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ESSAY / Emilija Žebrauskaitė
While the Western Westphalian State – and, consequently, the Western legal system – became the default in most parts of the world, Africa with its traditional ethics and customs has a lot to offer. Although the positive legalism is still embraced, there is a tendency of looking at the indigenous traditions for the inspiration of the system that would be a better fit in an African setting. Ubuntu ethics has a lot to offer and can be considered a basis for all traditional institutions in Africa. A great example of Ubuntu in action is the African Traditional Justice System which embraces the Ubuntu values as its basis. This article will provide a conceptualization of Ubuntu philosophy and will analyse its applications in the real-world scenarios through the case of Gacaca trials in Rwanda.
Firstly, this essay will define Ubuntu: its main tenants, how Ubuntu compares with other philosophical and ethical traditions, and the main criticism of Ubuntu ethics. Secondly, the application of Ubuntu ethics through African Indigenous Justice Systems will be covered, naming the features of Ubuntu that can be seen in the application of justice in the African setting, discussing the peace vs. justice debate and why one value is emphasized more than another in AIJS, and how the traditional justice in Africa differs from the Western one.
Lastly, through the case study of Gacaca trials in post-genocide Rwanda, this essay seeks to demonstrate that the application of the traditional justice in the post-genocide society did what the Western legalistic system failed to do – it provided a more efficient way to distribute justice and made the healing of the wounds inflicted by the genocide easier by allowing the community to actively participate in the judicial decision-making process.
It is the opinion of this article that while the African Traditional Justice System has it’s share of problems when applied in modern-day Africa, as the continent is embedded into the reality of the Westphalian state, each state being a part of the global international order, the Western model of justice is eroding the autonomy of the community which is a cornerstone of African society. However, the values of Ubuntu ethics persist, providing a strong basis for traditional African institutions.
Conceptualization of Ubuntu
The word Ubuntu derives from the Bantu language group spoken widely across sub-Saharan Africa. It can be defined as “A quality that includes the essential human virtues; compassion and humanity” (Lexico, n.d.) and, according to Mugumbate and Nyanguru, is a homogenizing concept, a “backbone of African spirituality” in African ontology (2013). “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” – a Zulu phrase meaning “a person is a person through other persons” is one of the widely spread interpretations of Ubuntu.
In comparison with non-African philosophical thoughts, there can be found similarities between Ubuntu and the traditional Chinese as well as Western ethics, but when it comes to the modern Western way of thought, the contrast is striking. According to Lutz (2009), Confucian ethics, just like Ubuntu ethics, view the institution of family as a central building block of society. An Aristotelian tradition which prevailed in the Western world until Enlightenment had some characteristics similar to Ubuntu as well, namely the idea of Aristoteles that human being is a social being and can only reach his true potential through the community (Aristoteles, 350 B.C.E.). However, Tomas Hobbes had an opposite idea of human nature, claiming that the natural condition of man is solidarity (Hobbes, 1651). The values that still prevail in Ubuntu ethics, therefore, are rarely seen in modern liberal thought that prevails in the Western World and in the international order in general. According to Lutz (2009) “Reconciling self-realization and communalism is important because it solves the problem of moral motivation” which Western modern ethics have a hard time to answer. It can be argued, therefore, that Ubuntu has a lot to offer to the global ethical thought, especially in the world in which the Western ideas of individualism prevail and the values of community and collectivism are often forgotten.
However, while Ubuntu carries values that can contribute to global ethics, as a philosophical current it is heavily criticised. According to Metz (2011), there are three main reasons why Ubuntu receives criticism: firstly, it is considered vague as a philosophical thought and does not have a solid framework; secondly, it is feared that due to its collectivist orientation there is a danger of sacrificing individual freedoms for the sake of society; and lastly, it is thought that Ubuntu philosophy is applicable and useful only in traditional, but not modern society.
When it comes to the reproach about the vagueness of Ubuntu as a philosophical thought, Thaddeus Metz examines six theoretical interpretations of the concept of Ubuntu:
U1: An action is right just insofar as it respects a person’s dignity; an act is wrong to the extent that it degrades humanity.
U2: An action is right just insofar as it promotes the well-being of others; an act is wrong to the extent that it fails to enhance the welfare of one’s fellows.
U3: An action is right just insofar as it promotes the well-being of others without violating their rights; an act is wrong to the extent that it either violates rights or fails to enhance the welfare of one’s fellows without violating rights.
U4: An action is right just insofar as it positively relates to others and thereby realizes oneself; an act is wrong to the extent that it does not perfect one’s valuable nature as a social being.
U5: An action is right just insofar as it is in solidarity with groups whose survival is threatened; an act is wrong to the extent that it fails to support a vulnerable community.
U6: An action is right just insofar as it produces harmony and reduces discord; an act is wrong to the extent that it fails to develop community (Metz, 2007).
While arguing that the concept U4 is the most accepted in literature, Matz himself argues in favour of the concept U6 as the basis of the ethics is rooted not in the subject, but in the object (Metz, 2007).
The fear that Ubuntu tenants make people submissive to authority and collective goals, giving them a very strong identity that might result in violence against other groups originates, according to Lutz (2009), from a faulty understanding of Ubuntu. Even though the tribalism is pretty common in the African setting, it does not derive from the tenants of Ubuntu, but a corrupted idea of this ethical philosophy. Further criticism on the idea that collectivism might interfere with individual rights or liberties can also be denied quoting Lutz, who said that “Ethical theories that tell us we must choose between egoism and altruism, between self-love and love of others, between prudence and morality, or one’s good and the common good are individualistic ethical theories” and therefore have nothing in common with ideas of Ubuntu, which, unlike the individualistic theories, reconciles the common and personal good and goals.
The third objection, namely the question of whether Ubuntu ethics remain useful in the modern society which functions according to the Westphalian State model is challenged by Metz (2011). While it is true that Ubuntu developed in a traditional setting in which the value of human beings was based on the amount of communal life a human has lived (explaining the respect for the elders and the ancestors in African setting), a variant concept of dignity that in no way can be applied in a modern setting, there are still valuable ethical norms that can be thought by Ubuntu. Metz (2011) provides a concept of human dignity based on Ubuntu ideas, which, as he argues, can contribute to ethics in the modern African setting: “individuals have dignity insofar as they have communal nature, that is, the inherent capacity to exhibit identity and solidarity with others.”
The Ubuntu ethics in African Indigenous Justice System
The institutionalisation and centralisation of power in the hands of the Westphalian State takes away the power from the communities which are central to the lifestyle in Africa. However, the communal values have arguably persisted and continue to directly oppose the centralisation. While the Westphalian State model seems to be functioning in the West, there are many good reasons to believe that Africa must look for inspiration in local traditions and customs (Malisa & Nhengeze, 2018). Taking into consideration the Ubuntu values, it is not difficult to understand why institutionalisation has generally not been very successful in African setting (Mugumbate & Nyanguru, 2013), as a place where the community is morally obliged to take care of its members, there is little space for alienated institutions.
Generally, two justice systems are operating alongside each other in many African societies: the state-administered justice system and the African Indigenous Justice System (AIJS). According to Elechi, Morris & Schauer, the litigants can choose between the state tribunal and AIJS, and can apply to be judged by the state if they do not agree with the sentence of the AIJS (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). However, Ubuntu values emphasise the concept of reconciliation: “African political philosophy responds easily and organically to the demands for the reconciliation as a means of restoring the equilibrium of the flow of life when its disturbed” (Nabudere, 2005). As the national court interventions often disharmonize the community by applying the “winner takes it all” approach, and are sometimes considered to be corrupt, there is a strong tendency for the communities to insist on bringing the offender to the AIJS tribunal (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010).
African Indigenous Justice System is a great example of Ubuntu values in action. The system operates on the cultural norm that important decision should be reached by consensus of the whole group as opposed to the majority opinion. AIJS is characterised by features such as the focus on the effects the offence had on victims and the community, the involvement of the litigants in the active definition of harms and the resolution of the trial, the localisation and decentralisation of authority, the importance of the restoration of harm, the property or relationship, the understanding that the offender might be a victim of the socioeconomic conditions; with the main objective of the justice system being the restoration of relationships, healing, and reconciliation in the community (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). Underlying this system is the concept of Ubuntu, which “leads to a way of dealing with the social problems which are very different from the Western legalistic, rule-based system which had become the global default” (Baggini, 2018).
One of the reasons why AIJS can be considered exemplary is its ability to avoid the alienation of the Western courts in which the victim, the offender, and everybody else seem to be represented, but neither victim nor offender can directly participate in the decision making. The system which emphasises reconciliation and in which the community is in charge of the process is arguably much more effective in the African setting, where communities are generally familiar and close-knit. As the offender is still considered a part of the community and is still expected to contribute to its surroundings in the future, the participation in the trial and the decision making is important to the reconciliation: “unlike adjudicated justice, negotiated justice is not a winner take it all justice. Resolution can be reached where the offender, the community, and the victim are each partially wrong” (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). As there is very little hope for an offender to be reintegrated into a close community without forgiving and forgiveness from both parties, this type of approach is pivotal.
Another interesting feature of AIJS is the assumption that the offender is not inherently bad in himself, but is primarily a marginalised victim, who does not have the same opportunities as other members of the community to participate in the economic, political, and social aspects of the group, and who can be made right if both the offender and the community make effort (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). This concept differs from the Western Hobbesian idea of human beings being inherently corrupt and is much closer to traditional Western Aristotelian ethics. What makes the African concept different, however, is the focus which is not on the virtue of the person himself, but rather on the relationship the offender has with his family and community which, although violated by the offence, can and should be rebuilt by amendments (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010).
The Gacaca Trials
The Gacaca trials are the state-administered structure which uses communities (around a thousand of them) as a basis for judicial forums (Meyerstein, 2007). They were introduced by the Rwandan government as an alternative to national justice after the Rwandan genocide.
During the colonial times, Rwanda was indirectly ruled by the colonizers through local authorities, namely the Tutsi minority (Uvin, 1999). The Hutu majority were considered second class citizens and by the time of independence were holding deep grievances. The Rwandan Revolution of 1959-1961 overthrew the monarchy and the ruling Tutsi elite. After the independence from the colonial regime, Rwanda was ruled by the Party of Hutu Emancipation Movement, which was supported by the international community on the grounds of the idea that the government is legitimate as it represents the majority of the population – the Hutu (ibid.) During the period of transition, ethnic violence against Tutsi, forcing many of them to leave the country, happened (Rettig, 2008). In 1990 the Rwandan Patriotic Army composed mostly by the Tutsi exiles invaded Rwanda from neighbouring Uganda (ibid.) The incumbent government harnessed the already pre-existing ethnic to unite the Hutu population to fight against the Tutsi rebels. The strategy included finding a scapegoat in an internal Tutsi population that continued to live in Rwanda (Uvin, 1999). The genocide which soon followed took lives of 500,000 to 800,000 people between April and July of the year 1994 when the total population at the time is estimated to have been around 8 million (Drumbl, 2020). More than 100,000 people were accused and waited in detention for trials, creating a great burden on a Rwandan county (Schabas, 2005).
According to Meyerstein (2007), the Gacaca trials were a response to the failure of the Western-styled nation court to process all the suspects of the genocide. Gacaca trials were based on indigenous local justice, with Ubuntu ethics being an underlying element of the system. The trials were traditionally informal, organic, and patriarchal, but the Rwandan government modernized the indigenous justice system by establishing an organizational structure, and, among other things, making the participation of women a requirement (Drumbl, 2020).
The application of Gacaca trails to do justice after the genocide was not always well received by the international community. The trials received criticism for not complying with the international standards for the distribution of justice. For example, Amnesty International invoked Article 14 of the ICCPR and stated that Gacaca trials violated the right of the accused to be presumed innocent and to the free trial (Meyerstein, 2007). There are, undoubtedly, many problems that can be assigned to the system of Gacaca when it comes to the strict norms of the international norms.
The judges are drawn from the community and arguably lack the official legal training, the punitive model of the trials that arguably have served for many as an opportunity for personal revenge, and the aforementioned lack of legal protection for the accused are a few of many problems faced by the Gacaca trials (Rettig, 2008). Furthermore, the Gacaca trials excluded the war criminals from the prosecution – there were many cases of the killings of Hutu civilians by Tutsis that formed the part of the Rwandan Patriotic Front army (Corey & Joireman, 2004). This was seen by many as a politicised application of justice, in which, by creating two separate categories of criminals - the crimes of war by the Tutsis that were not the subject of Gacaca and the crimes of the genocide by the Hutus that were dealt with by the trials – the impunity and high moral ground was granted for the Tutsi (ibid). This attitude might bring results that are contrary to the initial goal of the community-based justice - not the reconciliation of the people, but the further division of the society along the ethnic lines.
However, while the criticism of the Gacaca trials is completely valid, it is also important to understand, that given the limited amount of resources and time, the goal of bringing justice to the victims of the genocide is an incredibly complex mission. In the context of the deeply wounded, post-genocidal society in which the social capital was almost non-existent, the ultimate goal, while having justice as a high priority, was first of all based on Ubuntu ethics and focused more on peace, retribution, and social healing. The utopian perfectness expected by the international community was nearly impossible, and the Gacaca trials met the goal of finding the best possible solutions in the limits of available resources. Furthermore, the criticism of international community often seemed to stem not so much from the preoccupation for the Rwandan citizens, as from the fact that a different approach to justice threatens the homogenizing concept of human rights “which lashes out to squash cultural difference and legal pluralism by criticizing the Gacaca for failures to approximate canonized doctrine” (Meyerstein, 2007).
While it is true that even Rwandan citizens often saw Gacaca as problematic, whether the problems perceived by them were similar to those criticised by the international community is dubious. For example, Rwanda’s Supreme Court’s response to the international criticism was the provision of approach to human rights which, while not denying their objectivity, also advocates for the definition that better suits the local culture and unique circumstances of post-genocide Rwanda (Supreme Court of Rwanda, 2003). After all, the interventions from the part of the Western world on behalf of the universal values have arguably created more violence historically than the defended values should ever allow. The acceptance that Gacaca trials, while imperfect, contributed positively to the post-genocide Rwandan society has the grave implications that human rights are ultimately a product of negotiation between global and local actors” (Meyerstein, 2007) which the West has always refused to accept. However, it is the opinion of this article that exactly the opposite attitude, namely that of better intercultural understanding and the search for the solutions that are not utopian but fit in the margins of the possibilities of a specific society, are the key to both the efficiency and the fairness of a justice system.
The primary end of the African Indigenous Justice System is to empower the community and to foster reconciliation through a consensus that is made by the offenders, the victims, and the community alike. It encourages to view victims as people who have valuable relationships: they are someone’s daughters, sons, fathers – they are important members of society. Ubuntu is the underlying basis of the Indigenous Justice System and African ethnic in general. While the AIJS seems to be functioning alongside the state’s courts, in the end, the centralization and alienation from the community are undermining these traditional values that flourish in the African setting. The Western legalistic system helps little when it comes to the main goal of justice in Africa – the reconciliation of the community, and more often than not only succeeds in creating further discord. While the criticism of Gacaca trials was undoubtedly valid, it often stemmed from the utopian idealism that did not take the actual situation of a post-genocide Rwanda into consideration or the Western universalism, which was threatened by the introduction of a justice system that in many ways differs from the positivist standard. It is the opinion of this article, therefore, that more autonomy should be granted to the communities that are the basic building blocks of most of the African societies, with the traditional values of Ubuntu being the basis of the African social institutions.
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▲ Cartel de propaganda exaltando la figura de Gadafi, cerca de Ghadames, en 2004 [Sludge G., Wikipedia]
ENSAYO / Paula Mora
El 20 de octubre de 2011 fue asesinado el coronel Muamar Muhamad Abu-Minyar el Gadafi, poniéndose fin a un régimen dictatorial que duró más de cuarenta años. Esa fecha significó esperanza, libertad y democracia, o por lo menos esas eran las aspiraciones de muchos de los que contribuyeron a un cambio en Libia. Sin embargo, la realidad hoy, nueve años después, es casi inimaginable para aquellos rebeldes que el 23 de octubre de 2011 pensaron que sus hijos podrían envejecer en una democracia. La guerra civil que sufre el país desde entonces ha propiciado la desintegración de la nación. Para entender esto, es primordial entender la propia naturaleza del poder político libio, totalmente distinta a la de sus vecinos y a la de sus antiguas metrópolis: el tribalismo.
El tribalismo libio presenta tres características: es contractual, pues está fundado en negociaciones permanentes; las bases territoriales de los pueblos han ido moviéndose hacia las ciudades, pero los lazos no se han distendido, y la extensión territorial de estos pueblos sobrepasan las fronteras de Libia. El territorio libio se compone en un 90% de desierto, lo que ha propiciado la persistencia del poder tribal. Los pueblos originarios han luchado, y siguen haciéndolo, por el control territorial y la armonía de sus territorios, que se logra a través de alianzas tradicionales renegociadas cada cierto tiempo entre las tres regiones principales del país: Tripolitania, Cirenaica y Fezán.
El tropismo Tuareg
La cultura beduina y su mitología de los tiempos de las cavernas transaharianas, previas a la época colonial, explican que Gadafi enfocara su política hacia el Sahara y África del Norte. Estos pueblos consideraban el desierto como una vía de comunicación, no como un obstáculo o una frontera. Bajo la dictadura, las costumbres y el habla beréber fueron protegidas y promovidas.
Los Tuareg son un pueblo beréber de tradición nómada que se extiende por cinco países africanos: Argelia, Burkina Faso, Libia, Malí y Níger. Poseen su propio idioma y costumbres. En Libia, ocupan el territorio del suroeste, junto a las fronteras de Argelia, Túnez y Níger. El dictador proclamó en numerosas ocasiones su afinidad con este pueblo, afirmando incluso pertenecer a este linaje por parte de madre. Los consideraba aliados de su proyecto panafricanista.
Gadafi no se veía como el líder del movimiento, sino como un “guía” de la revolución. Sin embargo, con el paso del tiempo, esta visión revolucionaria fue apaciguándose hasta convertirse en una visión realista y pacificadora. Este cambio se debió principalmente a la incapacidad de los Tuareg de superar las divisiones internas (tribus) y a su voluntad de abandonar la lucha armada. Las consecuencias fueron que lo que empezó como una lucha nacional y social, degeneró en un tráfico de drogas y armas.
El colonialismo italiano
En abril de 1881, Francia ocupó Túnez. Esto provocó rencores en Italia pues la regencia de Túnez estaba pensada como una prolongación natural de Italia, dado que 55.000 italianos residían en el territorio. En vista de esta situación, y para evitar un enfrentamiento con Francia, Italia decidió entonces crear un proyecto libio. En 1882, Italia, Alemania y el Imperio Austrohúngaro crearon la Triple Alianza. Como consecuencia de esto, Francia se opuso al proyecto libio de Italia.
