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Pakistan: Jihadism and drug trafficking, the threats from within

Attack in Kashmir linked to groups of Pakistani origin [twitted by @ANI]

▲ Attack in Kashmir linked to groups of Pakistani origin [twitted by @ANI]

ESSAYIsabel Calderas [Ignacio Lucas as research assistant]

There is a myriad of security concerns regarding external factors when it comes to Pakistan: India, Afghanistan, the Saudi Arabia-Iran split and the United States, to name a few. However, there are also two main concerns that come from within: jihadism and organized crime. They are interconnected but differ in many ways. The latter is frequently overlooked to focus on the former, but both have the capacity of affecting the country, internally and externally, as the effectiveness of dealing with them impacts the perception the international community has of Pakistan. While internally disrupting, these problems also have international reach, as such groups often export their activities, adversely affecting at a global scale. Therefore, international actors put so much pressure on Pakistan to control them. Historically, there has been much scepticism over the government’s ability, or even willingness to solve these risks. We will examine both problems separately, identifying the impact they have on the national and international arena, as well as the government’s approach to dealing with either and the future risks they entail.

1. JIHADISM

Pakistan’s education system has become a central part of the country’s radicalization phenomenon[1], in the materialization of madrassas. These schools, which teach a more puritanical version of Islam than had traditionally been practiced in Pakistan, have been directly linked to the rise of jihadist groups[2]. Saudi Arabia, who has always had very close relations with Pakistan, played a key role in their development, by funding the Ahl-e-Hadith and Deobandi madrassas since the 1970s. The Iranian revolution bolstered the Saudi’s imperative to control Sunnism in Pakistan, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan gave them the vehicle to do so[3]. In these schools, which teach a biased view of the world, students display low tolerance for minorities and are more likely to turn to jihadism.

Saudi and American funding of madrassas during the Soviet occupation helped the Pakistani army’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), become more powerful, as they channelled millions of dollars to them, a lot of which went into the madrassas which sent mujahedeen fighters to fight for their cause[4]. The Taliban’s origins can also be traced to these, as the militia was raised mainly from Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan and Saudi-funded madrassas[5].

Madrassas are especially popular in the poorer provinces of the country, where parents send their children to them for several non-religious reasons. First, because the Qur’an is written in Arabic and madrassas teach this language[6]. The dire situation of many families forces millions of Pakistanis to migrate to neighbouring, oil-rich Arabic-speaking countries, from where they send remittances home to help support their families. Secondly, the public-school system in Pakistan is weak, often failing to teach basic reading skills[7], something the madrassas do teach.

Partly in response to the international pressure[8] it has been under to fight terrorism within its territory; Pakistan has tried to reform the madrassas. The government has stated its intention to bring madrassas under the umbrella of the education ministry, financing these schools by allocating cash otherwise destined to fund anti-terrorism security operations[9]. It plans to add subjects like science to the curriculum, to lessen the focus on Islamic teachings. However, this faces several challenges, among which the resistance from the teachers and clerical authorities who run the madrassas outstands[10].

Before moving on to the prominent radical groups in Pakistan, we would like to make a brief summary on a different cause of radicalization: the unintended effect of the drone strategy adopted by the United States.

The United States has increasingly chosen to target its radical enemies in Pakistan through the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), which can be highly effective in neutralizing objectives, but also pose a series of risks, like the killing of innocent civilians that are in the neighbouring area. This American strategy, which Pakistan has publicly criticized, has fomented anti-American sentiment among the Pakistanis, at a ratio on average of every person killed resulting in the radicalization of several more people[11]. The growing unpopularity of drone strikes has further weakened relations between both governments, but shows no signs of changing in the future, if recent attacks carried by the U.S. are any indication. Pakistan’s efforts to de-radicalize its population will continue to be undermined by the U.S. drone strikes[12].

Pakistan’s anti-terrorism strategy is linked to its geostrategic and regional interests, especially dealing with its eastern and western neighbours[13]. There are many radical groups operating within their territory, and the government’s strategy towards them shifts depending on their goal[14]. Groups like the Afghan Taliban, who target foreign invasions in their own country, and Al Qaeda, whose jihad against the West is on a global scale, have been allowed to use Pakistani territory to coordinate operations and take refuge. Their strategy is quite different for Pakistani Taliban group, Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) who, despite being allied with the Afghan Taliban, has a different goal: to oust the Pakistani government and impose Sharia law[15]. Most of the military’s campaigns aimed at cracking down on radicals have been targeted at weakening groups affiliated with TTP. Lastly, there are those groups with whom some branches of the Pakistani government directly collaborate with.

Pakistan has been known to use jihadi organizations to advance its security objectives through proxy conflicts.  Pakistan’s policy of waging war through terrorist groups is planned, coordinated, and conducted by the Pakistani Army, specifically the ISI[16] who, as previously mentioned, plays a vital role in running the State.

