Thursday, December 13, 2012

Let Mali fight its own battles

Earlier this year when Captain Sanogo took over the government of Mali in an accidental coup he said his intention was to get the resources he needed to defeat Touraeg and Islamist forces in the north.  In the chaos that followed Malian military forces were driven from the north and the independent state of Azawad was established.  No other state recognizes Azawad and the rebel organization that led the fight to establish Azawad, the Mouvement national pour la libération de l'Azawad (MNLA), seems to have lost power to Islamic extremists such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).  AQIM has sought to install its particular brand of Islam in Azawad, imposed Sharia Law, and destroyed ancient temples and shrines that it found offensive.

Despite gaining great power in Mali, Sanogo has not accomplished his original objective of reinforcing and rearming the Malian military to defeat enemy forces in the north.  I assume that running a country was a bigger challenge than he wanted so he took a step back to allow the interim President and Prime Ministers to deal with the political mess.  It is evident that Sanogo retains great influence as the former Prime Minister was arrested this week by military troops and was replaced with a new Prime Minister.  The former Prime Minister had disagreed with Sanogo by advocating for the international community to put foreign troops on the ground to take back Azawad.  Sanogo, however has maintained that he wants his own troops to do the fighting and wants international support.

I think that it is noble for Mali to want to take care of its own problems.  If part of the United States was taken over by rebels we would want to take care of the problem ourselves, without foreign troops doing the fighting for us.  Letting France do the fighting would be like running back to a former colonial master, and would likely oblige Mali to engage in unfavorable trade with France in the future.  Other countries that have pledged troops under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) don't have a great reputation for being neutral in ECOWAS peace keeping operations.  It would be easier for Mali to deal with peer countries in ECOWAS than major western powers like the US or France, however the quality of forces from ECOWAS countries are less capable. 

The US has already committed troops in Africa to the hunt for the LRA but mainly in a support and advisory role.  The US involvement in Libya was controversial at home, especially following the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi.  With ongoing economic problems in the US, the looming fiscal cliff, and defense cuts the US might not be as willing to engage with boots on the ground in Mali for a campaign that will most likely last several months, if not longer.  However, the US can contribute airlift support, intelligence, equipment, fuel, food, training, and funding.  Other allies can do the same.

As Malians should coordinate their own efforts to retake the north, they should host a conference with countries willing to contribute and coordinate their potential resources in a clear, open manner.  If the Malians are suspected of stealing donor support donations would be limited.  Advisers from France, US, and other allies can help the Malian leadership with developing a campaign plan but the operations should be Mali led and fought by Mali troops.

Before the loss of northern Mali, the military was estimated to have 8000 active troops (7,350 Army, 400 Air Force, and 50 Navy).  There were an additional 1,800 Gendarmerie, 2000 Republican Guard, and 3000 militia.  The military of Mali was trained to the point of contributing troops to international peace keeping operations in the DRC, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Central African Republic.  However, much equipment was lost in the north when government troops fled and there was a falling out between the Republican Guard loyal to the former president and the military so the amount of troops and equipment available for military campaign is reduced.  The government can also conscript and train additional adults to serve in the military to augment Malian combat strength (and will take more time).

The MNLA forces that drove government forces from the north were well equipped with heavy weapons from the Libya war.  AQIM troops are also well financed from kidnapping ransoms, donations, drug trafficking, theft, and network support.  Foreign fighters have also joined MNLA/AQIM troops in northern Mali and terrorist groups have set up training camps in the region.

The fight to take back northern Mali will not be easy or quick, but can be accomplished successfully if Malian troops are well armed, equipped, and motivated.  This can be done without foreign combat boots on the ground but would still require great international support and donations with little corruption.  It seems that international donors, ECOWAS, and other major powers are willing to contribute to the cause to liberate the north of Mali so funding is available.  However, the questions that still linger are who is really in charge of the government?  Can donors support a government that gained power through a coup? and What is the political future of Mali?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thesis Defense

Yesterday I successfully defended my thesis "COIN and the LRA" before a panel of professors at Boston University.  After a 15 minute overview of my paper the panel quizzed me for 45 minutes, and in the end, I passed without any need for revision or correction.  The questions the panel asked were interesting and mostly not related to my study of the Ugandan counterinsurgency strategy targeting the Lord's Resistance Army. 

One professor claimed that the LRA did not meet the model of a traditional insurgency in the past ten years as they have relied more on child abductions for recruitment. I countered that there are many insurgent groups in Africa and other places that recruit child soldiers so the LRA is not a singular example.  Also, the use of abducted children changes the way the community interacts with the insurgents as their own children are forced to participate against their will.  Community support of the insurgents is always critical to the success of an insurgency.  I also cited the 2000 Amnesty Act and traditional reconciliation methods such as Mato Oput that eased the return of former combatants.

Another professor focused on criticizing US military COIN doctrine that I referenced in my paper.  The US military published new counterinsurgency doctrine in Field Manual 3-24 in 2006.  The new doctrine was put together by General Petraeus and a panel of experts and based on the thinking of David Galula.  Galula published his book in 1964 "Counterinsurgecy Warfare: Theory and Practice" based on his own counterinsurgency efforts in Algeria as a platoon commander.  However, the professor on my panel questioned the legitimacy of the doctrine as he claimed that Galula embellished his successes.  The other examples upon which the new US doctrine was based were mostly from failed efforts so they were unlikely to result in success.  This is something that Martin van Creveld also argued in his 2008 piece "The Changing Face of War: Combat from the Marne to Iraq."  The panelist also argued that the new US COIN doctrine did not result in success in either Iraq or Afghanistan and the only reason why Iraq quieted down was the US paying off Iraqi leaders (what I call the "Cash as COIN" policy).  Paying off insurgents isn't in US COIN doctrine, but it appears its a tactic that the US frequently uses.

I countered that even though US COIN doctrine in FM 3-24 may be based upon failed counterinsurgency efforts there are many good points that the government of Uganda used to defeat the LRA.  I believe that appropriating the causes of the insurgency through northern development programs, cutting off Sudanese support for the LRA, and military operations to drive the LRA far from Ugandan territory were critical in defeating the LRA.  The military manual lists many different tactics that can be helpful in defeating an insurgency but before a comprehensive COIN strategy is developed the government must first study the insurgency and try to understand it to develop a customized COIN plan.  Unity of effort is critical as well as demonstrated in the Ugandan LRA example where President Museveni shorted the Bigombe talks in 1994 by demanding an immediate surrender from Kony.  Instead, Kony and the LRA fled to southern Sudan where they established bases, were financed and supplied by the Sudanese government, and increased raids on Uganda. 

Another example of successful COIN a professor on my panel cited was the extermination of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka by military operations.  The professor claimed that if the government doesnt care about international outcry and killing lots of people its not necessary to follow my more gentle COIN recommendations.  My counter-argument was that even though the insurgents may have been wiped out, the underlying problems still remained and protests and insurgency would probably return when conditions allowed or it was worth the risk.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Questions on military intervention in Mali

As the world gets spun up to send troops into Mali to defeat Islamists and others who established the state of Azawad in northern Mali I have a few concerns.

1.  Mali has been particular with what kind of military assistance it receives and in what manner, preferring to be re-equipped and financed to take care of the northern insurrection itself.  This seems to be inline with CPT Sanogo's original complaint that led to his accidental coup back in March (that the government of Mali wasn't providing enough support to fight northern rebels).

2.  The government situation in Mali still hasn't been sorted out with Sanogo retaining some control of the government.  Currently the US can not provide military assistance or funding to the government of Mali as Sanogo retains some power.  If the Malian army was resupplied, rearmed, and reequipped with Sanogo retaining some control of the military and government it would cement his power.

3.  Nigerian troops have been mentioned as providing a large part of the 3,300 ECOWAS troops intervening in Mali given their participation in past African Union, UN, and ECOWAS/ECOMOG actions.  However, Nigerian troops earned a bad reputation in Sierra Leone and Liberia for stealing and taking sides in the conflict.  Nigeria has also been fighting its own insurgency without great success against Boko Haram and its not likely they would have success against other Islamist insurgents either.

4.  There is no guarantee this will be a quick and easy fight, regardless of who is fighting.  Mali has been fighting insurgents for some time and when they took over Azawad they did it with heavy weapons and arms from Libya.  Even if the MNLA/Azawadian troops are defeated there will remain some support for the insurgency due to the need for development, ethnic conflict, and other past issues in northern Mali.  The need for development and investment in northern Mali is even greater after extremists have destroyed buildings, sites, and infrastructure deemed incompatible with their beliefs.