Ante la oposición de Francia a sus planes en Libia, Italia buscó una compensación en el Mar Rojo y en 1886 intentó, fallidamente, conquistar Etiopía. Pero el nacionalismo italiano de la época no se iba a dar por vencido, pues aspiraba a crear “una Italia más grande”. Tras la victoria etíope, solo le quedaban dos alternativas africanas: Marruecos, que ya había sido prácticamente colonizado por Francia, o la Regencia Turca de Trípoli, que llevaba establecida desde 1858.
Finalmente, Italia se decidió por esta última y en 1902 buscó el apoyo de Francia para llevar a cabo su proyecto. Bajo el compromiso de la Triple Alianza, le ofreció neutralidad en la frontera compartida de los Alpes en caso de guerra y la renuncia al proyecto marroquí. París no se mostró interesado, en cambio Rusia ofreció en 1908 su apoyo a Italia para debilitar al Imperio Otomano. Empezó así la guerra ítalo-turca. El pretexto italiano fue el supuesto maltrato que sufrían los colonos instalados en Libia por parte del régimen turco, al cual dio un ultimátum. Bajo mediadores austrohúngaros, los turcos aceptaron transferir el control de Libia a Italia, movimiento que este país consideró una maniobra turca que solo buscaba ganar tiempo para prepararse para la guerra. El 29 de septiembre de 1911, Italia declaró la guerra al Imperio Otomano. Esto trajo importantes consecuencias para la Triple Alianza, pues Austria-Hungría temía que el conflicto libio derivara en uno directo con el Imperio Otomano, mientras que Alemania se vio enfrentada al dilema de tener que elegir bando, pues gozaba de buenas relaciones con ambas partes. El 18 de octubre de 1912, debido a los peligros abiertos en diferentes frentes, el Imperio Otomano decidió firmar el Tratado de Lausana-Ouchy a través del cual cedió a Italia Tripolitania, Cirenaica y las islas del Dodecaneso.
Durante la Primera Guerra Mundial, Italia formaba parte de la Triple Entente, por lo que el Imperio Otomano no le declaró la guerra. La amenaza al control italiano de Libia no estaba tanto entre sus enemigos europeos, sino entre la población del propio país africano. Aprovechando la guerra, la Sanûsiya (una orden religiosa musulmana fundada bajo el Imperio Otomano que se oponía a la colonización) empezó a atacar al ejército italiano. Estos rebeldes fueron ganando territorio, hasta que los aliados de Italia pasaron a la ofensiva. El 21 de agosto de 1915, el día que Italia se cambió al bando de los Aliados, la táctica cambió. Pese a que también le ofrecían apoyo, los nuevos aliados de Italia estaban lidiando con insurgencias en sus colonias, y se ocupaban, sobre todo, de custodiar sus fronteras para que los insurgentes no pasaran y propagaran las ideas independentistas.
El 17 de abril de 1917, el emir Idris As-Sanûsi, aliado del Imperio Otomano, dándose cuenta de la proximidad de la victoria aliada, firmó con Italia el Pacto de Acroma, mediante el cual Italia reconoció la autonomía de la Cirenaica y a cambio el emir aceptó el control italiano de la Tripolitania.
Distribución geográfica de etnias en Libia [Wikipedia]
La independencia colonial
La Segunda Guerra Mundial tuvo un papel clave en África, pues alentó el nacionalismo del continente. Italia, aliada de Alemania, intentó entre 1940 y 1942 ocupar el Canal de Suez a través de la frontera de Libia, pero el objetivo no fue alcanzado.
En 1943, Libia cayó en manos de la Francia Libre (de Charles de Gaulle) e Inglaterra: la primera administraba Fezán; la segunda, la Tripolitania y Cirenaica. Al final de la guerra, y con el cambio de bando de Italia en su curso, esta propuso una división tripartita de Libia. Estados Unidos y la Unión Soviética se opusieron, y estipularon que el territorio quedaría bajo la tutela de Naciones Unidas (ONU). Entonces dos posiciones políticas se opusieron en Libia: por un lado, los “progresistas”, que defendían la creación de un estado democrático unitario, y por otro, los pueblos originarios de la Cirenaica, que defendían un reino cuyo líder sería Mohammed Idris As-Sanûsi, el líder de la Sanûsiya.
El 21 de noviembre de 1949, a través de la Resolución 289, Naciones Unidas fijó la independencia de Libia para el primero de enero de 1952. Sin tener en cuenta ninguna realidad geográfica, histórica, religiosa, cultural y política, la ONU impuso el nacimiento de un país soberano constituido por las tres principales regiones independientes. En 1950, tuvo lugar la elección de la Asamblea Nacional, compuesta por 60 diputados (20 por región). El 2 de diciembre del mismo año, después de arduas negociaciones, la Asamblea acordó que Libia fuera una monarquía federal compuesta de tres provincias y que tuviera como Rey a Mohammed Idriss As-Sanûsi.
Inicialmente el Reino pudo asentarse dado el reconocimiento internacional y el descubrimiento de yacimientos petroleros que permitían a Libia convertirse en el país más rico del continente. Este optimismo, sin embargo, ocultaba que el verdadero problema libio residía dentro de sus fronteras: el país era regido por los pueblos originarios de Cirenaica. Para equilibrar el poder, el rey decidió nombrar como primer ministro a Mahmoud el-Montasser, un tripolitano.
Sin embargo, el rey cometió el error de no haber fundamentado su monarquía en la Sanûsiya, sino en su tribu, la Barasa. El régimen se convirtió en totalitario. Después de manifestaciones pro-Nasser, el rey prohibió en 1952 los partidos políticos, y despidió a más de diez gobernadores, quienes fueron reemplazados por prefectos. En cuanto a las relaciones exteriores, bajo el reinado de Idriss, Libia firmó con Gran Bretaña una alianza de veinte años mediante la cual los ingleses podrían utilizar las bases militares libias. Con Estados Unidos suscribió uno similar que concedió permiso a los norteamericanos para construir la base Wheelus Field, cerca de Trípoli. Finalmente, firmó un tratado de paz con Italia por el que la antigua metrópolis se comprometía a pagar reparaciones siempre y cuando Libia protegiera las propiedades de los 27.000 italianos que aún residían allí. Estas medidas llevaron el reino a la perdición, puesto que sus países vecinos y su población consideron que el rey no estaba siendo solidario con Egipto al alinearse con los países occidentales.
La caída de la monarquía
El 1 de septiembre de 1969 se produjo un golpe de estado en el país para derrocar a Idriss; este, gravemente enfermo, anunció su abdicación para el día siguiente. El Consejo de Comandancia de la Revolución (CCR), constituido por los oficiales que habían propiciado este cambio de gobierno, abolió la monarquía y proclamó la República Árabe Libia. La junta militar que se estableció en el poder estaba compuesta por una docena de miembros, en su mayoría de los dos pueblos originarios principales: los Warfalla y los Maghara. Estos últimos eran de ideología marxista, lo que propició el régimen del coronel Muamar el Gadafi.
Durante las primeras semanas de gobierno, los nuevos dirigentes intentaron tomar todas las precauciones posibles para evitar una intervención británica y americana. Emitieron un comunicado garantizando la seguridad de los bienes de los extranjeros y prometiendo que las compañías petroleras no serían nacionalizadas. Ante estas declaraciones, que no se alineaban con el comunismo, Estados Unidos y Occidente reconocieron el 6 de septiembre el nuevo gobierno.
Las verdaderas intenciones del nuevo gobierno aparecieron poco después. Al mes del comunicado, las autoridades libias anunciaron que los tratados anteriores relativos a las bases militares tendrían que ser nuevamente negociados. También pidieron una renegociación de la fiscalidad de las compañías petroleras. Finalmente, en 1971, fue creado un partido único: la Unión Socialista Árabe.
El gobierno de Gadafi
El 15 de abril de 1973, casi cuatro años después del golpe de estado del 69, Gadafi pronunció un discurso en el que invitó a las “masas populares” a retomar el poder confiscado por el partido de la Unión Socialista Árabe. Se impuso como cabeza del país, promoviendo una revolución cultural y política que proponía, por un lado, una reforma de las instituciones con una aplicación más estricta de los preceptos de la sharia, y por otro, la idea de que los agresores del pueblo eran los países árabes aliados con Occidente e Israel.
Gadafi basó su poder en una profunda recomposición tribal. La primera medida que tomó, al día siguiente de la toma de poder, desconfiando de Cirenaica y de sus tribus fieles al rey Idriss, fue la de constituir una alianza con el pueblo de Hada, con la que buscó equilibrar el poder de los Barasa.
En segundo lugar, se divorció de su mujer, de origen turco-kouloughli, la cual constituía un obstáculo para las alianzas con los pueblos que le eran necesarios para ampliar su base de poder. Se casó entonces con una mujer de Firkeche, un segmento de la tribu de los Barasa. Este matrimonio le permitió construir una alianza entre los Qadhafa y las grandes tribus de Cirenaica ligadas a los Barasa.
En tercer lugar, construyó también una alianza con la Misrata, una élite letrada que ocupó posteriormente muchos de los puestos del régimen. Sin embargo, con el paso del tiempo, esta alianza se rompió y propició un crecimiento del odio hacia el coronel que jugaría un rol importante en la revolución que acabó con Gadafi.
En cuarto lugar, después de haber perdido a la Misrata, Gadafi recompuso su estrategia apoyándose en su propia confederación, la de los Awlad Sulayman, enemigos de los Misrata desde la época del dominio italiano. Esta alianza cubría la ciudad de Trípoli y extendía geográficamente el territorio del mandatario.
En quinto lugar, el problema del gobernante vendría dado justo por los puntos anteriores: las alianzas tribales. Fracciones de sus aliados conspiraron contra él en 1973 para intentar dar un golpe de estado. El ejército de Gadafi, sin embargo, lo impidió y condenó a muerte a los cabecillas. A partir de este punto, el coronel empiezó a desconfiar de las tribus de esta región, la de Tripolitania, y comenzó a romper poco a poco relaciones con ellas. Esto le resultaría fatal.
Gadafi de cara al mundo
El activismo internacional bajo Gadafi buscaba la fusión de los pueblos árabes con el objetivo de crear un califato transnacional. En 1972, pese a que aún no controlaba la totalidad del territorio libio, contribuyó a la creación de la Unión de Repúblicas Árabes (Libia, Egipto y Siria), que se disolvería en 1977. En 1984, creó la Unión Libia-Marroquí, que desaparecería dos años después. Otras cuatro tentativas tuvieron lugar: con Túnez en 1974, con el Chad en 1981, con Argelia en 1988 y con Sudán en 1990; ninguna de ellas salió adelante. Estos intentos de unión provocaron tensiones en el continente, sobre todo con Egipto, con el cual hubo un conflicto fronterizo del 21 al 24 de julio de 1977. La consecuencia fue el cierre de la frontera mutua hasta marzo de 1989.
En cuanto al resto del mundo, el apoyo del dictador a los movimientos terroristas durante los años 80 le crearon enemigos, especialmente Estados Unidos, Gran Bretaña y Francia. Varios ataques propiciados por el régimen libio, como el derribo de un avión americano encima de la ciudad escocesa de Lockerbie y asesinatos de embajadores, llevaron en 1992 al Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU a adoptar una política de sanciones de embargo comercial y financiero. A ello se sumó la orientación socialista del coronel, quien nacionalizó las empresas petroleras y los bienes de los residentes italianos alegando que fueron robados durante la época colonial.
La caída del régimen
Con el paso del tiempo, el régimen fue perdiendo poder y apoyo nacional. Esta decadencia se debió a la marcha de la economía, pues los ciudadanos se beneficiaban de los ingresos directos de los hidrocarburos: la sanidad y la educación eran gratis, y la agricultura estaba subvencionada. Además, existía el proyecto de crear un “gran río” (Great Man Made River, GMMR), de 4.000 kilómetros. En resumen, los cinco millones de habitantes tenían una vida excepcional, con un PIB per cápita de 3.000 euros en 2011.
La oposición principal provenía de los ambientes islámicos, más concretamente de los Hermanos Musulmanes y de grupos salafistas (movimiento de ultraderecha islámico suní), quienes a partir de 1995 se radicalizaron con la ayuda de los grupos de Afganistán. Sus razones para oponerse a Gadafi eran la occidentalización del país: el dejar atrás en cierta medida el tropismo Tuareg y un giro hacia los países del Norte. Ese mismo año estalló una rebelión islamista iniciada por el Frente por la Liberación de Libia en Cireniaica. Gadafi respondió con una gran represión, estableciendo leyes anti-islámicas que castigaban cualquier persona que no denunciara a los islamistas y el cierre de la mayoría de las zawiya (escuelas y monasterios religiosos), sobre todo las de la Sanûsiya.
En 2003, Libia reconoció su participación en el atentado de Lockerbie y se comprometió a indemnizar a todas las víctimas. Esto propició que el Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU levantara las sanciones. En diciembre de ese mismo año, el país renunció a la producción de armas de destrucción masiva y en 2004 se adhirió al Tratado de No-Proliferación Nuclear. Con estas nuevas medidas, el régimen fue aliándose con los países de occidente, que a su vez promovieron la industrialización del país. Un ejemplo fue el tratado firmado entre Gadafi y el primer ministro italiano Silvio Berlusconi, por el que Italia se comprometía a reembolsar 5.000 millones de dólares a Libia, en un periodo de 25 años, siempre y cuando el país africano se abriera al mercado italiano y evitara la inmigración clandestina a Europa.
Libia no vivió “la primavera árabe”, pues estaba sufriendo una guerra civil nacida en Cirenaica, que comenzó como un levantamiento de una minoría beréber que vivía cerca de la frontera con Túnez. Gadafi, con el miedo de estropear la buena imagen que por fin había logrado construir en la comunidad internacional, decidió no emplear la fuerza militar para restablecer su poder en Cirenaica, pero con el paso del tiempo no le quedó más remedio que hacerlo. Esta acción conllevó lo que él ya sabía: la protesta internacional.
El primer país en oponerse fue la Francia de Nicolás Sarkozy. Bajo el pretexto de injerencia humanitaria, Francia, junto con los países de la Organización del Tratado del Atlántico Norte (OTAN), decidieron destruir el régimen de Gadafi. En marzo de 2011 reconocieron al Consejo Nacional de Transición (CNT). La Unión Africana quería también el cambio de gobierno, pero sin embargo defendió que se hiciera mediante una negociación, con el fin de evitar consecuencias negativas como la desintegración del Estado.
Durante el mes de febrero de 2011, el coronel tuvo que hacer frente a una triple sublevación. En Cirenaica, por parte de los yihadistas (recordemos las leyes anti-islámicas), quienes contaban además con el apoyo de Turquía y las mafias locales, que desde el acuerdo ítalo-libio sobre la migración se sentían amenazadas. En Tripolitania, por pare de los beréberes, que veían ahora negada su identidad en favor de la defensa del nacionalismo árabe. Finalmente, también en Misrata, zona tenía una cuenta personal que arreglar con el dictador desde 1975 (conflicto tribal).
Gadafi tomó medidas preventivas, como la prohibición de manifestaciones o la suspensión de eventos deportivos, y anunció reformas sociales favorables a la población pensando que se trataba de quejas que no trascenderían. Su error de análisis fue pensar que la contestación tenía un motivo social, mientras que sus razones eran de tipo tribal, regional, político y religioso.
El gobierno pudo controlar la situación durante un mes, hasta que el 15 de febrero la violencia escaló hasta convertir el conflicto en una auténtica guerra civil.
La injerencia extranjera empezó el 17 de marzo, cuando el ministro de Asuntos Exteriores francés promovió en el Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU la Resolución 1973, que autorizaba la creación de una zona de exclusión aérea sobre Libia, así como la imposición de las “medidas necesarias” para otorgar la protección a los civiles. Esta resolución excluía la ocupación terrestre, y fue apoyada por la Liga Árabe, con el apoyo aéreo militar de Qatar.
A los pocos días, el 21 de marzo, la intervención de los países de la OTAN sobrepasó las pautas de la Resolución 1973, pues la residencia de Gadafi fue bombardeada bajo el pretexto de que servía como centro de comando. La Unión Africana, apoyada por Rusia, pidió entonces el “cese inmediato de todas las hostilidades”. Por su parte, la Liga Árabe recordó a la OTAN que se estaba desviando de sus objetivos declarados. Sin embargo, los países occidentales no hicieron caso. El 31 de marzo, a través de su hijo Saif al-Islam, el coronel propuso un referéndum sobre la instauración de una democracia en Libia. La OTAN estaba dispuesta a examinar sus propuestas, pero el Consejo Nacional de Transición se opuso rotundamente, pues exigía simple y llanamente la salida de Gadafi del poder.
El 16 de septiembre, el Consejo de Seguridad, mediante la Resolución 2009, creó la Misión de Apoyo de las Naciones Unidas en Libia (UNSMIL, por sus siglas en inglés). Su objetivo era asistir a las autoridades nacionales para el restablecimiento de la seguridad y el Estado de Derecho, a través de la promoción del diálogo político y de la reconciliación nacional.
La “liberación” del país tuvo lugar el 23 de octubre de 2011, cuando Gadafi fue capturado de camino de Fezzan, acompañado de su hijo. Su convoy fue atacado por las fuerzas áreas de la OTAN. Fue hecho prisionero y posteriormente linchado por sus compatriotas. El presidente del Consejo Nacional de Transición, Mustapha Adbel Jalil, se proclamó entonces como el nuevo gobernante legítimo del país hasta nuevas elecciones.
Libia después de Gadafi
El presidente transitorio, declaró en su primer día que la sharia sería la base de la Constitución, así como del Derecho, restableció la poligamia e ilegalizó el divorcio. Las consecuencias de la guerra civil fueron tremendas: llevaron a la desintegración del país. La muerte de Gadafi no marcó el fin del conflicto, pues las milicias tribales, regionales y religiosas que participaron en la guerra defendían diferentes visiones sobre cómo debía ser el nuevo gobierno, lo que hacía imposible una unificación.
En el exterior, el descontrol territorial cambió la geopolítica de la región de Sáhara-Sahel, ofreciendo nuevas oportunidades a los yihadistas.
Tres periodos pueden distinguirse. El primero, entre 2011 y 2013, podría considerarse como el tiempo de la incertidumbre, pero también el de la esperanza y la ilusión democráticas. Pese a las guerras entre los distintos pueblos por diferentes ideologías (defensores del antiguo régimen contra los fundamentalistas musulmanes defensores de las tradiciones islámicas) y una guerra de poder territorial (Cirenaica contra Tripolitania por la capital del nuevo Estado), se estaban instaurando lo que parecían mecanismos democráticos.
El 31 de octubre de 2011 fue elegido Abdel Rahim al-Keeb, originario de Trípoli, por 26 votos de 51, como primer ministro del gobierno de transición. Las elecciones legislativas tuvieron lugar el 7 de julio de 2012; en ellas ganó el Congreso Nacional General (CNG), que reemplazó al Consejo Nacional de Transición. Pero la situación estaba lejos de consolidarse. El 11 de septiembre de 2012, el embajador americano, John Chistropher Stevens fue asesinado por un grupo salafista denominado Ansar al-Sharia.