Although this has been a longstanding cause of tension between the Pakistani and the American governments, the U.S. has made no progress in persuading or compelling the Pakistani military to sever ties with the radical groups[17], even though the Pakistani government has stated that it has, over the past year, ‘fought and eradicated the menace of terrorism from its soil’ by carrying out arrests, seizing property and freezing bank accounts of groups proscribed by the United States and the United Nations[18]. Their actions have been enough to keep them off the FATF’s blacklist for financing terrorism and money laundering[19], which would prevent them from getting financing, but concerns remain about ISI’s involvement with radical groups, the future of the relations between them, the overall activity of these groups from within Pakistani territory, and the risk of a future attack to its neighbours.

We will use two of Pakistan’s main proxy groups, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, to analyse the feasibility of an attack in the near future.

1.1. Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT)

Created to support the resistance against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, LeT now focuses on the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Kashmir, the highest priorities for the Pakistani military’s foreign policy. The Ahl-e-Hadith group is led by its founder, Hafiz Saeed. Its headquarters are in Punjab. Unlike its counterparts, it is a well-organized, unified, and hierarchical organization, which has become highly institutionalized in the last thirty years. As a result, it has not suffered any major losses or any fractures since its inception[20].

Since the Mumbai attacks in 2008 (which also involved ISI), for which LeT were responsible, its close relationship with the military has defined the group’s operations, most noticeably by restraining their actions in India, which reflects both the Pakistani military’s desire to avoid international pressure and conflict with their neighbour and the group’s capability to contain its members. The group has calibrated its activities, although it possesses the capability to expand its violence. Its outlets for violence have been Afghanistan and Kashmir, which align with the Pakistani military’s agenda: to bring Afghanistan under Pakistan’s sphere of influence while keeping India off-balance in Kashmir[21]. The recent U.S.-Taliban deal in Afghanistan and militarization of Kashmir by India may change this. LeT has benefitted handsomely for its loyalty, receiving unparalleled protection, patronage, and privilege from the military. However, after twelve years of restraint, Lashkar undoubtedly faces pressures from within its ranks to strike against India again, especially now that Narendra Modi is prime minister.

1.2. Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM)

The Deobandi organization, led by its founder Masood Azhar, has had close bonds with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban since they came into light in 2000. With the commencement of the war on terror in Afghanistan, JeM reciprocated by launching an attack on the Indian Parliament on December 2001, in cooperation with LeT. However, it ignored the Pakistani military’s will in 2019 when it launched the Pulwama attack, after which the government of Pakistan launched a countrywide crackdown on them, taking leaders and members into preventive custody[22].

1.3. Risk assessment

Although it has gone rogue before, Jaish-e-Muhammad has been weakened by the recent government’s crackdown. What remains of the group, consolidated under Masood Azhar, has repaired ties with the military. Although JeM has demonstrated it still possesses formidable capability in Indian Kashmir, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba represents the main concern for an attack on India in the near future.

Lashkar has been both the most reliable and loyal of all the proxy groups and has also proven it does not take major action without prior approval from the ISI, which could become a problem. Pakistan has adopted a policy of maintaining plausible deniability for any attacks in order to avoid international pressure after 9/11, thus LeT’s close ties with the military make it more likely that its actions will provoke a war between the two countries.

The United States has tried for several years to get Pakistan to stop using proxies. There are several scenarios in which Lashkar would break from the Pakistani state (or vice versa), but they are farfetched and beyond foreign influence: a) a change in Pakistan’s security calculus, b) a resolution on Kashmir, c) a shift in Lashkar’s responsiveness and d) a major Lashkar attack in the West[23].

a) A change in Pakistan’s security calculus is the least likely, as the India-centric understanding of Pakistan’s interests and circumstances is deeply embedded in the psyche of the security establishment[24].

b) A resolution on Kashmir would trouble Lashkar, who seeks full unification of all Kashmir with Pakistan, which would not be the outcome of a negotiated resolution. More so, Modi’s recent decision regarding article 370 puts this possibility even further into the future.

c) A shift in Lashkar responsiveness would be caused by the internal pressures to perform another attack, after more than a decade of abiding by the security establishment’s will. If perceived as too powerful of insufficiently responsive, ISI would most likely seek to dismantle the group, as they did with Jaish-e-Muhammad, by focusing on the rogue elements and leaving Lashkar smaller but more responsive. This presents a threat, as the group would not allow itself to be simply dismantled but would probably resist to the point of becoming hostile[25].

d) The last option, a major Lashkar attack in the West, is also unlikely, as the group has not undertaken any major attack without perceived greenlight from ISI.

This does not mean that an attack from LeT can be ruled out. ISI could allow the group to carry out an attack if, in the absence of a better reason, it feels that the pressure from within the group will start causing dissent and fractures, just like it happened in 2008. It is in ISI’s best interest that Lashkar remains a strong, united ally. Knowing this, it is important to note that a large-scale attack in India by Lashkar is arguably the most likely trigger to a full-blown conflict between the two nations. Even a smaller-scale attack has the potential of provoking India, especially under Modi.

If such an attack where to happen, India would not be expected to display a weak-kneed gesture, as PM Modi’s policy is that of a tough and powerful approach in defence vis-à-vis both Pakistan and China. This has already been made evident by its retaliation for the Fidayeen attack at Uri brigade headquarters by Jaish-e-Muhammad in 2016[26]. It has now become evident that if Pakistan continues to harbour terrorist groups against India as its strategic assets, there will be no military restraint by India as long as Modi is in power, who will respond with massive retaliation. In its fragile economic condition, Pakistan will not be able to sustain a long-drawn war effort[27].