5.  By the way, when do coup leaders become recognized as legit leaders and start receiving US aid again? Just when we realize there is no going back and we can gain more from working with them than against them?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

COIN & the LRA

Here's the abstract to my paper on Counter Insurgency and the Lord's Resistance Army:

      Insurgency, or the attempts to overthrow the government by military and political means has long been a threat to established governments, especially since the 20th century where the technological advances in the military gave the government superiority that was difficult for the average armed civilian to match.  As insurgent groups engaged in terrorism and guerrilla warfare to overthrow the state, governments have engaged counterinsurgency (COIN) tactics to defeat insurgencies.  The ongoing 26-year insurgency by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda is illustrative of COIN tactics, its successes, and failures.  Examination of Ugandan COIN will reveal which tactics were most effective and how others could have been implemented better.  The study of Ugandan LRA COIN tactics may also yield suggestions for how to deal with other insurgencies in the region.

     I am still revising my paper and I may re-edit my abstract again but I am running out of time!  My paper goes to the presses this coming Saturday so I can turn it in early Monday, 26 Nov 2012.  After that I have a week to prepare for my paper defense to be scheduled some time during the first two weeks of December.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Working on Thesis

I'm still here, just focused on my thesis "Counterinsurgency and the Lord's Resistance Army." Its due by Thanksgiving so I got a lot of work to do!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Book Review: Sudan

 Sudan: Race, Religion, and Violence by Jok Madut Jok
Written in 2007 before the referendum on South Sudan and the independence of South Sudan in 2011, Jok’s book on Sudan provides good insight into the issues that caused the division of Sudan.  The book focuses on the time period after independence in 1956 where an Arab government has tried to convert the diverse population of Sudan to the Arab culture and Islamic religion.  The government gave preference to Arab Muslims over Black or African Muslims even though it is hard to distinguish and culture and ethnicity were fluid in the past.  As competition for scarce resources became more intense the government sided with Arab Muslims over all others and led to what the US has characterized as genocide in the Darfur region. However, the US and other world powers decided to take no action with Darfur in case it would disrupt the long-negotiated peace deal between the north and south.   
Jok was very thorough in his book and his details on military abuses, gender violence, resettlement, using aid to cause people to convert, starvation tactics, and the fight over oil revenues showed that the violence would continue after independence for South Sudan.  It seems that the war between Sudan and South Sudan has continued unabated as the north has bombed southern areas repeatedly and their respective militaries have engaged in combat on several occasions.  Sudan has also continued to repopulate Darfur and refugees continue to flee to Chad, CAR, and Sudan’s other neighbors.  Jok also foresaw the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictments and arrest warrant for President Al-Bashir, issued in March 2009 for war crimes and in July 2010 for genocide and discussed the ICC investigations in 2006.
Sudan and South Sudan are still negotiating oil profits as most of the oil is produced in the south but must pass through the pipelines in the north to the refineries and Port of Sudan.  Other pipelines are under construction in the south to Kenya and through Ethiopia to Djibouti to provide alternate routes for the oil, but are not expected to be completed until 2015 or later.
Now that the southern issue has been resolved with the independence of South Sudan, what will happen with Darfur?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

UPDF Thesis Musings

At the beginning of summer I thought I had a great thesis idea, to explore the evolution of the Ugandan Peoples Defense Force (UPDF) from a bush army that brought Museveni to power to a professional fighting force leading the fight against Al Shabab in Somalia.  In May I traveled to Uganda for 30 days to research the UPDF and met with some Ugandan officers, soldiers, regular people, Ugandan military trainers, and politicians who fought with Museveni in the independence war.  However, it was hard to get information about the transformation of the UPDF.  People were very proud of the way they came to power defeating the government forces, and what they are doing now in Somalia and the region hunting the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), but didnt share much about the interim period.  While I was there an American researcher was arrested by the Ugandan secret police for asking too many questions of military officers so I ran out of sources.  After that, nobody wanted to discuss the UPDF and I didn't want to end up in a secret prison, so I dropped it.

I also discovered that although the UPDF is doing great things in Somalia and is a pretty good fighting force, some issues remain.  For example, there is no established program for promotion in the military and no retirement program.  You have to know someone to get promoted or a pay raise, which pays off if you are the President's son and just got promoted to General and placed in command of the Ugandan Special Forces.  However, there are many privates who have served since the bush wars and never got promoted or advanced.  One officer I interviewed said there was no retirement program so people serve indefinitely because there is no life after the military.  That's also why many of the military leaders develop side businesses (like rental vehicle agencies, shipping companies, hotels).  The officer also explained that the Ugandan budget did not provide for pay or planning beyond the month or year so there was no assurances that there would be pay for retirees in the future.  He did say that he got special government housing as a perk.  Another concern I had about the UPDF is that some leaders had risen to power after being implicated in the violent suppression of the opposition. 

As it comes time to officially commit to a thesis I am starting to doubt my thesis.  Is there enough substance to this topic?

Other ideas I had were to explore the security situation in Chad, looking at the 2008 rebel advance, French support, tribal pressures, Libyan interference, and religious conflict.  The other idea was look into the bromance between Museveni, Kagame, and Kabila from their origins in the bush to current discord with Uganda forces banned from the DRC and Rwanda forces messing around in the DRC.

There isn't a whole lot written about Chad so it will be hard to find a multitude of sources.  However, there is a whole lot written about the MKK love triangle and their involvement of the wars of central Africa.  I have always thought it was interesting how Kagame worked for Museveni when Museveni was fighting to come to power.  Then Museveni and Kagame brought Kabila to power but were given the boot after the second Congo war.  Their relationships still affect conflict in the region.

Any suggestions?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Gambian Executions

President Jammeh of the Gambia made headlines on 19 August 2012 at a celebration of Eid (Muslim holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan) by announcing his plans to execute all 47 prisoners on death row by September.  President Jammeh said "There is no way my government will allow 99 per cent of the population to be held to ransom by criminals."  Some of the death row prisoners were political prisoners sentenced to death for treason, including former military and intelligence chiefs.  Amnesty International reported the first executions on 24 August 2012, saying nine prisoners were executed the previous night.  On 27 August 2012 the Interior Minister confirmed that nine prisoners were executed by firing squad and that the rest of the executions would taken place by mid-September.

Coming from a country (the United States) where prisoners are still executed for their crimes I am familiar with the debate surrounding capital punishment, and the US can't really criticize the Gambia for executing their prisoners since we do it too.  We also have criticism regarding the fairness of trials and executing innocent prisoners, but I question the timing of the executions.  It seems that the government of the Gambia is drawing out the period of executions over a couple weeks.  Is the plan to execute nine or ten prisoners per week?  Wouldn't it be more merciful and efficient to execute all the prisoners at once?  What advantages does the Gambia gain by lengthening the execution period as with every execution or the discussion of the execution generates more international outrage?  Perhaps the intent is to keep the Gambia and President Jammeh in the spotlight?  Perhaps I am missing something else entirely- if so, please let me know.

I thought President Jammeh's speech was interesting that he kept addressing Muslims in general and the true believers, asking them to come together to save their noble religion and the Quaran.  He also referred to conflicts in the middle-east and in Afghanistan and the need to rid themselves of false believers/pretenders within. 

Details on the 9 executed can be found at 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Leadership Transition in Africa