El segundo período empezó a principios de 2013. Libia estaba en el camino de la normalización mediante elecciones democráticas y la reactivación de la exportación de petróleo y gas. Sin embargo, el año siguiente fue el del comienzo de la anarquía y las tentativas de recomposición del orden interno. Los “avances democráticos” no habían sido suficientes, pues las regiones contaban con una gran autonomía y no había seguridad fronteriza. Nadie había sido capaz de controlar en su totalidad el territorio libio. El presidente de Chad, Idriss Déby, quien ya había advertido sobre estas consecuencias cuando tuvo lugar la intervención occidental en la guerra civil, denominó la nueva situación libia como una “somalización”.
A partir de febrero de 2014, esta anarquía se tradujo en una serie de dimisiones de cargos del “gobierno” debidas a las amenazas por parte de las distintas milicias del país y de protestas frente al CNG, pues el gobierno no fue disuelto después de la expiración del mandato. El 20 de febrero tuvieron lugar las elecciones de los 60 miembros de la Asamblea constituyente que tenía como objetivo redactar una nueva constitución, pero sólo el 15% de los electores participaron. Mientras tanto, el 6 de marzo, en Roma, en la Conferencia Internacional sobre Libia, el ministro de Asuntos Exteriores italiano consideró que el problema principal era la “superposición de legitimidad”.
El tercer período, tuvo lugar a finales de 2014, cuando empezó la denominada “segunda guerra de Libia”. A partir de 2015 entró en escena el Estado Islámico, lo que cambió el cuadro político libio. La ONU creó un órgano ejecutivo de transición denominado Gobierno de Acuerdo Nacional (GNA por sus siglas en inglés), con el objetivo de dirigir la política libia en esta nueva situación. Se formó por la unión del Congreso General Nacional y la Cámara de Representantes. Está compuesto por 32 ministros, y Fayez-al Sarraj ocupa el cargo de presidente del Consejo Presidencial y de primer ministro del GNA.
Libia se encontraba entonces con dos parlamentos, uno en Trípoli, bajo el control de los islamistas, y el otro, reconocido por la comunidad internacional, en Tobruk, Cirenaica, cerca de la frontera egipcia, el cual había sido forzado a desistir de actuar por las fuerzas yihadistas. Esto llevó al comienzo de otro conflicto, que sigue en vigor actualmente. En la Cirenaica, tiene lugar una guerra confusa y multiforme, en la que participan los yihadistas y los que apoyan al general Jalifa Haftar, quien lidera el Ejército Nacional Libio (LNA, por sus siglas en inglés) y se opone tanto a los yihadistas como al Gobierno de Acuerdo Nacional. A través de su ejército, el general lanzó en mayo ataques aéreos contra grupos islamistas en Bengasi, con el objetivo de apoderarse del Parlamento. Además, acusa al primer ministro Ahmed Maiteg de cooperar con grupos islamistas. En junio, Maiteg renunció después de que la Corte Suprema dictaminase que su nombramiento fue ilegal.
En 2014, Haftar lanzó la “Operación Dignidad” contra los islamistas, intentando sacar del poder al coronel Moktar Fernana, comandante de la policía militar y elegido por Misrata y los Hermanos Musulmanes. Esta misión fracasó debido al poder de las diferentes milicias musulmanas a lo largo del territorio de Tripolitania, dividido en diferentes áreas: está la ciudad de Misrata, que ess territorio yihadista bajo el mando de los Hermanos Musulmanes; al Oeste, reina la milicia beréber arabófona de Zenten; en la capital, la milicia islamista Farj Lybia tiene el control, mientras que Fezzan y el Gran Sur se han convertido en territorios casi autónomos, donde se combate a los Tuareg.
En junio de 2014, tuvieron lugar las elecciones parlamentarias. Los partidos islamistas fueron derrotados, hubo una baja participación debido a la inseguridad y el boicot de los partidos dominantes, y surgió un enfrentamiento entre las fuerzas leales al CNT y las del nuevo Parlamento o Cámara de Representantes (HoR por sus siglas en inglés). Finalmente, surgió el Gobierno de Salvación Nacional, con Nouri Absuhamain, aliado de los Hermanos Musulmanes, como presidente.
En julio, la seguridad nacional se deterioró gravemente a raíz de varios acontecimientos. El aeropuerto Internacional de Trípoli fue destruido por los conflictos entre la milicia de Misrata y su operación Dawa Libia contra la milicia de Zintan; el HoR se trasladó a Tobruk después de que la Corte Suprema de Trípoli (compuesta por el CNT) lo disolviera; el CNT se votó a sí mismo como reemplazo para la Cámara de Representantes; Asar al-Sharia pasó a controlar Bengasi, y los enviados de la ONU dejaron el país debido a la creciente inseguridad.
El 29 de enero de 2015, el LNA y sus aliados de Trípoli declararon un cese del fuego después del “Diálogo Libio” organizado por la ONU en Ginebra para fomentar la reconciliación de los distintos bandos. El 17 de diciembre del mismo año tuvo lugar el Acuerdo Político Libio, o Acuerdo Skhirat, promovido por UNSMIL. Su objetivo era resolver la disputa entre la Cámara de Representantes legítima, con sede en Tobruk y al-Bayda, y el CNT, con sede en Trípoli. Se creó un Consejo de la Presidencia, compuesto por 9 miembros para formar un gobierno de unidad que en dos años condujera a elecciones. El HoR debía ser el único parlamento y actuaría como tal hasta los comicios.
El 30 de marzo de 2016, el GNA llegó a Trípoli por mar debido al bloqueo aéreo. El asentamiento del gobierno legítimo propició que después de dos años, en abril, la ONU volviera al territorio. Además, el GNA, junto con las fuerzas aéreas estadounidenses, liberó Sirte del ISIS en diciembre del 2016. Sin embargo, el LNA siguió ganando territorio, contando en septiembre con el control de las terminales orientales de petróleo.
En julio de 2017, el LNA expulsó al ISIS de Bengasi. Un año después, controló Derna, el último territorio occidental bajo grupos terroristas. El 17 de diciembre, Haftar declaró nulo el Acuerdo Político Libio, pues las elecciones no habían tenido lugar, resaltando la obsolescencia del gobierno libio creado por la ONU. El general comenzó entonces a tomar fuerza en el contexto nacional e internacional: “Todas las instituciones creadas bajo este acuerdo son nulas, pues no han obtenido completa legitimidad. Los libios sienten que han perdido su paciencia y que el prometido periodo de paz y estabilidad se ha convertido en una fantasía lejana”, declaró Haftar.
El 19 de abril de 2019 era la fecha en la que se iba a celebrar la Conferencia Nacional Libia en Ghadamas para avanzar en acuerdos y cerrar una fecha en la que se llevaran a cabo las elecciones presidenciales y parlamentarias. Sin embargo, días antes la convocatoria de conferencia fue cancelada debido a la “Operación Inundación de Dignidad” del LNA con el objetivo de la “liberación” del país.
Correlación de fuerzas en la guerra civil libia, en febrero de 2016 [Wikipedia]
La injerencia extranjera
La situación libia actual es preocupante. La comunidad internacional teme que el país se convierta en la próxima Siria. El Ejército Nacional de Liberación, dirigido por Haftar, es apoyado por los Emiratos Árabes Unidos, con la esperanza de detener el avance de los Hermanos Musulmanes, a quienes consideran una organización terrorista. También lo apoyan Egipto y Rusia, interesados en el control de los recursos energéticos del país. El Gobierno de Acuerdo Nacional, con Fayez al-Sarraj como líder, representa el gobierno legítimo para la comunidad internacional (la ONU lo reconoce). Además, cuenta con el apoyo de Estados Unidos y los países de la Unión Europea (menos Francia), así como Turquía y Qatar, que le otorgan apoyo militar (sobre todo los turcos). Sin embargo, Estados Unidos y la UE defienden las fronteras marítimas de Grecia e Israel frente al deseado proyecto turco de construir tuberías de gas por el Mediterráneo para abastecerse.
El acercamiento entre Haftar y Francia empezó en 2015. El país europeo intentó transformar al LNA en un actor legítimo, asistiéndole con operativos clandestinos, fuerzas especiales y consejeros. El 20 de julio de 2016, la Francia de Holland le declaró oficialmente su apoyo militar después del asesinato de tres soldados franceses de fuerzas especiales en Bengasi a manos del GNA, que argumentó que fue una “violación de su soberanía nacional”. El 25 de julio de 2019 tuvo lugar la Cumbre de París. Macron invitó a los dos líderes a dialogar sobre la paz y la unidad. El mayor interés de Francia es erradicar el terrorismo.
El 6 de marzo de 2019, el Acuerdo de Abu Dhabi reunió a los líderes de los bandos más importantes de la guerra libia y puso énfasis en varios aspectos: Libia como Estado civil, reducción del período de transición de gobierno, unificación de las institucionales estatales (como el Banco Central), el cese del odio y su incitación, la celebración de elecciones presidenciales y parlamentarias a finales del año, la transferencia pacífica del poder, la separación de poderes y el seguimiento de los puntos acordados por parte de la ONU. El lugar de la reunión muestra la gran implicación que los Emiratos Árabes Unidos tienen en esta guerra, en especial como aliado del general Haftar. El país del Golfo Pérsico negó el apoyo al ataque en Trípoli que tuvo lugar el 31 de marzo del 2020 por parte del LNA. Sin embargo, varios medios de comunicación libios declararon que dos aviones de carga militares llegaron a la base aérea Emirati Al-Khadim, en el este de la ciudad libia de Marj, provenientes de la base aérea Sweihan de Abu Dhabi.
El 27 de noviembre de 2019, tuvo lugar el Acuerdo de Frontera Marítima entre el GNA y Turquía. El presidente de Turquía, Erdogan, y Fayez al-Sarraj, firmaron dos memorandos de entendimiento. Pactaron un límite de 18,6 millas náuticas, como frontera marítima compartida entre Turquía y Libia y firmaron un acuerdo de cooperación militar por el que Ankara enviaría soldados y armamento. En vez de crear una nueva tropa, que llevaría más tiempo, Turquía ofreció un sueldo de 200 dólares al mes para luchar en Libia frente a los 75 que daba por luchar en Siria.
El problema con la frontera marítima es que ignora las islas de Chipre y de Grecia y viola sus derechos amparados por la Convención de Naciones Unidas sobre el Derecho del Mar de 1994, si bien ninguno de estos dos países ha acudido al Tribunal del Derecho del Mar. El interés turco reside en la posibilidad de la presencia de petróleo y gas natural en la costa sur de Creta. El acuerdo por lo pronto durará lo que duré el GNA, en una situación de inestabilidad a lo que también contribuye la impopularidad de la intervención militar en Turquía.
El 2 de enero de 2020, los presidentes de Argelia y Túnez se reunieron con Jalifa Haftar. El presidente argelino, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, insistió en que la solución del problema libio debe ser interna y no depender de la afluencia de armas propiciada por la injerencia extranjera. Propuso la creación de nuevas instituciones que permitan la organización de elecciones generales y el establecimiento de las nuevas bases del Estado democrático libio con la aprobación de la ONU.
El 6 de enero, el LNA tomó control sobre Sirte. Esta ciudad es estratégica pues se halla cerca de la “media luna petrolera” de Libia, una franja costera en la que se encuentran varias terminales importantes de exportación de petróleo.
El 12 de enero, Rusia y Turquía declararon una tregua en Siria y Libia. Este acuerdo fue un quid pro quo, puesto que Rusia tiene mayores intereses en Siria que en Libia, pues busca un puerto en el Mediterráneo, y Turquía, como se explicó anteriormente, desea construir un sistema de suministro de gas a través del mar Mediterráneo desde Libia. Sin embargo, el acuerdo no se está cumpliendo, sobre todo en el escenario libio. Enviados de la ONU alegan que ambos países siguen proporcionando armamento a los guerrilleros.
El 19 de enero tuvo lugar la Conferencia de Berlín, que constituyó un intento de apaciguamiento de la situación del país. Participaron Estados Unidos, Rusia, Alemania, Francia, Italia, China, Turquía y Argelia, y se expresó el compromiso a acabar con la injerencia política y militar en el país. Sin la intervención de terceros actores, el país no podría mantener una guerra civil pues ninguno de los bandos tiene suficiente fuerza. En la conferencia, también se discutió sobre el incumplimiento del embargo de armas establecido por el Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU en 2011. El problema es que ninguna potencia, en especial Turquía y Rusia, reconoce su implicación, por lo que no hay responsabilidades ni tampoco sanciones.
Una semana después tuvo lugar la primera violación del pacto. En cuanto a la tregua, el Gobierno de Haftar, con el objetivo de recuperar la capital, lanzó una ofensiva en dirección a la ciudad de Misrata, donde se encuentra una base importante del Gobierno de Acuerdo Nacional. Además, la misión especial de la ONU en Libia (UNSMIL) afirmó que sigue llegando material a los bandos combatientes por vía aérea.
El 31 de marzo, la Unión Europea lanzó la "Operación Irini” (“paz” en griego). Sustituye a la “Operación Sofía” de 2015, que tenía como objetivo combatir el tráfico de personas frente a las costas libias. La nueva operación ha cambiado de objetivo principal, pues luchará por hacer cumplir el embargo de armas. Además, cuenta con otras tareas secundarias como el control del contrabando petrolero, la continuación de la formación de los guardacostas libios y el control del tráfico de personas a través de la recopilación de información con el uso de patrullas aéreas. Esta iniciativa nace sobre todo por parte de Italia, primer país al que llegan los refugiados libios y por lo tanto preocupado por la inmigración. Este liderazgo se manifiesta en el desarrollo de la operación, ya que el cuartel general se encuentra en Roma y la dirección operativa está a cargo del contralmirante italiano Fabio Agostini. Por lo pronto, tiene una duración de un año.
El 5 de abril, la ONU hizo un llamamiento al cese de las hostilidades para combatir el Covid-19. Llamó a una tregua humanitaria en la que participen no solo los bandos nacionales, sino también las fuerzas extranjeras. El virus se cobró la vida Mahmud Jibril, antiguo primer ministro y líder de la rebelión contra Gadafi.
Nueva geopolítica regional y conclusión
Podemos definir la nueva geopolítica libia a través de los siguientes puntos. En primer lugar, la propagación de las armas por toda la región Sáhara-Sahel, la zona de los viejos y actuales conflictos. En segundo, la amenaza fronteriza que sienten Egipto, Argelia y Túnez por el conflicto interno. Finalmente, el desinterés de las nuevas autoridades libias por al Gran Sur, pues prácticamente se ha independizado, controlando casi la totalidad del comercio a través del Sahara. Al-Qaeda, a través de subgrupos como Fajr Lybia, está intentando establecer un Estado Islámico de África del Norte imitando el de Iraq. Para ello, en las zonas conquistadas, el Daesh destruye el paradigma tribal liquidando a los jefes de las tribus que no quieren aliarse con ellos con el objetivo de aterrorizar al resto. Es a través de estas prácticas como todas las milicias yihadistas pudieron aliarse al final de 2015. Frente a esto, Naciones Unidas patrocinó como primer ministro a Fayez Sarrraj, quien se instaló en Trípoli en abril de 2016.
Libia es un estado privilegiado en cuanto a riquezas naturales. Sin embargo, en su historia ha sufrido mucho y lo sigue haciendo. Ha pasado por monarquías, colonización y dictaduras hasta finalmente convertirse hoy en un Estado fallido. Su estructura política es complicada, pues es tribal, y por eso ninguno de los sistemas políticos ha triunfado del todo porque no ha logrado armonizar las organizaciones internas. Hoy el país consta de tres gobiernos rivales y cientos de milicias y grupos armados que siguen compitiendo por el poder y el control del territorio, rutas comerciales y emplazamientos militares estratégicos. Para que la situación se resuelva, es necesario que los países que participan activamente en el conflicto (Rusia, Turquía, Emiratos Árabes Unidos y Qatar) cumplan el embargo de armas establecido por la ONU. Además, las potencias extranjeras deben aumentar su comprensión del país para acertar en propiciar la mejor solución posible. Aunque Libia esté al borde de convertirse en la próxima Siria, todavía quedan oportunidades para salvar la situación y darle al país lo que hace tiempo no tiene: estabilidad.
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BBC Mundo (2020). Libia: por qué hay tantas potencias internacionales implicadas en la nación norteafricana. BBC - Sección: News Mundo.
Bernand Lugan (2016). Histoire de l’Afrique du Nord. Monaco: Rocher.
Daniel Rosselló (2016). Los tuaregs libios: los combatientes sin patria. Think Tank el Órden Mundial - Sección: Política y Sociedad - Subsección: Oriente Próximo y Magreb.
Europa Press. (5 de abril del 2020). La ONU reitera su llamamiento al cese de hostilidades en Libia para combatir el coronavirus.
Europa Press (2020). Las partes enfrentadas en Libiase ven por primera vez en la comisión militar auspiciada por la ONU. EuropaPress -Sección: International.
Francisco Peregil - Andrés Mourenza (2019). Libia, El Nuevo Campo De Batalla Entre Turquía Y Rusia. El País- Sección: Internacional.
Francisco Peregil (2020). La tregua sobre Libia alcanzada en Berlín se vuelve papel mojado. El país- Sección: Internacional.
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Joanna Apap (2017). Political developments in Libya and prospects of stability. European Parliament Think Tank. Sección: Foreign Affairs, subsección: briefing.
Kali Robinson (2020). What’s at stake in Libya’s War? Council on Foreign Relations. Sección: Middle East and North Africa, subsección: Libya.
Karim Mezran - Emily Burchfield (2020). The context of today’s Libya crisis and what to watch for. Think Tank Atlantic Council. Sección: Politics and Diplomacy - Security and Defense, subsección: Libya.
La Vanguardia (2020). Haftar rompe la tregua en Libia y la ONU dice que se viola el embargo. La Vanguardia - Sección: internacional.
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Libya Analysis. Consultado en Febrero 2020.
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▲ Members of the Blue Helmets in their deployment in Mali [MINUSMA]
ESSAY / Ignacio Yárnoz
It has been 72 years since the first United Nations peacekeeping operation was deployed in Israel/Palestine to supervise the ceasefire agreement between Israel and his Arab neighbours. Since then, more than 70 peacekeeping operations have been deployed by the UN all over the world, though with special attention to the Middle East and Africa. Over these more than 70 years, hundreds of thousands of military personnel from more than 120 countries have participated in UN peacekeeping operations. Nowadays, there are 13 UN peacekeeping operations deployed in the world, seven of which are located in African countries supported by a total of 83,436 thousand troops (around 80 percent of all UN peacekeepers deployed around the world) and thousands of civilians. The largest missions in terms of number of troops and ambitious objectives are those in the Democratic Republic of Congo (20,039 troops), South Sudan (19,360 troops), and Mali (15,162 troops).
