénégalais et ceux du MFDC (groupe irrédentiste en Casamance au Sénégal) ont tenu une importante réunion. Celle-ci avait pour facilitateur la Communauté de Sant’Egidio. Cette importante réunion a permis de mettre en place un cadre commun des négociations de paix pour mettre un terme à l’un des plus longs conflits en Afrique subsaharienne. Certes prometteur, le processus est néanmoins menacé par des facteurs et des choix qui ont torpillés les précédents processus de paix.

Le 26 décembre 1982, la crise en Casamance au Sénégal a dégénéré en manifestations pour l’indépendance à Ziguinchor sa capitale régionale. Ces manifestations ont conduit à la mise aux arrêts de nombreux dirigeants du mouvement séparatiste casamançais le MFDC (Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de la Casamance). D’autres réactions du gouvernement ont mis le feu aux poudres et déclenché un conflit armé toujours en cours. C’est l’une des guerres civiles les plus longues encore en cours en Afrique. Bien que n’étant pas aussi meurtrier que certains des conflits sur le continent, ce conflit à basse intensité (attaques et affrontements sporadiques à l’aide d’armes légères et les mines) a néanmoins coûté la vie à environ 3 000 à 5 000 personnes entre 1982 et 2010. La situation actuelle en Casamance reste celle de « ni guerre, ni paix » bouleversée de temps en temps par des affrontements sporadiques et meurtriers de la part du gouvernement et de certaines factions rebelles. Cette situation a plombé le développement dans cette région, créé un terrain propice au banditisme, aux conflits communaux localisés et à la contrebande de toutes sortes de produits (drogues illégales, bois, armes légères et autres biens); par ailleurs, cette économie de la guerre est alimentée par l’instabilité en Guinée Bissau, qui est devenue une plateforme internationale du narcotrafic. La population locale est prise au piège dans un système de conflit qui implique le Sénégal, la Gambie, et la Guinée Bissau.

En dépit de la menace régionale que représente le conflit de la Casamance, il n’existe pas d’effort soutenu de la part de la communauté internationale pour un processus de paix. Peut-être cette fois-ci, la donne est en train de changer!

Depuis 1982, il y a eu de nombreuses tentatives pour ramener la paix dans cette partie du Senegal. En outre, de nombreux accords de cessez-le feu ont été signés depuis 1991. La Gambie et la Guinée Bissau ont facilité certains des ces accords. Le premier avait été signé le 31 mai 1991, à Cacheu en Guinée Bissau. Toutefois, le Front Sud (une des factions) du MFDC n’a jamais accepté l’accord du cessez-le feu. De nombreux autres suivront jusqu’au dernier accord partiel de paix signé le 30 décembre 2004 uniquement par une faction du MFDC. Cet accord de 2004 n’a apporté ni paix ni solution au conflit.

Compte tenu de la « factionalisation » du MFDC, la plupart de ces initiatives de paix n’ont jamais reçu le soutien de l’ensemble du mouvement, causant donc l’échec de chacun des accords ou initiatives. Le MFDC n’est pas le seul acteur fautif, car le gouvernement sénégalais également n’a pas apporté son soutien aux solutions fiables de paix en raison de l’absence de coordination et de suivi des engagements politiques et économiques.

Toutefois, le récent processus de médiation commencé en Octobre 2013 et facilité par la Communauté Sant’Egidio est porteur d’espoir. Tous les efforts semblent aller vers la paix, grâce à la conjugaison de plusieurs facteurs donc : la lassitude de la guerre chez les populations, des réunions informelles récurrentes et des initiatives de paix émanant des différents acteurs tant au niveau local que national, le paysage politique en mutation au Sénégal en raison de l’élection du Président Macky Sall, qui a promis de mettre un terme à ce conflit, et le retour de certaines agences internationales de développement. Ces macro tendances sont également appuyées par des actions concrètes telles que : la décision prise par le gouvernement sénégalais d’annuler le mandat d’arrêt lancé contre un des dirigeants du MFDC en la personne de Salif Sadio, la libération par le MFDC de 09 démineurs pris en otage, le rôle actif de médiation joué par la Communauté de Sant’Egidio.
Par cntre, cette nouvelle démarche pour la paix en Casamance n’est pas exempte des décisions et difficultés qui ont plombées les précédents processus de paix :

L’absence d’une approche globale de la part du gouvernement du Sénégal (GoS) – Le risque pour le gouvernement Sénégalais est double : absence d’une approche générale et envoi de nombreux émissaires. Le Président Macky Sall, n’a pas entretenu de secret sur le fait que la paix en Casamance fera partie de son lègue pour le pays. Jusqu’ici, la promesse et probablement la mise en exécution du plan de développement doté de 35 millions d’euros financé en partie par la Banque mondiale et qui donne la priorité à l’agriculture, aux routes et autres secteurs sensibles, permettront de résoudre les problèmes concrets de développement et les griefs qui ont alimentés le conflit pendant si longtemps. Mais en l’absence d’un cadre politique et d’une voie de sortie, les leaders du MFDC pourraient ne pas être motivés à rechercher réellement la paix. Dans sa quête d’une issue politique, le gouvernement du Sénégal devrait éviter le paradigme conflictuel actuel qui est celui d’« Unité nationale ou rien » Vs. « Indépendance ou rien »; mais plutôt recadrer les problèmes en termes de gouvernance participative et décentralisation. Ce cadre offre plus d’options que la dichotomie simpliste d’indépendance vs. intégrité territoriale du Sénégal.
Par ailleurs, l’une des stratégies de l’ancien président Wade était l’utilisation d’émissaires, que l’on appelait communément «Monsieur Casamance ». Cette stratégie a lamentablement échoué et à plutôt favoriser un réseau de corruption. Il est important pour le GoS de limiter le nombre d’intermédiaires avec le MFDC. La responsabilisation de l’ancien Maire de Ziguinchor, Mr. Robert Sagna en tant que chef négociateur pour le gouvernement permettrait de clarifier et de mieux articuler les positions du gouvernement.

Le risque de « factionalisation » continue du MFDC – La division au sein du MFDC a toujours constitué un défi à relever. Le rapprochement entre Ousmane Niantang Diatta et César Atoute Badiate du Front Sud est un signe encourageant. Mais le différend qui oppose le Front Sud (Diatta et Badiate) au Front Nord (Salif Sadio) constitue une grave menace. Le Front Nord souhaite négocier directement avec le gouvernement du Sénégal tandis que les sudistes veulent premièrement un dialogue au sein du MFDC avant de passer à la négociation avec le gouvernement. Si par le passé, le gouvernement du Sénégal a profité de la division au sein du MFDC, cette fois-ci, un MFDC moins divisé favorable à la paix pourrait être profitable à l’instauration de la paix.

Le risque de discuter avec les radicaux en ignorant les modérés – Les discussions à Rome ont commencé avec Salif Sadio, chef de la plus radicale des factions du MFDC. La Communauté de Sant’Egidio doit avoir probablement agi suivant le vieil adage qui dit que « l’on négocie avec ses ennemis et non pas avec ses amis ». Le résultat a été la frustration croissante du Front Sud de Cesar Batoute et Diatta. Il est temps de ramener à la table des négociations toutes les factions ainsi que les pays voisins que sont la Guinée Bissau et la Gambie. Suivant mon argumentaire ci-dessus, le conflit casamançais est le moteur d’un système de conflit qui part de Banjul en Gambie à Bissau en Guinée Bissau, par conséquent, les pays voisins font autant partie du problème que de la solution.

Ce sont là des défis complexes, les aborder nécessitera leadership et créativité de la part de tous les acteurs impliqués ! Mon espoir c’est de voir le peuple de la Casamance connaître enfin le dénouement de ce long conflit.

Conflict in Casamance, Senegal: The light at the end of a “30 years” long tunnel?

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On October 14th, 2013 an important meeting was held between representatives of the Government of Senegal and those of the MFDC (irredentist group in Casamance, Senegal). The meeting was facilitated by the Community of Sant’Egidio. This important meeting resulted to a common framework for peace negotiations to end one of the most protracted conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa. While promising, the process is threatened by factors and choices that have doomed previous peace processes.

On December 26, 1982, the tension in Casamance, Senegal erupted in a pro-independence demonstration, which was staged in the regional capital, Ziguinchor. The demonstration led to the arrest of several leaders of the Casamance separatist movement, known as the MFDC (Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de la Casamance). Subsequent government’s responses triggered an ongoing armed conflict. The conflict in Casamance is one of the Africa’s longest running civil wars. Although not as lethal as some of the intractable conflicts on the continent, this low-intensity conflict (sporadic fighting and attacks using light weapons and land mines) has nonetheless cost the lives of approximately 3,000 – 5,000 people between 1982 and 2010. The current situation in Casamance remains that of “no war, no peace” tainted by sporadic but deadly attacks from both the government and some rebels factions. This situation has stymied development in the region, created a fertile ground for banditry, localized communal conflicts and illegal trafficking of all kind of products ( illegal drugs, timber, small arms and other commodities); furthermore, this economy of war is fueled by the instability in Guinea Bissau, which has become an international platform for narco-trafficking. The local population is trapped in a conflict system that engulfs Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea Bissau.

