CategoryConflict economies

The (LRA) conflict: Beyond the LRA lobby & the hunt for Kony… and towards civilian protection – By Kristof Titeca

On the 28th of February this year, an unfortunate incident happened in Garamba National Park, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)-affected area in North-Eastern Congo. A group of Congolese soldiers went on patrol, in order to track LRA-elements; while at the same time a group of (armed) park rangers was patrolling the park. In an area where civilians were present, both groups noticed each other, and both groups considered the other group to be the LRA. The shooting between the two groups, left one Congolese soldier and one civilian dead, and three soldiers and one civilian wounded. The following day, the park rangers were actually attacked by the LRA in the same area, but managed to push them away after heavy fighting. A park ranger later died of his injuries.  At least, all of this was the official version of the events, which was communicated by the Congolese soldiers involved.  Reports from local civil society groups and international military actors revealed that the above group of soldiers was poaching in the park: they had killed 2 hippopotamus, and had asked civilians to help them cutting and transporting the animals. The park rangers had noticed them, and fighting erupted, which resulted in the above injuries and killings. In retaliation, the soldiers had attacked the park rangers the next day. They also threatened to attack any park ranger leaving the park, or passing through their area. This tense situation also had a strong effect on civilian life: not only were civilians wounded through the above attacks; civil society actors complained that markets could no longer take place, as civilians feared more violence and attacks by the soldiers, who were blaming civilians for the park rangers’ attacks.

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The (LRA) conflict: Beyond the LRA lobby & the hunt for Kony… and towards civilian protection – By Kristof Titeca

On the 28th of February this year, an unfortunate incident happened in Garamba National Park, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)-affected area in North-Eastern Congo. A group of Congolese soldiers went on patrol, in order to track LRA-elements; while at the same time a group of (armed) park rangers was patrolling the park. In an area where civilians were present, both groups noticed each other, and both groups considered the other group to be the LRA. The shooting between the two groups, left one Congolese soldier and one civilian dead, and three soldiers and one civilian wounded. The following day, the park rangers were actually attacked by the LRA in the same area, but managed to push them away after heavy fighting. A park ranger later died of his injuries.  At least, all of this was the official version of the events, which was communicated by the Congolese soldiers involved.  Reports from local civil society groups and international military actors revealed that the above group of soldiers was poaching in the park: they had killed 2 hippopotamus, and had asked civilians to help them cutting and transporting the animals. The park rangers had noticed them, and fighting erupted, which resulted in the above injuries and killings. In retaliation, the soldiers had attacked the park rangers the next day. They also threatened to attack any park ranger leaving the park, or passing through their area. This tense situation also had a strong effect on civilian life: not only were civilians wounded through the above attacks; civil society actors complained that markets could no longer take place, as civilians feared more violence and attacks by the soldiers, who were blaming civilians for the park rangers’ attacks.

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The Malian crisis: causes, consequences, responses by Morten Bøås and Mats Utas

Even if Northern Mali has been in the hands of armed Salafist forces since spring 2012, it has not yet morphed into another ‘Afghanistan’. The Salafist forces, may have taken the name of al-Qaeda, but they are of a different origin and nature than the one in Afghanistan. The danger is, however, that if the international response to Mali is too heavy-handed, it may create a dynamic that pushes the conflict into a similar pattern like the one in Afghanistan.

On January 11, 2013, French airplanes attacked strongholds of Islamist rebels in the north of Mali. Soon thereafter land troops followed in a quick sweeping raid, clearing most of rebel controlled areas. French forces, assisted by several thousand troops from Chad and Niger, thereby efficiently ended the offensive of Islamist rebels and gained nominal control over the cities of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu. This was, however, the easy part.

The Islamists have not completely lost the battle for northern Mali. They still have the capacity to resist and even strike inside towns formally under French control. As France is scaling down its number of troops from 4,000 to 1,000 by the end of the year, controlling this vast territory will prove even more difficult for the remaining French force and the joint ECOWAS/AU mission and the Malian army.

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Mali: Towards a neo-trusteeship? (by Yvan Guichaoua)

This is the second part of a two-part analysis of the present situation in Mali. Part I, entitled “Mali: the fallacy of ungoverned space” is available here.

Preventing the fall of Bamako into Islamist hands is the official trigger of the French military campaign in Mali, which kicked off on January 11th and soon drove out Islamist forces from northern Mali main cities. Whether the Islamists really had the intention to seize Bamako is unclear. Taking control of Sevare and its strategic airport, 600 km northeast of the capital, might have been their main goal. But at the same time, French security sources argue, a coup in Bamako was being fomented by ex-junta affiliates, meant to ‘connect’ with the Islamists’ offensive southward conducted by Ansar Eddine. Hence the immediacy of France’s heavy-handed response. It is premature to make this narrative historical truth but this is a plausible one.

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Mali: Towards a neo-trusteeship? (by Yvan Guichaoua)

This is the second part of a two-part analysis of the present situation in Mali. Part I, entitled “Mali: the fallacy of ungoverned space” is available here.

