At the 27th African Union Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda, member states adopted a new funding model. The proposal by Dr Donald Kaberuka to institute an import levy of 0,2% on ‘eligible’ imports’ is widely hailed as a historic step forward for the organization and its ambitions to become independent and self-reliant. If implemented as expected, the Kaberuka model will fund the AU general budget and its programmes and is expected to raise approximately USD 1,2 billion beginning in 2017. Starting in 2017, each of the continent’s regions have committed to paying USD 65 m into the AU Peace Fund, which will enable Africa to fund 25% of the costs of AU peace operations. While this decision is imperative, I would like in this article to reflect on some of the broader challenges and trends in Africa’s security governance.
Not long ago Mali was considered a beacon of democracy in West Africa. Then came a military coup, out of the blue to many outsiders, and a rapid mobilization of several armed groups, more or less radical in religious view, that quickly moved to capture much of the north and even started to threaten the capital Bamako. Then came the French to the rescue of the south and somewhat awkwardly also to the rescue of a government the military junta had put in place. France together with forces from Chad and Niger quickly forced the armed groups to retreat into the vast deserts of the north. In the blink of an eye came elections and transition to a civilian democratically elected government. Seldom has a conflict scenario containing such national and regional complexity become so compressed in time. And here we are today at some kind of ground zero.
Last week the headlines of various international media, including the BBC, Reuters and Jeune Afrique, featured the story of an ultimatum issued by the UN peace keeping force in the DR Congo (MONUSCO) over allegations of mass rape committed by the Congolese army (FARDC) in the town of Minova in November 2012. The alleged rapes were committed by fleeing/retreating FARDC troops in the wake of the M23 rebel advance and take-over of Goma. Unless “swift legal action” is taken by the end of March, MONUSCO says, it will stop working with the two battalions identified as harboring the perpetrators of rape.
This is the first part of a two-part analysis of the present situation in Mali. Part II, entitled “Mali: toward a neo-trusteeship?” will explore the responses to Mali’s crisis.
Repeatedly in the past weeks, UK Prime Minister David Cameron called northern Mali an ‘ungoverned space’, indulging in the classic intellectual shortcut used by those looking for easy explanations of the territorial entrenchment of irregular armed groups, including Al Qaeda-affiliated ones, in Africa and beyond. Such an assumption leads to dangerous misconceptions of political and social realities of Mali.
Crucially, it suggests that terrorists have established their stronghold in a political vacuum. The implication is that those who have shaped the political environment leading to the resumption of a separatist Tuareg insurgency in January 2012 followed by its replacement by a coalition of Al Qaeda affiliated groups and Salafist Tuareg, are automatically exonerated from their responsibility in Mali’s present state of affairs.
TV host from a distant news channel: How is it in Mali now that the War is over, Marc-Andre…. Buoy-z-vert?
The last weeks have been a marathon for me where I have multiplied media intervention with hosts from all over the world, some not understanding a word of what I was trying to say.
This brought me to short answers to complex questions in the like of:
“The War in Mali occurs in one of the harshest, poorest and most isolated place in the world. Beyond the complexity of the terrain, there are also numerous actors with centuries of history behind. “
We, journalists, cannot tell you more than that. We need to get stories before our editorial staff will call us back to tell us that we cost too much or that we need to move to the next emergency. And the War in Mali has not been easy for us journalists. There have been a lot of complains about the media handling and military boycott at the beginning of the crisis (see: http://www.cpj.org/security/2013/01/in-mali-a-war-without-images-and-without-facts.php).
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.
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