Despite the regional threats that the Casamance conflict represents, there has not been a sustained and collaborative effort by the international community to support a peace process in Casamance.

Maybe this time around, things are about to change!

Since 1982, there have been multiple attempts to bring about peace in the Casamance. Furthermore, there have been multiple cease fires since 1991. Gambia and Guinea Bissau facilitated some of the cease fires. The first cease fire was signed on May 31, 1991, in Cacheu, Guinea Bissau. However, the Southern Front (one of the factions) of the MFDC never accepted the cease fire agreement. This partial cease-fire held until 1993. Many cease fires followed until the last partial peace accord signed in December 30, 2004 by only one faction of the MFDC. The 2004 accord did not bring peace or a solution to the conflict either.

Given the fractionalization of the MFDC, most of these peace initiatives never received the support of the entire movement, thus defeating the purpose of each of the agreements or initiatives. The MFDC is not the only player at fault, as the Government of Senegal has also failed to support viable paths to peace because of the lack of coordination and follow-up of political and economic commitments.

However, the recent mediation process started in October 2013 and facilitated by the Community of Sant’Egidio carries the promise of a resolution. There seems to be a momentum toward peace, created by several factors, namely: the war fatigue among the population, sustained informal meetings and peace initiatives by various stakeholders both at local and national level, the changing political landscape in Senegal with the election of President Macky Sall, who has promised to bring this conflict to an end; and the return of some international development agencies. These macro trends are also supported by concrete actions such as: The decision by the government of Senegal to cancel the arrest warrant against Salif Sadio one of the leaders of MFDC; also the release by the MFDC of the 09 mine clearers held hostages; and the active role of mediation been played by the Community of Sant’Egidio.

This new momentum for peace in Casamance is not immune from the ills that have plummeted previous peace processes:

Lack of holistic approach by the Government of Senegal (GoS) – The risk for the government of Senegal is two-fold: lack of a comprehensive approach and the use of multiple emissaries. President Macky Sall has made no secret of the fact the peace in Casamance will be part of his legacy. So far, the promise and hopefully the implementation of the development plan of 35 millions euros funded in part by the World Bank and prioritizing agriculture, road and other critical sectors, will help address concrete development issues and grievances that have fueled the conflict for so long. But in the absence of a political framework and way out, the leadership of the MFDC may not be encouraged to genuinely pursuit peace. In looking for political avenue, the GoS should avoid the frame of “National Unity or nothing” Vs. “Independence or nothing”; instead reframe the issues in terms of participative governance and decentralization. This frame opens more options than the simplistic dichotomy of independence vs. territorial integrity of Senegal.

One of the key strategies to address the conflict under President Abdoulaye Wade was the use of emissaries that reported to him directly. These individuals were also called “Monsieur Casamance” by the general public and were supposed to conduct pre-negotiation talks with various factions of the MFDC. They were given important financial resources with no clear scope of work or obligation to justify their use of funds. The use of emissaries has raised a lot of concerns due to high risks of corruption and embezzlement of this strategy. For the moment, former mayor of Ziginchor, Mr. Robert Sagna is leading the discussions on behalf of the Government. He should be supported and empowered to be the only lead negotiator on behalf of the GoS.

The risk of continued fractionalization of the MFDC – The fractionalization of the MFDC has always posed a challenge to previous peace initiatives. The rapprochement between Ousmane Niantang Diatta and César Atoute Badiate in the Southern front is a good sign. But the rift that opposes the Southern front (Diatta and Badiate) and Northern front (Salif Sadio) is a major threat. The latter wants to negotiate directly with the Government of Senegal and the first wants an inter-MFDC dialogue before any negotiation with the government. If in the past, the GoS has used the fractionalization of the MFDC to its advantage, this time a less divided MFDC supportive of peace may be to the advantage of peace.

The risk of talking to radicals and sidelining the moderates – The discussions in Rome started with Salif Sadio, head of the most radical of the MFDC factions. The Community of Sant’Egidio must have probably operated under the old saying that you “negotiate with your enemies not your friends”. The result has been a growing frustration of the moderate Southern Front of Cesar Batoute and Diatta. It is time to bring into the process all the factions and also neighboring countries of Guinea –Bissau and Gambia. As I have argued before, the Casamance conflict is the engine of a conflict system that stretches from Banjul in Gambia to Bissau in Guinea Bissau. So, neighboring countries are part of the problem as well as the solution.

These are complex challenges, addressing them will require creativity and leadership from all stakeholders involved! I hope the people of Casamance will finally see an end to this protracted conflict.

Central Africa Republic – A Multifaceted Crisis

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By Anym Ngu-Muthi, in Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR).
Guest contributor

Over a year after the crisis in the CAR started, the road to recovery is still a long way away. Several mediations and transition governments later, the country is still marred by sectarian violence fueled by a vicious cycle of anger felt by both Muslims and Christians. The crisis in CAR is multidimensional with a huge impact on the political, humanitarian, economic, social and security sectors.

POLITICAL: Problems started for Ex-President Francois Bozize when he failed to adhere to the 2012 Libreville accord. Seleka, a coalition of several rebel groups finally captured Bangui and seized power on the 24th of March 2013. What everyone thought would be the usual violence-free transition from one authority to another in a country with a history of coup d’etats (4 out of the 6 previous leaders came to power through a coup d’état) was not to be. The difference being that the Seleka coalition contained foreign militias (mainly from Chad and Sudan) who were seeking to be rewarded when the mission was accomplished. And so in the months that followed the (new) Presidency of Seleka Leader Michel Djotodia, rampant looting and summary killings became the norm. The lack of control on the different factions that was Seleka combined with the lack of trust of the National Military (believed to be pro-Bozize) meant that the Seleka rebels were left to operate in a lawless environment with utmost impunity.
The continued atrocities committed by Ex-Seleka (the group was disbanded by Djotodia in September 2013) against the mostly Christian community, particularly in the area of Bossangoa (the birth region of Bozize) led to the creation of an auto-defence group known as Anti-Balaka. The evolution of this group from a self defence group to an outright rebel group with military-type offensive strategies adds to the deepening crisis that is the CAR.
In an attempt to curb the worsening violence in the CAR, ECCAS held a Summit in Ndjamena in January 2014 during which the then Head of the Transitional Government, M. Djotodia resigned in the hope that a newly elected transitional Government will be able to turn things around. Instead, what immediately followed was weeks of more instability. And so the current Government of President Catherine Samba-Panza, the first female President of the CAR (3rd in Africa), takes up the mantle in what is hoped will be an effective and ‘peaceful’ transition until elections are held in 2015.
The CAR has had 3 HEADS OF GOVERNMENT (2 TRANSITIONAL) IN LESS THAN A YEAR BETWEEN MARCH 2013 AND JANUARY 2014.

HUMANITARIAN: Events in CAR have generated a major humanitarian crisis with large numbers of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). As of February 2014, the United Nations reported that 2.5 million half of the country’s population were in need of assistance; over 1000,000 IDPs are in 115 makeshift sites/host communities; 413,094 IDPs in 60 sites in Bangui alone (almost half the population of Bangui); 250,000 Central African refugees have fled to neighbouring countries, mainly Chad, Cameroon and the DRC; 31,483 third-country nationals (mainly Muslims) have been evacuated as a result of the sectarian violence; The UN has activated its highest level (L3) emergency response in the CAR and although progress has been made a lot of challenges still remain. Unfortunately the difficult security environment in the country and the targeting of NGOs in certain areas, means that humanitarian work is either being delayed or interrupted.
Ethnic cleansing targeting the minority Muslim population has left them seeking refuge in IDP camps across the city or opting/forced to leave the CAR at the earliest opportunity. The withdrawal of Seleka rebels from certain parts of the country has also left the Muslim population vulnerable to attacks by the mostly Christian Anti-Balaka.

ECONOMICAL: The Central African Republic is a land-locked country, relying heavily on neighbouring countries, particularly Cameroon, for importation of both agricultural and non food items. Not only were Muslims targeted in reprisal killings but their homes and business were looted and completely destroyed. The majority of wholesale businesses are run by the Muslim community and this sector of the economy has all but collapsed with the mass exodus of Muslims from the CAR. During the heart of the crisis the border between Cameroon and the CAR at Beloko was closed resulting in several hundred commercial trucks, carrying vital supplies, stranded at the border. The result? A shortage of basic commodities and a hike in food prices. This vital transportation route between Cameroon and Bangui is now under the control of Anti-Balaka rebels, with movement by commercial trucks on this axis requiring armed escorts by African Union Peace Keepers.
The lack of economic activities and the breakdown of Government institutions means that the government is unable to generate much needed revenue and therefore not able to pay civil servants (3 months arrears owed as of February 2014). While Ms Samba Panza’s Government is trying hard to resolve this backlog of salary payments, the sudden release of cash into the market, (chasing fewer goods) could have a negative impact. Therefore, this process needs to be carefully managed.