On the other hand, Afghanistan, which has been the other focus of Pakistan’s proxy groups, is now undergoing a process which could result in a major organizational shift. The Taliban insurgent movement has been able survive this long due to the sanctuary and support provided by Pakistan[28]. Furthermore, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba’s participation in the Afghan insurgency furthered the Pakistani military’s goal of having a friendly, anti-India partner on its western border[29]. The development and outcome of the intra-Afghan talks will determine the continued use of proxies in the country. However, we can realistically assume that, at least in the near future, radical groups will maintain some degree of activity in Afghanistan.

It is highly unlikely that the Pakistani intelligence establishment will stop engaging with radical groups, as it sees in them a very useful strategic tool for achieving its security goals. However, Pakistan’s plausible deniability approach will come into question, as its close ties with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba make it increasingly hard for it to deny involvement in its acts with any credibility. Regarding India, any kind of offensive from this group could result in a large-scale conflict. This is precisely the most likely scenario to occur, as Modi’s history with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and their twelve-year-long “hiatus” from impactful attacks could propel the organization to take action that will impact the whole region.

2. DRUG TRAFFICKING

Drug trafficking constitutes an important problem for Pakistan. It originates in Afghanistan, from where thousands of tonnes are smuggled out every year, using Pakistan as a passageway to provide the world with heroin and opioids[30]. The following concept map has been elaborated with information from diverse sources[31] to present the different aspects of the problem aimed to better comprehend the complex situation.

 

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

 

Afghanistan, one of the world’s largest heroin producers, has supplied up to 60% and 80% of the U.S. and European markets, respectively. The landlocked country takes advantage of its blurred border line, and the remoteness and inaccessibility of the sparsely populated bordering regions with Pakistan, using it as a conduct to send its drugs globally. The Pakistani government is under a lot of pressure from the international community to fight and minimize drug trafficking from its territory.

Pakistan feels a special kind of pressure from the European Union, as its GSP+ status could be affected if it does not control this problem. The GSP+ is dependent on the implementation of 27 international conventions related to human rights, labour rights, protection of the environment and good governance, including the UN Convention on Fighting Illegal Drugs[32]. Pakistan was granted GSP+ status in 2014 and has shown commitment to maintaining ratifications and meeting reporting obligations to the UN Treaty bodies[33]. However, one of the aspects of the scheme is its “temporary withdrawal and safeguard” measure, which means the preferences can be immediately withdrawn if the country is unable to control drug trafficking effectively[34]. This has not been the case, and the EU has recognized Pakistan’s efforts in the fight on drugs; the UN has also removed it from the list of cannabis resin production countries[35]. Anti-corruption frameworks have been strengthened, along with legislation review and awareness building, but they have been advised that better coordination between law enforcement agencies is needed[36].

The GSP+ status is very important to Pakistan, as the European Union is their first trade partner, absorbing over a third of their total exports in 2018, followed by the U.S., China and Afghanistan[37]. The Union can use this as leverage to obtain concessions from Pakistan. However, the approach they have taken so far has been of collaboration in many areas, including transnational organized crime, money laundering and counter-narcotics[38]. In this sense, the EU ambassador to Pakistan recently stated that the new Strategic Engagement Plan of 2019 would “further boost their relations in diverse fields”[39].

Even with combined efforts, erradicating the drug trafficking problem in Pakistan has proven to be very difficult. This is because production of the drug is not done in its territory, and even if border patrols are strengthened, it will be very hard to stop drugs from coming in from its neighbour if the Afghan government doesn’t take appropriate measures themselves.

 

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

 

A “5 whys” exercise has led us to understand that the root cause of the problem is the fact that most farmers in Afghanistan are too poor to turn to different crops. A nearly two decade war has ravaged the country’s land, leaving opium crops, which are cheaper and easier to maintain, as the only option for most farmers in this agrarian nation. A substantial investment in the country’s agriculture to produce more economic options would be needed if any serious advance is expected to be made in stopping illegal drug trafficking. These investments will have to be a joint effort of the international community, and funding for the government will also be necessary, if stability is to be reached. Unless this is done, opium will likely remain entangled in the rural economy, the Taliban insurgency, and the government corruption whose sum is the Afghan conundrum[40]. And as long as this does not happen, it is highly unlikely that Pakistan will be able to make any substantial progress in its effort to fight illicit drugs.
 

[1] Khurshid Khan and Afifa Kiran, “Emerging Tendencies of Radicalization in Pakistan,” Strategic Studies, vol. 32, 2012.

[2] Hassan N. Gardezi, “Pakistan: The Power of Intelligence Agencies,” South Asia Citizenz Web, 2011, http://www.sacw.net/article2191.html.

[3] Madiha Afzal, “Saudi Arabia’s Hold on Pakistan,” 2019, https://www.brookings.edu/research/saudi-arabias-hold-on-pakistan/.

[4] Gardezi, “Pakistan: The Power of Intelligence Agencies.”

