Talking Points on Peace and Security
Despite the image of a conflict-ridden continent, most African countries are at peace. They are afflicted not by war and warlords but by the less-visible kinds of "everyday" structural violence that prevail around the world: violence against women or migrants, for example, as well as abuses in police and prison systems, street crime that disproportionately affects the poor, or, more generally, systematic inequalities in access to basic social rights.
African civil conflicts, where they are occurring, are most often interpreted in terms of simplistic narratives applied to the entire continent. But each country is distinct. When there is open war, as in Somalia, South Sudan, northeastern Nigeria, or the Central African Republic, the causes are complex. Using explanations such as "age-old hostilities" or "tribalism" is wrong. But so is seeing external powers such as the United States or France as the primary contributors to violence, although colonial and Cold War histories, as well as current arms sales, have decisively influenced the context of today's conflicts.
In responding to internal conflict, terrorism, and criminal violence,
leaders in Africa and around the world most often rely on militarized
responses that are ineffective and abusive of human rights. Although
leaders give lip service to addressing the root causes, it is
standard formulas of repression and funding for security forces that
take priority in practice.
In those countries where violent Islamic extremism is present,
standard global counter-terrorism strategies are almost certain to
further inflame the situation. "Wars" on drugs and crime, as well as
higher walls and deportations against migrants and refugees, have
likewise been consistently ineffective and counterproductive,
producing more rather than less violence.
Security forces, both of African governments and of multilateral organizations such as the African Union and the United Nations, are needed to protect civilians from violence carried out by non-state actors. But peacekeeping actions are often underfunded, misdirected, or both. The responsibility for funding and accountable management of such missions should be global as well as regional and national.
People internally displaced by conflict in South Sudan find only
vulnerable shelter - UN Photo/Isaac Billy
There are no simple or "one-size-fits-all" solutions to violence and terrorism. Greater efforts are needed to address long-term causes and exercise preventive diplomacy. But people affected by conflict also need immediate help, both humanitarian assistance and accountable, adequately funded protection from violence.
Recent bulletins on peace and security
September 30, 2015 Africa/Global: Climate Action Beyond Paris
"Temperatures over subtropical southern Africa have risen at more
than twice the global rate over the last five decades." - CSIR,
South Africa. *** "To date, 436 institutions and 2,040 individuals
across 43 countries and representing $2.6 trillion in assets have
committed to divest from fossil fuel companies." - Arabella
Advisors, USA. *** "Kenya is emerging as a hotspot for off-grid solar
power. A 2014 study by M-KOPA Solar and InterMedia shows that 14 per
cent of the surveyed population use solar as their primary lighting
and charging source." - The Nation, Kenya
September 21, 2015 Africa: Internet Usage Rising Rapidly
The ways in which disruptive technologies change the world are often
unpredictable, and how much the results are positive or negative can
be debated. But there is no doubt that they give scope for human
creativity to have greater impact, for both good and evil. Internet
growth, giving new opportunities for African
creativity, has already changed Africa significantly. And, notes
Russell Southwood of the leading industry newsletter Balancing Act
Africa, further changes are coming rapidly.
September 14, 2015 West Africa: Tax Giveaway Follies
"Our research shows that three countries alone – Ghana, Nigeria and
Senegal – are losing up to $5.8 billion a year. If the rest of
ECOWAS lost revenues at similar percentages of their GDP, total
revenue losses among the 15 ECOWAS states would amount to $9.6
billion a year [due to tax incentives offered to foreign
companies]." - Action Aid and Tax Justice Network Africa
September 8, 2015 Mozambique/Africa: "The Eloquent Peasant"
The juxtaposition of a current trial for freedom of expression in
Mozambique with a classic ancient Egyptian poem may seem incongruous
at first glance. One trial currently awaiting a verdict in Maputo
includes a Mozambican economist and two Mozambican journalists [with
the trial of one journalist postponed because of health], while the
other features a peasant seeking redress from the country's rulers
for wrongs inflicted by a landowner. But the poem was cited in his
own defense by economist Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco, in a one-day
trial in Maputo on August 31.
by date | by place | by topic
August 3, 2015
Africa/Global: Climate Change Roundup
July 29, 2015
USA/Africa: Obama Visit Roundup
July 21, 2015
Africa/Global: "Stop The Bleeding"
July 14, 2015
Burundi: Diplomacy Falling Short
July 6, 2015
Africa/Global: People's Test on Climate
June 30, 2015
South Africa: Marikana Perspectives, 2
June 30, 2015
South Africa: Marikana Perspectives, 1
June 22, 2015
Africa: AIDS Struggle Continues
June 15, 2015
Eritrea: "Rule of Fear, Not Law"
June 2, 2015
Africa/Global: Capital Flows in Context
June 2, 2015
Africa/Global: Tax Justice & Inequality
May 25, 2015
Africa/Global: Africa, Race, and World Order
May 18, 2015
Africa/Global: Decarbonizing Development?
May 11, 2015
West Africa: Ebola Down But Not Out
May 5, 2015
Africa/Global: Renewables Gaining Ground
April 27, 2015
Burundi: On the Brink?