SOCIAL: The Education and health care systems have not been spared in the crisis. It is often said that one should try not to fall sick in the CAR – at least not with anything more complicated than malaria or the flu. This is because there are no more than a handful of clinics able to treat but the basic medical conditions and the hospitals are poorly equipped. The standard of healthcare in is wanting at best. The ongoing violence is simply adding weight to an already struggling health system.
During periods of violence, schools shut down for extended periods and the school year has been disrupted. Many children have been out of school since December, although private institutions are slowly resuming as of February 2014.

SECURITY: Best described as volatile and unpredictable – a few days of relative calm are usually followed by eruption of violence. The sound of gunshots, sometimes with heavy weapons, is a daily occurrence. Both rebel groups have contributed to the insecurity currently being experience. Ex-Seleka rebels looted and committed grave atrocities in the months following their successful overthrow of the Bozize Government against the majority Christian population.
In December 2013, an attack against Seleka by anti-Balaka in Bangui saw over 1000 people killed in a few weeks of intense armed clashes between the two groups. This coincided with the UN Security Council resolution authorizing the deployment of AU peace keepers (MISCA) and French Forces (Sangaris) in the CAR. An outbreak of violence quickly followed throughout the country and saw the imposition of a country wide curfew from 6pm, later relaxed to 8pm in the February 2014. Sustained killings and looting targeting the Muslim population (and remaining Ex-Seleka elements) has resulted in the use of the word genocide in certain quarters.
The crime rate is on the increase by an unhindered Anti-Balaka as well as unidentified armed criminal gangs (claiming to be anti Balaka), taking advantage of the lawlessness.
February 2014 saw the withdrawal of a majority of the now weakened Ex-Seleka from Bangui (as well as the southern and western part of the country) to the North East and East. In the same vane Anti-Balaka are in control of the South and Western part of the country.
The presence of International peace keeping forces has been both positive and negative. While they have been able to mediate and quell very highly tense situations, they have also been in direct confrontation with the civilian population causing deaths. Insufficient numbers is the main reason for the continued and unabated widespread violence, some of which is as a result of anti French sentiments amongst the population and rebel groups. A timid effort at disarming the militia groups has been made although this has tended to concentrate on Ex-Seleka. According to recent reports, Anti-Balaka are showing a willingness to disarm if Ex-Seleka do the same.
The crime rate will continue to rise as rebel groups and other criminal gangs continue to seek dwindling resources in CAR’s battered economy with few goods available. Reprisal killings between Muslim and Christian communities are likely to go on for the foreseeable future.
The occupation of the North and Eastern part of the CAR (rich in natural resources) by Seleka is believed to be strategic and a partition of the country along sectarian/religious lines is a real concern. The possibility of launching another attack on Bangui cannot be ruled out.

The presence of other rebel groups (RJ – Revolution for Justice; FPR – Front pour le renouveau) in the North West of the country also changes the dynamics as their objectives are not quite clear. The involvement of extremist groups such as Boko Haram and AQIM has been mentioned although no evidence of their activities has been seen to date.
The UN Secretary General has recently called for an expansion of peace-keeping troops in the CAR. The expansion of Sangaris (600 more troops) and extension of its mandate, the proposed deployment of 1000 EU troops and the possible establishment of the DPKO mission proposed by the SG, will likely have a positive impact on the crisis and perhaps bring to an end this turmoil and persistent instability in the heart of Africa.

Daring to dream with Nkosazana!

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It is with hope and optimism that I share the dream of one of the most respected women of the continent. More than a dream, the email below, from the African Union Commission Chairperson, Her Excellency Dr. Khosazana Dlamini Zuma, describes a great and possible future for Africa. I believe the drivers of that future are already part of today’s African reality.
Will African leaders dare to dream with Khosazana? Let’s hope so!
In the meantime, you can dream with her….And do your part to make this dream a reality.

Date: 24 January 2063
To: Kwame@iamafrican.com
From: Nkosazana@cas.gov
Subject: African Unity

My dear friend Kwame,
Greetings to the family and friends, and good health and best wishes for 2063.
I write to you from the beautiful Ethiopian city of Bahir Dar, located on Lake Tana, as we finalize preparations for the Centenary celebrations of the Organisation of African Unity, which became the African Union in 2002 and laid the foundations for what is now our Confederation of African States (CAS).

Yes, who would have thought that the dream of Kwame Nkrumah and his generations, when they called in 1963 on Africans to unite or perish, would one day become a reality. And what a grand reality.

At the beginning of the twenty first century, we used to get irritated with foreigners when they treated Africa as one country: as if we were not a continent of over a billion people and 55 sovereign states! But, the advancing global trend towards regional blocks, reminded us that integration and unity is the only way for Africa to leverage its competitive advantage.

In fact, if Africa was one country in 2006, we would have been the 10th largest economy in the world! However, instead of acting as one, with virtually every resource in the world (land, oceans, minerals, energy) and over a billion people, we acted as fifty-five small and fragmented individual countries. The bigger countries that should have been the locomotives of African integration, failed to play their role at that time, and that is part of the reasons it took us so long. We did not realize our power, but instead relied on donors, that we euphemistically called partners.

That was the case in 2013, but reality finally dawned and we had long debates about the form that our unity should take: confederation, a united states, a federation or a union.

As you can see, my friend, those debates are over and the Confederation of African States is now twelve years old, launched in 2051.

What was interesting was the role played by successive generations of African youth. Already in 2013 during the Golden Jubilee celebrations, it was the youth that loudly questioned the slow progress towards integration. They formed African Union Clubs in schools and universities across the continent, and linked with each other on social media. We thus saw the grand push for integration, for the free movement of people, for harmonization of education and professional qualifications, with the Pan African University and indeed the university sector and intelligentsia playing an instrumental role.

We were a youthful continent at the start of the 21st century, but as our youth bulge grew, young men and women became even more active, creative, impatient and assertive, often telling us oldies that they are the future, and that they (together with women) form the largest part of the electorates in all our countries!

Of course this was but one of the drivers towards unity. The accelerated implementation of the Abuja Treaty and the creation of the African Economic Community by 2034 saw economic integration moved to unexpected levels. Economic integration, coupled with infrastructure development, saw intra-Africa trade mushrooming, from less than 12% in 2013 to approaching 50% by 2045. This integration was further consolidated with the growth of commodity exchanges and continental commercial giants. Starting with the African pharmaceutical company, Pan African companies now not only dominate our domestic market of over two billion people, but they have overtaken multi-nationals from the rest of the world in their own markets.

Even more significant than this, was the growth of regional manufacturing hubs, around the beneficiation of our minerals and natural resources, such as in the Eastern Congo, north-eastern Angola and Zambia’s copper belt and at major Silicon valleys in Kigali, Alexandria, Brazzaville, Maseru, Lagos and Mombasa, to mention but a few such hubs.

My friend, Africa has indeed transformed herself from an exporter of raw materials with a declining manufacturing sector in 2013, to become a major food exporter, a global manufacturing hub, a knowledge centre, beneficiating our natural resources and agricultural products as drivers to industrialization.

Pan African companies, from mining to finance, food and beverages, hospitality and tourism, pharmaceuticals, fashion, fisheries and ICT are driving integration, and are amongst the global leaders in their sectors. We are now the third largest economy in the world. As the Foreign Minister’s retreat in Bahir Dar in January 2014 emphasised, we did this by finding the balance between market forces and strong and accountable developmental states and RECS to drive infrastructure, the provision of social services, industrialization and economic integration.

Let me recall what our mutual friend recently wrote:

The (African) agrarian revolution had small beginnings. Successful business persons (and local governments) with roots in the rural areas started massive irrigation schemes to harness the waters of the continent’s huge river systems. The pan-African river projects – on the Congo, the Nile, Niger, Gambia, Zambezi, Kunene, Limpopo and many others – financed by PPPs that involved African and BRIC investors, as well as the African Diaspora, released the continent’s untapped agricultural potential.

By the intelligent application of centuries-old indigenous knowledge, acquired and conserved by African women who have tended crops in all seasons, within the first few years bumper harvests were being reported. Agronomists consulted women about the qualities of various grains – which ones survived low rainfalls and which thrived in wet weather; what pests threatened crops and how could they be combated without undermining delicate ecological systems.

The social impact of the agrarian revolution was perhaps the most enduring change it brought about. The status of women, the tillers of the soil by tradition, rose exponentially. The girl child, condemned to a future in the kitchen or the fields in our not too distant past, now has an equal chance of acquiring a modern education (and owning a farm or an agribusiness). African mothers today have access to tractors and irrigation systems that can be easily assembled.