[5] Ibid.

[6] Myriam Renaud, “Pakistan’s Plan to Reform Madrasas Ignores Why Parents Enrol Children in First Place,” The Globe Post, May 20, 2019, https://theglobepost.com/2019/05/20/pakistan-madrasas-reform/.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Drazen Jorgic and Asif Shahzad, “Pakistan Begins Crackdown on Mlitant Groups amid Global Pressure,” Reuters, March 5, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-kashmir-pakistan-un/pakistan-begins-crackdown-on-militant-groups-amid-global-pressure-idUSKCN1QM0XD.

[9] Saad Sayeed, “Pakistan Plans to Bring 20,000 Madrasas under Government Control,” Reuters, April 29, 2019.

[10] Renaud, “Pakistan’s Plan to Reform Madrasas Ignores Why Parents Enrol Children in First Place.”

[11] International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clininc (Stanford Law Review) and Global Justice Clinic (NYE School of Law), “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan,” 2012, https://law.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/default/files/publication/313671/doc/slspublic/Stanford_NYU_LIVING_UNDER_DRONES.pdf.

[12] Saba Noor, “Radicalization to De-Radicalization: The Case of Pakistan,” Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses 5, no. 8 (2013): 16–19.

[13] Muhammad Iqbal Roy and Abdul Rehman, “Pakistan’s Counter Terrorism Strategy (2001-2019): Evolution, Paradigms, Prospects and Challenges,” Journal of Politics and International Studies 5, no. July-December (2019): 1–13.

[14] Madiha Afzal, “A Country of Radicals? Not Quite,” in Pakistan Under Siege: Extremism, Society, and the State (Brookings Institution Press, 2018), 208, https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/chapter-one_-pakistan-under-siege.pdf.

[15] Ibid.

[16] John Crisafulli et al., “Recommendations for Success in Afghanistan,” 2019, https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep20107.7.

[17] Tricia Bacon, “The Evolution of Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Tayyiba,” Orbis, no. Winter (2019): 27–43.

[18] Susannah George and Shaiq Hussain, “Pakistan Hopes Its Steps to Fight Terrorism Will Keep It off a Global Blacklist,” The Washington Post, February 21, 2020.

[19] Husain Haqqani, “FAFT’s Grey List Suits Pakistan’s Jihadi Ambitions. It Only Worries Entering the Black List,” Hudson Institute, February 28, 2020.

[20] Bacon, “The Evolution of Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.”

[21] Ibid.

[22] Farhan Zahid, “Profile of Jaish-e-Muhammad and Leader Masood Azhar,” Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses 11, no. 4 (2019): 1–5, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/26631531.

[23] Tricia Bacon, “Preventing the Next Lashkar-e-Tayyiba Attack,” The Washington Quarterly 42, no. 1 (2019): 53–70.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Abhinav Pandya, “The Future of Indo-Pak Relations after the Pulwama Attack,” Perspectives on Terrorism 13, no. 2 (2019): 65–68, https://www.jstor.org/stable/26626866.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Crisafulli et al., “Recommendations for Success in Afghanistan.”

[29] Bacon, “The Evolution of Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.”

[30] Alfred W McCoy, “How the Heroin Trade Explains the US-UK Failure in Afghanistan,” The Guardian, January 9, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/jan/09/how-the-heroin-trade-explains-the-us-uk-failure-in-afghanistan.

[31] Dr. Bibhu Prasad Routray and Dr. Shanthie Mariet D Souza, “The Afghanistan-India Drug Trail - Analysis,” Eurasia Review, August , https://www.eurasiareview.com/02082019-the-afghanistan-india-drug-trail-analysis/; Mehmood Hassan Khan, “Kashmir and Power Politics,” Defence Journal 23, no. 2 (2019); McCoy, “How the Heroin Trade Explains the US-UK Failure in Afghanistan”; Pakistan United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Country Office, “Illicit Drug Trends in Pakistan,” 2008, https://www.unodc.org/documents/regional/central-asia/Illicit Drug Trends Report_Pakistan_rev1.pdf; “Country Profile - Pakistan,” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 2020, https://www.unodc.org/pakistan/en/country-profile.html.

[32] European Commission, “Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP),” 2020, https://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/development/generalised-scheme-of-preferences/.

[33] High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, “The EU Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance ('GSP+’) Assessment of Pakistan Covering the Period 2018-2019” (Brussels, 2020).

[34] Dr. Zobi Fatima, “A Brief Overview of GSP+ for Pakistan,” Pakistan Journal of European Studies 34, no. 2 (2018), https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333641020_A_BRIEF_OVERVIEW_OF_GSP_FOR_PAKISTAN.

[35] High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, “The EU Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance ('GSP+’) Assessment of Pakistan Covering the Period 2018-2019.”

[36] Fatima, “A Brief Overview of GSP+ for Pakistan.”

[37] UN Comtrade Analytics, “Trade Dashboard,” accessed March 27, 2020, https://comtrade.un.org/labs/data-explorer/.