Peacekeepers in Africa, as in other regions, are given broad and ambitious mandates by the Security Council which include civilian protection, counterterrorism, and counterinsurgency operations or protection of humanitarian relief aid. However, these objectives must go hand by hand with the core UN peacekeepers principles, which are consent by the belligerent parties, impartiality (not neutrality) and the only use of force in case of self-defence.
Although peace operations can be important for maintaining stability and safeguarding democratic transitions, multilateral institutions such as UN face challenges related to country contributions, training, a very hostile environment and relations with host governments. It is often stated that these missions have failed largely because they were deployed in a context of ongoing wars where the belligerents themselves did not want to stop fighting or preying on civilians and yet have to manage to protect many civilians and reduce some of the worst consequences of civil war.
In addition, UN peacekeepers are believed to be deployed in the most recent missions to war zones where not all the main parties have consented. There is also mounting international pressure for peacekeepers to play a more robust role in protecting civilians. Despite the principle of impartiality, UN peacekeepers have been tasked with offensive operations against designated enemy combatants. Contemporary mandates have often blurred the lines separating peacekeeping, stabilization, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, atrocity prevention, and state-building.
Such features have often been referred to the case of the peacekeeping operation in Mali (MINUSMA) as I will try to sum up in this essay. This mission, ongoing since 2013 is on his seventh year and tensions between the parties have still not ceased due to several reasons I will further explain I this essay. Through a summarized history of the ongoing conflict, an explanation of the current military/police deployment, the engagement of third parties and an assessment on the risks and opportunities of this mission as well as an analysis of its successes and failures I will try to give a complete analysis on what MINUSMA is and its challenges.
Brief history of the conflict in Mali
During the last 8 years, Mali has been immersed in a profound crisis of Governance, socio-economic instability, terrorism and human rights violations. The crisis mentioned stems from several factors I will try to develop in this first part of the analysis. The crisis derives from long-standing structural conditions that Mali has experienced, such as ineffective Governments due to weak State institutions; fragile social cohesion between the different ethnic and religious groups; deep-rooted independent feelings among communities in the north due to marginalization by the central Government and a weak civil society among others. These conditions were far exacerbated by more recent instability, a spread corruption, nepotism and abuse of power by the Government, instability from neighbouring countries and a decreased effective capacity of the national army.
It all began in mid-January 2012 when a Tuareg movement called Mouvement National pour la Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) and some Islamic armed groups such as Ansar Dine, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Mouvement pour l’Unicité et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO) initiated a series of attacks against Government forces in the north of the country. Their primary goals for this rebel groups though different could be summarized into declaring the Northern regions of Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao (the three together called Azawad) independent from the Central Government of Mali in Bamako and re-establishing the Islamic Law in these regions. The Tuareg led rebellion was reinforced by the presence of well-equipped and experienced combatants returning from Libya´s revolution of 2011 in the wake of the fall of Gadhafi’s regime.
By March 2012, the Malian Institutions had been overwhelmingly defeated by the rebel groups and the MNLA seemed to almost have de facto taken control of the North of Mali. As a consequence of the ineffectiveness to handle the crisis, on 22 March a series of disaffected soldiers from the units defeated by the armed groups in the north resulted in a military coup d’état led by mid-rank Capt Aamadou Sanogo. Having overthrown President Amadou Toumane Toure, the military junta took power, suspended the Constitution and dissolved the Government institutions. The coup accelerated the collapse of the State in the north, allowing MNLA to easily overrun Government forces in the regions of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu and proclaim an independent State of Azawad on 6 April. The Military junta promised that the Malian army would defeat the rebels, but the ill-equipped and divided army was no match for the firepower of the rebels.
Immediately after the coup, the International Community condemned this act and lifted sanctions against Mali if the situation wasn't restored. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) appointed the President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré, as the mediator on the crisis and compromised the ECOWAS would help Malian Government to restore order in the Northern region if democracy was brought back. On 6 April, the military junta and ECOWAS signed a framework agreement that led to the resignation of Capt Aamadou Sanogo and the appointment of the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dioncounda Traoré, as interim President of Mali on 12 April. On 17 April, Cheick Modibo Diarra was appointed interim Prime Minister and three days later, he announced the formation of a Government of national unity.
However, something happened during the rest of the year 2012 after the Malian government forces had been defeated. Those who were allies one day, became enemies of each other and former co-belligerents Ansar Dine, MOJWA, and the MNLA soon found themselves in a conflict.
Clashes began to escalate especially between the MNLA and the Islamists after a failure to reach a power-sharing treaty between the parties. As a consequence, the MNLA forces soon started to be driven out from the cities of Kidal, Timbuktu and Gao. The MNLA forces lacked as many resources as the Islamist militias and had experienced a loss of recruits who preferred the join the better paid Islamist militias. However, the MNLA stated that it continued to maintain forces and control some rural areas in the region. As of October 2012, the MNLA retained control of the city of Ménaka, with hundreds of people taking refuge in the city from the rule of the Islamists, and the city of Tinzawatene near the Algerian border. Whereas the MLNA only sought the Independence of Azawad, the Islamist militias goal was to impose the sharia law in their controlled cities, which drove opposition from the population.
Following the events of 2012, the Malian interim authorities requested United Nations assistance to build the capacities of the Malian transitional authorities regarding several key areas to the stabilization of Mali. Those areas were the reestablishment of democratic elections, political negotiations with the opposing northern militias, a security sector reform, increased governance on the entire country and humanitarian assistance.
The call for assistance came in the form of a UN deployment in mid-January 2013 authorized by Security Council resolution 2085 of 20 December 2012. This resolution gave the UN a mandate with two clear objectives: provide support to (i) the on-going political process and (ii) the security process, including support to the planning, deployment and operations of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA).
The newly designated mission was planned to be an African led mission (Africa Union and ECOWAS) and funded through the UN trust fund and the European Union Africa Peace Facility. The mission was mandated several objectives: (i) contribute to the rebuilding of the capacity of the Malian Defence and Security Forces; (ii) support the Malian authorities in recovering the areas in the north; (iii) support the Malian authorities in maintaining security and consolidate State authority; (iv) provide protection to civilians and (iv) support the Malian authorities to create a secure environment for the civilian-led delivery of humanitarian assistance and the voluntary return of internally displaced persons and refugees.
However, the security situation in Mali further deteriorated in early January 2013, when the three main Islamist militias Ansar Dine, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, advanced southwards. After clashing with the Government forces north of the town of Konna, some 680 kilometres from Bamako, the Malian Army was forced to withdraw. This advance by the Islamist militias raised the alarms in the International arena as they were successfully taking control of key areas and strategic spots in the country and could soon advance to the capital if nothing was done.
The capture of Konna by extremist groups made the Malian transitional authorities to consider requesting once again the assistance of foreign countries, in especial to its ancient colonizer France, who accepted launching a military operation to support the Malian Army. It is also true that France was already keen on intervening as soon as possible due the importance of Sévaré military airport, located 60 km south of Konna, for further operations in the Sahel area.
Operation Serval, as coined by France, was initiated on 11 January with a deployment of a total of 3,000 troops and air support from Mirage 2000 and Rafale squadrons. In addition, the deployment of AFISMA to support the French deployment was fostered. As a result, the French and African military operations alongside the Malian army successfully improved the security situation in northern areas of Mali. By the end of January, State control had been restored in most major northern towns, such as Diabaly, Douentza, Gao, Konna and Timbuktu. Most terrorist and associated forces withdrew northwards into the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains and much of their leaders such as Abdelhamid Abou Zeid were reported eliminated.
Despite taking control back to the government authorities and restoring the territorial integrity of the country, serious security challenges remained. Although the main cities had been taken back, terrorist attacks remained frequent, weapons proliferated in the rural and urban areas, drug smuggling was increasing and other criminal activities were also maintained active, which undermine governance and development in Mali. Therefore, the fight just transitioned from a territorial and conventional war to a guerrilla style warfare much more difficult to neutralise.
United Nations deployment
Following the gradual withdrawal of the French troops from Mali (Operation Serval evolved to Operation Barkhane in the Sahel region), AFISMA took responsibility to secure the stabilization and the implementation of a transitional roadmap which demanded more resources and engagement from more countries. As a consequence, AFISMA mission officially transitioned to be MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) by Security Council Resolution 2100 of April 25, 2013.
Seven years after, MINUSMA mission accounts with a deployment of 11,953 military personnel, 1,741 police personnel and 1,180 civilians (661 national - 585 international, including 155 United Nations Volunteers) deployed in 4 different sectors: Sector North (Kidal, Tessalit, Aguelhoc) Sector South (Bamako) Sector East (Gao, Menaka, Ansongo) Sector West (Tombouctou, Ber, Diabaly, Douentza, Goundam, Mopti-Sevare). The $1 Billion budget mission (financed by UN regular budget on Peacekeeping operations) accounts with personnel from more than 50 different countries being Chad, Bangladesh or Burkina Faso the biggest contributors in terms of number of troops (Figure 1).
The command and control of the ground forces is headed by both commanders Lieutenant General Dennis Gyllensporre (military deployment) and MINUSMA Police Commissioner Issoufou Yacouba (police deployment). Regarding the political leadership of the mission, the Special Representative of the Secretary-general (SRSG) and Head of MINUSMA is Mr. Mahamat Saleh Annadif, an experienced diplomat on peace processes in Africa and former minister of Foreign Affairs of Chad.
Other international actors engaged
MINUSMA however is not the only international actor engaged in the security and political process of Mali. Institutions as the European Union are also in the ground helping specifically on the training of the Malian Army and helping develop their military capabilities.
The European Union Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali) is composed of almost 600 soldiers from 25 European countries including 21 EU members and 4 non-member states (Albania, Georgia, Montenegro and Serbia). Since the beginning of the mission initially designed to end 15 months after the start in 2013 (First Mandate), there have been several extensions of the periods to end the mission by Council Decision (Second Mandate 2014-2016, Third Mandate 2016-2018) until today where we are on the Fourth Mandate (Extended until 2020 by Council Decision 2018/716/CFSP in May 2018). The strategic objectives of the 4th Mandate are:
1st to contribute to the improvement of the capabilities of the Malian Armed Forces under the control of the political authorities.
2nd to support G5 Sahel Joint Force, through the consolidation and improvement of the operational capabilities of its Joint Force, strengthening regional cooperation to address common security threats, especially terrorism and illegal trafficking, especially of human beings.
Regarding this last actor mentioned, the G5 Sahel Joint force (Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad) is an intergovernmental cooperation framework created on 16 February 2014 and seeks to fight insecurity and support development in the Sahel Region with the train and support of the European Union and external donors.
Its first operation, launched on July 2017, consisted in a Cross-Border Joint Force settled in Bamako to fight terrorism, cross-border organized crime and human trafficking in the G5 Sahel zone in the Sahel region. The United Nations Security Council welcomed the creation of this Joint Force in Resolution 2359 of 21 June 2017, which was sponsored by France. At full operational capability, the Joint Force will have 5,000 soldiers (seven battalions spread across three zones: West, Centre and East). It is active in a 50 km strip on either side of the countries’ shared borders. Later on, a counter-terrorism brigade is to be deployed to northern Mali.
Finally, as I explained before, France gradually withdrew from Mali and transformed Operation Serval to Operation Barkhane, a force, with approximately 4,500 soldiers, spread out between Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad to counter the terrorist threat on these territories. With a budget of nearly €600m per year, it is France’s largest overseas operation and engages activities such as combat patrols, intelligence gathering and filling the Governance gap of the absent Government institutions.
Troop and Police contributors to MINUSMA [Source: UN]
Retrieved from MINUSMA Fact Sheet
Assessment on the situation of MINUSMA
Since its establishment, MINUSMA has achieved some of its objectives in its early stages. From 2013 to 2016, the situation in Northern Mali improved, the numbers of civilians killed in the conflict decreased and large numbers of displaced persons could return home. In addition, MINUSMA supported the celebration of new elections in 2013 and assisted the peace process mainly between the Tuareg rebels and the Government. The peace process culminated in the 15 May 2015 with the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, commonly referred as the Algiers Agreement.
The Algiers Agreement was an accord concluded between the Malian Government and two coalitions of armed groups that were fighting the government and against each other, being (i) the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) and (ii) the Platform of armed groups (the Platform). Although imperfect, the peace agreement gave the basis to a continued dialogue and steps were made by the Government regarding the devolution of competences to regional institutions, laws of reconciliation and reintegration of combatants and resources devoted to infrastructure projects in the northern regions.
However, since 2016 the situation has deteriorated in several aspects. Violence has increased as jihadist groups have been attacking MINUSMA forces, the Forces Armées Maliennes (FAMA), and the Algiers Agreement signatories (CMA and the platform). As a consequence, MINUSMA has sustained an extraordinary number of fatalities compared to other recent UN peace operations.
Since the beginning of the Mission in 2013, 206 MINUSMA peacekeepers have died during service in Mali. In the last report of Secretary General, it is noted that during the months of October, November and December 2019, there have been 68 attacks against MINUSMA troops in the regions of Mopti (46), Kidal (9), Ménaka (5), Timbuktu (4) and Gao (4) resulting in the deaths of two peacekeepers and eight contractors and in injury to five peacekeepers, one civilian and two contractors.
During this same period, the Malian Armed Forces have also experienced a loss of 193 soldiers and 126 injured. The deadliest attacks occurred in Boulikessi and Mondoro (Mopti Region) on 30 September; in Indelimane (Ménaka Region) on 1 November; and in Tabankort (Ménaka Region) on 18 November. MINUSMA provided support for medical evacuations for the national defence and security forces, as well as fuel and equipment to reinforce some camps.
In addition, during this last 3 months, there have been 269 incidents, in which 200 civilians were killed, 96 civilians were injured and 90 civilians were abducted. More than 85 per cent of deadly attacks against civilians took place in Mopti Region. Between 14 and 16 November, a series of attacks against Fulani villages in Ouankoro commune resulted in the killing of at least 37 persons.
As we can see from the data, Mopti region has further deteriorated regarding civilian protection and increased terrorist activity. What is more surprising is that this region in not located in the north but rather in the centre of the country. Mopti and Ségou regions in central Mali are where violence is increasingly spreading. Two closely intertwined drivers of violence can be distinguished: interethnic violence and jihadist violence against the state and its supporters.
The attacks directed primarily towards the Malian security forces and MINUSMA by jihadists have been committed by the jihadist group Katiba Macina, which is part of the GSIM (Le Groupe de Soutien à l'Islam et aux Musulmans), a merger organisation resulting from the fusion of Ansar Dine, forces from Al-Qaïda au Maghreb Islamique (AQMI), Katiba Macina and Katiba Al-Mourabitoune. This organisation formed in 2017 has triggered the retreat of an already relatively absent state in the central areas. The Katiba exerts violence against representatives of the state (administrators, teachers, village chiefs, etc.) in the Mopti region, provoking that only 30 to 40 per cent of the territorial administration personnel remains present. Additionally, only 1,300 security forces are stationed across the vast region (spanning 79,000 km²).
Between the Jihadist activities and the retaliation activities by government forces, there has been a collateral consequence as self-defence militias have proliferated. However, these militias have not only exerted self-defence but also criminal activities and competition over scarce local resources. To this problem we have to add the ethnic component where violence exerted by militias is associated with ethnic differences (mainly the Dogon and Fulani). Jihadists have instrumentalised this rivalry to gain sympathizers and recruits and turned the radicalisation problem and the interethnic rivalry a vicious trap. The ethnicisation of the conflict reinforces the stigmatisation of the Fulani as “terrorists”. Meanwhile, the state has tolerated and even cooperated with the Dogon militia to cope with the terrorist threat. However, this groups are supposedly responsible for human rights violations, which again fosters radicalisation among the Fulani population feeling they are left alone in this conflict. As a matter of fact, the Dogon Militia is alleged to be responsible of the 23 March assassination of 160 Fulani in the village of Ogossagou (Mopti Region).
Northern Mali has not remained calmed meanwhile, the Ménaka region has also experienced a violence raise. Recent counterterrorism efforts led by ethnically based militias resulted in a counterproductive effects leading to human rights violations and atrocities between Tuareg Daoussahaq and Fulani communities. Due to again the absence Malian security forces or MINUSMA blue helmets, civilians have had no choice but to rely on their own self-protection or on armed groups present in the area, escalating the vicious problem of violence as in the Mopti region.
Strategic dilemmas of MINUSMA
Given this situation, several dilemmas arise in the current situation in which the mission is. The original Mandate of MINUSMA for 5 years has already expired and now the mission is in a phase of renewal year by year, which makes it a suitable time to rethink the overall path where this mission should continue.
The fist dilemma arises given the split of the violent spots between the north and the centre of the country. MINUSMA was originally set up to stabilize the conflict in the north, but MINUSMA’s 2019 Resolution 2480 has derived some attention and resources to the central regions and particularly on Protection of Civilians while maintaining its presence in the north too. However, the only problem is that this division on two has not come hand in hand with an increase in resources devoted to the mission, which means that attention paid to the central regions may be in spite of gains made in the north, making the MINUSMA mandate even more unrealistic.
This dilemma raises the problem of financing of the mission. As the years passes, financers of the mission (those that contribute to the General Budget on Peace Keeping Operations of UN) such as the US are getting impatient of not seeing results to a mission where $1 Billion is devoted out of the around $8 Billion of the General Budget. The problem is that for MINUSMA to accomplish its mission in Northern Mali, it has to make an enormous military and logistical effort. The ongoing violent situation calls for security precautions that tie up scarce resources which are no longer available for carrying out the mandate. To illustrate the problem, we can look at the expenditures of the mission and discover that around 80 per cent of its military resources are devoted to securing its own infrastructure and the convoys on which the mission depends to supply its bases.
A final dilemma is related to the development of the terrorist threat. As we have analysed in this article, today´s conflict in Mali is about terrorism and therefore requires counterterrorist strategies. However, there are people that state that MINUSMA should focus on the politics part of the conflict stressing its efforts on the peace agreement. Current counterterrorism efforts conducted by the Malian Army are highly problematic as they have fuelled local opposition due to its poor human rights commitment. It has been reported the use of ethnic proxy militias (Such as the Dogon militias in Mopti region) who are responsible for committing atrocities against the civilian population. This makes the Central Government to be an awkward and not very trustworthy partner for MINUSMA. At the same time, returning to political tasks alone may further destabilize the country and possibly the whole Sahel-West African region.
There is no doubt MINUSMA operates hostile environment where around half of all blue helmets killed worldwide through malign acts since 2013 have lost their lives. However, MINUSMA has been heavily criticised by public opinion in Mali and accused of passivity regarding protection of civilians whereas critics say, blue helmets have placed their own security above the rest. The has contributed to this public perception by using the mission’s problems as a scapegoat for its own failures. However, the mission (with its successes and failures) brings more advantages than inconveniences to the overall process of stabilization of Mali.
As many diplomats in Bamako and other public officials stress, the mission and its chief, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, play an important role as mediators both in Bamako politics and with respect to the peace agreement. We cannot discredit the mission of its contribution to Mali´s stabilisation. As a matter of fact, it is legitimate to claim that the situation would be much worse without MINUSMA. Yet, the mission has not stopped the spread of violence but rather slowed down the deterioration process of the situation.