The producers’ cooperatives, (agribusinesses) and marketing boards these women established help move their produce and became the giant food companies we see today.’

We refused to bear the brunt of climate change and aggressively moved to promote the Green economy and to claim the Blue economy as ours. We lit up Africa, the formerly dark continent, using hydro, solar, wind, geo-thermal energy, in addition to fossil fuels.

And, whilst I’m on the Blue economy, the decision to form Africa-wide shipping companies, and encourage mining houses to ship their goods in vessels flying under African flags, meant a major growth spurt. Of course the decision taken in Dakar to form an African Naval Command to provide for the collective security of our long coastlines, certainly also helped.

Let me quote from our mutual friend again:

Africa’s river system, lakes and coast lines abound with tons of fish. With funding from the different states and the Diaspora, young entrepreneurs discovered… that the mouths of virtually all the rivers along the east coast are rich in a species of eel considered a delicacy across the continent and the world.

Clever marketing also created a growing market for Nile perch, a species whose uncontrolled proliferation had at one time threatened the survival of others in Lake Victoria and the Nile.

Today Namibia and Angola exploit the Benguela current, teaming with marine life, through the joint ventures funded by sovereign funds and the African Development Bank.”

On the east coast, former island states of Seychelles, Comoros, Madagascar and Mauritius are leading lights of the Blue economy and their universities and research institutes attract marine scientists and students from all over the world.

Dear friend, you reminded me in your last e-mail how some magazine once called us ‘The hopeless continent’, citing conflicts, hunger and malnutrition, disease and poverty as if it was a permanent African condition. Few believed that our pledge in the 50th Anniversary Declaration to silence the guns by 2020 was possible. Because of our firsthand experience of the devastation of conflicts, we tackled the root causes, including diversity, inclusion and the management of our resources.

If I have to single out one issue that made peace happened, it was our commitment to invest in our people, especially the empowerment of young people and women. By 2013 we said Africa needed a skills revolution and that we must change our education systems to produce young people that are innovative and entrepreneurial and with strong Pan African values.

From early childhood education, to primary, secondary, technical, vocational and higher education – we experienced a true renaissance, through the investments we made, as governments and the private sector in education and in technology, science, research and innovation.

Coupled with our concerted campaigns to eradicate the major diseases, to provide access to health services, good nutrition, energy and shelter, our people indeed became and are our most important resource. Can you believe it my friend, even the dreaded malaria is a thing of the past.

Of course this shift could not happen without Africa taking charge of its transformation, including the financing of our development. As one esteemed Foreign minister said in 2014: Africa is rich, but Africans are poor.

With concerted political determination and solidarity, and sometimes one step back and two steps forward, we made financing our development and taking charge of our resources a priority, starting with financing the African Union, our democratic elections and our peacekeeping missions.

The Golden Jubilee celebrations were the start of a major paradigm shift, about taking charge of our narrative.

Agenda 2063, its implementation and the milestones it set, was part of what brought about this shift. We developed Agenda 2063 to galvanize and unite in action all Africans and the Diaspora around the common vision of a peaceful, integrated and prosperous Africa. As an overarching framework, Agenda 2063 provided internal coherence to our various sectoral frameworks and plans adopted under the OAU and AU. It linked and coordinated our many national and regional frameworks into a common continental transformation drive.

Planning fifty years ahead, allowed us to dream, think creatively, and sometimes crazy as one of the Ministers who hosted the 2014 Ministerial retreat said, to see us leapfrog beyond the immediate challenges.

Anchored in Pan Africanism and the African renaissance, Agenda 2063 promoted the values of solidarity, self-belief, non-sexism, self-reliance and celebration of our diversity.

As our societies developed, as our working and middle classes grew, as women took their rightful place in our societies, our recreational, heritage and leisure industries grew: arts and culture, literature, media, languages, music and film. WEB du Bois grand project of Encyclopedia Africana finally saw the light and Kinshasha is now the fashion capital of the world.

From the onset, the Diaspora in the traditions of Pan Africanism, played its part, through investments, returning to the continent with their skills and contributing not only to their place of origin, but where the opportunities and needs were found.

Let me conclude this e-mail, with some family news. The twins, after completing their space studies at Bahir Dar university, decided to take the month before they start work at the African Space Agency to travel the continent. My old friend, in our days, trying to do that in one month would have been impossible!

But, the African Express Rail now connects all the capitals of our former states, and indeed they will be able to crisscross and see the beauty, culture and diversity of this cradle of humankind. The marvel of the African Express Rail is that it is not only a high speed-train, with adjacent highways, but also contains pipelines for gas, oil and water, as well as ICT broadband cables: African ownership, integrated planning and execution at its best!

The continental rail and road network that now crisscross Africa, along with our vibrant airlines, our spectacular landscapes and seductive sunsets, the cultural vibes of our cities, make tourism one of our largest economic sectors.

Our eldest daughter, the linguist, still lectures in KiSwahili in Cabo Verde, at the headquarters of the Pan African Virtual University. KiSwahili is now a major African working language, and a global language taught at most faculties across the world. Our grand children still find it very funny how we used to struggle at AU meetings with English, French and Portuguese interpretations, how we used to fight the English version not in line with the French or Arabic. Now we have a lingua franca, and multi-lingualism is the order of the day.

Remember how we used to complain about our voice not being heard in trade negotiations and the Security Council, how disorganized, sometimes divided and nationalistic we used to be in those forums, how we used to be summoned by various countries to their capitals to discuss their policies on Africa?

How things have changed. The Confederation last year celebrated twenty years since we took our seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and we are a major force for global stability, peace, human rights, progress, tolerance and justice.

My dear friend, I hope to see you next month in Haiti, for the second round of unity talks between the Confederation of African States and the Caribbean states. This is a logical step, since Pan Africanism had its roots amongst those early generations, as a movement of Africans from the mother continent and the Diaspora for liberation, self-determination and our common progress.

I end this e-mail, and look forward to seeing you in February. I will bring along some of the chocolates from Accra that you so love, which our children can now afford.

Till we meet again,

Nkosazana.

Presentation by Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the AU Commission to the Retreat of Foreign Ministers held at Bahir Dar, Ethiopia on 24-26 January 2014.
http://summits.au.int/en/22ndsummit/events/agenda-2063-e-mail-future-presentation-dr-nkosazana-dlamini-zuma-chairperson-au-co

Regional Security Assessment, Dec 18, 2013

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I thought that a bi-monthly security assessment by an expert will be a good addition to this blog. So, I intend to have a bi-monthly security assessment, and The Reneric Group has given me the permission to post the following Regional Security assessment. Please, I am looking forward to your feedback and comments. – Sany

By  Byron Brown, MSA
CEO/President The Reneric Group
Email: byron@trgoperations.com

December 18, 2013

The following report is the current security issues occurring in Burundi, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda. All organizations and businesses operating in these areas should pay particular attention to the safety and security they are providing their customers and employees.

Central Africa Republic (CAR) – Extreme conditions The ongoing violence and displaced persons crises worsens throughout the CAR, more than 240,000 displaced persons are being affected by the violence. Christian militias massacred 27 Muslims in a village in the west of the Central African Republic (CAR) on Thursday, UN officials said Friday. The French government has deployed more soldiers to the country and continues to support the efforts to stabilize the worsening security situation in CAR.

The United Nations Children’s Fund is reporting more than 2.3 million children are being affected by the violence in CAR, as many as 6,000 are believed to have been recruited as child soldiers and being killed for being Muslim or Christians.

ChadContinued Travel Alert:  U.S. citizens are warned of the risks of travel to Chad and recommends citizens avoid all travel to eastern Chad and border regions. Because of security concerns, the U.S. Embassy in Chad reviews all proposed travel by official U.S. government personnel to areas outside the capital, N’Djamena, and its immediate surroundings before approving such arrangements.

U.S. citizens affiliated with humanitarian relief efforts similarly should review security precautions and consider measures to mitigate exposure to violent crime and other threats. U.S. citizens residing in Chad should exercise caution throughout the country.

The frequency of violent crime in rural Chad is highly variable. Incidents of robbery, carjacking at gunpoint, and murder have been reported throughout the country. While there have been no kidnapping for ransom incidents in Chad since 2010, regional trends suggest this still could be a potential threat in the future. Violence is occasionally associated with car accidents and other events causing injury to Chadian nationals.

Robbery victims have been beaten and killed, surgeons conducting unsuccessful medical interventions have been threatened with bodily harm, and law enforcement/military officials have been implicated in violent crime. In addition, although the last active rebel group was recently disarmed, armed groups might reemerge with little warning. The Government of Chad has few resources to guarantee the safety of visitors in rural Chad.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – The United Nations mission in the DRC sent soldiers conducting foot patrols and attack helicopters to North Kivu following the discovery of 21 brutally slaughtered civilians, including babies, children and women, some mutilated and raped. The bodies were discovered on Friday and Saturday in Musuku village in the Rwenzori area of Beni sector. The killers are yet to be identified, but villagers questioned believe they could be the work of the Allied Democratic Forces or the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda.