[38] European External Action Services, “EU-Pakistan Five Year Engagement Plan” (European Union, 2017), https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/eu-pakistan_five-year_engagement_plan.pdf; European Union External Services, “EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan 2019” (European Union, 2019), https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/eu-pakistan_strategic_engagement_plan.pdf.

[39] “EU Ready to Help Pakistan in Expanding Its Reports: Androulla,” Business Recorder, October 23, 2019.

[40] McCoy, “How the Heroin Trade Explains the US-UK Failure in Afghanistan.”

Pakistan, an introduction to its strategic parameters

Prime Minister Imran Kahn, at the United Nations General Assembly, in 2019 [UN]

▲ Prime Minister Imran Kahn, at the United Nations General Assembly, in 2019 [UN]

ESSAY / M. Biera, H. Labotka, A. Palacios

The geographical location of a country is capable of determining its destiny. This is the thesis defended by Whiting Fox in his book "History from a Geographical Perspective". In particular, he highlights the importance of the link between history and geography in order to point to a determinism in which a country's aspirations are largely limited (or not) by its physical place in the world.[1]

Countries try to overcome these limitations by trying to build on their internal strengths. In the case of Pakistan, these are few, but very relevant in a regional context dominated by the balance of power and military deterrence.

The first factor that we highlight in this sense is related to Pakistan's nuclear capacity. In spite of having officially admitted it in 1998, Pakistan has been a country with nuclear capacity, at least, since Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's government started its nuclear program in 1974 under the name of Project-706 as a reaction to the once very advanced Indian nuclear program.[2]

The second factor is its military strength. Despite the fact that they have publicly refused to participate in politics, the truth is that all governments since 1947, whether civil or military, have had direct or indirect military support.[3] The governments of Ayub Khan or former army chief Zia Ul-Haq, both through a coup d'état, are faithful examples of this capacity for influence.[4]

The existence of an efficient army provides internal stability in two ways: first, as a bastion of national unity. This effect is quite relevant if we take into account the territorial claims arising from the ethnic division caused by the Durand Line. Secondly, it succeeds in maintaining the state's monopoly on force, preventing its disintegration as a result of internal ethnic disputes and terrorism instigated by Afghanistan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA region).[5]

Despite its internal strengths, Pakistan is located in one of the most insecure geographical areas in the world, where border conflicts are intermingled with religious and identity-based elements. Indeed, the endless conflict over Kashmir against India in the northeastern part of the Pakistani border or the serious internal situation in Afghanistan have been weighing down the country for decades, both geo-politically and economically. The dynamics of regional alliances are not very favourable for Pakistan either, especially when US preferences, Pakistan's main ally, seem to be mutating towards a realignment with India, Pakistan's main enemy.[6] 

On the positive side, a number of projects are underway in Central Asia that may provide an opportunity for Pakistan to re-launch its economy and obtain higher standards of stability domestically. The most relevant is the New Silk Road undertaken by China. This project has Pakistan as a cornerstone in its strategy in Asia, while it depends on it to achieve an outlet to the sea in the eastern border of the country and investments exceeding 11 billion dollars are expected in Pakistan alone[7]. In this way, a realignment with China can help Pakistan combat the apparent American disengagement from Pakistani interests.

For all these reasons, it is difficult to speak of Pakistan as a country capable of carving out its own destiny, but rather as a country held hostage to regional power dynamics. Throughout this document, a review of the regional phenomena mentioned will be made in order to analyze Pakistan's behavior in the face of the different challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

History

Right after the downfall of the British colony of the East Indies colonies in 1947 and the partition of India the Dominion of Pakistan was formed, now known by the title of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The Partition of India divided the former British colony into two separated territories, the Dominion of Pakistan and the Dominion of India. By then, Pakistan included East Pakistan (modern day) Pakistan and Oriental Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh).

It is interesting to point out that the first form of government that Pakistan experienced was something similar to a democracy, being its founding father and first Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Political history in Pakistan consists of a series of eras, some democratically led and others ruled by the military branch which controls a big portion of the country.

—The rise of Pakistan as a Muslim democracy: 1957-1958. The era of Ali Jinnah and the First Indo-Pakistani war.

—In 1958 General Ayub Khan achieved to complete a coup d’état in Pakistan due to the corruption and instability.

—In 1971 General Khan resigned his position and appointed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as president, but, lasted only 6 years. The political instability was not fruitful and rivalry between political parties was. But in 1977 General Zia-ul-Haq imposed a new order in Pakistan.

—From 1977 to 1988 Zia-ul-Haq imposed an Islamic state.

—In the elections of 1988 right after Zia-ul-Haq’s death, President Benazir Bhutto became the very first female leader of Pakistan. This period, up to 1999 is characterized by its democracy but also, by the Kargil War.

—In 1999 General Musharraf took control of the presidency and turned it 90º degrees, opening its economy and politics. In 2007 Musharraf announced his resignation leaving open a new democratic era characterized by the War on Terror of the United States in Afghanistan and the Premiership of Imran Khan.