When the Arab spring blew through northern Africa in early 2011 many had high hopes of popular uprisings that would lead to regime change and better quality of life for the rest of the continent.  However, sustained popular uprisings didn’t blossom into a season of change for a number of reasons: violent crackdowns, lack of a middle class that could support the change, lack of hope, etc… But maybe Mother Nature had a back-up plan for change in sub-Saharan Africa.
Over the past two years a number of long-lasting African heads of state have expired, leading to change.  Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua led the charge, dying on 5 May 2010 causing an unexpected change in leadership with then Vice-President Jonathon Goodluck completing the term and upsetting a rotation of political leadership between the North and South of Nigeria, which also has contributed in part to the ongoing violence in Nigeria. 
Guinea-Bissau has experienced lately a mess of leadership since the death of Malam Bacai Sanhà on 9 January 2012.  Raimundo Pereira was the acting president until he was deposed in a coup d’état on 12 April 2012.
In Malawi, President Bingu wa Mutharika died of a heart attack on 5 April 2012 and then Vice-President Joyce Banda was only able to secure the presidency two days later on 7 April 2012 after the military stepped in to support her and the succession of the presidency as directed in the constitution.  Mutharika’s brother had tried to secure the presidency for himself and had recruited the Chief of Police in his support but ultimately failed in his bid for power.
Ghana’s President John Atta Mills died on 24 July 2012 and was replaced by Vice-President and now current President John Dramani Mahama.  Unlike in Malawi there was no drama in the passing of power to the Vice-President. 
Ethiopia’s Head of State, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi Asres' was the latest to expire on 20 August 2012 after a long undisclosed illness.  Prime Minister Zenawi had not been seen for many weeks as he was in treatment in an undisclosed location, but following notice of his death his body was shipped back to Ethiopia from Belgium.  Zenawi was the President of Ethiopia from 1991 to 1995 and then became Prime Minister in 1995 until his recent death.  Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who is also Ethiopia’s foreign minister, is now the acting head of state for Ethiopia.
Other African leaders that expired in office include Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia and Lansana Conté of Guinea in 2008.  Mwanawasa was replaced by his Vice-President Rupiah Banda without any disruption of government but the political situation in Guinea destabilized.  Conté’s successor, Aboubacar Somparé was deposed in a coup the day after taking power. Eventually current President Alpha Condé was elected and assumed the presidency on 21 December 2010.
In every case besides Guinea and Ethiopia, where Conté ruled for 24 years (1984-2008) and Zenawi ruled for 21 years (1991-2012), the fallen African presidents had been democratically elected and had ruled for less than 10 years.  Some were even in their initial terms of office so their governments had and were experiencing changes of leadership and power. 
However, some African heads of state have managed to hang on to power for decades, despite their old age.  President Robert Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, although he was the Prime Minister from 1980-1987.  President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda came to power in 1986, President Paul Biya of Cameroon in 1982, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola in 1979, and President Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea also in 1979.  President Nguema has the distinction of being the longest serving leader in Africa, coming to power on 3 August 1979, a month before President dos Santos in Angola.  President Denis Sassou Nguesso has also ruled the Republic of Congo since 1979, taking only a five-year break after losing elections in 1992, but returning to power after civil war in 1997.
The mostly peaceful transition of power in Senegal in 2012 following contentious Presidential elections where President Wade altered the constitution to allow him to run for a formerly forbidden third term could have been a disaster.  Violent protests across the country indicated that if President Wade had won a third term chaos would have ensued.  Thankfully, current President Macky Sall defeated Wade in the second round of voting to secure the Presidency.  Former President Wade then gracefully assisted in the transition of power without further incident.
In Cote d’Ivoire the people were not as fortunate as former President Laurent Gbagbo (2000-2011) refused to give up power to the victor of the 2010 elections, current President Alassane Ouattara.  Both claimed the Presidency from December 2010 until April 2011 when forces loyal to Ouattara and backed by France and the United Nations defeated Gbagbo.  In November 2011 Gbagbo was extradited to the Hague (International Criminal Court) where he awaits trial for crimes committed during the post-election violence. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

AFRICOM good intentions

In the 16 August 2012 Foreign Policy article The Pivot to Africa: Circumcision, mosquito killing, and other strange doings of Africom the author, Rosa Brooks, describes several of the projects undertaken by the Department of Defense (DoD) to improve relations with the locals and African governments.  AFRICOM is different from other regional military commands, like EUCOM in Europe or SOUTHCOM in South America, as it was designed to integrate civilian and military teams as a unified approach to helping the African continent.  So in Africa you have military service-members interfacing with Africans in a variety of ways, from teaching Africans how to clear minefields and purify drinking water to building schools.

In the Pivot to Africa article, Brooks listed several examples: 
  • Construction of school classrooms in Chad
  • Research on the "Association of Sexual Violence and Human Rights Violations With Physical and Mental Health in Territories of the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo"
  • Cattle vaccination in Uganda, designed to provide healthy cattle to internally displaced civilians returning to their homes
  • Activities to combat drug trafficking through the West Africa Cooperative Security Initiative
  • Construction of closed wells with solar-powered pumps in Senegal
  • Establishment of an East African Malaria Task Force to combat "one of the biggest killers on the continent: the mosquito"
  • Development of a news and information website aimed at local audiences in the Maghreb region, featuring "analysis, interviews and commentary by paid Magharebia correspondents"
  • Construction of a maternal- and pediatric-care ward at a Ugandan hospital
  • Collaboration with Botswana's military to "promote Botswana's national program of education, HIV screening and male circumcision surgeries"
  • Cooperation with the Sierra Leone Maritime Wing and Fisheries Ministry that "result[ed] in the apprehension of an illegally operating fishing vessel"
This is just a very small list of all the activities the Office of Security Cooperation (OSC) in the US Embassies in Africa manage.  Each DoD Office of Security Cooperation manages hundreds of thousands of dollars of projects in each country in efforts to enhance relations and the capabilities of the African host nation.  These projects are coordinated with the rest of the embassy offices including USAID and approved by the Ambassador to synchronize US efforts in the country in accordance with the US mission plan.

Some projects are better conceived and received than others.  For example a school opening I witnessed in Senegal was very well received by local government officials and the community but in Chad the US funded schools I saw were padlocked and not used by the locals.  Instead the locals were holding class in a more traditional hut that provided ventilation and light and a much more comfortable learning environment than the concrete box with tiny windows and tin roof provided by DoD.
US DoD built school in Chad

Where we found the locals holding class nearby in Chad

I think that AFRICOM has good intentions but mixed results due to mistrust across the continent and less than thorough understanding of the locals and their needs.  To be fair AFRICOM is a very young organization that is still growing its team to work on the continent and it takes time to develop relationships and expertise in 54 African countries.  At the very least, AFRICOM is a good effort for the US to try to reengage on the continent after its near abandonment following the disaster of "Blackhawk Down" in Somalia in 1993.

Book Review: Dancing in the Glory of Monsters

Finished reading the book in my hammock this afternoon.  Read it cover to cover in 5 days

Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa by Jason K. Stearns.
After struggling to get through Gerard Prunier’s Africa’s World War but failing several times, Dancing in the Glory of Monsters was a breeze to read.  Jason Stearns connected the many central African conflicts together to show the complexity of the two Congolese wars but also debunk several theories of why the wars took place, why peace is so hard to achieve, and why the world outside of Africa doesn’t care. 
One of the connections made by Stearns was the personal relationships between Presidents Musevini of Uganda, Kagame of Rwanda, and Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  All three worked together to come to power but fought protracted wars in eastern Congo over resources.  The Tutsi-Hutu conflict also helped define relations throughout the region as Stearns explains Tutsi relations in the region were always in conflict with others.  For example, Tutsi in the Congo who had lived there for generations were always treated as outsiders and during the genocide in Rwanda harassment increased.  After the genocide Hutu-Tutsi conflicts enveloped the region with Rwandan Tutsi forces massacring Hutus and other Congolese who stood in their way.
The book concludes by bringing the reader up to date on how Joseph Kabila, son of Laurent Kabila who was assassinated in 2001, worked to expel Ugandan and Rwandan forces from DRC and formed a government.  All is still not well in eastern Congo and an estimated 5 million people were killed or disappeared during the conflicts. 
This book is a must read as it gives color and personality to the monsters that were key players in these African world wars.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Liberian Expat

This morning while I was volunteering in a foodbank in Mass., I was teamed up with an older gentleman from Liberia to clean and bag produce and stock shelves.  My 78 year-old friend had emigrated to the Boston area 15 years ago but still managed to return home every couple years. My new friend's most recent trip was last fall during the elections.  It was great to swap stories about Liberia and get his perspectives on Liberian politics and it's future.

My new Liberian friend was proud of his president but accepted the corruption of her son and other warlords that managed to secure a place in government as part of politics.  He also spoke highly of a new bridge built by the Chinese but deplored the state of the rest of the roads in Liberia.  In the end he was left wondering how the government could be fixed and said he feared a return to chaos after President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf steps down at the end of her second term.

Another interesting point he brought up was the foreign control of the Liberian military.  Not only is it being trained by Americans, but the highest leadership is Nigerian.  When I visited the Liberian Army barracks in 2010 I met a Nigerian Command Sergeant Major who showed us around the base.  He took pride in leading the Liberian troops and the Liberian officers seemed smart, motivated, dedicated.  However, my new Liberian friend thought foreign control of the military was extremely dangerous.  He was worried that the Nigerians knew all of Liberia's defense secrets, capabilities, and weaknesses and that made them especially susceptible to a Nigerian invasion (I dont think that is likely).

It was an interesting circumstance to discuss Africa, in a foodbank that gave away tons of food everyday, as we worked stocking shelves with more food that could probably be found in all the stores of Monrovia.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fall Class: Religions & Politics in Africa

While I am writing my thesis this fall I may audit a class on religion in Africa.  PO 760: Problems and Issues of Contemporary Africa this fall will focus on "Religion and Politics in Africa. The politics of indigenous African religions, Islam, and Christianity. Topics include Islamist and Christian fundamentalist movements, religion and social conflict, and religious engagement on democracy, women's rights, and gay rights."