Continued travel alert: U.S. citizens should be aware of the risks of traveling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) (DRC). Security officials strongly recommend you avoid all travel to the city of Goma and the province of North Kivu, and all but essential travel to the province of South Kivu and the Ituri region in the province of Oriental. Because of ongoing instability and violence, the Department of State ability to provide consular services to U.S. citizens in these regions of the DRC is extremely limited.

Armed groups, bandits, and elements of the Congolese military remain security concerns in eastern and northeastern DRC. These armed groups, primarily located in the North Kivu, South Kivu, and Orientale provinces, as well as the northern part of Katanga province, and the eastern part of Maniema province, are known to pillage, steal vehicles, kidnap, rape, kill, and carry out military or paramilitary operations in which civilians are indiscriminately targeted. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is present near the border with Uganda, Central African Republic, and the Republic of South Sudan.

The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) continues to assist the Congolese government with the protection of civilians and efforts to combat armed groups.

Travelers are frequently detained and questioned by poorly disciplined security forces at numerous official and unofficial roadblocks and border crossings throughout the country. Requests for bribes in such instances are extremely common, and security forces have occasionally injured or killed people who refused to pay. In the past year, several U.S. citizens were illegally detained by government forces, or were robbed of their valuables while being searched. Very poor infrastructure (road and air) makes the provision of consular services difficult outside of Kinshasa.

Kinshasa has a critical crime threat level, and U.S. citizens continue to be the victims of serious crimes, including armed robbery by groups posing as law enforcement officials in both urban and rural areas, especially after nightfall. Avoid walking alone and displaying cash and other personal property of value. Avoid taking photos in public, especially of government buildings and the airport (which are viewed as places of national security), police stations, the presidential palace, border crossings, and along the river, since doing so may lead to arrest

Ghana – Continued alert: West Africa is a major hub for drugs smuggled from Latin America and Asia to Europe and the US. The local criminal organizations operating within Ghana have unlimited funds from drug sales/trafficking and have the ability to purchase weapons and intimidate the communities at will. All organizations operating in Ghana should have security; policies and procedures in place to make sure their personnel are operating and living in a safe and secure environment.
Gulf of Guinea – Local officials are concerned as efforts begin to deliver results in combating piracy near Somalia, the Gulf of Guinea is beginning to experience an increase in piracy. All organizations operating in this area should be on heightened alert for pirate activity.

Kenya – Nairobi: There is police search for the man believed to be responsible for a grenade attack which killed six people in a mini-bus taxi in Pangani in Nairobi.  The country director, Justus Nyang’aya for Amnesty International was shot three times during a robbery while he was in his home, Mr. Nyang’aya is reported to be in stable condition following the attack.

Continued Alert: The continued alert is still in effect for the most populated cities of Nairobi and possibly outlying areas of the country. The warning includes Al-Shabaab (“the youth”), which have reportedly threatened to continue attacking countries participating in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Peace Support Operations (PSO). Kenya, Uganda and Burundi all send Peace Support Troop contingencies to assist with PSO operations under the AMISOM mandate. The mandate supports stabilizing the current situations in Somalia in order to create a non-hostile, peaceful country.

Niger – Niamey — there is still a credible threat for violence comparable to those of Mali, from jihadist militants still operating in Sahel’s remote wilderness. The rebel leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a prominent and long-time Sahel jihadist along with the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which had operated in northern Mali before being dislodged by the French military, is still operating in the wilderness areas of the country and can cause serious trouble.

Continued alert:
The Maghreb terror group vowed “further operations” in Niger, which shares borders with several countries, including Algeria, Libya and Mali. The instability in Libya provided an opening for Islamist militants driven out of Mali, Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou has warned.

Terrorist groups have called for and executed attacks against countries that have supported intervention against terrorist groups in northern Mali, including Niger. The areas bordering Mali and Libya, and the northern region of Niger continue to be of specific concern.

Nigeria – The Nigerian Federal government announced and displayed their unmanned aircraft (drone), designed and built by the Nigerian Air Force. The drone is already in use flying missions over Nigeria.

Continued warning:  Abubakar Shekau, The leader of the Islamist militant group called for increased attacks on schools teaching Western style classes. All but essential travel to the following states due to the risk of kidnappings, robberies, and other armed attacks: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, and Zamfara. Also, travel to the Gulf of Guinea should only be considered for extreme emergencies, because of the threat of piracy.

Sudan / South Sudan – Heavy fighting occurred in Juba involving presidential guards, some sources indicate a possible coup was taking place, resulting in heavy gunfire. The city was placed on curfew after the clash begun and is still in effect until the officials can restore law and order in the city. Kenya airways have suspended all flights to Juba until the security situation is under control.
Anyone traveling in either country should be extra careful and have a security escorts due to numerous reports of ethnic violence and the constant threat of kidnapping of foreign workers (EXPATS), NGO’s and tourist.

Somalia – Mogadishu — The recent failed attempt by the U.S. Special Forces to extract high level rebels from Somalia show they still have the support of many people, necessary fire power and intelligence to thwart a specialized assault by the elite U.S. Special Forces. Al-Shabab is reported to have been removed from the capital area, but have taken root in several other East African countries, vowing to fight all enemies of their movement and any country participating in the Peace Support Operations in Somalia. The attack on the West Gate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya prove they have the will, resources, and ability to plan a coordinated attack in broad day light and hold off law enforcement agencies for days if not longer. They also have the ability to recruit assistance from countries outside of Africa to fight with their cause.

Continued alert: The security situation inside Somalia remains unstable and dangerous. Terrorist operatives and armed groups in Somalia have demonstrated their intent to attack the Somali authorities, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and other non-military targets. Kidnapping, bombings, murder, illegal roadblocks, banditry, and other violent incidents and threats to U.S. citizens and other foreigners can occur in any region.

Al-Shabab has vowed to keep attacking the westerners in the style they used at the West Gate Mall in Kenya and their supporters until they leave Mogadishu and Somalia.
Uganda – there are unverified reports of possible terrorist attacks against public meeting areas, shopping malls, restaurants and schools in the city of Kampala or other major tourist areas. The unverified reports indicate Al-Shabab may be planning on carrying out an attack like they did recently in Nairobi earlier this summer. They have proven they have the personnel, funding and will to carry out the attacks.

I invite you to contact me for ways we can assist you with protecting your personnel and assets abroad. We now offer our International Security Course, which will prepare your personnel for their travel and work abroad. We also offer specialized training for law enforcement organizations and military assigned with protecting the civilian population.

Contact information:
byron@trgoperations.com or complete our contact us form at http://www.trgoperations.com/contactus.html

Byron Brown, MSA
CEO/President
Email: byron@trgoperations.com

Du Mali à la RCA : Est-ce le retour du gendarme colonial?

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La décision prise par la France d’envoyer 800 hommes pour aider à restaurer l’État déliquescent de la République Centrafricaine (RCA) et arrêter un conflit qui menace d’embraser les pays voisins comme le Cameroun, est louable. Cette décision vient consolider la nouvelle tendance de la politique sécuritaire française en Afrique.  Cette nouvelle orientation  a commencée à se dessiner avec la Côte-d’ Ivoire, où la France dirigée par M. Sarkozy (Président issu de la droite) a été chef de fil du déploiement de l’ONU dans la chute du Président Laurent Gbagbo et l’installation à la présidence, d’Alasane Dramane Ouattara, le présumé vainqueur d’une élection présidentielle très controversée. Elle s’est poursuivie par la campagne militaire contre Mouammar Kadhafi en Libye.  Si pour les africains ces deux démonstrations de force ont suscité la controverse, les dernières interventions décidées par le Président Hollande (Parti socialiste) en faveur du Mali et maintenant la décision de stopper les atrocités et contribuer à la stabilité en RCA reçoivent un accueil plutôt très favorable.

Réputée pour l’utilisation de la force pour assoir les régimes autoritaires dans les pays francophones d’Afrique, la France aujourd’hui, donne l’impression d’user de la même force pour rétablir la stabilité et l’état de droit.  Il est à noter que, si la France adopte cette nouvelle stratégie d’intervention, cela ne signifie pas qu’elle a modéré ou changé sa perception de l’Afrique.  Plusieurs personnes dans la sphère politique et celle des affaires en France considèrent encore l’Afrique francophone comme son « pré carré ».  L’histoire des relations entre la France et l’Afrique francophone nous apprend que ces interventions ne sont pas altruistes ou gratuites pour les Africains. Par le passé, ces interventions ont renforcé les intérêts de la France dans la région, il n’y a pas de raisons qu’il en soit autrement aujourd’hui.  Cette réalité est de plus en plus confirmée par la récente vague de rapports financés par le gouvernement français, qui démontrent en filigrane de l’apport  important de l’Afrique dans la prospérité présente et future de la France. Réalité clairement renforcée par le titre du dernier rapport du Sénat français sur les relations entre l’Afrique et la France : «L’Afrique est notre avenir ». 

