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The East African : April 28th 2014
The EastAfrican OUTLOOK APRIL 26 - MAY 2, 2014 inte≥vention missions The impartiality dilemma Beyond Congo, UN interven- tionism is facing an “impartiality” dilemma. The role of the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has caused friction with the leaders in Juba, who are trying to quell an insurgency led by the former vice-president Riek Machar. Following the outbreak of vio- lence in December 2013, the UN Security Council approved with unprecedented speed a request by Secretary-General Ban Kimoon to boost the strength of the UNMISS to 12,500 troops and 1,323 police, up from 7,000 troops and 900 police. The perception of the lack of impartiality of the UN force by Juba has created acrimony. In January, South Sudan president Salva Kiir accused the UN peacekeeping mission of acting like a “parallel government” in his country. “We did not know that when the UNMISS was brought to South Sudan, they were brought as a parallel government with the government in South Sudan,” said President Kiir, adding, “If that is the position of Ban Ki-moon, he should make it clear that he wants the UN to take over South Sudan.” Juba also accused the UN of hiding rebels and guns in their camps. Although the UN denied the charge, its impartiality is increasingly being questioned. Proverbial corner It did not help matters that In recent decades, the conti- nent, through the AU, has grown increasingly assertive of its independence vis-a-vis former colonial powers and the West. In this regard, Mr Grant’s rejoicing over the “new era of peacekeeping” may come through in some circles as a hubristic sanctioning of “interference” in African affairs. How intervention brigades are composed is likely to exacerbate rather than reduce the conflict. For instance, the involvement of South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania, all members of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), tended to exclude key states in the Great Lakes region who were involved in the peace process. Potentially, it tended to pit Southern African countries against East African countries, who had been spearheading the Congo peace process in Kampala. While the success of the UN brigade forced the M23 back to the negotiation table, it also encouraged the Congolese army, FARDC, and the Congolese government delegation to walk out of the Kampala talks to pursue victory through the barrel of the gun rather than at the negotiation table. in March, UN trucks that were supposedly carrying food were found to be carrying weapons and blankets that Juba suspected to be destined for the rebels. But the UN appears to be caught in the proverbial corner where it is damned if it pursues its new militaristic approach and damned if it does not. In neighbouring Sudan, the UN finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place in regard to its largely ineffectual peacekeeping in the Darfur region. A special investigative report The bigger danger is that when the UN becomes a combatant it loses its unique role of the impartial outsider.” Jeffrey Laurenti, Century Foundation published on April 7, by the influential Foreign Policy magazine charged that the UN’s top managers knew that the 20,000 peacekeepers sent into Sudan’s Darfur region to protect the region’s civilians “just stood watching.” Along the same lines, on April 10, a former UN spokesperson, Aicha el-Basri, accused the UN bureaucracy at the highest level of perpetrating a “web of lies” and “conspiracy of silence” about the failure of its mission in the region to protect civilians. By contrast, in Somalia the UN-sanctioned African Union peacekeeping force (Amisom) made up mainly troops from Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundia, Djibouti and Sierra Leone, has used force in fighting the Al Qaida-linked Al Shabaab Is- lamist group inside Somalia. Even there, the UN has in- curred the anger of some regional actors. Since the capture of the strategic port of Kismayu by Kenyan forces and the defeat of Al-Shabaab in Mogadishu, the UN and the West were too quick to declare Somali’s “transition” from conflict to “post-conflict reconstruction.” Against the background of this euphoria of a “liberated Somalia,” on June 8, 2013, the UN dispatched Nicholas Kay, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, to Mogadishu where he held a meeting with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The same month, the EU prematurely hosted its high-profile conference dubbed “A New Deal for Somalia.” Fight behind the Africans But the UN has come to real- ise that the Al Shabaab threat is still very much alive. This was demonstrated by the September 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. Mr Kay has said that Al Shabaab remains “a determined, ruthless enemy with quite