The differences in religion and the conflict they often create is something that has intrigued me while I was living in Senegal and traveling in Africa.  Senegalese political leaders courted the Mourides in Touba, but in a country where over 90% of the population is Muslim the first president was Catholic.  In March I will move to Chad where over half of the population is Muslim but there is also geographical separation where the majority of the Christians live in the South.  Chad also shares a border with Nigeria where a bloody religious war continues.  The book list seems to touch on many of the relevant issues and should be a good reading list to learn more about the subject.

There are 10 required books for the class:
- Guns & Rain by David Lan
- African Religions and Philosophies by John Mbiti
- African Christianity: Its Public Role by Paul Gifford
- Sudan: Race, Religion, and Violence by Jok Madut Jok
- Islam and Muslim Politics in Africa by Otayek
- Political Spiritualities by Ruth Marshall
- Between Terror and Democracy by Lesueur
- Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda by Tim Longman
- Between Feminism and Islam by Salime
- How God Became African by Haar

Any other books I should read?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mali's future?

In today's news, interim president Dioncounda Traore finalized his transitional government. Once he solidifies his political base, Traore hopes to open negotiations with rebels and Islamic extremists that have taken over the north part of Mali and declared an independent Republic of Azawad(1). Traore recently sidelined or diminished the powers of the interim Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra, which will likely have political repercussions(2).   Traore also still faces interference from one-time coup leader, Amadou Sanogo, who continues to meddle in government affairs.  Counter-coups still continue to be attempted with the latest this weekend where an army officer and religious leader were arrested over the weekend.  Other counter-coups were attempted on April 30th and May 1st, but were put down by the troops that assumed power in the March 22d coup.  There are also accusations that military is disappearing their opponents(3).

If Traore is able to solidify his political base and get along with Sanogo and the original coup leaders (from the March 22d coup), he will still face many significant challenges.  First, the Forces Armées et de Sécurité du Mali are in shambles. Sanogo led his accidental coup in response to inadequate supplies, armament, and support from the government of Mali and things haven't improved.  Second, in their hurried retreat from the North the military abandoned vehicles, weapons, and fighting positions to rebels and Islamists.  Three, despite frictions between Islamist extremists and Touareg they still represent a formidable force that wont capitulate easily.  Fourth, if Traore asks for ECOWAS troops and they are approved/financed by the UN they will likely have a long hard fight.  ECOWAS troops will be seen as an invading foreign force and could generate more support for the Azawadian troops.  ECOWAS troops don't have the best reputation in West Africa after they took sides and perpetuated violence, atrocities, and profiteering in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

If Traore and the interim government are able to either negotiate a political solution with Azawad or drive them out of northern Mali with the assistance of ECOWAS troops, will Traore give up power peacefully?  Will Mali schedule elections and return to democracy?  Unfortunately, coup leaders and interim leaders have a habit of not relinquishing power or arranging elections in a way to guarantee their election.

1. Mali president finalises unity government
2. Mali's interim president sidelines PM Diarra
3. Mali counter-coup arrests 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Back to Africa

Its time to start thinking about heading back to Africa as soon as I finish my Masters Degree in International Relations at BU this December.  I get to spend the fall semester writing my thesis and defend it in December before graduating in Jan 2013.  It looks like i will be heading to Chad for a one-year assignment living in N'djamena shortly after graduation.  I spent about 10 days traveling in Chad in 2011, driving up to Lake Chad and visiting several small villages around the lake so i am somewhat familiar with the country.  Unfortunately, there isn't much to do in Chad given the security situation and the lack of infrastructure.  Last time i was there expats werent allowed to run outside and the traffic and weather werent that friendly for long distance running.

One bonus is that most of the expat housing features pools inside the walled compounds, so i could have my own private pool if i wanted to maintain it.  Satellite TV is also available so if i bring a TV this time (i didnt bring one to Senegal) I can watch TV.  The internet was weak and sporadic last time i was there so I probably wont be able to video-skype with friends and family from Chad as I did extensively from Senegal.  As my house will be furnished I wont need to ship much, and since we are landlocked in a desert country I wont need the surfboards and golf clubs I brought to Senegal.  I do get to ship 1250 lbs of food since its scarce in N'djamena.  So I'll have my clothes, tv, food, and pool treatment chemicals for a year in Chad. Yay.

Another bright spot is that i get to attend quarterly conferences in Europe so I may get to snowboard in the Alps and travel to green places that have lakes and lots of water.  I can also buy some goats or miniature gazelles for pets (maybe some chickens too) for my Chadian compound.

Friday, July 20, 2012


I have been on vacation since getting back from Uganda about a month ago, hanging out and spending time in the mountains of New England.  My good friend @hoyawolf came out for a week and we attempted to hike the Presidential Traverse of the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains of New Hampshire but we were blown out by 60+ mph winds on Mt Washington.  Then my family and I spent a week exploring Acadia National Park and have been to other sites in the region like the Robert Frost farm.

Next week it will be time to start thinking about my thesis again & travel back to Boston University to meet with my adviser and catch a Red Sox game.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ugandan Books

I found a cool bookstore (Aristoc Booklex Limited) at the Garden City Shopping center in Kampala today. For 82,000 shillings I got six books from local authors on security and stability in Uganda since independence. All six books were published by Fountain Publishers in Kampala:

- Roots of Instability in Uganda by Samwiri R. Karugire
- Tall Grass: Stories of Suffering and Peace in Northern Uganda by Carlos Rodriguez Soto
- Teso War 1986-1992: Causes and Consequences by J. Epelu-Opio
- Uganda's Age of Reforms: A Critical Overview edited by Justus Mugaju
- Uganda since Independence: A Story of Unfulfilled Hopes by Phares Mutibwa
- Understanding Obstacles to Peace: Actors, Interests, and Strategies in Africa's Great Lakes Region edited by Mwesigsa Baregu

I am interested in the evolution of the National Resistance Army (NRA) to the Ugandan People's Defense Force (UPDF) but it's hard to find a lot of details. Please let me know if there is a good book on the subject!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ugandan Funeral

A week ago my Ugandan friend died in a motorcycle accident in Kampala. As he was driving back to his house he entered an intersection a couple hundred yards from his house and was hit by a boda-boda mototaxi. He was thrown into a ditch and fractured his skull. He died a short time later next to his bike.

One of my American friends and his coworker got the unfortunate call at three in the morning that he had died and went to the morgue to identify the body. They described it as being straight out of a horror movie with a man squeegeeing blood down the hallway under dim green flickering lights and bodies stacked inside the door.

The death of my Ugandan friend was a huge loss but completely devastating to his wife and three daughters as he had no male heir. As soon as his family heard of his death they visited his widow and tore the house apart looking for the deed to the house and other items of value. In the local culture the widow without a son has few property rights so she moved the fridge, tv, deed, and other important documents to a friends house so they wouldn't be stolen.

My friend's employer provided a death gratuity of $600 or 1.5million Ugandan Shillings, which his extended family immediately demanded to pay for the funeral and expenses. The family then called his former supervisor and asked for more money for other expenses and the funeral, in the end collecting another 2million shillings, but giving none to the grieving widow left with 3 kids and no income.

Two days later the funeral was held in a small village near the DRC border. The former employer chartered a bus that brought 30 former coworkers, including myself and three other muzungos, down the red dirt roads to the remote village in the mountains. My friend was buried next to his father in a corn field next to the house after a two-hour ceremony. His uncle preached a sermon on the shortness of life and family and friends shared a few words about their friend. The most heart-breaking part of the funeral was when the widow and her children stood and a lawyer read her statement that declared that they were married and the kids were theirs biologically and pleaded with family and friends not to abandon them. At the start of the ceremony about 100 people were seated in the shade under the guava trees, but by the end it seemed that most of the village had gathered as there were over 500 people in the crowd. After the funeral a table was set up with piles of local foods like rice and posho and the line began to queue.

We ended up driving as far as Fort Portal before it got too dark to drive back to Kampala. It's not safe to drive on the roads outside of Kampala after dark as none of the roads are lit, people and animals stray all over the roads, and often vehicles are left on the road with no reflectors or warning. We sheltered at the Mountains of the Moon resort. The food was alright, service was poor, and there were no bednets to protect from the mosquitos but the scenery was beautiful. The next day we made it back to town just as the vehicle broke down. The temperature gauge was fluctuating widely and overheating and we had to fill the radiator with water 50km from town. The hills in Kampala finally overheated the vehicle down the street from the office, locking the engine and blocking traffic. 20 mins later we were able to start the vehicle again and got it off the road and into a parking lot where it finally gave up the ghost.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, May 18, 2012

"Wife" or Sex-Slave

When Ceasar Achellam was captured last week in an ambush crossing the river, he was taken with his "wife," a small child, and a helper. Some have made a big deal about needing to reunite this "family," but the government of Uganda had good reason to reconsider. The "wife" was under age according to Ugandan law and was likely to have been given to Ceasar as a sex-slave when she was younger as she had conceived the child with him some time before. As such, would it be just to force her to go back to the man that had abused her? Plus, she was not a Ugandan citizen so the Ugandan government couldn't force her to go back to Ceasar.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Acellam LRA defection?