While much presence is still needed in northern Mali, we should not forget that the core of the problem to Mali´s instability is partly on the political arena and therefore needs mediation. Therefore, importance of continuing political and military support to the peace process should not be underestimated.
At the same time, we have seen the situation over protection of civilians has worsened in the central regions, which requires additional resources. Enhancing MINUSMA’s outreach and representation might prevent the central regions from collapsing, though solutions need to be found to ensure stability in the long term through mediation too. Further expanding the mission in the central regions without affecting the deployment in the north and, therefore, not risking the stability of those regions, would require that MINUSMA have additional resources. This would clearly be the best option for Mali.
Resources could for instance be devoted to improve the lack of mobility in the form of helicopters and armoured carriers to make it possible for the mission to expand its scope beyond the vicinity of its bases. Staying in the bases makes MINUSMA more of a target than a security provider and only provides security to its nearby zones where the base is physically present. In addition, the most dangerous missions are carried out by African peacekeepers despite lacking adequate means whereas European countries´ peacekeepers are mostly based in MINUSMA’s headquarters in Bamako, Gao, or Timbuktu. While European peacekeepers possess more sophisticated equipment such as surveillance drones and air support, African troops do not benefit from those and have to face the most challenging geographical and security environments escorting logistical convoys.
Additionally, by accelerating the re-integration of former rebels to the Malian security forces, encouraging Malian police training, and demonstrating increased presence through joint patrols in most instable areas to protect civilians are key to minimize the threat of further violence. Increased state visibility as we have analysed in this essay has driven to insecurity situations. Consequently, if it can be as much of the problem, it can also be the solution to re-establish some of its legitimacy alongside with the signatories of the Peace Accord to show good faith and engagement in the peace process.
In the end, any contribution MINUSMA can make will depend on the willingness of Malians to strive for an effective and inclusive government on the one hand and the commitment of the International community on the other. Supporting such a long-term process cannot be done on the cheap. Therefore, countries cannot continue to request to do more with the same or even less resources.
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UN led vs. non-UN led post-conflict government building
WORKING PAPER / María del Pilar Cazali
Government building in Africa has been an important issue to deal with after post- independence internal conflicts. Some African states have had the support of UN peacekeeping missions to rebuild their government, while others have built their government on their own without external help. The question this article looks to answer is what method of government building has been more effective. This is done through the analysis of four important overall government building indicators: rule of law, participation, human rights and accountability and transparency. Based on these indicators, states with non-UN indicators have had a more efficient government building especially due to the flexibility and freedom they’ve had to do it in comparison with states with UN intervention due to the UN’s neo-liberal view and their lack of contact with locals.
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▲ A picture of Vladimir Putin on Sputnik's website
ESSAY / Pablo Arbuniés
A new form of power
Russia’s growing influence in African countries and public opinion has often been overlooked by western democracies, giving the Kremlin a lot of valuable time to extend its influence on the continent.
Until very recently, western democracies have looked at influence efforts from authoritarian countries as nothing more than an exercise of soft power. Joseph S. Nye deﬁned soft power as a nation’s power of attraction, in contrast to the hard power of coercion inherent in military or economic strength (Nye 1990). However, this influence does not fit the common definition of soft power as ‘winning hearts and minds’. In the last years China and Russia have developed and perfected extremely sophisticated strategies of manipulation aimed towards the civil population of target countries, and in the case of Russia the role of Russia Today should be taken as an example.
These strategies go beyond soft power and have already proved their effectiveness. They are what the academia has recently labelled as sharp power (Walker 2019). Sharp power aims to hijack public opinion through disinformation or distraction, being an international projection of how authoritarian countries manipulate their own population (Singh 2018).
Sharp power strategies are being severely underestimated by western policy makers and advisors, who tend to focus on more classical conceptions of the exercise of power. As an example, the “Framework document” issued by the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies on Russia-Africa relations (Mora Tebas 2019). The document completely ignores sharp power, labelling Russian interest in communication markets as no more than regular soft power without taking into consideration de disinformative and manipulative nature of these actions.
A growing interest in Africa
Over the past 20 years, many international actors have shifted their interest towards the African continent, each in a different way.
China has made Africa a mayor geopolitical target in recent years, focusing on economic investments for infrastructure development. Such investments can be noticed in the Ethiopian dam projects such as the Gibe III, or in the Entebbe-Kampala Expressway in Uganda.
This could be considered as debt-trap diplomacy, as China uses infrastructure investments and development loans to gain leverage over African countries. However, there is also a key geopolitical interest, especially in those countries with access to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, due to the One Belt One Road Initiative. This project requires a net of seaports, where Kenya, and specifically the port of Lamu, could play a key role becoming a hub for trade in East Africa (Hurley, Morris and Portelance 2019).
Also, Chinese investments are attractive for African countries because they do not come with prerequisites of democratization or transparent administration, unlike those from western countries.
Yet, even though both China and Russia use sharp power as part of their foreign policy strategies, China does barely use it in Africa, since its interests in the continent are more economic than political. This is based on the view that China is more keen to exploit Africa’s natural resources (Mlambo, Kushamba y Simawu 2016) than anything else.
On the other hand, Russia has both economic and military interests in the region. This is exemplified by the case of Sudan, where in addition to the economic interest in natural resources, there is also a military interest in accessing the Red Sea. In order to achieve these goals, the first step is to grant stability in the country, and it can be achieved through ensuring that public opinion supports the government and accepts Russian presence.
The idea of a Russian world—Russkiy Mir—has grown under Putin and is key to understanding the country’s soft and sharp power strategies. It consists on the expansion of power and culture using any means possible in order to regain the lost superpower status.
However, this approach must not be seen only as a nostalgic push to regain status, but also from a purely pragmatic point of view, since economic and practical factors have “pushed aside ideology” in the competition against the West (Warsaw Institute 2019).
The recent Russia-Africa Summit (23-24 October 2019), that took place in Sochi, Russia, proves how Russia has pivoted towards Africa in recent years, offering infrastructure, energy and other investments as well as arms deals and different advisors. The outcome of this pivoting is being quite beneficial for Moscow in strategic terms.
The Kremlin’s interest in Africa was not remarkable until the post Crimea invasion. The economic sanctions imposed after the occupation of Crimea forced Russia to look further abroad for allies and business opportunities. For instance, as part of this policy there a more robust involvement of Russia in Syria.
The Russian strategy for the African continent involves benefiting favourable politicians through political and military advisors and offering control on media influence (Warsaw Institute 2019). In exchange, Russia looks for military and energy supply contracts, mining concessions and infrastructure building deals. Moreover, on a bigger picture, Russia—as well as China—aims to reduce the influence of the US and former colonial powers France and the UK.
Leaked documents published by The Guardian (Harding and Buerke 2019), show this effort to gain influence on the continent, as well as the strategies followed and the degree of cooperation with the different powers—from governments to opposition groups or social movements.
However, the growth of Russia’s influence in Africa cannot be understood without the figure of Yevgeny Prigozhin, an extremely powerful oligarch which, according to US special counsel Robert Mueller, was critical to the social media campaign for the election of Donald Trump in 2016. He is also linked to the foundation of the Wagner group, a private military contractor present among other conflicts in the Syrian war.
Prigozhin, through a network of enterprises known as ‘The Company’ has been for long the head of Putin’s plans for the African continent, being responsible of the growing number of Russian military experts involved with different governments along the continent, and now suspected to lead the push to infiltrate in the communication markets.
Between 100 and 200 spin doctors have already been sent to the continent, reaching at least 10 different countries (Warsaw Institute 2019). Their focus is on political marketing and specially on social media, with the hope that it can be as influential as in the Arab Springs.
Influence in the media is one of the key aspects of Russia’s influence in Africa, and the main targets in this aspect are the Central African Republic, Madagascar, South Africa and Sudan. Each of these countries has a potential for Russian interests, and is targeted on different levels of cooperation, from weapons deals to spin doctors (Warsaw Institute 2019), but all of them are targets for sharp power strategies.
However, it is hard for a foreign government to directly enter the communication markets of another country without making people suspicious of its activities, and that is where The Company plays its role. Through it, pro-Russian editorial lines are fed to the population of the target states by acquiring already existing media platforms—such as newspapers or television and radio stations—or creating new ones directly under the supervision of officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this ensures that the dominant frames fit Russia’s interests and that of its allies.
Also, the presence of Russian international media is key to its sharp power. Russia Today and Sputnik have expanded their reach by associating with local entities in Eritrea, Ivory Coast, etc. Russian radio services have been expanded to Africa as well as a key factor in both soft and sharp power.
Finally, social media are a great way of distributing disinformation, given its global reach and the insufficient amount of fact-checkers devoted to this area. There, not only Russian media can participate but also bots and individual accounts are at the service of the Kremlin’s interests.
Although Madagascar is viewed by the Kremlin as a high cooperation partner, it doesn’t seem to have much to offer in geopolitical terms other tan mining concessions for Russian companies. Therefore, Russian presence in Madagascar was widely unexpected.
During the May 2019 election, Russia backed six different candidates, but none of them won. In the final stages of the campaign, the Kremlin changed its strategy and backed the expected and eventual winner, Andry Rajoelina (Allison 2019). This could be considered a fiasco and ignored because of the disastrous result, but there is a key aspect that shows how Russia is trying to shape public opinion across the continent.
Although political advisors and spin doctors were only one part of the plan, Russia managed to produce and distribute the biggest mass-selling newspaper along the country with more than two million copies every month (Harding and Buerke 2019). Though it did not seem to have any major impact on the short term, it could be an important asset for shaping public opinion on the long run.
Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CAR) is of major geopolitical relevance in the whole of the African continent. Due to its location as well as its cultural and ethnic features, it is viewed by the Kremlin as the gate to the whole continent. It is the zone of transition between the Muslim north of the continent and the Christian south (Harding and Buerke 2019).
Given the complicated situation and the context of the ongoing civil war, it can be considered as an easy target for foreign powers. This is mainly due to the power structures being weakened by the war. Russia is part of the UN peacekeeping mission in the CAR, in a combination of soft and hard power. Also, a Russian training centre is operative in the country, and both Moscow and Bangui are open to the inauguration of a Russian military base.
Russia played a key role in the peace deal of February 2019, and since 2017 Valery Zakharov, a former Russian intelligence official, has been an adviser to CAR’s president. All of this, if the peacekeeping operations are successful, would lead to an immense political debt in favour of the Kremlin.
The mineral richness of the CAR is another asset to consider due to the reserves of gold and high-quality diamonds. Also, there is a big business opportunity in rebuilding a broken country, and Russian oligarchs and businessmen would certainly be interested in any public contracts regarding this matter.
In the CAR, Russia exerts sharp power not only through social media, but also through two print publications and a radio station, which still have limited influence (Harding and Buerke 2019). Through such means, Russia is consistently feeding its frames narratives to a disoriented population, which given the unstable context, would be an easy target to manipulate. Moreover, the possibility to create a favourable dominant post conflict narrative would render public opinion more likely to accept Russian presence in the future.
Sudan is of major geostrategic importance for Russia among many other actors. For long time both countries have had economic, political and military relations, leading to Sudan being considered by the Kremlin as a level 5 co-operator, the highest possible (Harding and Buerke 2019). This relation is enforced by Sudan’s constant claims of aggressive acts by the United States, for which it demands Russia’s military assistance.
Also, Sudan is rich in uranium, bearing the third biggest reserves in the world. Uranium is a key raw material to build a major power nowadays, and Russia is always keen on new sources of uranium to bolster its nuclear industry.
Moreover, Sudan is key in regional and global geopolitics because it offers Russia a possibility to have a military base with access to the Red Sea. Given the amount of trade routes that go through its waters, the Kremlin would be very keen to have said access. Many other powers have shown interest in this area, such as the gulf States, or China with its base in Djibouti being operative since 2017.
For all these reasons. Sudan is a very special element in Russia’s plans, and thus its level of commitment is greater than in other countries. The election to take place on April 2020 could be considered as one of the most important challenges for democracy in the short term. Russia is closely monitoring the situation in order to draw an efficient plan of action.
Before the end of Omar al-Bashir’s presidency, Russia and Sudan enjoyed good relationship. Russian specialists had prepared reforms in economic and political matters in order to ensure the continuity in power of Bashir, and his fall was a blow to these plans.
However, Russia will devote many resources to amend the situation in the Sudan parliamentary and presidential election, that will take place in April 2020. In a ploy to maintain power, Al Bashir mirrored the measures employed against opposition protesters in Russia. These tactics consist of using disinformation and manipulated videos in order to portray any opposition movement as anti-Islamic, pro-Israeli or pro-LGBT. Given the fact the core of Sudan’s public opinion is mostly conservative and religious, Russia’s plan consists on manipulating it towards its desired candidate or candidates (Harding and Buerke 2019).
In order to ensure that the Russian framing was dominant, social media pages like Radio Africa’s Facebook page or Sudan Daily were presented like news pages, while being in fact part of a Russian-backed influence network in central and northern Africa (Alba and Frenkel 2019). The information shown has been supportive of whatever government is in power, and critical of the protesters (Stanford Internet Observatory 2019), which shows that Russia’s prioritary interest is a stable government and weak protesters.
Another key part of the strategy has been pressuring the government to increase the cost of newsprint to limit the possibilities of countering the disinformation distributed with the help pf Russian advisors (Harding and Buerke 2019). The de-democratization of information can prove to be very effective, even more taking into account the fact that social media is not as powerful in Sudan as it is in western countries, so owning the most popular means of communication allows to create a dominant frame and impose it to the population without them even noticing.
The economic context of South Africa, with a large economy, a rising middle class and a good market overall, is quite interesting for business and could be one of the reasons why Russia has such an interest in the country. Also, South Africa can be seen as an economic gateway to the southern part of the African continent.
South Africa is a key country for the global interest of Russia. Not only for its mineral richness and business opportunities, but mainly for its presence in BRICS. Russia attempts to use BRICS as a global counterbalance in a US dominated international landscape.
Russia is interested in selling nuclear technology to its allies, and South Africa is no exception. The presence of South Africa in BRICS is key to understand why such a deal would be so interesting for Russia. BRICS may not offer the possibility to create a perfect counter-balance for western powers, mainly due to the unsurpassable discrepancies among the involved countries, but its ability to cooperate comprehensively on limited shared projects and objectives can be of critical relevance (Salzman 2019).
The presence in the country of Afrique Panorama and AFRIC (Association for Free Research and International Cooperation), shows how Russia attempts to exert its influence. Both pages are linked to Prigozhin, but they are disguised as independent. AFRIC was involved in the elections of Zimbabwe, South Africa, Madagascar and DRC (Grossman, Bush y Diresta 2019).
In fact, if public opinion could be shaped in order to make Russia’s interests like nuclear cooperation acceptable by South Africa, the main obstacle would be surpassed, and a comprehensive plan of cooperation would be in play sooner than later.
The elections of May 2019 were one of the main priorities for Russia. The election saw Cyril Ramaphosa elected, as successor of Jacob Zouma. Ramaphosa is known to have openly congratulated Nicolás Maduro for his second inauguration and holds good relations with Vietnam. This are indicators of a willingness to have good relations even with anti-western powers, which is of big interest for the Kremlin. Furthermore, he has a vast business experience, being the architect of the most powerful trade union in the country among other achievements and initiatives, which would see him open to strike deals with Russian oligarchs in the mineral or energetic fields.
All this considered, South Africa is of extreme relevance for Russia, and thus its efforts to be able to shape public opinion. This could be used to favour the implementation of nuclear facilities as well as electing favourable politicians, creating a political debt to be exploited someday. For now, any activity has been limited to tracking and getting to understand public opinion. However, the creation of new media under some form of control by the Kremlin is one of the priorities for the coming years (Harding and Buerke 2019), and could prove a very valuable asset if it’s successfully achieved. Also, despite what was said in the case of Sudan, the importance of social media is not to be forgotten or underestimated, especially given the advantage of English being an official language in the country.
The bigger picture
From a more theorical point of view, that of the Flow and Contra-flow paradigm, Russia attempts to set the political agenda through mass media control, as well as impose its own frames or those that benefit its allies. Also, given the proportions of the project, we could talk about an attempt to go back to the cultural imperialism doctrines, where Russia attempts to pose its narrative as a counterflow of the western narratives. This was mainly seen during the cold war, when global powers attempted to widely spread their own narratives through controlling said information flows, arguably as a form of cultural imperialism.
This can be seen as an attempt to counterbalance the power of the US and western powers by attempting to shift African countries towards non-western actors. And African countries may be interested in this idea, since being the centre of the competition could mean better deals and business opportunities or investments being offered to them.
It would be a mistake to think that Russia’s sharp power in Africa is just a tool to help political allies get to power or maintain it. Beyond that, Russia monitors social conflicts and attempts to intensify them in order to destabilize target countries or exterior powers (Alba and Frenkel 2019). Such is the case in Comoros, where Prigozhin employees were tasked to explore the possibilities of intensifying the conflict between the local government and the French administration (Harding and Buerke 2019). Again on a broader picture of things, the attempt to develop an African self-identity through the use of sharp power looks to reduce the approval of influence of western democracies on the continent, thus creating a context ideal for bolstering dependence on the Russian administration either through supply contracts or political debt.
In conclusion, the recent growth of Russia’s soft and above all sharp power in Africa could potentially be one of the political keys in the years to follow, and it is not to be overlooked by western democracies. Global media, supranational entities and public administrations should put their efforts on providing civil society with the tools to avoid falling for Russia’s manipulative tactics and serve as guarantors of democracy. The most immediate focus should be on the US 2020 election, since the worst-case scenario is that the latest exercises of Russia’s sharp power in Africa are a practice towards a new attempt at influencing the US presidential election in 2020.
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▲ Farewell of Espérance Nyirasafari (left) as minister of Gender and Family Promotion, in Rwanda's capital in 2018 [Rwanda's Gov.]
ESSAY / María Rodríguez Reyero
South Africa is ranked 17th in the World Economic Forum's 2020 Global Gender Gap Index (a two place increase from 2019), while Rwanda is ranked 9th (a three place decline from the previous year). Interestingly, Spain is ranked 8th (a major gain of 11 places in one year). Since 2018, Spain has made a gain of 21 places, which is only rivaled by countries like Madagascar (22), Mexico and Georgia (25) and Ethiopia (35).
Regarding political participation and governance in the last decade, the number of African women in ministerial posts has tripled. African women already account for 22.5% of parliamentary seats, a similar percentage to that of Europe (23.5%) and higher than that of the US (18%). However, does the increase in female participation in high political positions lead to a real improvement in the lives of other women? Or is female participation only a façade?
This study’s main aim is to explore the impact that women’s participation in politics has on the circumstances of the rest of women in their countries. The study is based on secondary research and quantitative data collection and will objectively analyze the situation in Spain, Rwanda, and South Africa and draw pertinent conclusions.