Preventing the fall of Bamako into Islamist hands is the official trigger of the French military campaign in Mali, which kicked off on January 11th and soon drove out Islamist forces from northern Mali main cities. Whether the Islamists really had the intention to seize Bamako is unclear. Taking control of Sevare and its strategic airport, 600 km northeast of the capital, might have been their main goal. But at the same time, French security sources argue, a coup in Bamako was being fomented by ex-junta affiliates, meant to ‘connect’ with the Islamists’ offensive southward conducted by Ansar Eddine. Hence the immediacy of France’s heavy-handed response. It is premature to make this narrative historical truth but this is a plausible one.

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The best recipe for protracted warfare in Mali is aerial bombing and rushed deployment of peacekeeping forces

Either you act quick before too much damage is done, or you have patience and try all avenues for peaceful dialogue.

I have tried to make sense of the long delayed international approving of PKO deployment to the Mali crisis as a sign of maturity in international UN and diplomatic circles; without knowing details I have interpreted the situation as peace negotiations must have been at least moderately successful. But now with the French bombing northern Mali I can only conclude that it is either too late, or too soon.

Although the sudden attacks must have been planned well ahead, something that speaks well with the rapid deployment of West African peacekeepers (a mission that would until a few days ago not happen before well into the autumn this year), the question is now what will happen. France will probably continue bombing rebel bases in the north, but will not employ soldiers in the region, except for a few in the Malian capital Bamako. European countries have promised to train both Malian forces and West African peacekeepers, but this will hardly affect the outcome of the crisis. We may get some indications what will come in the future by looking at past West African PKOs and if we look at the chiefly Nigerian missions in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the 90s it is not a pretty picture. Although ECOMOG missions to the two countries limited the intensity of the conflicts they clearly also prolonged them. In both countries the peacekeepers did not only fail to be neutral but very soon after their arrival they became part of the war economy, trading in natural resources, loot and arms. A West African mission in Mali will also have Nigerian forces as its backbone (and I am not saying that Nigerian forces are the only ones with problems or even those with most). One should be fair to say that the Nigerian army has developed positively over the past ten years or so, but be equally realistic: a West African PKO will become part of the conflict and individual forces will try to benefit economically from their presence – where the most troubling perspective would be involvement in the trans-Saharan drugs trade. Ultimately, however, if they will be successful or not depends on their ability to navigate a dry, sandy environment something they are not familiar with.

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Why History Repeats Itself in Eastern DR Congo (guest post by Timothy Raeymaekers)

Observers often agree that ‘history repeats itself’[1] in Eastern Congo – from the slavery conditions imposed by Belgian King Leopold over Mobutu’s predatory state, to today’s armed militias. The reason why these ghosts come haunting Congo’s present is primarily related to unending competition over the ‘right to protect’ unfree populations; under the circumstances, this protection rather refers to a double-edged commodity that means extortion for most and a negotiated form of peace for some. The existence of such regionalized markets for protection in Congo’s eastern borderlands results in a situation whereby violent accumulation often outlives ideal statehood: soldiers, armed rebels, police and ‘non-state’ authorities fight for the right to exploit local communities and accumulate capital through extra-economic means. One the one hand, this pushes people further into poverty and undermines their efforts to earn a living; on the other, it leads to more stationary forms of predation as a result of post-war integration of such protection rackets into national state government.

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Military intervention brings no simple solution to conflict in Mali (guest post by Olli Teirilä)

The latest conflict in Mali’s troubled history is coming to a breakpoint, or at least some kind of a turning point. While in the north of the country the Tuareg rebels continue their recently accelerated fighting against the Islamists of MUJAO, AQMI and the new-found Malian Ansar al-Sharia, in New York the United Nations’ Security Council is still weighing the details and options of an ECOWAS led military intervention.

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Congo crisis shows bankruptcy international military policies (guest post by Maria Eriksson Baaz and Judith Verweijen)

There is undoubtedly a need for a political solution to the ongoing Congo crisis, which recently reached new depths with the fall of Goma. Yet viable solutions to intricate, multi-layered conflict dynamics are difficult to reach when one party, in this case the Congolese Government, is brought to its knees following humiliating military defeats. The probability of a sustainable compromise that will reduce violence in the Kivus is difficult to envisage in the face of an insurgency led by skilled military entrepreneurs, with crucial military and diplomatic backing from neighbouring countries.  Certainly, the M23 has advanced some legitimate claims that are shared by both the Tutsi minority they claim to represent and wider layers of the population tired of the Kabila’s Government’s inept governance. However, it is unlikely that its leaders, given their current military advantage, will accept any deal which does not reward their ambitions. In sum, the rebel take-over of Goma has decreased the possibility to break with a vicious cycle  in which insurgent violence is time and again politically rewarded. Continue reading

Harvesting the rotten fruits of repeated rebel military integration: some reflections on the new rebellion in eastern DRC. Guest post by Maria Eriksson Baaz and Judith Verweijen

In recent months, we have seen renewed large-scale fighting and a new wave of displaced in the Kivu provinces of eastern DRC. The current upheaval started in April, when an important faction of the former CNDP rebel group, who had integrated into the Congolese military (FARDC) in 2009, deserted and launched a new rebellion in North Kivu. This group took the name of “M23” after the peace accord between the CNDP and the DR Government signed on March 23 2009. In various offensives over the last months, the M23 have occupied substantial parts of Rutshuru territory, revealing once more the operational weaknesses of the military from which they defected. Continue reading

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