Interesting speculation in a local Ugandan newspaper (Daily Monitor) this morning that the capture of LRA Commander, Ceasar Acellam Otto was actually a defection and not a true capture. He was captured over the weekend crossing the river from DRC to CAR with his wife, a daughter, and a helper, but said that he had left his usual cohort of 30 LRA fighters in DRC. The paper cited past attempts at defection by Ceasar thwarted by close supervision by Kony as evidence for a possible defection. Ceasar said he was happy to be out of the bush but commented that the LRA had a good supply of wild-grown food. Implications of a capture/defection: If Ceasar had elected to move about intentionally in a small family unit of just 4-5 people it could indicate a shift to such small unit size it would be nearly impossible to track and capture the estimated remaining 200-300 remaining fighters. If it was a defection and Ceasar was able to walk away from his escorts it may cause others to try to slip away. If Ceasar is granted amnesty, as some MPs in the paper argued he should be eligible, other LRA fighters could see his gentler treatment as a sign that they would also receive amnesty and defect as well. Link to the article:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Travel to Uganda

Flights to Entebbe 11-12 May 2012 Once I got underway the travel to Entebbe wasn't really that bad. I only had one delay, for two hours, at the beginning and I got window seats that I liked. The food wasn't too bad, but almost 27 hours of transit gets old. Flying economy is always the same- crying kids, no leg or arm room, and the person in front of you reclines their seat all the way into your space, but that's economy travel. This time flying into Africa I flew through Brussels and I was amazed at how the African travelers were segregated. They cut the terminal in half with a glass wall with guards who will only let people in and won't let you out. In the African side of the terminal there is only half of one bar (the partition goes through the middle of it) and one shop selling a limited variety of watches, sandals, and sunglasses. Through the opaque glass I could make out the shapes and colors of a variety of stores and restaurants, but the guards frowned if you spent too much time by the wall. I guess the toilets and seats were adequate but the African transfer terminal in Brussels is in no way like the regular terminals. It was also obvious that Brussels Air used older aircraft for their African flights. Maybe I was spoiled by the new Boeing 777 that took me to Brussels, but the plane to Africa was falling apart. I had an in-seat monitor that didn't work and the controller in the armrest was busted. No blankets, dark dingy toilets, and no air conditioning made a stark contrast in my two long distance flights. Tickets for my African leg of the trip were just as expensive as the European flight but you get less and the experience was not the same. I've flown South African, TAP, Emirates, Royal Air Moroc, and United into other African cities from Europe and the States but have never seen the blatant treatment of Africans as second class customers as with Brussels. Perhaps it has something to do with their colonial legacy and brutal mistreatment of Africans (as in the Belgian Congo).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Asymmetrical Warfare in Africa