 

 

Human and physical geography

The capital of Pakistan is Islamabad, and as of 2012 houses a population of 1,9 million people. While the national language of Pakistan is English, the official language is Urdu; however, it is not spoken as a native language. Afghanistan is Pakistan’s neighbor to the northwest, with China to the north, as well as Iran to the west, and India to the east and south.[8]

Pakistan is unique in the way that it possesses many a geological formation, like forests, plains, hills, etcetera. It sits along the Arabian Sea and is home to the northern Karakoram mountain range, and lies above Iranian, Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates. There are three dominant geographical regions that make up Pakistan: the Indus Plain, which owes its name to the river Indus of which Pakistan’s dominant rivers merge; the Balochistan Plateau, and the northern highlands, which include the 2nd highest mountain peak in the world, and the Mount Godwin Austen.[9] Pakistan’s traditional regions are a consequence of progression. These regions are echoed by the administrative distribution into the provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which includes FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and Balochistan.

Each of these regions is “ethnically and linguistically distinct.”[10] But why is it important to understand Pakistan’s geography? The reason is, and will be discussed further in detail in this paper, the fact that “terror is geographical” and Pakistan is “at the epicenter of the neo-realist, militarist geopolitics of anti-terrorism and its well-known manifestation the ‘global war on terror’...”[11]

Punjabi make up more than 50% of the ethnic division in Pakistan, and the smallest division is the Balochi. We should note that Balochistan, however small, is an antagonistic region for the Pakistani government. The reason is because it is a “base for many extremist and secessionist groups.” This is also important because CPEC, the Chinese-Pakistan Economic Corridor, is anticipated to greatly impact the area, as a large portion of the initiative is to be constructed in that region. The impact of CPEC is hoped to make that region more economically stable and change the demography of this region.[12]

The majority of Pakistani people are Sunni Muslims, and maintain Islamic tradition. However, there is a significant number of Shiite Muslims. Religion in Pakistan is so important that it is represented in the government, most obviously within the Islamic Assembly (Jamāʿat-i Islāmī) party which was created in 1941.[13]

This is important. The reason being is that there is a history of sympithism for Islamic extremism by the government, and giving rise to the expansion of the ideas of this extremism. Historically, Pakistan has not had a strict policy against jihadis, and this lack of policy has poorly affected Pakistan’s foreign policy, especially its relationship with the United States, which will be touched upon in this paper.

Current Situation: Domestic politics, the military and the economy

Imran Khan was elected and took office on August 18th, 2018. Before then, the previous administrations had been overshadowed by suspicions of corruption. What also remained important was the fact that his election comes after years of a dominating political power, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) surfaced as the majority in the Pakistan’s National Assembly. However, there is some debate by specialists on how prepared the new prime minister is to take on this extensive task.

Economically, Pakistan was in a bad shape even before the global Coronavirus-related crisis. In October 2019, the IMF predicted that the country's GDP would increase only 2.4% in 2020, compared with 5,2% registered in 2017 and 5,5% in 2018; inflation would arrive to 13% in 2020, three times the registered figure of 2017 and 2018, and gross debt would peak at 78.6%, ten points up from 2017 and 2018.[14] This context led to the Pakistani government to ask for a loan to the IMF, and a $6 billion loan was agreed in July 2019. In addition, Pakistan got a $2 billion from China. Later on, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the IMF worsened its estimations on Pakistan's economy, and predicted that its GDP would grow minus 1.5% in 2020 and 2% in 2021.[15]

Throughout its history, Pakistan has been a classic example of a “praetorian state”, where the military dominates the political institutions and regular functioning. The political evolution is represented by a routine change “between democratic, military, or semi military regime types.” There were three critical pursuits towards a democratic state that are worth mentioning, that started in 1972 and resulted in the rise of democratically elected leaders. In addition to these elections, the emergence of new political parties also took place, permitting us to make reference to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).[16]

Civilian - military relations are characterized by the understanding that the military is what ensures the country’s “national sovereignty and moral integrity”. There resides the ambiguity: the intervention of the military regarding the institution of a democracy, and the sabotage by the same military leading it to its demise. In addition to this, to the people of Pakistan, the military has retained the impression that the government is incapable of maintaining a productive and functioning state, and is incompetent in its executing of pertaining affairs. The role of the military in Pakistani politics has hindered any hope of the country implementing a stable democracy. To say the least, the relationship between the government and the resistance is a consistent struggle.[17]

The military has extended its role today with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The involvement of the military has affected “four out of five key areas of civilian control”. Decision making was an area that was to be shared by the military and the people of Pakistan, but has since turned into an opportunity for the military to exercise its control due to the fact that CPEC is not only a “corporate mega project” but also a huge economic opportunity, and the military in Pakistan continues to be the leading force in the creation of the guidelines pertaining to national defense and internal security. Furthermore, accusations of corruption have not helped; the Panama Papers were “documents [exposing] the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders.”[18] These findings further the belief that Pakistan’s leaders are incompetent and incapable of effectively governing the country, and giving the military more of a reason to continue and increase its interference. In consequence, the involvement of civilians in policy making is declining steadily, and little by little the military seeks to achieve complete autonomy from the government, and an increased partnership with China. It is safe to say that CPEC would have been an opportunity to improve military and civilian relationships, however it seems to be an opportunity lost as it appears the military is creating a government capable of functioning as a legitimate operation.[19]

 


[1] Gottmann, J., & Fox, E. W. (1973). History in Geographic Perspective: The Other France. Geographical Review.