Aucun pays d’Afrique n’illustre mieux que la République Centrafricaine cette nouvelle donne des interventions de la France.  En effet, le 20 septembre1979, la France lançait l’opération Caban pour renverser l’Empereur Bokassa et porter au pouvoir le Président David Dacko (qui lui-même fut renversé par un coup dirigé par Bokassa en 1966). L’opération Caban a été suivie par « l’opération Barracuda » pour sécuriser le Président Dacko nouvellement porté au pouvoir.

Ce fut à cette époque, un moment particulier dans l’histoire de la région et de celle de la RCA. Un moment au cours duquel certains politiciens français se prévalaient de ce que rien ne pouvait se passer dans leur « arrière-cour africaine » à leur insu ou sans leur influence. Les politiciens africains étaient également convaincus de la toute-puissance de cette « ancienne » puissance coloniale.   Cette conviction a longtemps entretenu ce qui de triste mémoire, a été connu sous le nom de « diplomatie des mallettes »; dans le cadre de laquelle les dirigeants africains se serviront de « porteurs de mallettes» pour livrer des valises pleines d’argent et de diamants à une certaine élite politique française.   Depuis lors, beaucoup de choses ont changé : la fin de la Guerre froide, l’émergence de nouveaux pays puissants faisant concurrence à la France dans la région, les changements politiques internes tant en France qu’en Afrique, etc. L’interventionnisme de la France va aussi évoluer et s’adapter  à cette ère nouvelle.  

 La décision d’envoyer en République Centrafricaine des soldats dans le cadre de l’opération Sangaris en plus des 400 qui y sont actuellement vise officiellement à aider la Mission africaine à arrêter le cycle de violence, de faciliter le retour des organisations humanitaires et de désarmer les milices armées.   Du fait de cette intervention qui vient à la suite de celle effectuée au Mali, la France dessine progressivement un modèle d’intervention dans les conflits en Afrique. Cette nouvelle stratégie comporte 4 principales étapes :

  1. Un effort diplomatique concerté pour obtenir l’accord de la communauté internationale, du Conseil de sécurité des Nations-Unies et des pays de la ligne de front du conflit concerné, avec pour objectif d’obtenir la légitimité et la force de la règle de droit. 
  2. Un déploiement d’une force militaire agissant comme force de transition pour arrêter la violence, protéger les civils et créer un espace sécurisé pour les interventions humanitaires.
  3. Une collaboration entre la force militaire française et les forces régionales (en général appuyées par l’UA) pour préparer la transition et le déploiement des forces de maintien de la paix de l’UA / des Nations Unies.
  4. Une présence militaire de dissuasion en fonction du théâtre des opérations, afin de dissuader les groupes hostiles, combattre les groupes terroristes et/ou former l’armée nationale.

Cette stratégie globale a été mise en exécution au Mali et maintenant, elle se déploie en République Centrafricaine.  Aussi cohérente que puisse paraître cette stratégie, elle ne manque cependant pas de failles. Tel que les événements se sont déroulés au Mali, si les efforts diplomatiques concertés ont apporté une certaine forme de légitimité et que l’intervention militaire a empêché des groupes islamistes de s’accaparer de Bamako, la collaboration avec les forces de l’ONU et la présence permanente des forces françaises de dissuasion suscitent des questions de fond et commencent à produire des conséquences néfastes, notamment la résurgence de sentiments nationalistes et anti-français ainsi que des alliances locales avec des groupes terroristes.  En d’autres termes, les avantages obtenus au Mali à travers les étapes 1 et 2 de l’intervention française sont menacés par les défis posés par les étapes 3 et 4.

En République centrafricaine, alors qu’il est encore trop tôt pour discuter des étapes 3 et 4 de la stratégie de l’intervention française, nous pouvons déjà estimer le prix à payer aux étapes 1 et 2.  Pendant que la communauté internationale essaie de trouver un consensus sur une façon d’intervention, des milliers de personnes sont victimes de massacre et le pays sombre dans le chaos.  Aujourd’hui, l’intervention arrive peut-être trop tard pour les centaines de milliers de victimes de cette guerre, en particulier pour le défunt procureur de la République Modeste Martineau, assassiné le 16 Novembre 2013.  

Que dire du déploiement militaire en RCA? Le jour suivant l’annonce faite de la France du déploiement de ses troupes en RCA, certains éléments des ex-Séléka qui terrorisaient les populations ont commencé à quitter Bangui avec leurs armes et équipements pour une destination inconnue ; on espère que les forces pro-Bozizé (président déchu) et anti-Balakas feront de même.  Si ce départ peut être interprété comme un bon signe pour les populations locales qui ne vivront pas des jours supplémentaires de terreur, il est cependant mauvais signe pour la stabilité de la région. Avec sa forêt dense et les frontières poreuses, la région offre de nombreuses cachettes pour ces groupes de dangereux bandits.  Ils iront probablement d’un coin à l’autre des forêts, des villes et villages voisins, sèmeront des troubles et vendront leurs compétences au plus offrant, comme ce fut le cas lors des conflits en Sierra Leone, au Liberia et en Côte- d’Ivoire. Le soulagement à court terme que pourrait apporter l’intervention française peut être précurseur de la future instabilité régionale à long ou à moyen terme. Le Cameroun ressent déjà les effets néfastes de ce conflit.  Il y a de fortes chances qu’avec la «fuite» de quelques hommes armés de l’ex-Séléka de Bangui, on assiste à une recrudescence des activités criminelles dans les villes et cités frontalières de la région.

Bien entendu, aucune stratégie n’est parfaite, surtout en tenant compte de la complexité des situations de conflit.  Même s’il peut-être trop tôt de tirer des conclusions, les cas du Mali et de la RCA révèlent d’importantes leçons susceptibles d’aider à capitaliser sur cette nouvelle stratégie d’intervention française. 

Une franche collaboration avec les acteurs locaux. Cette stratégie aura un impact positif durable, s’il existe une franche collaboration entre les forces françaises, les forces régionales et les autorités politiques légitimes issues d’une sorte de processus de consultation, par exemple les élections.  Une collaboration basée sur le respect et l’apprentissage mutuels, l’acceptation de la valeur ajoutée de chaque partenaire.   L’exemple de la gestion de la récente crise des otages au Mali, au cours de laquelle les autorités locales ont été tenues à l’écart de l’opération, n’est pas la voie à suivre.  Il y a un risque que les forces françaises prennent pour acquises la loyauté et la gratitude des autorités et des populations locales.  Ce serait une erreur.  La France doit se rappeler que sa simple présence rappelle aux autorités locales et aux pays de la région leur propre échec; donc inutile d’ajouter le mépris à l’injure.

Penser régional et agir local. Ceci ressemble à un vieux cliché, mais il ne peut être plus significatif dans ce cas.La plupart des défis que ces interventions sont censées résoudre exigent une approche régionale qui va au-delà du théâtre des opérations initiales.  Ces conflits font partie de systèmes de conflits qui engloutissent non seulement le foyer de la crise, mais aussi les pays de la ligne de front.   Par conséquent, toute intervention doit prendre en considération des facteurs tels que les alliances politiques régionales, les dynamiques ethniques transnationales, la religion et les questions transfrontalières. 

Les africains doivent renforcer la coopération militaire et diplomatique régionale. Aussi malheureux que puissent être ces crises, les interventions françaises offrent aux armées africaines la possibilité de travailler ensemble, d’harmoniser leurs manœuvres, d’élaborer des stratégies communes et mener des opérations conjointes pour faire face aux crises de plus en plus complexes et transnationales qui touchent plusieurs pays de la région.  C’est en travaillant d’abord ensemble que les pays africains pourraient tirer le meilleur parti de ces interventions françaises, et en fait, améliorer leur impact positif tout en atténuant leur  dommages collatéraux. Par conséquent, les pays africains ne peuvent pas agir de façon individuelle, ils doivent faire plus.  Ils devront apprendre à travailler ensemble dans les fronts militaires et diplomatiques, et en même temps s’appuyer sur ces interventions pour renforcer leurs propres capacités, telles que la Force africaine en attente (FAA) et la Capacité de déploiement rapide (CDR) tant annoncées par l’Union Africaine mais jamais mises en place, les forces sous-régionales de la CEDEAO, CEMAC, etc.

Cette nouvelle stratégie d’intervention de la France ne marque pas nécessairement le retour du gendarme colonial, c’est un défi lancé aux pays Africains et à l’Union Africaine. Les pays africains sauront-ils y répondre ?  Pourront-ils orienter la direction de cette nouvelle stratégie française dans le sens de la coopération, la paix et la stabilité en Afrique comme le prétend la France ou vers une dérive néocolonialiste comme le soupçonnent les sceptiques ? La réponse à cette question définira très certainement la réalité des relations franco-africaines à venir.