War has existed since the dawn of man but functioned mostly as an unregulated activity until the adoption of the Hague and Geneva conventions with rules for the conduct of war.  These conventions were reached in order to provide protections for combatants and civilians, however not all nations and combatants subscribe to these limitations on the conduct of war.  War can be waged in a conventional fashion with comparable forces meeting on a field of battle or asymmetrically using guerilla tactics.  African wars since independence have been mostly internal wars where the rebel or non-governmental forces were not bound by war conventions as they lacked “state” status and thereby unrestrained in their conduct of battle.  Rebel freedom to fight without restriction creates an advantage that is difficult to overcome.
Ethics of War
War has been a constant around the planet since before history began to be recorded.  In earlier times, leaders were guided by a sense of honor but did not hold a prescribed code of conduct until the adoption of the Hague and Geneva Conventions.  Sun Tzu authored his “Art of War” over 2000 years ago and discussed ethical leadership in accordance with “the moral law” and virtues attributed to the commander (Sunzi, p. 9). European knights also had a code of chivalry that varied in its substance and allegiance.  As states formed and fought amongst each other in Europe, laws of war were developed based on the writings of Hugo Grotius, like his De jure belli ac pacis (the laws of war and peace) written in the 1600s (Jackson, p. 124).  The work of Grotius and others like Thomas Hobbes gave rise to the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which established that the king was sovereign and had absolute power in his realm but also established the sanctity of human life (Jackson, p. 128).  States passed their own laws for entry and conduct in war based on their own sense of ethics and respect for human life.  However, there was a growing consensus that some rules of war should be implemented.
Hague Conventions. International agreement by 49 countries in 1899 at the Hague convention established the first set of formal international laws for war based on traditional practices (ICRC, Convention II).  The 1899 Hague Convention focused on land warfare, treatment of prisoners, and listed prohibited practices such as air bombs, expanding bullets, and chemical warfare. A follow-up convention in 1907 expanded the original Hague Convention and added rules for naval warfare (ICRC, Convention IV). 
Geneva Conventions.  Representatives from 16 countries met in Geneva, Switzerland in 1864 agreed to a convention on for the treatment of the wounded during war.  This first international agreement on conduct during combat required aid for any wounded, protection for medical personnel, and established the distinctive signage for medical personnel, was eventually agreed upon by 57 countries (ICRC, Geneva 1864).  The Geneva Convention was updated in 1906 and 1929 with a major revision in 1949 post-World War II to incorporated lessons learned.  The 1949 convention confirmed the first convention, added protection of sailors during naval engagements, treatment of prisoners, and protection for civilians.  194 countries have signed the 1949 Geneva Convention, which remains in effect for signatory countries (ICRC, Geneva 1949).
Types of Warfare
Regular War. Traditional war often featured two armies meeting on the plains away from cities where the armies would march towards each other firing arrows, bullets, cannons or other projectiles until the opposing forces converged in hand to hand combat.  Historical examples of regular or conventional war include Caesar’s victory over Pompey at Pharsalus in 48 BC where 30,000 of Pompey’s troops fell to a smaller but more experienced army led by Caesar (Dunstan, p. 176).   More modern examples include German hedgerow defenses in World War II where the Germans established defensive positions using hedgerows to channel advancing enemy soldiers into converging sectors of fire (Doubler, p. 37) and US-Iraqi tank battles in the first gulf war (Clancy, p. 389). 
Conventional war respects the conventions on war, generally respects human rights, and has the expectation of reciprocal good treatment from enemy combatants.  Fighting techniques utilized by conventional forces tend to be raid, ambush, attack, and defend.  Traditional forces prefer to fight away from civilian populations in order to avoid civilian casualties and confusion on the battlefield. 
Asymmetrical War. Any war besides what is considered classical or traditional war that takes place on a battlefield by comparable or “symmetrical” forces using agreed upon rules of war can be considered asymmetrical war (Winter, p. 497). Asymmetrical war has also been called irregular war or guerilla war, and may include what states consider to be terrorism.  Civil wars may be considered conventional or asymmetrical depending on how enemy forces are engaged.  For example, battles can be fought as a conventional war as in the case of Union and Confederate armies meeting in Gettysburg (Linderman, p. 160), or using guerilla tactics such as the Missouri “Bushwhackers” and “Jayhawkers” irregular forces, “Partisan Rangers,” and “Calvary Raiders” in the American Civil War who carried out attacks on civilian populations, farms, and supply lines (McLachlan, p.8). 
Guerilla forces have no rear or out of bounds areas and are able to strike their enemy where they think they are safe and “go to ground” or blend in with the local population.  Asymmetrical forces may use unconventional weapons and tactics and may not strictly adhere or adhere at all to the conventions on war.  Surprise is a key part of guerilla warfare and creates an advantage for guerilla forces (Walzer, p. 176).
Terrorism is another form of asymmetrical war that seeks “to destroy the morale of a nation or a class, to undercut its solidarity; its method is the random murder of innocent people” (Walzer, p. 197).  Randomness of violence to individuals is critical, as terrorist acts should make people feel that they can be victims of violence anywhere and anytime.  Fear would then motivate the population to compel their government to negotiate with or give in to terrorist demands in order to secure their safety (Walzer, p. 198).
Mismatch of Warfare.  Conventional and asymmetrical forces may not respect the same laws of war creating a mismatch of fighting forces.  Asymmetrical forces may not be bound by the same laws of war but would expect conventional forces to still respect the laws of war.  Conventional forces tend to be armies controlled by the state and subject to national leadership.  National leaders are influenced by domestic and international pressure and actors, such as domestic popular opinion, portrayal of government forces by the media, and a public not willing to support a large loss of life.  For example, American forces withdrew from Viet Nam in part as a result of domestic pressure (Arreguin-Toft, p. 119).  For asymmetrical forces the war constitutes a total commitment and guerilla forces expect to take losses and endure a long fight in order to win.  Afghan fighters were able to outlast British and Soviet occupations and seem to be on track to outlast American occupation forces (Grau, p. xi).  State forces usually have more resources and better weapons but a lower threshold for discomfort and losses.  State forces greater resource requirements also entail a long supply chain, which becomes a vulnerability for state forces and soft target for asymmetrical forces.  However, asymmetrical forces with outside support can sometimes outgun and be better financed than state forces, as in the Cold War or in the NATO supported overthrow of the government of Libya in 2011 (Lister, 2011).  Following the timeless counsel of Sun Tzu, asymmetrical fighters seek to match their strengths to the weaknesses of their enemies (Sunzi, p. 28).
African Examples
African wars since independence in the 1960s have generally been internal wars where government forces fought rebel forces or wars of secession such as Ertirea’s war of secession from Ethiopia in 1991 (State Department, 2012).  South Sudan also won its independence from Sudan after decades of civil war in 2011 (State Department, 2011).  Three interesting case studies of asymmetrical forces against conventional forces demonstrate the mismatch of forces and their benefits to the victor: the 1993 Operation Restore Hope which pitched US led United Nations forces against warlords in Somalia, the ongoing Ugandan hunt for the Lord’s Resistance Army, and the African National Congress (ANC) fight against the apartheid government of South Africa.
Operation Restore Hope.  The government of Somalia fell in 1991 and coupled with a humanitarian crisis of mass starvation, the international community organized to provide food aid and try to rebuild the country.  The United Nations (UN) commissioned the UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) in 1992 to monitor a ceasefire in the capital city of Mogadishu, escort humanitarian supplies to distribution centers, and protect UN personnel and equipment (UNSCR 751, 1992).  Despite increasing the troop levels of UNOSOM with Resolution 775 (1992), the security situation in Somalia continued to deteriorate.  Operation Restore Hope, also known as Unified Task Force (UNITAF) assumed command of the UN operation in Somalia in May 1993 in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 794 (1992).  The US led UNITAF came ashore unopposed as the US Ambassador had negotiated for the militias to move out of the way of arriving forces (Durch, p. 323).  UNITAF next secured the port and airport in order to allow humanitarian supplies to arrive and then began to seize heavy weapons in Mogadishu, encountering some resistance and fire from militia forces, but was overall able to create a more secure environment (Durch, p. 325).  UNOSOM II was created by UN Security Council Resolution 814 (1993) to continue UN operations begun under UNOSOM and UNITAF and ran from March 1993 until its closure and the withdrawal of UN troops in 1995. 