From April to July 1994, between 800,000 and one million ethnic Tutsis were brutally killed during a 100 day killing spree perpetrated by Hutus . After the genocide, Rwanda was on the edge of total collapse. Entire villages had been destroyed, and social cohesion was in tatters. Yet, this small African country has made a remarkable economic turnaround since the genocide. The country now boasts intra-regional trade and has positioned itself as an attractive destination for foreign investment, being a leading country in the African economy. Rwanda’s economy appears to be thriving, with annual GDP growth averaging 7.76% between 2000 and 2019, and “growth expected to continue at a similar pace over the next few years” according to a recent study of World Finance. About 70% of the survivors of the fratricidal struggle between Hutus and Tutsis are women, and thus women play a role of utmost importance in the recovery of Rwanda.
The Rwandan genocide ended with the deaths of one million people and the rape of more than 200,000 women. Women were the clear losers of the conflict, yet the conflict also enabled women to become the main economic, political and social engine of Rwanda during its recovery from the war. Roles traditionally assigned to men were assigned to women, which turned women into more active members of society and empowered them to fight for their rights. The main area where this shift has been felt is in politics, where gender parity reaches its highest level thanks to Rwanda’s continued commitment to equal representation. This support has led the proportion of women in the Rwandan National Parliament to even exceed that of men in the lower house, which consists of 49 women out of a total of 89 representatives.
The body responsible for coordinating female protection and empowerment is the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, promoter of the National Gender Policy. The minister of Gender until 2018 was Espérance Nyirasafari. Nyirasafari was responsible for several main changes in Rwandan society including the approval of laws against gender-based violence. She now serves as one of two Vice Presidents of the senate of Rwanda.
Consequently, Rwanda illustrates African female advancement. In addition to currently being the world's leading country in female representation in Parliament, (in which women hold nearly 60% of the seats), Rwanda reached the fourth highest position in the las World Economic Forum's gender gap report. The only countries that came close in this respect were Namibia and South Africa.
The political representation of women in Rwanda has led to astonishing results in other areas, notably education. Rwanda’s education system is considered one of the most advanced in Africa, with free and compulsory access to primary school and the first years of high school. About 100% of Rwandan children are incorporated into primary school and 75% of young people ages 15+ are literate. However, high school attendance is significantly low, counting with just 23% of young people, of which women represent only 30%. Low high school attendance is mainly due to the predominance of rural areas in the country, where education is more difficult to access, especially for women, who are frequently committed to marriage and the duties of housework and family life from a very young age. Despite the growing data and measures established, education is in reality very hard to achieve for women, who are mostly stuck at home or committed to other labor.
Regarding the legislative measures put in place to achieve gender equality and better conditions and opportunities for women, Rwanda does not score high. Despite being one of the most advanced countries in gender equality, currently, no laws exist to ensure equal pay or non-discrimination in the hiring of women, according to WEF’s 2019 report, even if some relevant legal measures have been effectively been put into practice since the ratification of the 2003 Constitution, which demonstrates the progress on gender equality in Rwanda.
The Constitution also argues that the principle of gender equality must prevail in politics and that the list of members of the Chamber of Deputies must be governed by this equitable principle. The law on gender violence passed in 2008 is proof of national commitment to women's rights, as it recognizes innovative protections such as the prohibition of spousal rape, three months of compulsory maternity leave (even some Western countries such as the United States lack this protection) or equal rights in inheritance process regardless of gender.
Finally the labor law passed in 2009 establishes numerous protections for Rwandan women, such as receiving the same salary as their male colleagues or the total prohibition of any gesture of sexual content towards them.
Some of the most relevant progress made in Rwanda are the reduction of the percentage of women in extreme poverty from 40% in 2001 to 16.3% in 2014, and the possession of land by 26% of women personally and 54% in a shared way with their husbands. Thanks to the work and commitment of female politicians, Rwandan women today enjoy inalienable rights which women in many other countries can only dream of. This ongoing egalitarian work has paid off: Rwanda is as mentioned above the 9th country in the world with a smaller gender gap, only behind Iceland, Nicaragua, Finland, Sweden, and Norway. In the annual study of the World Economic Forum, only five countries (including Rwanda, the only African) have surpassed the 50% barrier in terms of reducing the gender gap in politics. Likewise, the gender parity in economic participation that Rwanda has achieved is of great relevance, which has made it the first country in the world to include women in the world of work and equal economic remuneration. Rwanda is a regional role model in terms of egalitarian legislation.
According to IMF and World Bank latest data, South Africa currently is the second most prosperous country of the whole continent, only surpassed by Nigeria. The structure of its economy is that of a developed country, with the preeminence of the services sector, and the country stands out for its extensive natural resources, thus being considered one of the largest emerging economies nowadays. South Africa also has a seat in the BRICS economy block (with Brazil, Russia, India, and China) and is a member of the G20.
Despite its economic position, the country is also home to great inequality, largely bequeathed in its history of racial segregation. According to the New York Times, the post-apartheid society had to face great challenges: it had to “re-engineer an economy dominated by mining and expand into modern pursuits like tourism and agriculture while overcoming a legacy of colonial exploitation, racial oppression, and global isolation — the results of decades of international sanctions." However, what is the role of women in this deep transformation? Has their situation improved or are they the new discriminated ones?
South Africa continues to lead the way in women's political participation in the region with 46% of women in the House of Assembly and provincial legislatures and 50% of women in the cabinet after the May 2019 elections. All the speakers in the national and provincial legislatures are women. Women parliamentarians rose from 40% in 2014 to 46% in 2019.
Rwanda, Namibia and South Africa are ranked in the top 20 countries in reducing the gender gap. On the other hand, South Africa does have established legislation about equality in salaries, but not in non-discrimination in the hiring process according to the data collected by the World Economic Forum in January 2020.
South Africa is writing a new page in its history thanks to the entry of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (she was elected in 2012 president of the African Union Commission becoming the first woman to lead this organization, and currently serves as Minister of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation in South Africa’s Government) and other women, such as Lindiwe Nonceba Sisulu (minister of International Relations and Cooperation until 2019) into the political competition.
Subsequently, women have always been involved in political organizations, as well as in the trade union movement and other civil society organizations. Although evolving in a patriarchal straitjacket due to the social role women had assigned, they don't waited for "the authorization of men" to claim their rights. This feminine tradition of political engagement in South Africa has resulted the writing of a protective Constitution for women in a post-apartheid multiracial and supposedly non-sexist context.
However, this has not led to an effective improvement in the real situation of women in the country. According to local media data, a woman dies every eight hours in South Africa because of gender violence and, according to 2016 government statistics, one in five claims to have suffered at some time in her life. Besides, in South Africa, about 40,000 violations are reported annually, according to police data, the vast majority reported by women. These figures lead South Africa's statistics agency to estimate that 1.4 out of every thousand women have been raped, which places the country with one of the highest rates of this type in the world.
After a cruel civil war, followed by 36 years of dictatorship, Spanish society was looking forward to a change, and thus the democratic transition took place, transforming an oppressed country into the Spain we nowadays know. In many occasions, history tends to forget the 27 women, deputies and senators of the 1977 democratic legislature who were architects of this political change (divorce law, legalize the sale of contraceptives, participate in the drafting of the Constitution of 1978, amongst others). These women also having an active role in politics, something unusual and risky for a woman at that time (without rights as basic as owning property or opening a bank account during the dictatorship). It is clear that women played a crucial role in the transformation of Spanish society, but has it really been effective?
Spain’s new data since the establishment of a new government in January 2020 is among the top 4 European countries with the highest female proportion: behind Sweden (with 47.4%), France (47.2%) and Finland (45.8%), according to the latest data published by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). After the last elections in November, Spain is placed in tenth place in the global ranking. Ahead, there are Rwanda (with 61.3%), Cuba (53.2%), Bolivia (53.1%), Mexico (48.2%) and others such as Grenada, Namibia, Sweden, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, according to data published by the World Bank. Of the 350 congress deputies, 196 are men and 154 are women, meaning that 56% of the members of the House of Representatives are men while 44% are women.
In Spain, also almost every child gets a primary education according to OECD but almost 35% of Spanish young people do not get a higher education. Of those who do go to university nearly 60% of all the students are women. They also get better grades and take on average less time to graduate than men but are less likely to hold a power position: according to PwC Spain last data, only a 19% of all directive positions are held by women, 11% of management advice are women and less than a 5% are women in direction or presidency of Spanish enterprises. This is since at least 2.5 million women in Spain cannot access the labor market because they have to take care of family care. Among men, the figure is reduced to 181,000. The data has been given by the International Labor Organization (ILO). The study also revealed that women in Spain perform 68% of all unpaid care work, dedicating twice as much time as men. About 25% of inactive women in Spain claim that they cannot work away from home because of their family charges. This percentage is much higher than those of other surrounding countries, such as Portugal (13%) or France (10%) and the European average. It is also much larger than that of Spanish men who do not work for the same reason (3%).
Regarding gender-based violence, even if Spain has since 2004 an existing regulation to severely punish it, in the year 2019 a total of 55 women have been killed by their partners or ex-partners, the highest death toll since 2015, with a total of 1,033 since they began to be credited in 2003, according to the balance of the Government Delegation for Gender Violence last data.
To sum up, even if African countries such as Rwanda and South Africa have more women representation and are doing well by-passing laws and measures, due to cultural reasons such as a more ingrained patriarchal society, community interventions, family pressure or the stigma of single mothers, gender equality is more difficult in Africa. Culture, in reality, makes it more difficult to be effective, whereas in Spain the measures implemented, even if they are apparently less numerous, are more effective when it comes to creating institutions that protect women. Women in Africa usually depend a lot on their husbands; they very often suffer in silence not to be left alone without financial support, a situation that in Spain has been tacked without problems.
It is not so much a legislative issue but a cultural one: in Spain, if a woman suffers gender violence and reports it, it is more likely that she would be offered government's help (monetary help, job opportunities...) in order to start a new life, and she most certainly will not be judged by society due to her circumstances. Whereas in South Africa for example, a UN Women rapporteur estimated that only one in nine rapes were reported to the police and that this number was even lower if the woman was raped by a partner, this mainly being due to the social stigma still present nowadays. In Rwanda, a 2011 report from the Rwandan Men's Resource Centre said 57% of women questioned had experienced violence from a partner, while 32% of women had been raped by their husbands, this crime being admitted by only 4% of men, as rape in marriage is seen as a normal situation due to cultural reasons: women still depend somehow on their husbands, and family is the center of society, so it must not be broken.
In numerous occasions, in African countries justice is taken at a different level, in order not to disturb the social and familial order; frequently, rape or gender violence is tackled amongst the parties by negotiating or by less traditional justice systems such as community systems like Gacaca court in Rwanda (a social form of justice designed to promote communal healing, massively used after Rwandan genocide), something unbelievable in Spain, where according to official data from Equality Ministry, last year more than 40.000 reports for gender violence were heard by courts.
In regard to inequality and according to the latest IMF studies, closing the gender gap in employment could increase the GDP of a country by 35% on average, of which between 7 and 8 percentage points correspond to increases in productivity thanks to gender diversity. Having one more woman in senior management or on the board of directors of a company raises the return on assets between 8 and 13 basis points. Consequently, we could state that, as shown by the data (not only those provided by the IMF, but the evident improvements that have taken place throughout this decade in Spain, Burundi, Rwanda, and South Africa) the presence of women both in top management positions and above all, in politics and governance does lead to a real improvement in the rights and lifestyles of the rest of the women, and a substantial improvement of the country as a whole.
However, after their arduous and tricky climb to the top, women inherit a political system which is difficult, if not almost impossible, to change in a few years. Furthermore, the question of the application of laws, when they exist, by the judicial system is a huge challenge in all states as well as making effective all the measures for the reduction of gender inequality. This supposes such a great challenge, not only for these women but also for the whole society, as having arrived where we are.
 World Economic Forum (December 2020), The Global Gender Gap Report 2020. World Economic Forum. Accessed 14/02/2020
 Natalie Keffler (2019)., ‘Economic growth in Rwanda has arguably come at the cost of democratic freedom’, World Finance. Accessed 14/02/2020
 Violet K. Dixon (2009), A Study in Violence: Examining Rape in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Inquires journal. Accessed 14/02/2020
 Natalie Keffler (2019)., ‘Economic growth in Rwanda has arguably come at the cost of democratic freedom’, World Finance. Accessed 14/02/2020
 Tony Blair. (2014), ‘20 years after the genocide, Rwanda is a beacon of hope.’ The Guardian. Accessed 14/02/20
 Alexandra Topping (2014), ‘The genocide Conflict and arms Rwanda's women make strides towards equality 20 years after the genocide.’ The Guardian. Accessed 14/02/2020
 Peter S. Goodman (2017), ‘End of Apartheid in South Africa? Not in Economic Terms.’ The New York Times Sitio. Accessed 14/02/2020
 Gopolang Makou (2018), ‘Femicide in South Africa: 3 numbers about the murdering of women investigated.’ Africa Check. Accessed 14/02/2020
 British Broadcasting Corporation (2019), ‘Sexual violence in South Africa: 'I was raped, now I fear for my daughters'. BBC News. Accessed 14/02/2020
▲ People in a rural area of Cameroon [Photokadaffi]
ESSAY / EMILIJA ŽEBRAUSKAITĖ
In seeking to better understand the grounds of Islamic fundamentalism in Africa, it is worth to looks for the common denominators that make different areas prone to the insurgence of extremism. In the continent of boundaries that were mainly drawn by the Europeans, many countries contain a multitude of cultures and religions, all of them in constant interaction and more often than not – friction with each other. However, in order to classify the region as highly susceptible to the inter-religious or inter-cultural conflict to happen, there are more important factors that must be taken into consideration. Through quantitative study and document analysis, this article, with an example of the rise of Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria and the expansion of the group to the neighbouring countries such as Cameroon, will underline the most important problems that paved the path for the emergence and spread of the Islamic fundamentalism, discussing its historical, social and ideological origins, at the same time providing possible long-time solutions on social and ideological ground.
The brief history of Islam in Nigeria and Cameroon
The arrival of Islam to Nigeria dates back to the 11th and 12th centuries, when it spread from North Africa through trade and migration. It incorporated Husa and Fulani tribes into the common cultural ground of Islam which extended throughout North Africa, introducing them to the rich Islamic culture, art, Arabic language and teachings. In the 19th century, Fulani scholar named Usman Dan Fodio launched a jihad, establishing a Sokoto Caliphate ruled under a strict form of Shari’a law, further spreading Islamic influence in the region, introducing it for the first time to the area which today forms the Northern part of Cameroon, another country of our analysis.
The Sokoto Caliphate remained the most powerful state in Western Africa until the arrival of the European colonists. As opposed to the Southern part of Nigeria which was colonized and Christianized, the North received a lesser portion of Western education and values, as the Europeans ruled it indirectly through the local leaders. The same happened with Cameroon, which was indirectly ruled by the Germans in the North and experienced a more direct Westernization in the South. Even the indirect rule, however, brought great changes to the political and judicial processes, which became foreign to the local inhabitants. “This was viewed by Muslim northerners as an elevation of Christian jurisprudence over its Islamic judicial heritage” (Thomson, 2012) and the experience was without a doubt a humiliating and painful one – a foreign body destroying the familiar patterns of a lifestyle led for centuries, implementing a puppet government, diminishing the significance of a Sultan to that of a figurehead.
After their corresponding independence in 1960, both Nigeria and Cameroon became what American political scientist Samuel Huntington called cleft countries – composed of many ethnical groups and two major religions – Christianity in the South and Islam in the North. This situation, as described by Huntington, can be called the clash of civilizations between Islamic and Western tradition. He identifies the similarity between the two religions as one of the main reasons for their incompatibility: “Both are monotheistic religions, which, unlike the polytheistic ones, cannot easily assimilate additional deities, and which see the world in dualistic, us-and-them terms” (Huntington, 2002).
The independence also brought secularization of the two countries, thus undermining in both the political Islamism and the idea that Muslims should be ruled by the law of God, and not the law of men. However, the long-lasting Islamic tradition uniting the Northern Nigeria (and to some extent Northern Cameroon, although it was introduced to Islam much later) with the rest of North Africa and separating it from its Southern counterpart prevailed. “The Sokoto Caliphate remains a not-so-very distant and important reference point for Nigeria’s Muslims and represents the powerful role that jihad and Shari’a law played in uniting the region, rejecting corruption, and creating prosperity under Islam” (Thomson, 2012).
Fertile ground for fundamentalism
Out of the romantic sentiments of long lost glory, it is not too difficult to incite resentment for modernity. To a certain extent, a distaste for the Westernization, which was an inevitable part of modernizing a country, is justifiable. After all, European imperialism selfishly destroyed indigenous ways of life enforcing their own beliefs and political systems, ethics, and norms a practice that continued even after decolonisation. Yet, the impetus for the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in Nigeria as well as other places in Africa can be found as much in the current situation as in the past grievances.
In Nigeria specifically, the gap was further enhanced by different European policies concerning the Northern and Southern parts of the country. Along with the more direct Westernization, the Southern part of Nigeria was also better educated, familiar to Western medicine, bureaucracy, and science. It had an easier time to adapt to forming part of a modern liberal state. According to the data published in Educeleb, by 2017 Nigeria’s literacy rate was 65.1% (Amoo, 2018). All the Southern states were above the national average and all the Northern ones were below. The same statistics also depict the fact that the difference between literacy level between genders is barely noticeable in the Southern states, while in the Northern states the gap is much wider.
Apart from the differences mentioned above, the Southern region is the place where the oil-rich Niger delta, which in 2018 contributed to 87.7% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange, is situated (Okpi, 2018). It can be argued that the wealth is not equally distributed throughout the country and while the Christian South experiences economic growth, it often does not reach the Northern regions with Muslim majority. “Low income means poverty, and low growth means hopelessness”, wrote Paul Collier in his book The Bottom Billion: “Young men, who are the recruits for rebel armies, come pretty cheap in an environment of hopeless poverty. Life itself is cheap, and joining a rebel movement gives these young men a small change of riches” (Collier, 2007).
The rise of Boko Haram
In this disproportionally impoverished Northern part of the country and with the goal of Islamic purification for Northern Nigeria, a spiritual leader, Muhammad Yusuf, founded an organization which he called People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad. The locals, however, named it Boko Haram, which literally means books are forbidden and reflects the organization’s rejection of Western education and values. Boko Haram was founded in 2002 in Borno state, Maiduguri, where Yusuf established a mosque and Koranic school in which he preached Islamic teachings with a goal of establishing an Islamic state ruled by Shari’a law. “Western-style education is mixed with issues that run contrary to our beliefs in Islam” (Yusuf, 2009).
Although the organization seemed to be peaceful enough for Nigerian government to ignore it for the first seven years of its existence, from the start Boko Haram was antagonistic towards the secular government which they associated with corruption, Christian-domination and Western influence. In 2009 the confrontation between the group and Nigeria’s security forces led to and extrajudicial killing of the Muhammed Yusuf in captivity (Smith, 2009). The event became an impetus for the pre-existing animosity Boko Haram felt for the state to grow into an actual excuse for violence. Since 2009 the group was led by Abubakar Shekau who replaced Muhammad Yusuf after his death.