[2] Tariq Ali (2009). The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power

[3] Marquina, A. (2010). La Política de Seguridad y Defensa de la Unión Europea. 28, 441–446.

[4] Tariq Ali (2009). Ibíd.

[5] Sánchez de Rojas Díaz, E. (2016). ¿Es Paquistán uno de los países más conflictivos del mundo? Los orígenes del terrorismo en Paquistán.

[6] Ríos, X. (2020). India se alinea con EE.UU

[8] Szczepanski, Kallie. "Pakistan | Facts and History." ThoughtCo. 

[9] Pakistan Insider. “Pakistan's Geography, Climate, and Environment.” Pakistan Insider, February 9, 2012.

[10] Burki, Shahid Javed, and Lawrence Ziring. “Pakistan.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., March 6, 2020.

[11] Mustafa, Daanish, Nausheen Anwar, and Amiera Sawas. “Gender, Global Terror, and Everyday Violence in Urban Pakistan.” Elsevier. Elsevier Ltd., December 4, 2018

[12] Bhattacharjee, Dhrubajyoti. “China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).” Indian Council of World Affairs, May 12, 2015

[13] Burki, Shahid Javed, and Lawrence Ziring. Ibíd.

[14] IMF, “Economic Outlook”, October 2019.

[15]  IMF, “World Economic Outlook”, April 2020.

[16]  Wolf, Siegfried O. “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Civil-Military Relations and Democracy in Pakistan.” SADF Working Paper, no. 2 (September 13, 2016)

[17] Ibíd.

[18]Giant Leak of Offshore Financial Records Exposes Global Array of Crime and Corruption.The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, April 3, 2016. 

[19] Wolf, Siegfried O. Ibíd.

Libia, cronología de un conflicto: del ascenso de Gadafi hasta hoy

Cartel de propaganda exaltando la figura de Gadafi, cerca de Ghadames, en 2004 [Sludge G., Wikipedia]

▲ Cartel de propaganda exaltando la figura de Gadafi, cerca de Ghadames, en 2004 [Sludge G., Wikipedia]

ENSAYOPaula 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]

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]

Correlación de fuerzas en la guerra civil libia, en febrero de 2016 [Wikipedia]

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.

 

BIBLIOGRAFÍA

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East/West Punjab, from Sikhism to water sharing

Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, also called Kartarpur Sahib, is a Sikh holy place in Kartarpur, in the Pakistani Punjab [Wikimedia Commons]

▲ Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, also called Kartarpur Sahib, is a Sikh holy place in Kartarpur, in the Pakistani Punjab [Wikimedia Commons]

ESSAYPablo Viana

Punjab region has been part of India until the year 1947, when the Punjab province of British India was divided in two parts, East Punjab (India) and West Punjab (Pakistan) due to religious reasons. After the division a lot of internal violence occurred, and many people were displaced.

East and West Punjab

The partition of Punjab proved to be one of the most violent, brutal, savage debasements in the history of humankind. The undivided Punjab, of which West Punjab forms a major region today, was home to a large minority population of Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus unto 1947 apart from the Muslim majority[1]. This minority population of Punjabi Sikhs called for the creation of a new state in the 1970s, with the name of Khalistan, but it was detained by India, sending troops to stop the militants. Terrorist attacks against the Sikh majority emerged, by those who did not accept the creation of the state of Khalistan and wished to stay in India.

The Sikh population is the dominant religious ethnicity in East Punjab (58%) followed by the Hindu (39%). Sikhism and Islamism are both monotheistic religions, they do believe on the same concept of God, although it is different on each religion. Sikhism was developed during the 16th and 17th century in the context of conflict in between Hinduism and Islamism. It is important to mention Sikhism if we talk about Punjab, as its origins were in Punjab, but most important in recent times, is that the Guru Nanak Dev[2] was buried in Pakistani territory. Four kilometres from the international border the Sikh shrine was conceded to Pakistan at the time of British India’s Partition in 1947. For followers of Sikhism this new border that cut through Punjab proved especially problematic. Sikhs overwhelmingly chose India over the newly formed Pakistan as the state that would best protect their interests (there are an estimated 50,000 Sikhs living in Pakistan today, compared to the 24 million in India). However, in making this choice, Sikhs became isolated from several holy sites, creating a religious disconnection that has proved a constant spiritual and emotional dilemma for the community[3].

In order to let the Sikhist population visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib[4], the Kartarpur Corridor was created in November 2019. However, there is an incessant suspicion in between India and Pakistan that question Pakistan motives. Although it seems like a generous move work of the Pakistani government, there is a clear perception that Pakistan is engaged in an act of deception[5]. Thus, although this scenario might seem at first beneficial for the rapprochement of East and West Punjab, it is not at all. Pakistan is involved in a rhetorical policy which could end up worsening its relations with India.