While UNITAF/UNOSOM II worked to secure the city and allow safe transport and distribution of humanitarian aid the UN also worked to establish a new government, but in the process marginalized local warlords.  Mohamed Farah Aideed, supported by the Somali National Alliance (SNA), and Ali Mahdi were foremost amongst the warlords in UN negotiations and began to oppose UN actions in spring of 1993.  Aideed believed he had earned the right to rule Somalia as he had toppled former President Siad Barre.  Aideed was worried that the UN was establishing a UN trusteeship to restore Siad Barre as President (Durch, p. 317).  On 4 June 1993 SNA forces rejected UNOSOM demands to inspect SNA weapon storage sites and the following day SNA fighters began to engage UN troops in Mogadishu with roadblocks, machine guns, and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs).  Quick Reaction Forces (QRF) assisted by Italian helicopter gunships were able to extract the UN troops, who suffered 24 killed and 61 wounded (Durch, p. 343). 
The US reinforced its contingent with four heavily armed AC-130H “Spectre” gunships and used them to destroy SNA weapons sites during simultaneous QRF attacks on other SNA caches on 12 June 1993.  UNOSOM also destroyed approximately 30 “technicals” (pickup trucks with mounted machine guns used for carrying troops).  During the UNOSOM attacks approximately 3000 Somalis rushed UN positions causing a firefight resulting in at least 20 Somalis killed.  On 17 June UN forces raided Aideed’s compound but Aideed escaped as armed Somali crowds (male fighters mixed with women and children) attacked UN forces, resulting in 5 UN killed and 47 wounded.  The UN offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Aideed but SNA attacks continued (Durch, p. 344).  
As the situation heated up the US sent 400 Army Rangers and Special Forces operators to Mogadishu in August 1993 to capture Aideed (Durch, p. 339).  The UN continued its raids to capture or kill SNA leaders and on 3 October 1993, US helicopters supporting a Special Forces raid were shot down, and US troops had to fight their way out of the city.  This incident, known as “Blackhawk Down,” was the turning point for the US and subsequently the UN, as the US subsequently announced its withdrawal from Somalia within 6 months (Durch, p. 347).  US troops withdrew to within its base outside Mogadishu and the SNA and other warlord groups increased attacks on relief agencies and UN outposts.  Nearly all US troops left Somalia by April 1994 and remaining UN troops posed little resistance to Somali fighters who overran their positions and looted the port.  The last UN troops had to fight their way out assisted by a US Marine evacuation force in March 1995 (Durch, p. 350). 
Lord’s Resistance Army.  Uganda became independent in 1962 and experienced a series of coups, ending in 1986 when Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army (NRA) forces defeated General Tito Okello (TRIAL, 2012).  Museveni has since won several elections, the latest in 2011 despite claims of election fraud, and remains in power in 2012 (BBC, 2011).  Ugandan leaders have used ethnic differences to pit groups against each other in order to gain support and power.  Former President Idi Amin purged the military of Acholi and Langi soldiers and the Acholi had made up a good part of President Obote’s military.  Museveni’s fight to capture power in 1986 pit NRA forces against Acholi forces and resentment and suspicion remain (Van Acker, p. 341).  The Acholi are found in the north of Uganda and ethnic discrimination has created a North-South divide with the North being less developed and afflicted with government “protected camps,” where locals are forced to live for their own protection (Van Acker, p. 343). 
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) was formed in 1987 of Acholi soldiers as a religious movement led by the prophet Joseph Kony to overthrow the government of Uganda and establish rule based on the Ten Commandments.  The LRA uses guerilla and terrorist tactics in its fighting, and as a religion based terror group does not have to fight in accordance with any law or customs of war, as any tactics they use are morally justifiable as a ”sacramental act” (Van Acker, p. 349).  The LRA has some support among the local Acholi population but was also supported by the government of Sudan with arms and funding as Sudan and the LRA shared the goal of overthrowing the Museveni government (Green, p. 203).  Some of the terror tactics used by the LRA included the “violent abduction and forced recruitment of minors to serve as child soldiers,” with an estimated 25,000 to 38,000 children forced to join the LRA (Videvogel, Coppens, Derluyn, De Schryver, Loots, & Broekaert, p. 552).  The LRA would raid villages, kill or maim adults, seize supplies and children.  The LRA is accused of killing over 10,000 Ugandans before it was driven by government forces from Uganda in 2006 into an area bordered by South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the Central African Republic (CAR).   LRA fighters have continued its raiding tactics beating 800 people to death in North-East DRC in Dec 2008 despite the significantly reduced size of its forces (Thomson, 2011). 
The US committed 100 Special Forces advisors in 2011 to the hunt for the LRA and assist Ugandan and regional forces by providing surveillance, advice, and technical assistance (Peter, 2012).  Ugandan forces utilize 26 hunting squads who patrol the multi-state region day and night based on intelligence collected from locals as the LRA stopped using cell and satellite phones to communicate.  The LRA has also been forced to change its habits to avoid capture and has stopped killing and abducting locals, cut off traditional dreadlocks, eliminated gardens, and moved deeper into the jungle.  Instead of raiding villages for supplies, the LRA is now surviving on wild yams and fishing (Mugisha, 2012).  Due to defections as the LRA has fled the multinational force, Kony is now estimated to control 150 fighters (Quinn, 2012).
 African National Congress.  South Africa has a different history than much of the African continent as it started out as a settler colony and under white rule until 1994 when all South Africans were granted suffrage and elected a government that represented the majority of the population.  The rights of black South Africans were limited since the early days of white settlers in South Africa and the African National Congress (ANC) was formed by black elites in 1912 to work within the existing government system to resist oppression.  Over the years the ANC became more radicalized and created the ANC Youth League in 1944, led by Nelson Mandela and Walter Sislu, and abandoned nonviolence in 1961.  Several of the ANC leaders were sentenced to life in prison in 1964, including Mandela and Sislu, and served nearly 30 years on Robben Island (Bauer & Taylor, p. 244). 
While Mandela and others were in prison the ANC continued to fight the apartheid government of South Africa becoming more violent and attracting international condemnation of the government.  Government actions, such as the Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act of 1970, which restricted black South Africans to Bantu homelands for residence and left the rest of the country for ownership by the white population, mobilized the black population (Berger, p. 127).  General strikes began in 1972 to protest apartheid rules, and in 1976 students protesting mandatory education in Afrikaans were shot by police.  The shooting of students caused weeks of riots and a boycott of schools through 1976.  575 people and an additional 2400 were wounded during the riots (Berger, p. 137).  The apartheid government targeted black leaders like Steven Biko, who were killed by police forces (Gobodo-Madikizela, p. 137).
Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC, had 4000 guerilla fighters trained in Angola, Libya, Tanzania, and other African countries by 1978 and in the 1980s increased attacks on government targets.  The ANC guerillas targeted infrastructure and strategic sites such as police stations and the South African synthetic oil refinery (Berger, p. 140).  The ANC also sent representatives to Vietnam to learn how to win a guerilla war and increased a campaign of strikes and boycotts targeting apartheid collaborators (Berger, p. 142).  The apartheid government stepped-up oppression by declaring a state of emergency in 1985 in Soweto and detained 8000 suspects without trial or charges.  Violence between the state and activists in 1985 killed more than 250 people and continued in 1986 when the state of emergency was extended to all of South Africa.  The government responded to increased attacks by conducting military patrols and searches at gunpoint (Berger, p. 145).  The government also attacked ANC bases in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia (Berger, p. 147).  Eventually the apartheid government began negotiations with the ANC and capitulated in 1993, allowing elections in 1994 where Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa (Bauer & Taylor, p. 245). 
Lessons Learned.
In the three cases discussed none of the asymmetrical forces were defeated, although the LRA had been driven from Uganda and was losing forces due to desertion and not capture.  Uganda and South Africa have signed the Geneva and Hague conventions, whereas Somali does not have a functioning government or military (Geneva, 2011).
Somali forces defeated US forces and expelled the UN from Somalia due to their ability to mix with the local population while attacking and ability to manipulate foreign forces.  Somali warlords knew the restrictions faced by US and UN forces bound by war conventions to not harm civilians and used civilians as shields to stop returned fire and channel foreign forces.  The “Blackhawk Down” incident also allowed warlords to manipulate the American population and caused the US to withdraw its forces and the UN mission to subsequently collapse.  US technology and weapons superiority did not allow it to accomplish its mission nor capture Aideed.
In Uganda, the LRA has managed to avoid capture despite US assistance and overwhelming technical and fire superiority of Ugandan forces.  The LRA has adapted to blend into the local population and avoids using technology that gives away their location.  The local population is also somewhat supportive or at least act in fear to not betray the LRA. 
The victory of the ANC over the apartheid government of South Africa was due to the mobilization of the population, guerilla action, and outside pressure as the international community boycotted South African products.  The boycotting actions were organized by the ANC and other resistance groups and part of an overall strategy to force the government to capitulate.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