a lot of capability” despite its recent loss of territory. Following a chain of attacks by the Islamist insurgents, the UN has indicated that it may withdraw its staff from the country. Mr Kay has rightly warned that: “If we make a mistake in our security presence and posture, and suffer a significant attack, particularly on the UN, this is likely to mean to us withdrawing from Somalia.” Under these circumstances, the UN’s best chance for success in peacekeeping in Africa is to work behind the African peacekeepers to avoid recourse to militarism. The framework of such part- nerships is already provided for by the 2008 Report of the African Union-United Nations panel on modalities for support to African Union peacekeeping operations (the Prodi Report) headed by the former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi. The report also provides use- ful lessons on how the UN and Africa can work together on conflict prevention, peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction. As Darfur and Somalia have shown, UN interventionism in Africa is likely to deepen conflicts. And as Amisom reveals, UN-backed African missions have proved cost-effective with little risk of residual nationalism and radical Islamism, and have staying power in protracted conflicts. Prof Peter Kagwanja is the chief executive of the Africa Policy Institute. Ms Laureen Wesonga is a policy analyst with the Institute. This article is part of the Institute’s Citizen Security Project. 33 A Kenyan policeman guards arms recovered from civilians. Pic: File Af≥ica yet to ≥atify a≥ms cont≥ol t≥eaty By KEVIN J KELLEY Special Correspondent MANY AFRICAN states have failed to ratify an international arms trade treaty that most of them endorsed a year ago, a US State Department official said last week. Only two African coun- tries, Mali and Nigeria, have so far ratified the agreement to establish binding standards for cross-border transfer of weapons such as automatic rifles and grenades. The treaty, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on a vote of 154 countries in favour, three against and 23 abstentions, is intended to prevent arms from falling into the hands of criminals and terrorists. Africa has much to gain from effective implementation of the pact, said Thomas Countryman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation. He said that incidents of terrorism are becoming more common in Africa. Worldwide, armed violence kills some 520,000 people a year while “millions more live in fear of rape, assault and displacement caused by weapons getting into the wrong hands,” said Anna Macdonald of the Control Arms Coalition, an advocacy group that lobbied for adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty. Mr Countryman pointed out that the weapons being used in Africa come mainly from sources inside the continent. “Legacy weapons” — those used in earlier conflicts in Africa — account for many of the arms employed in current wars in Africa, he said. Weapons sold by or rented from “corrupt police” are another leading source, along with arms transferred into battle zones by the governments of neighbouring African countries. “There needs to be a recognition by African states that the source of weapons is not just illicit arms dealers 5,000 miles away,” the assistant secretary said. “Sometimes it is another African government just across the border.” Asked to specify the points of origin for arms used in current African conflicts, Mr Countryman said the sources differ for various wars. He noted in the case of Somalia that many weapons have come from Eastern Europe via Yemen. In the Great Lakes region, “neighbouring governments” are major sources of guns. Much of the debate at the UN over the treaty’s provisions centred on the extent of controls to be applied to arms exporters, Mr Countryman said. But effective import controls are as important and must be adopted by African governments if the treaty is to be effective, he added. Can’t come into force Mali and Nigeria are among 31 countries in the world to have ratified the Arms Trade Treaty. It cannot come into force until it is ratified by at least 50 states. Kenya is a conspicuous case of a country that has failed to give substance to its verbal commitment to curbing the illicit transfer of weapons. Along with five other countries, Kenya sponsored a UN resolution in 2006 that served as the basis for long-running negotiations on the treaty. Arms control advocates say an inability to enforce the treaty’s provisions underlies many African states’ reluctance to ratify it. Raymond Gilpin, dean of the Washington-based African Centre for Strategic Studies, said that the laws of fewer than half of African countries require the basic step of marking weapons in the hands of police and national militaries in order to make them easier to track.
April 21st 2014
May 5th 2014