From Mali to Central African Republic: Is the Colonial Cop Back?

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The recent decision by France to send over 800 soldiers to help stabilize the failed state of Central African Republic (CAR) and stop a transnational conflict is a laudable one. This decision reinforces a growing pattern in France foreign policy in Africa. In Cote d’Ivoire, France’s right-wing President Nicholas Sarkozy spearheaded the UN efforts to oust Laurent Gbagbo and instate Alasane Dramane Ouattara, the alleged winner of the presidential elections. Then followed the military campaign against Muammar Khadafi in Libya. But while these two campaigns were controversial among Africans, the recent interventions led by Socialist President Francois Hollande to save Mali and now to restore hope and stability in CAR were greeted with praise. Previously infamous for using force to defend authoritarian regimes in French-speaking African countries, today’s France seems to be using force to restore stability and the rule of law.

No other African country better captures the changing paradigm of French interventions than Central African Republic. On September 20th, 1979 the French launched operation Caban to support the coup d’état against Emperor Bokassa and to put in place President David Dacko (who himself had been deposed in a coup led by Bokassa in 1966). The operation Caban was then followed by “operation Barracuda” to secure the newly instated president Dacko.

That was a peculiar time in the history of CAR and the region, when French politicians prided themselves that nothing could happen in their “African backyard” without their knowledge or influence. African politicians were likewise convinced of the omnipotence of this “former” colonial power. This conviction fueled the notoriously named “suitcase diplomacy”– African leaders using “carriers” to deliver suitcases full of cash or diamonds to some French political elite. Many things have changed since then — the end of Cold War, the emergence of powerful state actors competing with France in the region, internal political dynamics in both France and Africa, etc. — and France’s policy in the region is adapting to this new reality.

The decision to send 800 French soldiers to CAR to complement the 400 already present aims primarily at supporting the African mission to stop the cycle of violence, facilitate the return of humanitarian organizations, and create a secure environment until the full deployment of the UN mission to CAR. With this intervention following the one in Mali, France is gradually sketching a template of intervention in African conflicts. This nascent strategy follows four major steps:

  1. A concerted diplomatic effort to rally the international community, the UN Security Council and countries on the frontline of a given conflict, with the goal of building legitimacy and legality.
  2. Deployment of a military force acting as a transitional force to stop violence, protect civilians and create a secure space for humanitarian interventions.
  3. Collaboration with regional forces, generally supported by the African Union (AU), to prepare the transition to and deployment of the joint AU/UN peacekeeping force.
  4. Continued presence of a residual force, depending on the theater of operations, to deter hostile groups, fights terrorist activities and/or train the national army.

We have seen this holistic strategy played out in Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, and now CAR. As coherent as the strategy may appear, it is however not without its flaws. As seen in Mali, although the concerted diplomatic efforts yielded some form of legitimacy and the military intervention prevented Islamist groups to seize Bamako, the collaboration with the AU/UN forces and the continued presence of a residual French force are raising hard questions and generating adverse consequences: notably the resurgence of nationalistic and anti-French sentiments and local alliances with terrorists groups. In other words, the gains generated in Mali by steps 1 and 2 of the French intervention strategy are threatened by the challenges posed by steps 3 and 4.

In CAR, while it is still too early to discuss steps 3 and 4 of the French intervention strategy, we can already estimate the price tag of steps 1 and 2. While the international community negotiated ways to intervene, thousands of people were slaughtered and the country descended into chaos. Today, intervention may already be too late for the hundreds of thousands of victims of the conflict, such as state prosecutor Modeste Martineau, who was killed on November 16, 2013.

What about military deployment in CAR? The day after France announced its troop deployment, the former Seleka forces responsible for terrorizing the population began pulling out of Bangui for an unknown destination; the hope is that even the pro-Bozizé (deposed president) groups, the anti-balakas will follow that example. If this retreat can be seen as a good sign for the local population who will not have to endure more terror, it is a bad sign for the stability of the region. The dense forest and uncontrolled borders of the region offer plenty of hideouts for these dangerous thugs. These armed groups will most likely roam forests and nearby towns and villages, wreaking havoc and selling their skills to the highest bidder, as was the case during conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote d’Ivoire. The short-term relief that will be brought by the French intervention may be a precursor of the middle- or longer-term instability to come. There are chances of seeing in months to come, intensification of criminal activities in border town and cities of the region.

Of course, no strategy is flawless, particularly given the complexity of armed conflicts. While it may be too early to draw conclusions, the situations in Mali and CAR are yielding valuable lessons that could help improve this nascent French intervention strategy on the continent.

Genuine collaboration with local stakeholders. If there is a genuine collaboration between French forces, regional forces, and the legitimate political authorities emerging from some sort of consultation or election process, this strategy will go a long way. This collaboration must be based on mutual respect and learning, recognizing the added value of each partner.  The example of the recent hostage crisis management in Mali, during which local authorities were kept out of the loop, is not the way to go. There is indeed the temptation for the French forces to take for granted the loyalty and gratitude of local authorities and populations. It will be a mistake. France should remember that their mere presence reminds local authorities and countries in the region of their own failure, so no need to add insult to injury by ignoring their help and refusing to involve them in operations taken place in their own country.

All actors think regional and act local. This sounds like an old cliche, but it could not be more relevant in this case.  Most situations these interventions are supposed to address require a regional approach that goes beyond the original theater of operations. These conflicts are part of conflict systems that engulf not only the ground zero of the crisis but also countries in the front-line. Therefore any intervention should take into consideration factors such as regional political alliances, transnational ethnic dynamics, religion and cross border issues.

Africans to increase regional military and diplomatic cooperation. As unfortunate as these crises maybe, French interventions offer African armies the opportunity to work together, harmonize their operations and develop joint strategies and operations to deal with increasingly complex and transnational crises that affect several countries in the region. They will have to learn work together on both military and diplomatic fronts to mitigate the adverse effects of these French interventions while at the same time leveraging them to strengthen their own capabilities, such as the long overdue African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC)  and the African Stand by Force.

It is worth mentioning that, if France is adapting its intervention strategy, it does not mean that it has tempered or changed its perception on Africa.  Many in the business and political community in France still consider French speaking Africa as” France’s backyard.” The history of relations between France and French speaking Africa teaches us that interventions are not altruistic or cost free for Africans. In the past, these interventions have helped France’s interests in the region; there are no reasons to believe the contrary today. This fact is confirmed by a series of report funded by the French government, all of which argue for the key role Africa will play in the prosperity of France;” this is clearly illustrated by the title of the recent French Senate report: “Africa is our future.”

Therefore, African countries cannot cheer-lead their way out of the crises facing the region, they should do more to actively engage and assist.  These French interventions may not mark the return of the colonial cop; however, they are signs of a turning point in the relations between France and Francophone Africa. Will African states and the African Union seize the moment and bend the arc of these relations toward cooperation, peace and security as claimed by France or towards neo-colonialism as suspected by skeptics? Qui vivra, verra!

Somali Compact: Building a state to save a nation?

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Brussels, September 16, 2013, the government of Somalia and European Union (EU) co-hosted the Somalia New Deal Conference during which the international community endorsed the Somali Compact and pledged support to its implementation. This New Deal for Somalia has been the most comprehensive and participative state-building undertaking supported by the international community in Somalia to date. Designed based on the principles of aid effectiveness as learned by the international aid community throughout the years, the Somali Compact has the ambitious goal to lay in three years (2014-2016) the basis of “a sovereign, secure, democratic, united and federal Somalia at peace with itself and the world, and for the benefit of its people.”

Some analysts have been quick to highlight some of the shortcomings of the Compact, especially the lack of capacity of the Federal Somali Government (FSG) to implement this state building milestone. In addition, the lack of clarity as to the role of the Federal Government, who is at time put at the same level as many of the disparate factions in Somalia, the short timeframe (three years) and the low level of trust enjoyed by FSG among key stakeholders within the country. These set of challenges are real and constitute major obstacles on the way of the Somali Compact. In this post however, I would like to focus on “two elephants” in the room but who are ignored or were not sufficiently paid attention by members of this conference: Somalia’s insecurity state and nationhood.

One of the key assumptions of the Compact was that the security gains achieved by the peacekeepers of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), Kenyan, Ethiopian and Somali forces will be sustained. The current resurgence of Al-Shabaab and the degradation of the security situation highlight the depth and gravity of instability in Somali. The recent letter dated in October 14, 2013, by the UN Secretary General to the Security Council served as a dire warning to the international community of the worsening security states of the country. From the words of Ban Ki-Moon: “Yet, it is my responsibility to stress to the Council that, without the additional support recommended in this letter, our joint investment is at risk of being derailed by the indefensible actions of the Al-Shabaab insurgency. I appeal to the Council to support the foregoing recommendations, which should ultimately pave the way for the exit of all international forces.”