African Civil Wars

What is Civil War?
Intrastate conflicts in Africa have been common since the majority of African states gained independence in the 1960s from their colonial masters.  Civil war can be defined as “large-scale, organized, and sustained conflict between a state and domestic political actors,” “exclude one-sided violence,” and are “high intensity conflicts” (Hironaka, p. 3).  Civil wars also include major casualties and are resource intensive.  The Correlates of War, a group that catalogs statistical data on conflicts around the world, describes civil war as conflicts that generate over 1000 annual battle-related deaths (Sarkees, p. 1). Monica Duffy Toft used a more precise definition of civil wars in her examination of the outcomes of civil wars since 1940.  Toft’s six criteria for a civil war are:
(1) the focus of the war was control over which group would govern the political unit; (2) there were at least two groups of organized combatants; (3) one of the combatants was an internationally recognized state; (4) there were at least 1,000 battle deaths per year on average; (5) the ratio of total deaths had to be at least 95 percent to 5 percent, meaning the stronger side had to have suffered at least 5 percent of the casualties; and (6) the war had to have begun within the boundaries of an internationally recognized state (Toft, p. 12).
Many African states have experienced conflicts approached or exceed this threshold of civil war however sometimes this is difficult to quantify as government forces or the eventual victors may attempt to cover up atrocities and other evidences of casualties.  African data may be systematically unavailable or incomplete due to lack of record keeping or poor procedures (Lemke, P. 117).  Regardless of the official body count or reaching the status of an “official” civil war, conflicts that have generated mass casualties in Africa have stunted its growth and resulted in negative consequences for its inhabitants.
Why do Civil Wars Happen?
Many scholars and experts claim a number of reasons for the cause of civil wars and no one factor of combination of factors work in every case.  Research has shown that greed, grievance, ethnic and racial conflict, as well as political and religious differences have been cited by combatants are reasons for engaging in civil wars.  African wars have also been affected by colonial legacies and outside actors.  Secessionist movements can also be included in the family of civil wars although the unsuccessful movements usually have not generated enough casualties per annum to qualify as an official civil war.
Greed.  Modern economists such as Paul Collier have attributed civil wars to issues of greed especially in states that have rich mineral wealth that are easily lootable such as oil, diamonds, or gold (Collier 1999, p. 3).  The conflict could be caused by one group attempting to take control of a precious resource from the state but may also benefit by participating in the war.  For example, the Unita rebel group in Angola generated between $300 and $500 million per year by selling diamonds mined in the parts of Angola it controlled (Martin, location 7233).  During the cold war the United States and its allies as well as the Soviet Union were sending hundreds of millions of dollars to fund African governments and rebel movements.  In 1990 alone the US provided over $50 million to Unita in Angola to fight the communist backed government (James, p. 179).  Leaders of rebel movements that have defeated the government have also been handsomely rewarded with government jobs that allow them to enhance their personal fortunes through bribes, payoffs, misappropriation of funds, or other means of corruption and financial mismanagement. Collier also described greed as a personal motivator for members of rebel movements as rebel soldiers benefit from criminal activity, protection rackets, and predation (Collier 1999, p. 9). 
Grievance.  Rebel groups often try to appear more noble and motivated by grievances such as fighting more equitable distribution of wealth or resources, political rights, or past offenses committed by the government (Collier 1999, p. 4).  This is especially the case with autocratic and repressive governments where the people have no recourse or manner in which to address their grievances with the government.  Conflicts in Chad have been in part motivated by competition for scarce resources like good land and pasture and access, which has been manipulated by the government (ICG, 2009). 
Ethnic and Racial Conflict.  Civil wars based on ethnic and racial conflicts could in some cases also be considered as a grievance if the government has persecuted an ethnic or racial group.  Examples include the majority Hutu government massacring nearly a million Tutsis in Rwanda but also the Tutsi rebel forces that drove the Hutu génocidaires from Rwanda and took over the government in 1994 (Martin, location 6157).  The civil war in Sudan that resulted in the secession of South Sudan was often incorrectly oversimplified as a conflict between the Arabs in the north and Africans in the south (Mamdani 2009, p. 148).  Although not enough people died in the South African struggle against apartheid to be classified as a civil war, it was still a conflict between white settlers and black South Africans (Hironaka, p.3).
Political and Religious Differences.  African states gained their independence during the Cold War and were pressured by the Soviet Union and United States to choose sides with incentives of huge trade and economic packages.  Some states chose communism and espoused socialist ideals while others became democracies.  However, the US funded rebel groups that fought against communist governments and vice versa.  In Angola, communist forces from the Soviet Union and Cuba supported the government and the US funded the Unita rebel group in a civil war that lasted 41 years from 1961 to 2002 (Evans, p. 82).  The civil war in Sudan was also described as a religious war where the Muslim north was oppressing the Christian south (Alessi & Frazer, 2012).  The Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda was also fighting to establish rule by the Ten Commandments (IRIN, 2007).  The Tuareg rebels in Mali were fighting to establish an Islamic state in secular Mali (Meo, 2012). 
Combination of Reasons.  Groups involved in civil war have a variety of reasons for engaging in armed conflict that they feel are worth risking their lives.  It’s a combination of greed and grievance and other outside factors and the reasons why combatants fight can change.  As already referenced above, the civil war between Sudan and South Sudan was partially ethnic, racial, and religiously based, but also economic, as the government of Sudan in Khartoum did not share the wealth from oil exports with the south until a 2005 peace deal (Brunwasser, 2011). 
Colonial Legacies.  During the colonial period in Africa, European governments established systems that often benefitted one group over others or divided groups and created a hierarchy of groups.  For example in Rwanda the Belgians issued identity cards to Hutus and Tutsis and decided that the Tutsis were more intelligent and favored them with government jobs and education.  Establishing the Tutsis as elites and superior created an ethnic tension, which was later exploited by the Hutu government as a reason to exterminate all Tutsis (Martin, location 1860).  The Belgians also established tribal authorities in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where certain groups were designated as tribal authorities and given responsibility and the power to rule in their areas and all other groups were subject to the tribal authorities (Mamdani 2002, p. 237). 
In many cases the arbitrary colonial borders established at the Berlin Conference in 1885 split ethnic groups between countries or grouped former enemies into the same territory making democratic rule and cooperation difficult (Herbst, p. 77).  For example, President Deby in Chad is a member of Zaghawa ethnic group, which is mainly based in Sudan but due to ethnic allegiances felt obligated to support his ethnic group in rebellion against the government of Sudan (ICG, 2009).  The colonial colligation of different groups has also given rise to secessionist movements that seek to establish their own states as in the Casamance in Senegal, Cabinda in Angola, Azawad in Mali, and Katanga in DRC.  In the Casamance the people feel isolated from the government in Dakar and are physically separated from the rest of the country by Gambia (IRIN, 2004).  Cabinda is also physically separated from Angola by the DRC but provides much of the oil revenue for Angola (IRIN, 2011).  Rebels in northern Mali drove government forces from the region in April 2012 and declared the establishment of Azawad as a separate country (Meo, 2012).  Katanga attempted to secede after the DRC obtained its independence in 1960 but was forced to remain a part of the DRC after foreign military intervention (Martin, location 1200). 
Policy Options to Resolve Civil Wars.
Civil wars result in the deaths and injuries of thousands of combatants but also civilian populations that are in the line of fire or exploited and persecuted by either government or rebel forces as part of the conflict.  Civil wars also disrupt trade, markets, agriculture, and normal life where it may not be safe for civilians to go to school or work in the fields.  Marauding bands of soldiers and rebels can spread diseases including HIV/AIDS if they use rape as a weapon (Davenport & Loyle, p. 4).  Civil wars also can have spillover effects that spread into neighboring countries.  For example civil war in Liberia spread into Sierra Leone and affected parts of Cote d’Ivoire as well (Martin, location 6568).  Civil wars also cause the mass relocation of people as they move to avoid the conflict and become classified as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) or refugees if they manage to find refuge in another country.  Northern Kenya hosts several refugee camps that hold hundreds of thousands who have fled ongoing conflict in Somalia (Associated Press, 2012).  One estimate puts the cost of a civil war to the country and surrounding neighbors at $64 billion (Collier 2007, p. 31).
Negotiated Settlement.  The international community has sought to end civil wars and conflicts in order to save lives by forcing the combatants to reach a settlement at the negotiating table.  Third party actors such as the United States, France, Great Britain, and the United Nations have brought groups to negotiate the end of war through bribes, coercion, and offers of immunity.  For example in Liberia the civil war brought to an end by offering President Charles Taylor immunity for his crimes in Liberia and a “soft-landing” in exile in Nigeria (Martin, location 6794). 
Since the 1990s negotiated settlements has been the method of choice for ending civil wars but have been largely ineffective.  Monica Duffy Toft surveyed 137 civil wars between 1940 and 2007, of which 22 wars of 19% of the total ended in negotiated settlements (Toft, p. 13).  She found that these wars resulted in “significantly more deaths,” lasted longer, and are more likely to reoccur (Toft, p. 20).  Toft also discovered that wars that end in negotiated settlement are less likely than other ends of civil war resolution to develop democratic governments and had no economic advantages over wars that ended in other ways (Toft, p. 27).
Total Victory.  The second policy option in the resolution of civil wars is to allow the combatants fight the war to victory where one force subjugates the other and achieved dominance.  This would be a bloody option where many will die as the one force overwhelms and defeats the other but achieves the result of a clear winner who can rule and establish a government to run the country.  Monica Duffy Toft determined from her research that civil wars that end in victory “were nearly twice as likely to remain settled than those concluded through negotiated settlement or a cease-fire/stalemate” (Toft, p. 16).  In civil wars that flared up again, those that followed negotiated settlement were nearly twice as deadly as those that followed a victory (Toft, p. 20).  This may be in part because in achieving a victory the opposition lost significant capacity to wage war in troops and equipment whereas many times negotiated settlements are often used as rearming and reequipping periods where combatants prepare to fight again without losing significant capacity. 
Stalemate. A third possible outcome for civil wars is a stalemate or ceasefire where neither side is able to achieve an advantage and destroy the other nor able to meet at the bargaining table for a negotiated settlement.  North and South Korea fought to a stalemate in the 1950s and despite a ceasefire agreement are still technically at war (Department of State, 2012).  Somalia is an example of a stalemate where no one group has been able to assert its dominance over the country and the fighting continues.  Recently neighbors and the African Union have sent forces into Somalia to try to help the government suppress the fighting and reassert its authority but the government controls little territory outside the capital (Sheikh & Omar, 2012).  A stalemate or ceasefire can flare up again if one side believes it has acquired the capacity to gain the advantage and victory through the acquisition of new technology, weapons, or assistance or if their enemy has somehow been diminished.
Recommendations.  According to the research by Monica Duffy Toft it appears the best outcome in the long term is to allow combatants to fight to victory and to work with the victors.  This course of action may not be politically acceptable, as it requires outsiders to observe and not interfere as people are being killed and civilians flee or are caught in the crossfire.  However, foreign governments, multinational corporations, and nongovernmental agencies have also supported either the government or rebel groups in consideration of their own interests.  For example, European nations and NATO forces provided funding, weapons and air support to rebels in Libya in their overthrow of the Libyan government in 2011 (NATO, 2012).  The Cold War also saw many governments and rebel groups supported by different interests.
Rebuilding African States.
Once civil wars come to an end the rebuilding process begins.  In order for rebuilding to take place in earnest the underlying reasons for the war should be resolved.  In the case of a victory the victor can establish policies to resolve their issues.  However, if the concerns of the vanquished are also not considered malaise will persist and be manifested by disobedience, rebel actions, and a possible return to open conflict (Mkandawire, p. 208).  For a government to be successful it needs a process by which the population can address its concerns and changes can be made to avoid the renewing of bloodshed.  A negotiated settlement to end a civil war also requires the creation of a new government that incorporates both parties and addresses their issues as agreed upon in the settlement.  The military has to incorporate rebel combatants as to not give the government an advantage if there was a return to open conflict.  An important part of standing down the rebel army is also to provide a process of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) so the rebel soldiers have an incentive to stop fighting  (Walter, p. 134.)  Outside agents can be a huge boost for the rebuilding of the state as they can provide security to guarantee a negotiated settlement as with the UN in Liberia where 15,000 troops have maintained a general peace (Harris, p. 377).  Foreign donors and NGOs can also assist with rebuilding institutions and infrastructure in order to allow the state to resume function and project authority throughout its territory. 
Just as integration of the government and military are key for achieving unity, integration amongst the population is also vital.  Collier discovered that “social fractionalization as a combination of ethnic and religious divisions… significantly reduces the risk of conflict,” creating societies that are “safer than homogenous societies” (Collier 1999, p. 6).  The partitioning of a country and separation by groups can accentuate differences, increase violence, and generate new conflicts as people are moved against their will (Kaufmann, p. 123).  Leaders of the partitioned area of a homogeneous group would also have incentive to accentuate the differences from the others, leading to intolerance, rhetoric, and conditions that could lead to a renewed conflict.  The partition of Sudan and the creation of the new state of South Sudan has not solved the conflict and fighting continues between the two countries (Alessi & Frazer, 2012).
Other things essential for the creation of an ideal government are representative elections, a constitution and body of laws that protects the rights of the minority, the establishment of the rule of law, transparency, and accountability.  Checks and balances in the government that allow for the curbing of powers and removal of persons who violate the rules is also critical to avoid rise of an autocratic government.  Civilian control of the government and values training for the military will also diminish the possibility for the military to state a coup and commit abuses against the civilian population.  Economic prosperity and sharing of the wealth among the population will also decrease many of the grievances that are accentuated by poverty.  The development of a civil society and institutions not linked to the government also provides space for discourse, development of the community, and support networks that can decrease the need for government assistance and programs.  Reconciliation and transitive justice are also important to integrate former combatants and communities in order to allow the country to move on. 
Summary.  Civil wars caused by greed, grievance, intergroup tensions, and exploitations by the government have resulted in the deaths of millions across the African continent.  Research into the outcomes of civil wars have revealed that wars ended in victory by one group has resulted in fewer deaths, greater stability, and a reduced likelihood of renewed conflict as compared to negotiated settlements.  Once war has come to an end it is important to integrate the government, military, and civilian population and restore institutions and infrastructure to allow the country and society to function again.  A safety release valve or method of redress with the government is also essential to allow the people to address their concerns and effectuate change without having to resort to violence.