The attacks of the organization became more frequent and brutal, killing many civilians in Nigeria and neighboring countries, Muslims and Christians alike. Although its primary focus laid on the state of Borno, after being pushed out of its capital Maiduguri, Boko Haram became a rural-based organization, operating in the impoverished region around Lake Chad basin (Comolli, 2017). Apart from Nigeria, the countries in which Boko Haram inflicted damage include Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Cameroon, the latest being the subject of analysis in this essay.
Impact of Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon
To illustrate the impact the terrorist group had on the socio-economic development of the region, we will look at the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance (Ibrahim Index of African Governance, n.d.). As an example, we will evaluate the perception of personal security and level of national security in Nigeria – a country in which the Boko Haram had originated, and Cameroon – one of the countries where it spread after Nigeria’s government launched their counter-terrorism program. The timeline for the graphs runs from the year 2000 to 2016 in order to capture the changes in national security and personal safety in Cameroon and Nigeria. This aid the study in drawing concrete conclusions over a period of time.
Figure 1: Impact of Boko Haram on Personal Safety and National Security in Nigeria.
Source: Mo Ibrahim Index
The perception of personal safety in Nigeria, according to Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance, started decreasing since 2010. The tendency can be explained by the fact that in 2009 Nigerian government confronted the fundamentalist group, after which it became more active and violent. The perception of personal safety also dropped after 2014, the year that was marked by the infamous capturing of 276 Chibok schoolgirls out of their school dormitory. When it comes to the index portraying the level of national security, similar tendencies can be seen characterized by the drop of national security in 2009 and after 2014.
Figure 2: Impact of Boko Haram on Personal Safety and National Security in Cameroon
Source: Mo Ibrahim Index
Another example can be Cameroon, the second most affected country after Nigeria which was infiltrated by Boko Haram in 2009. During that time, however, the presence of the terrorist group in the North of Cameroon was rather unassertive. At first the group was focusing on establishing their connections, gaining Cameroonian recruits, using the country as a transit of weapons to Nigeria (Heungoup, 2016). With the beginning of the kidnapping of foreigners, however, the year 2013 is marked by the drop of national security in the country. By 2014, the Cameroonian government declared war against Boko Haram, to which the group responded with a further increase of violence and thus – further drop of national safety.
An additional peak of terrorist attacks can be noticed after the renewed wave of governmental resistance after the 2015 elections in Nigeria which strongly weakened Boko Haram’s influence, at the same time leading to increasingly asymmetric warfare. In Cameroon only, Boko Haram executed more than 50 suicide bombers attacks, which killed more than 230 people (Heungoup, 2016). In the end, it is clear that despite the efforts of Nigerian and Cameroonian governments in fighting Boko Haram by declaring the war against terrorism, it cannot be said with certainty that the response of the governments of these countries were effective in eliminating or even containing the terrorist group. On the contrary, it seems that pure military resistance only further provoked the terrorist group and led to an increase of violence.
Response of the government
The outbreak of violence at the instigation of Boko Haram elicited a similar response from Nigerian armed forces in 2009 (Solomon, 2012). The office of president Goodluck Johnson launched a military mission in Maiduguri, which united the Nigerian Police Force with the Department of State Security, the army, the navy and the air force (Amnesty, 2011). Extra attention was bestowed upon the emergency regions of Borno, Niger, Plateau and Yobo (Economist, 2011).
In order to prevent Boko Haram from hiding and regrouping in the neighboring states after being actively fought in Nigeria, the government tightened the border security in the North, however, as it has already been explained, the tactics failed miserably as Boko Haram was able to hide and regroup in Nigeria’s Northern neighbors after being pushed out of Nigeria. The effort to prevent Boko Haram from gaining foreign support, financing and reinforcement were also dysfunctional, as the terrorist group was successful in finding allies. With the support of other Islamist groups such as Al Qaeda, the previously local problem is becoming more globalized and requires equally global and coordinated efforts to fight it.
And yet, so far the policy of Goodluck Johnson was proven counterproductive due to the internal problems of Nigerian security process such as corruption, unjustified violence, extrajudicial killings as opposed to intelligence-based operations (Amnesty, 2011, p. 30). Another problem can be identified in the specific case of Nigeria being a melting pot of cultures and religions. Each region requires a unique approach based on the understanding of the culture, values and customs of the area. Yet, the Nigerian soldiers in charge of the safety of the Northern states were National instead of local, making the indigenous population feel controlled by the foreign body.
So far, the policy of president Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected in 2015, was not much more successful than his predecessor’s. At the beginning of his presidency, Buhari was successful in reclaiming the territory occupied by Boko Haram and was quick to announce the defeat of the terrorist group. However, after losing their ground in Nigeria, Boko Haram again retreated to regroup in the neighboring countries, only to reemerge again multiplied into two distinct terrorist organization, further complicating the resistance. Overall, the use of force has proven to be ineffective in striking down terrorism. The previous examples lead to the conclusion that the use of dialogue and changes in national policies, as opposed to pure force, are crucial for the long term solutions.
Solution to Boko Haram
According to United Nations development program report “Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment” the main factors that make a person prone to get involved with fundamentalism are childhood circumstances, lack of state involvement in their surroundings, religious ideologies, and economic factors (UNDP, 2017). In order to prevent violent extremism, it must be tackled in the roots, because, as we have already seen before, facing violence with further violence approach provided little improvement on the status quo.
Childhood experience may be one of the fundamental reasons for joining extremism later. Members of marginalized communities, in which children were facing personal problems such as lack of parental involvement, lack of education, lack of exposure to different ethnicities and religions, are especially vulnerable. In these borderland areas, the children are rarely entitled to social security, they are often distrustful of the government and do not develop any sense of national belonging. The trust that the government favors some over others is only strengthened by personal witnessing of bribe-paying and corruption. The staggering 78% of the responders of the UN research reported being highly mistrustful of the police, politicians and the military (UNDP, 2017).
The isolation and minimum exposure to other ethnic and religious groups also contribute to the feeling of segregation and suspicion towards others. 51% of recruits have reported having joined due to religious beliefs, some in fear of their religion being endangered. However, even a higher percentage of 57 confessed their understanding of the sacred texts to be limited. This closes the circle of poverty and lack of education, with unemployment being the priority factor for 13% of the volunteer recruits questioned. In the end, are there any possible solutions for this continuous lemniscate (UNDP, 2017)? If there are any they must be in line with the theory of security-development nexus. By increasing the quality of the former, the later will be activated into motion and vice versa. Eliminate one of them and the other will stabilize itself naturally.
The few solutions tackling both lack of security and slow development can be named, starting with combating the traumatizing childhood experiences. Long term solutions are undoubtedly based on the provision of education and social security which would aim to ensure the school attendance, community support for the parents and child-welfare services. The civil education is no less important to encourage the sense of national belonging and trust in the government, which also includes harsher anti-corruption regulations and more government spending directed to the marginalized communities. Strategies to promote a better understanding of the religion as a counterforce for the ignorance leading to easy recruitment, encouraging religious leaders to develop their own anti-extremism strategy, are also solutions that address the often expressed fears of religious groups who feel excluded, their faith being depreciated. The last but not least are the provision of work opportunities in the risk areas - promoting entrepreneurship, facilitating the access of the markets, upgrading infrastructure, basically creating economic opportunities of dignified employment and livelihood.
In the end, underlying question when analyzing Islamic fundamentalism is this: when a Western liberal state, such as the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Islamic faith meet, is there a possibility of reasonable conversation? Originating in Europe, liberalism, as a political doctrine, grew as an opposition to religious doctrines, seeking to establish a secular government founded on reason. And although functional in the Western societies, is liberalism really compatible with Christianity, and even more unlikely, is it compatible with Islam?
While liberal societies are open to freedom of religion, the Abrahamic Religions, being based on a notion of a singular truth, are not that welcoming of the freedom of thought, at least when it extends beyond the dogmas. Neither are they originally very tolerant of the beliefs that diverge from their own doctrines. Looking back at the Middle Ages, the time of prosperity of the Catholic Church, it can be said that Catholic social structure stands on the obedience to the Pope and the official doctrine of the Church. When it comes to Islam, following similar logic, one can argue that the caliphate with a society (ummah) ruled under the shari’a law is a basis of Islamic social order. In its fundamental forms, both are considered unalterable and divinely originated and neither is compatible with a relativist liberal state whose basis of legitimacy lies far from God’s will. When the two religious doctrines meet in a nation-state, as in the case of Nigeria, there are arguably only two ends to the story.
The first one, which was already mentioned is Huntington’s idea of the clash of civilizations. He argued that the conflict that happens when Islamic and Western civilizations meet is inherent in their doctrines. A secular modern state, being a Western creation, when incorporating Muslim societies only further enhances the friction due to the fact that "the Muslim concept of Islam as a way of life transcending and uniting religion and politics versus the Western Christian concept of the separate realms of God and Cesar" (Huntington, 2002). This makes it more difficult for the Muslims to adapt to the contemporary reality, as in Islam the idea of nation-state is undermined by the concept of ummah (Huntington, 2002).
And although Huntington’s argument that the inherent beliefs of a single truth in both religions in their fundamental forms make them incompatible with each other as well as with the present-day reality of a nation-state based international order, this line of thinking does not promote any kind of solution to the continuous problem of religious and cultural differences, which often manifest themselves in the oppression of one group by another creating friction – a fertile ground for further religious fundamentalism. In a world where the colliding of the different religions in everyday situations are inevitable, we must search for a middle ground.
This brings us to the second outcome, which is arguably the only one that can ever lead to a peaceful end. It, of course, requires compromise from religious groups, a compromise which nobody is likely to make when it comes to their fundamental beliefs, and much needed yet the same, because only the dialogue can lead to mutual respect and understanding, two things that wipe out hostility and fear rooted into ignorance. The second outcome of inter-religious interaction would be what John Rawls called an overlapping consensus between different comprehensive doctrines (Rawls, 1933). As by definition comprehensive doctrines are those, which are compatible with political liberalism, it inherently carries an idea of the necessity of some doctrines to give up on the segments of their ideologies that are incompatible with the aforementioned system.
The capitalist system, for example, originally was not willingly received by the Catholic social teachings, being considered a source of injustice. However, the Church, although never particularly eager for it, learned to accept the dominance of capitalism as a current reality and live with it (Fred Kammer). But would it be possible with the doctrine of shari’a law, for example, which is, after all, a basis of Muslim faith, as some Muslims believe that being ruled by the law of God is the only righteous path? This kind of comparison is hardly just from the beginning, as Jesus, unlike Muhammad, was never a political leader and Christianity was always religious and never political tradition, while Islam was always both. Shari’a law, as the sovereignty of God over people, is completely incompatible with democracy which is based on the idea of the sovereignty of the people over themselves, and we are forced to come back to the question of willingness to compromise again.
John Rawls argues that “A modern democratic society is characterized not simply by a pluralism of comprehensive religious, philosophical, and moral doctrines but by a pluralism of incompatible yet reasonable comprehensive doctrines,” (Rawls, 1933). The doctrines might as well be incompatible and coexist together, but in the end, they will still have to compromise in order to be compatible with liberalism. The modern world will have to learn to do so sooner or later, to give up their universalist beliefs and give them the benefit of the doubt. This is the price for peace everybody must pay: the weak will have to pay more than the strong, but even the strong cannot use the principle of coercion forever.
In the end, it can be concluded that the insurgence of Islamic fundamentalism in Africa is grounded in common traits such as historical and religious grievances, the relative poverty of one group in proportion to the other, lack of governmental presence and aid in some of the regions. On the micro-level, people are more willing to be recruited when they are uneducated, belong to segregated religious communities, live in relative poverty, do not receive support from the government and live without hope for a better future.
The solution to the spread of extremism, as it has been demonstrated by the example of Nigeria and Cameroon, cannot be rooted purely in the military missions, as they tend to get violent and further decrease the trust of the civilians in their government, closing a circle of us vs. them mentality. The means for solving the problem should include higher governmental presence and aid in the development of the afflicted regions, in the effort of further integration of currently segregated societies by helping them form a part of wider national identity. The idea of integration also transcends to the ideological, religious and cultural level as Islamic fundamentalism often arises from the rejection of Western culture and values that often feel imposed and foreign in the Muslim communities.
The key to the inter-religious conversation, especially when we are talking about Islam and Christianity, two religions that clash ideologically due to mutual assertiveness of sole truth, is the willingness to compromise and adapt to the current social order. If the roots of the problem are not cut off, the friction will continue on to transcend the ideological sphere and manifest itself in the military conflicts, terrorism, even big-scale wars. In an increasingly smaller world, in which the inter-religious interactions cannot be avoided, the decisions must be made. After all, how long we can live in the clash of civilizations?
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Yusuf, M. (2009, July 31). (BBC News, Interviewer)
The Belgian city, the world's capital of diamonds, has applied more regulations, sanctions and scrutiny on the industry, but still there are some bad practices
▲ The diamond industry has its main world centre in the Belgian city of Antwerp
ANALYSIS / Jokin de Carlos Sola
The diamond trade moves hundreds of millions of euros every year around the globe. Most of them come from third world countries were the diamonds are extracted by very hard means. Even today, diamonds coming from conflict zones and used to finance conflicts and violence are a significant part of the market. Nowadays the production is mainly sold in cities of the United States and Europe and most of those diamonds in some way or another end up passing through the city of Antwerp in Belgium, showing that the Dutch and Belgians still have certain control over the industry.
This text will explore the origins of the city of Antwerp as a centre in the diamond market and of the control by Dutch and Belgians of this particular business; then it will analyse this industry in the new globalised era, and finally explain the relation of the city of Antwerp and the trade of blood diamonds.
Low Lands, a land of diamonds
Until the 19th century most diamonds came to Europe from India through the ports of Bruges, Antwerp and Amsterdam. The origins of the Low Countries as a centre of diamond craft and trade comes from the 15th century. In 1475 a Flemish jeweller, named Lodewyck van Bercken, invented the scaif, a polishing wheel infused with diamond dust and olive oil. This made easier the cutting of a diamond and revolutionised the industry. Bercken was a protégée of Duke Charles de Bold and his techniques were spread all around the Low Countries. For the next years Antwerp and Amsterdam became big competitors in the diamond trade.
In the 17th century Amsterdam was the most important city in Europe concerning diamonds. Because of the religious tolerance of the Netherlands, many Sephardic Jews established themselves in the city moving from Antwerp. There they had acquired knowledge working with diamond due to the guild-system, for the only industry that they were allowed to work in was the diamond industry.
In 1725 diamonds were discovered in Brazil and most of them went through Amsterdam. During the 19th century over 90% of rough diamonds sold in Europe passed through the Dutch city. Due to the colonial power of the Netherlands, the Dutch diamond trade extended over the world, specially to New Amsterdam (New York) and Cape Town, which would become vital bases of the international diamond trade in the 20th and the 21st century. However, after the mines in Brazil started to dry up and the power of the Netherlands began to fade Amsterdam started to lose importance in favour of Antwerp, its biggest rival on the diamond industry, also a culturally Dutch city that would become the diamond's capital of the world. During its golden age Amsterdam developed a high-quality craft industry, but Antwerp managed to be as effective and cheaper as well as more permissive regarding taxes.
In 1866 diamonds were discovered in South Africa, in the Transvaal region, an area mainly populated by Dutch settlers. At the same time the British magnate Cecil Rhodes created the diamond company De Beers, based in Johannesburg. Massive amounts of rough diamonds started then to arrive to Europe, through Cape Town and Antwerp.
By the beginning of the 20th century De Beers controlled over 90% of the diamond industry in the world. In 1927 the company passed from the hands of Cecil Rhodes to the ones of Ernst Oppenheimer, a white South African entrepreneur, whose family still controls the diamond trade around the world.
During the Second World War most Jews from both Amsterdam and Antwerp were either forced to flee or were sent to extermination camps. This had hard consequences on an industry that was mainly controlled by the Jewish community. After the war, Antwerp quickly rebuilt its diamond business.
In 1948, De Beers established a new marketing strategy: it presented diamonds as a symbol of love and marriage, with the motto “a diamond is forever”. A ring with a diamond became the perfect wedding present and it was advertised extensively. This new strategy increased the demand of diamonds, especially in the United States, where not just the economic elite was buying them, but it was also the aspiration of the high-middle class and even of the middle class. As result, De Beers experienced it biggest growth in history turning Antwerp the indisputable capital of the diamond industry.
In 1973 the Antwerp Diamond World Centre (ADWC) was established. It is a public/private corporation, founded by the Belgian government and the most important diamond companies in the city. The Diamond Office, an ADWC’s subsidiary, facilitates the import and export of diamonds in and out of Antwerp.
Antwerp's diamond industry
The Antwerp's diamond industry is concentrated in a part of the city called the diamond district or Diamantkwartier, which covers a complete square mile. According to the ADWC, 84% of the rough diamonds and 50% of the polished ones pass through Antwerp. In 2012 the turnover of the Diamantkwartier was 54 billion euros. Over 16 billion dollars in polished diamonds pass through the district's exchanges each year. There are 380 workshops that serve 1,500 companies. There are also 3,500 brokers, merchants and diamond cutters. The main actions taken in Antwerp are both the trade of rough and cut diamonds and the cut of rough diamonds with modern machinery. They also perform other jobs like applying colour and crafting jewellery. There is even a bank consecrated to the diamond industry, the Antwerp Diamond Bank, which is owned by the KBC Bank.
Traditionally the Jewish community had almost complete control over the diamond business in Antwerp. More than 80% of Antwerp's Jewish population works in the diamond trade. In fact for many years the Yiddish was considered the main language of the diamond exchange. No business is conducted on Saturdays. However, since the late 20th century many Indian, Arminian and Lebanese dealers have increased importance in Antwerp’s diamond trade.
For Belgium, the importance of Antwerp as the diamond capital of the world has been a source of economic incomes and great prestige. The diamond trade counts for 5% of Belgium's exports to the EU and 15% of its exports outside the EU; it is the 5th largest industry in the country. It also has been the reason for a lot of foreign investment.
During the last decade several other cities outside Western Europe have invested on their diamond industry, like Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Chicago and several cities in South Africa. However, Antwerp still is the most important trade centre in Europe, being Amsterdam its biggest competitor.
In 2017 Antwerp traded 46 billion dollars in diamonds, with a total of 233.6 million of carats. This figures meant a slight improvement, aided by the approval of the Diamond Regime by the Belgian Parliament. This law changed the way of taxation and ended up benefiting the diamond companies of Belgium.
Diamonds and political corruption
Because of its size and the profits it generates, the diamond industry has a lot of influence in Belgian politics, especially in Flanders. It acts as a lobby in favour of specific bills and policies and tries to avoid an increase of regulations. An example of this is when in 1986 an investigation was opened on the business of Abraham Kirschen, who reportedly sold diamonds in the black market to avoid taxation. According to the media, some conservative politicians were linked to the scheme and some 170 diamond traders were investigated for evading a billion dollars in taxes through a bank account in Geneva. The case ended up implicating the second largest diamond company after De Beers, Omega Diamond, and most of the Belgian political establishment. The AWDC rapidly distanced itself from the scandal at the beginning of the controversy, which was to closed without having much negative impact in the industry.
