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
August 3, 2015 Africa/Global: Climate Change Roundup
Coal is the most damaging of fossil fuels, both for human health and
for the planet. Although it still dominates in some countries,
including South Africa, the case against coal is rapidly gaining
ground around the world. On business grounds as well, coal is losing
its competitive advantage. 2015, many are suggesting, may be the
beginning of the end for coal.
July 29, 2015 USA/Africa: Obama Visit Roundup
In analyzing high-profile presidential visits, it is difficult to
sort out symbolism from substance in the sheer volume of news
coverage and commentary. And despite the flurry of announcement of
"deals" at each stop, the main lines of policy are rarely altered
and often reflect continuity not only within one presidential
administration but also from one administration to another. The
content of private conversations of lower-level officials as well as
others involved in the visits may be just as significant as the
formal meetings of presidents. Even more significant may be the
issues not discussed because common assumptions go unquestioned on
July 21, 2015 Africa/Global: "Stop The Bleeding"
With the exception of inclusion of a statement promising to address
"illicit financial flows," the outcome document of the Financing for
Development conference in Addis Ababa (July 13-16) broke little new
ground. Significantly, rich countries vetoed action on a greater
role for the United Nations in setting international tax standards,
preserving that role for the club of the OECD countries dominated by
the United States and Europe. But civil society momentum for more
significant action is continuing to grow, as was marked by the
launch of the "Stop The Bleeding" campaign at a continent-wide
gathering in Nairobi in June.
July 14, 2015 Burundi: Diplomacy Falling Short
As Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni travels to Burundi for yet
another attempt to mediate in the crisis caused by the determination
of President Pierre Nkurunziza to seek a third term in the elections
now scheduled for July 21, it is clear that international diplomatic
efforts are still failing to reverse increasing repression and
escalation of violence. Despite multiple mediators and international
declarations of concern, most recently calling for disarmament of
the pro-government militias and commitment to a government of
national unity, the incumbent president has good reason to conclude
that he can continue to resist the pleas of his international
critics as well as to repress internal opposition.
by date | by place | by topic
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?
April 22, 2015
South Africa: Saying No to Xenophobia
April 14, 2015
Europe/Africa: Deaths at Sea
April 8, 2015
Garissa: Not Just Numbers
March 30, 2015
South Africa: Energy Futures Contested