The Somali Compact framework recognizes the need for reconciliation and political inclusiveness, a hint to the necessity of going beyond the divisive and violent past and moving towards a shared vision where all Somalis can live in peace in a secure country. While the Compact constitutes a credible pathway (if implemented) to a viable state, there is no clear pathway to nationhood in Somalia. The Somali Compact does not discuss the root causes of the disintegration of the social fabric nor does it address them. There is a focus on the rule of law and respects of human rights as a way to prevent and address the symptoms of injustice, abuse and violence; however, this does not erase nor mitigate deep seated distrust, hatred and feelings of deprivation resulting from decades of dictatorship and civil war. Let’s remember that, the fall of Siad Barre’s regime opened the Pandora box of tribal conflicts, clans’ rivalry and violence that resulted in chaos and anarchy and served as a magnet to current terrorist groups and pirates in the Horn of Africa.

Clans constitute a crucial socio-political units in Somalia and one is really surprised to realize that the reality of clan politics, inter clan interaction has not been clearly recognized in this important reconstruction framework. Not recognizing or learning sufficiently from the grievances, suspicions, and blood claims that contributed to the collapse of the country and are contributing to the instability today, means missing a crucial step in the nation-building project. Not seriously addressing this issue will make even state-building an elusive goal as it has been in the recent history of international aid from donor countries to Somalia.

The Compact provides a framework for a well-coordinated bilateral and multilateral assistance and support to Somalia. The Somali Development and Reconstruction Facility (SDRF) and the Special Financing Facility will provide more needed efficiency and resources to the reconstruction project. If implemented as intended, these institutions will provide momentum and some credibility to the government. However, these institutions are only elements of the vision of an efficient government of Somalia and what it is expected from it than the reality upon which it is based. In order words, every planner has to deal with the creative tension between an expected vision or outcome, and the reality. In this case, it seems the New Deal tilted more on where the Somali state should be without paying more attention on the origin of the country’s instability. It seems as though in the case of the Compact, the eagerness to achieve the vision, which is understandable, has obstructed the reality. While expected, this process of state building should in no way ignore the reality that a state without a nation is doomed to fail. The risk in the case of Somalia is that the Compact may raise expectations that will not be met leading to a vicious circle of frustration, relative deprivation, violence and further instability.

It is a fact that the Compact is a necessary step to the stability of Somalia; it will generate donors support (financing and expertise), will provide more efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of public services and the physical reconstruction but it should not obscure the crucial and painstaking work of nation-building. That is, the forging of the Somali identity, a national consensus on the foundational values and principles of the society Somalis wish to live in. For that, equal attention if not priority should be given to an endogenous process of nation-building; through the use of traditional processes of reconciliation, local ownership by clans, traditional leaders, community and religious influencers of the reconstruction process. I will paraphrase Hal Saunders by arguing here that, institutions sign treaties and frameworks but only people make peace. The Somali Compact and the fragile success of African Union Mission in Somalia can create short term security spaces both physical and economical, but only the people of Somalia can build a functional state and a cohesive nation that owns and holds this state together.

Ironically, the experience of the irredentist Somaliland as witnessed prior, during and after the Burao, Borana and Sanaag (all located in Somaliland) conferences respectively in 1991 and 1993 could provide a sketch of a template of a nation and state building process for a federal or unified Somalia. In that experience, ‘localization’ and local ownership were crucial, Somalis drove the process away from external actors (who were very discrete in their support); the peace building and state-building processes were indigenous; also one important incentive was the situation of corruption and instability in the Southern part of the country, people in Somaliland witnessed the outcomes of a failed state and did not like it. Maybe it is time for Somalis in the South to look up North at Somaliland and learn from its history.
In any case, it will take a miracle for a Somali state to survive without a nation.

Vulnerable youth in fragile states: Are we reaching the intended target?

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Many policy-makers consider the African youth population an asset, a “demographic dividend;” but as with any asset, it only yields dividend if one invests properly and creates the optimum conditions. These conditions are far from being the reality in many countries in Africa, in particularly “fragile states.” According to the African Development Bank (AFDB), 20 out of 36 fragile states are in Africa with a total population of 200 million people. In other words, millions of African youth live in countries or communities experiencing a set of systemic disturbances (conflict, ‘bad neighborhood’, economic crisis, sociopolitical and environmental shocks) that negatively affect their state’s decision-making process, its ability to ensure security and provide expected basic services to its populations.

More than any other segments of the population, youth take the brunt of the state fragility and systemic dysfunctions, due in part to the fact that they are still in a life stage focused on the development of core human assets, such as: skills on literacy and numeracy, critical thinking and problem solving abilities; the building up of social assets consisting of networks of supportive adults, community spaces and structures, peer groups and life partners; along with the creation of financial assets (wages, access to both savings and credit services). Drivers of state fragility also impact youth supportive structures and institutions, such as family, community, and associations. As a result, some young people find themselves in situation of vulnerability, where they lack access to supportive services (health, education), institutions (school, workplace, family, etc.) and resources (land, finance, information and knowledge). This vulnerability reinforces the sense of exclusion and marginalization.

Therefore, the challenge for African states, particularly fragile states is to harness the potential of their youth population and reap the promised “demographic dividends.” One of the difficulties in investing on youth development has been targeting the most appropriate segment, particularly the most vulnerable and the hard to reach groups, those youth who may feel excluded or those who are already at the limit of engaging in destructive behaviors. Failing to include them in youth development interventions risk undermine the stability of a country and jeopardize its future.

Anatomy of vulnerable youth

The United Nations defines ‘youth,’ as those between the ages of 15 and 24 years. Yet the African Youth Charter refers to youth as a person between the ages of 15-35. Approximately 65% of the total 1 billion people living in Africa represent those below the age of 35 years, and in most countries of the region, over 35% of the population is between the ages of 15 and 35 years – making Africa the most youthful continent. However, the sociocultural reality goes beyond the age marker. In African countries, just as in many states around the world, the definition of youth is grounded in local realities and perceptions. In some cultures, there are several rites of passage an individual has to go through before graduating to adulthood. In many places in the region, youth is associated with marital status (being single), a student or at age of being in school (which can reach up to 35 years for university undergraduates) and not yet financially autonomous (that is still relaying on family or other individuals). The overall perception of youth is associated with some level of vulnerability; this perception of vulnerability reinforces the sense of dependency and in some cases exclusion in decision making, particularly for young girls.

While most youth in fragile states are vulnerable, those who have links or access to one or more support structures and institutions (family, schools, workplace/apprenticeship, youth centers / associations) seem to be more resilient. Therefore, the profile of vulnerable youth takes different shapes:

Unemployed out-of-school –This is a very broad category of youth, which may include many of the categories discussed below. These are out-of-school youth who have completed either primary, secondary education, vocational schools, universities, or some types of formal education. These youth have no access to appropriate work or income generating activities in the formal sector. Educated youth and those who have never attended formal education struggle to look for alternative livelihood pathways. In most fragile states where there are no legal protection frameworks for these youth, they face harassment, abuse, and extortion by the police and local authorities, as they go about building their livelihoods. This treatment reinforces their sense of exclusion and marginalization.

However, this is still a broad category, which in most cases hides critical groups of vulnerable youth who run the risk to be left out if not purposefully targeted:

Orphans and youth affected by HIV/AIDS – There are 48.3 million orphans in Africa (UNECA). The three main contributing factors are diseases (HIV/AIDS, malaria, etc.), poverty, and an increasing number of youth runaways.
Orphans as head of household including young single mothers–This group of youth faces particular difficulties as they have entered parenthood abruptly, generally without the necessary preparation and support (psychological and social). They struggle with their own internal transformation as they mature from youth to adulthood and at the same time take care of family members and children. The pressure is sometimes higher for single mother, particularly those who reside in the rural areas. For example, in Burundi approximately 30,346 orphans are the breadwinner of their households (UNICEF).
Former gangs and militia members of different conflicts – These profiles of youth are generally those who fall in the cracks of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR.) processes. They are left out of many civilian assistance programs, on the assumption that they have received the DDR reinsertion package. As a result of this exclusion, most of them end up roaming the streets of major cities at best or worst they join gangs or militia groups selling their services to the highest bidders. Countries of the Mano River Union (MRU) are well too familiar to the rage of these groups.
Youth with disabilities and victims of human trafficking – There are no reliable statistics on youth living with disabilities, but given the economic and social factors, it is safe to argue that this category of youth faces stiff challenges that can only aggravate their vulnerabilities.

The world’s youth population is very diverse. The most vulnerable youth are left out from development programs and interventions because of broad categorization during the design of these programs. In fragile states, most youth are vulnerable, but not all vulnerable youth are reached by youth development and livelihood programs. When vulnerable youth are not purposefully targeted by a program, they generally do not take advantage of it. In some cases, they are “pushed out” by other youth who are more equipped with advanced skills, education and have access to supportive structures and institutions.