Following this and other scandals, the Belgian government managed to impose more regulations, in order to rule a business that traditionally has shown a lack of transparency and has been prone to tax evasion. But the diamond lobby has been very active and through its political influence has scored some victories. In 2011 it achieved its main goal: the change of the Belgian criminal law.
In 2008 the biggest fraud of a diamond company was discovered by Belgian authorities. The company was Omega Diamonds, established only in 1994 by the Belgian Sylvian Goldberg. The company became the second biggest diamond company after De Beers and had for many years the monopoly of the diamond exports from Angola. An investigation started in 2006 concluded that the company had created a tax fraud scheme. Omega Diamonds imported diamonds from Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo through Dubai into Antwerp. During the transfer, documents were manipulated allowing the company to conceal the origin of the diamonds. It ordered the shipment of diamonds purchased in Angola and the DRC to be delivered to entities located in Dubai. Upon arrival in Dubai the diamonds were repacked and exported to Antwerp. The new shipment, marked “diamonds of mixed origin”, was issued with an invoice addressed to Omega Diamonds wherein the value of the diamonds was artificially increased. In so doing, the company was able to hide its additional profit from Belgian tax authorities.
In October 2008, Belgian federal police raided the premises of Antwerp-based Omega Diamonds. The raids resulted in a record seizure of 150 million dollars worth diamonds. Companies in Antwerp started to fear similar scrutiny from Belgian courts and the federal police. Because of this, the AWDC asked for political support, and it got help from some politicians, who accused law enforcement of “damaging the reputation” of the diamond industry. A bill meant to block law enforcement from confiscating illegal diamonds, written by AWDC’s lawyers, was introduced by members of the most important political parties of the Belgian establishment.
In December 2010, the sponsors of the 2008 bill became members of a secretive group, “The Diamond Club”, in order to push this legislation, which passed in 2011. According to the law, diamond companies investigated by fraud could avoid prison by paying a sum of money to the public prosecutor, as well as fight back the judicial backlog, and prevent, in many cases, a deeper investigation.
In application of the law, Omega Diamonds agreed in 2013 to pay a settlement of 160 million euros to avoid being prosecuted for tax evasion and money laundering, all that for a fraud that is calculated to have been of over 2 billion euros. The settlement cleared Omega Diamonds of all charges.
The law was controversial, to say the least, and it became very unpopular in Belgium, mainly because almost all parties were involved in it. In 2016 the Federal Constitutional Court of Belgium declared unconstitutional most parts of it. In 2017, the Belgian Parliament set up an inquiry commission to investigate the relation between the law of 2011 and the diamond industry. The commission stated that the blueprint of the law was written by lawyers for the AWDC, but at the moment it hasn't investigated the relations of various politicians with the diamond industry.
A blood diamond is the one that is extracted from conflict zones and used for financing wars or violent actions. They have been a very common threat to the image of the diamond industry and nowadays there is a big effort by various diamond companies of tracking the origin of the stones, in order to avoid scandals. However, during the 1980s and 1990s blood diamonds worth millions of dollars flooded from Angola and Sierra Leone to Antwerp, something that still happens today.
Diamonds have a very big value, that’s common knowledge, but in fact a big reason for this value comes from a strategy started by De Beers and followed by other diamond companies. This strategy consists of acquiring the monopoly of diamonds in a certain region and putting them in the market in a way that prices will always remain high. This was firstly done by Cecil Rhodes, and the diamonds in South Africa. If all the diamonds were put in the market at the same time their price will decrease. With this the company always got a big revenue.
Before the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002) there was not much concern on what was the origin of the stones. However, during this war the UNITA group started to use the diamonds extracted in their territory to fund its war against the government. This made diamonds a reason for instability and provided violent groups with weaponry. Because of this there was a big international pressure for the ending of the trading of the Angolan diamonds in 1998, by the UN Security Council resolution 1173.
A similar situation happened in Sierra Leone with RUF group and its war against government (1991-2002). It is calculated that the RUF extracted yearly a total of 125 million dollars every year. This money was used to fund a war were the RUF committed a series of crimes such as rape, mass killings or mutilations. In the year 2000 the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on diamonds from Sierra Leone.
Even though these sanctions were harmful for both rebel movements a report written by Robert Fowler, chairman of the Security Council committee investigating violations of sanctions on Angola, informed the UN that blood diamonds were still being exported from these countries, most of them arriving to Antwerp, where they were sold in the international market.
The 2017 African Diamond Conference organized by the Antwerp Diamond World Centre [ADWC]
The Fowler Report
The Fowler report was very critical with the role of Antwerp as the end stage of all blood diamonds. “The unwillingness or inability of the diamond industry, particularly in Antwerp, to police its own ranks is a matter of special concern to the panel,'” said the report.
The report also stated that the willingness to traffic the diamonds provided by UNITA or RUF “results from the often-expressed fear that stricter regulation would simply cause traders to take their business elsewhere.” It also said that he Belgian authorities had failed to establish a credible system for identifying rough diamonds coming from conflict zones, while making “no serious effort” to keep track of diamond traders known to deal with the rebels. A prominent Antwerp diamond trader trained the diamond experts who work for UNITA, the report said.
The system for concealing the bad practices consisted on transporting the diamonds to third countries that were willing to act as a bridge between the diamond exporter and Antwerp. Two examples of this are Liberia for the Sierra Leone diamonds and Rwanda for the stones from Angola. In fact, Rwanda had a key role in the war in Angola: UNITA transported diamonds to Rwanda which were bought by Antwerp diamond traders and then the money was used to buy guns from Eastern Europe that were transported to Rwanda.
The Fowler report, together with another research made by the international NGO Global Witness, also pointed De Beers to have bought Angolan blood diamonds to maintain its monopoly on diamond sells. De Beers admitted to have done this before the sanctions of the UN, but Global Witness still accuse De Beers of trading with blood diamonds even after the sanctions. According to this report the company bought blood diamonds through its huge network of buying offices in Africa and the company's cartel-like Central Selling Organization, which sets world diamond prices (although it is based in London, many of its diamond traders work in Antwerp).
This severely harmed De Beers' name. Because of this Anthony Oppenheimer, CEO of the company, stopped buying Angolan diamonds except the ones provided directly by the Angolan government. Due to the fall of prestige of diamond industry after the scandals involving blood diamonds De Beers and other diamond companies started to establish more transparent roots of diamond trading to avoid new scandals.
The Kimberly Process
After the effects of the Fowler report the Kimberly Process of Certification Scheme was established to guarantee a fair and clean trade of diamonds. Established in 2003 following a meeting in Kimberly, South Africa, and by the UN General Assembly Resolution 55/56. Belgium took an active role in the establishment of the process. The first step of these process was the system of warranties created by World Diamond Council, all these warranties were incorporated in the Kimberly Process and all its members must follow them:
–Trade only with companies that include warranty declarations on their invoices.
–Not buy diamonds from suspect sources or unknown suppliers, or which originate in countries that have not implemented the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.
–Not buy diamonds from any sources that, after a legally binding due process system, have been found to have violated government regulations restricting the trade in conflict diamonds.
–Not buy diamonds in or from any region that is subject to an advisory by a governmental authority indicating that conflict diamonds are emanating from or available for sale in such region, unless diamonds have been exported from such region in compliance with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.
–Not knowingly buy or sell or assist others to buy or sell conflict diamonds.
–Ensure that all company employees that buy or sell diamonds within the diamond trade are well informed regarding trade resolutions and government regulations restricting the trade in conflict diamonds.
Members like the Democratic Republic of Congo have been expelled after being unable to ensure the origins of the stones. Organizations such as Global Witness have criticized the ineffectiveness of the process and its inability to end with the continuing trade of blood diamonds: “Rough and uncut diamonds can easily be smuggled over porous borders from places like the Ivory Coast and can obtain a Kimberley Process certificate from another country before being shipped to Europe.” Other critics accuse the Kimberly process of making the diamond trade too complicated and too bureaucratized and therefore harming developing countries which heavily depend on the diamond trade such as Botswana or South Africa. They underscore that only 0,2% of diamonds in the industry are considered conflict diamonds and during both Angola and Sierra Leone civil war the number never increased over 15%, as it was addressed by the publication Foreign Policy.
The Belgian connection
Despite the efforts of the Kimberly Process and the Belgian government blood diamond still pass through Antwerp, mainly using companies and bank accounts in Switzerland. An example of this was when in March of 2017 Belgian authorities seized 14 million euros worth of diamonds believed to be from the Ivory Coast from a major diamond smuggling ring based in Antwerp. The investigation also led to several Geneva-based firms that used fake certificates to import raw diamonds worth 370 million euros from countries outside the Kimberley Process before selling them to Belgian traders.
Antwerp dealers routinely settle multi-million-dollar transactions in cash and rarely offer receipts, according to a study on diamonds and conflict in Sierra Leone by the NGO Partnership Africa Canada. While illegal operations have a hand in keeping the trade alive in Europe, even legitimate enterprises could be unwittingly involved.
Another case was when in 2015 the Belgian businessman Michael Desaedeleer was arrested in Spain, accused of enslavement and pillaging blood diamonds during Sierra Leone’s civil war. His arrest was a “landmark” because it was the first time an individual resulted detained on international charges related to the exploitation of the war in Sierra Leone to market blood diamonds.
Recently, Zimbabwe has gained recognition as an exporter of blood diamonds and a 2017 report by Global Witness relates these diamonds with the Antwerp diamond industry. Like most of its neighbours, Zimbabwe has diamond mines in its territory. However, in 2006 in the area of Marenga the richest diamond deposits were found –the so called Marenga diamond field. Since its discovery, the extraction of these diamonds has been done either by the government or by companies related to the regime. According to Global Witness these stones are being used to strength the regime and keep the political repression. Because of that most countries and organizations consider it blood diamonds. Since its discovery, there has been an embargo of these diamonds, but the Antwerp industry has tried to make the trade flow between Zimbabwe and the city, sometimes violating the EU sanctions.
The report mentions confidential government papers that talk about deals between Belgian diamond traders with the Zimbabwean Consolidation Diamond Company (ZCDC), as well as with two other companies in Marenga: Anjin and Jinan, both related to the state-owned military company Zimbabwean Defence Industries (ZDI). Since 2008, the EU imposed sanctions on ZCDC as well as on Anjin and Jinan. However, in 2013 the EU decided to withdrew all sanctions against ZMDC following increasing pressure from state members, especially from Belgium (pressed by the AWDC). The decision was very criticised by human rights groups, and finally the sanctions against the ZDI were kept.
Since 2010 Zimbabwe has officially exported over 2.5 billion dollars in diamonds according to official figures from the Kimberley Process. According to the limited available government reporting, only around 300 million dollars can clearly been identified in public accounts.
The diamond trade is definitely part of the Belgian trade tradition and part of the Belgian economy. As a part of a country with very few natural resources, Antwerp has done around history a big effort to maintain its position as a diamond centre. Bringing money, jobs and prestige to the city. However, it has also brought corruption to the political system and has served as a place for money laundry, tax evasion and financing of violent groups in Africa. With corruption, with money, with prestige and by work and schemes, without question Antwerp is the diamond of Belgian crown.
WORKING PAPER / Alejandro Palacios
Nowadays we are seeing how countries that during the Cold War did not show great symptoms of growth, today are on their way to becoming the world's largest economies during the period 2030-2045. These countries, “marginalized” by the Western powers in the process of implementing a global economic system, aspire to form an economic order in which they have the decision-making power. This is why South-South alliances among formerly "marginalised" countries predominate, and will continue to prevail in the future. Among these, the ZOPACAS (of which I already wrote about in another article), the IBSA dialogue forum or the BRICS group stand out. Throughout this article, special mention will be made to this last group and how the political and economic interests of the great powers within it, mainly of China, prevail when it comes not only to deciding and coordinating the agreed policies, but also to interceding to accept or not the inclusion of a certain country in the group. In this way, China tries to increase its political and economic ties with the African continent which is crucial in China´s strategy to become the leading nation by 2049 (coinciding with the 100th anniversary of its creation).
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The illicit money outflows to foreign safe havens is another negative impact suffered by countries of origin
The people smuggling networks, as any other organized crime groups that operate across different countries, are very sophisticated, not only in their operational structure but also in the organization of their finances. Fighting against money laundering internationally and against the outflow of the illicit profits from the countries of origin should ameliorate the severe burden that people smuggling means for a lot of African nations.
▲ A rescue of refugees in the Mediterranean Sea [Spain's Navy]
ARTICLE / Pablo Arbuniés
According to the UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, 116,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe in 2018 and more than 2,200 died in the process. The majority of these migrants are believed to have used smuggling services. This flow of irregular migrants moves around 4 billion euros yearly worldwide and has a crucial impact on African economies.
People smuggling is possible due to the constant interaction and cooperation of many specialized networks. These networks are part of different Organized Crime Groups (OCGs) across many different countries, constituting an even bigger highly-organized network. The global smuggling network provides a wide range of different “services” including other illegal features such as document fraud, and involves a certain degree of infiltration in both sending and host societies (1).
Separation of tasks is extremely important for the survival of the business, as a well-organized network is less vulnerable to criminal investigations, and if the investigations succeed, only small units of the network are exposed. The migration process can be divided into three main stages: mobilization, requirements en route and integration into the destination countries. Each stage is managed by one or more specialized networks that can be independent actors or part of a bigger network.
The process of mobilization involves the recruitment of the migrants in their countries of origin. At this point, it is important to remark that recruiters will only deal with “clients” of their same nationality. After the recruitment, the smugglers ensure them a safe passage to the meeting points located in Khartoum (Sudan) and Agadez (Niger). These cities, respectively located in the south-eastern and south-western entries of the Sahara, serve as focal communication points and are home to some networks’ headquarters. From here, another part of the network takes charge of the migrants and safeguards their journey to Libya often crossing the Sahara on foot. Once in Libya the migrants go under the custody of a third network that takes them to the coast of either Tripoli or Benghazi with the paid protection of the local militias, and once in the coast they can finally embark on one of the overcrowded boats that hopefully will take them to the closest European islands, often being Lampedusa and Malta the destination.
This journey is very expensive for the migrants, as they have to pay the different smugglers in each step. However, the exact prices are hard to estimate due to the scarce reliable sources on the subject and the heterogeneity of the networks involved. Moreover, not only is it expensive, it is also extremely dangerous, with a vast number of fatalities all along this odyssey. Only in 2016, a record number 4,720 migrants died in the Mediterranean Sea according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the number of deaths in the Sahara is impossible to estimate. However, the variety of offers can provide much safer—and thus much more expensive—options such as embarking on a plane with false documentation, which grants the clients a non-existing risk of dying during the journey and a much lower risk of being caught and deported.
As we can see, people smuggling networks offer a wide range of services and prices in order to suit best the demands and financial capabilities of their potential clients, just like any other successful business in the world, involving different forms of interaction and cooperation. Indeed, these networks operate as cartels with centralized systems of management and planning. Another critical part of the business is the gathering of information, mainly about border patrols, changing routes and armed militias that could be a threat or potential co-workers, but also on asylum procedures. This information gathering is tasked to a core group of individuals that manage the constant flows of information and have access to well organized and centralized communication systems.
To deal with the overwhelming amounts of money involved in the process, these networks need a highly organized financial branch, able to deal with the payments and also to launder the money obtained and reinvest it on other legal or illegal activities.
Money laundering and impact in the local economies
International smuggling of migrants is said to move around 4 billion euros yearly all around the world. According to Frontex, most of this money is used to fund other illegal activities such as drugs trafficking or buying weapons to reinforce the network’s power. But also, a big amount of money is laundered in order to be invested in legal activities or to be transferred to tax havens.
The money moved by these networks which carry illegal activities is classified as Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs), which we can define as illegal movements of money or capital from one country to another, or those in which the funds have been illegally obtained, transferred or utilized. IFFs are considered very harmful for developing economies such as the ones we can find in Africa, because usually they involve international monetary aids leaving the country for tax havens instead of being utilized according to their intended ends.
In order to launder the money, the most complex networks have what we could consider to be accountancy branches, just like any other OCGs around the world. These accountancy branches seek to place the money outside the countries of origin or operation in order to avoid scrutiny and look for stable economies with predictable financial systems and weak anti-money laundering policies. There they can diversify their investment portfolios and spread the risk without a major threat of being caught by Financial Intelligence Units (FUIs). OCGs seek to invest in products that move extremely quickly in the market such as food products, which makes tracking the money even harder.
An interesting case of money laundering takes place in Europe involving the Pink Panthers, a Serbian band of thieves formed during the Yugoslavian war and now extended as a method, which only reinvested their benefits in their cities of origin back in Serbia. These investments proved to be very beneficial to local economies and helped the country fight the devastating effect of the war. In the same way, IFFs originated by people smugglers could in some way be beneficial for the receiving countries, but in reality only a small part of the network’s income is reinvested in Africa, and overall, the continent losses a big amount of money in favour of tax havens and funding other illicit activities. In addition, we shall not forget that the source of these funds are illegal activities involving violence and connected to other illicit activities.
In conclusion, it is crucial for the development of the continent to efficiently tackle not only money laundering but also all kinds of IFFs such as tax evasion, international bribery and the recovery of stolen assets. This is an indispensable step in order to have the financial stability required for a sustainable economic development. Moreover, repatriation on flight capital should be prioritized, as it would help a higher sustainable growth without depending on external borrowing and development funds.
Main routes for African irregular migrants [UNODC, before Sudan's split]
The case of Nigeria
We must take into consideration that Nigeria had often been referred in the past as the most corrupt country in the world, and it has serious problems involving money laundering and capital flight. In addition, effectively tackling money laundering could potentially cut the finances of the terrorist group Boko Haram, which operates in the north of the country. These financial characteristics added to the inefficiency of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and its dependence from the government, made Nigeria a very suitable country for money laundering.
In 2017, the Egmont Group, a body of 159 national Financial Intelligence Units focused on money laundering and terrorist financing, suspended Nigeria from its membership due to the lack of a legal framework and its dependence from Nigeria’s state Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
However, in the past months the Nigerian government, headed by Muhammadu Buhari, has been an example on how to tackle money laundering and deal with the institutional problems that it involves. In March 2018, the parliament passed a new law that aims to tackle money laundering and funding for terrorism by allowing its financial technology unit to operate independently from the control of the state, thus eliminating the unnecessary bureaucracy that used to slow down the investigations. More precisely, this law makes the NFIU an independent body able to share information and to cooperate with its counterparts in other states.
The international community showed its conformity with the new legislation and the NFIU was readmitted in the Egmont Group in July. Whether these policies will fulfil their potential or not, only time can tell.
(1) Salt, J. and Stein, J. (1997). Migration as a Business: The Case of Trafficking.