The division of Punjab in 1947 was like the division of Pakistan and India on that same year. Territorial disputes have been an issue that defines very well India-Pakistan relations since the independence. In the case of Punjab, there has not been a territorial debate. The division was clear and has been respected ever since. Why would Pakistan and/or India be willing to unify Punjab? There is no reason. East and West Punjab represent two different nations and three religions. If we think about reunifying Pakistan and India, the conclusion is the same (although more dramatic); too many discrepancies and recent unrest to think about bringing back together the nations. However, if the Kartarpur Corridor could be placed out of bonds for the territorial disputes between Pakistan and India (e.g. Kashmir), Islamabad and New Delhi could use this situation as a model to find out which are the pressure points and trying to find a path for identifying common solutions. In order to achieve this, there should be a clear behaviour by both parts of cooperation. Sadly, in recent times both Pakistan and India have discrepancies regarding many topics and suspicious behaviours that clearly show that they won’t be interested in complicating more the situation in Punjab searching for unification. The riots of 1947 left a terrific era on the region and now that both sides are established and no major disputes have emerged (except for Sikh nationalism), the situation should and will most likely remain as it is.

The Indus Water Treaty

The Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960 after nine years of negotiations between India and Pakistan with the help of the World Bank, which is also a signatory. Seen as one of the most successful international treaties, it has survived frequent tensions, including conflict, and has provided a framework for irrigation and hydropower development for more than half a century. The Treaty basically provides a mechanism for exchange of information and cooperation between Pakistan and India regarding the use of their rivers. This mechanism is well known as the Permanent Indus Commission. The Treaty also sets forth distinct procedures to handle issues which may arise: “questions” are handled by the Commission; “differences” are to be resolved by a Neutral Expert; and “disputes” are to be referred to a seven-member arbitral tribunal called the “Court of Arbitration.” As a signatory to the Treaty, the World Bank’s role is limited and procedural[6].    

Since 1948, India has been confident on the fact that East Punjab and the acceding states have a prior and superior claim to the rivers flowing through their territory. This leaves West Punjab in disadvantage regarding water resources, as East Punjab can access the highest sections of the rivers. Even under a unified control designed to ensure equitable distribution of water, in years of low river flow cultivators on tail distributaries always tended to accuse those on the upper reaches of taking an undue amount of the water, and after partition any temporary shortage, whatever the cause, could easily be attributed to political motives. It was therefore wise of Pakistan-indeed it became imperative-to cut the new feeder from the Ravi for this area and thus become independent of distributaries in East Punjab[7]. The Treaty acknowledges the control of the eastern rivers to India, and to the western rivers to Pakistan.

The main issue of water distribution in between East and West Punjab is then a matter of geography. Even though West Punjab covers more territory than East Punjab, and the water flow of West Punjab is almost three times the water flow of East Punjab rivers, the Indus Water Treaty gives the following advantage to India: since Pakistan rivers receive much more water flow from India, the treaty allowed India to use western rivers water for limited irrigation use and unlimited use for power generation, domestic, industrial and non-consumptive uses such as navigation, floating of property, fish culture and this is where the disputes mainly came from, as Pakistan has objected all Indian hydro-electric projects on western rivers irrespective of size and layout.

It is worth mentioning that with the World Bank mediating the Treaty in between India and Pakistan, the water access will not be curtailed, and since the ratification of the Treaty, India and Pakistan have not engaged in any water wars. Although there have been many tensions the disputes have been via legal procedures, but they haven’t caused any major cause for conflict. Today, both countries are strengthening their relationship, and the scenario is not likely to get worse, it is actually the opposite, and the Indus Water Treaty is one of the few livelihoods of the relationship. If the tensions do not cease, the World Bank should consider the possibility of amending the treaty, obviously if both Pakistan and India are willing to cooperate, although with the current environment, a renegotiation of the treaty would probably bring more complications. There is no shred of evidence that India has violated the Indus Water Treaty or that it is stealing Pakistan’s water[8], although Pakistan does blame India for breaching the treaty, as showed before. This is pointed out by Hindu politicians as an attempt by Pakistan to divert the attention of its own public from the real issues of gross mismanagement of water resources[9].

Pakistan has a more hostile attitude regarding water distribution, trying to find a way to impeach India, meanwhile India focuses on the development of hydro-electric projects. India won’t stop providing water to the West Punjab, as the treaty is still in force and is fulfilled by both parts. Pakistan should reconsider its role and its benefits received thanks to the treaty and meditate about the constant pressure towards India, as pushing over the limit could mean a more hostile activity carried out by India, which in the worst case scenario (although not likely to happen) could mean a breakdown of the treaty.


[1] The Punjab in 1920s – A Case study of Muslims, Zarina Salamat, Royal Book Company, Karachi, 1997. table 45, pp. 136.

[2] Guru Nanak Dev was the founder of Sikhism (1469-1540)

[3] Wyeth, G. (Dec 28, 2019). Opening the Gates: The Kartarpur Corridor. Australian Institute of International Affairs.

[4] Site where Guru Nanak Dev settled the Sikh community, and lived for 18 years after his death in 1539.

[5] Islamabad promoted the activity of Sikhs For Justice including the will to establish the state of Khalistan.

Albania, primer país de mayoría musulmana que podría integrarse en la UE

Población turística en el distrito de Gjirokastër, al sur del Albania [Pixabay]

▲ Población turística en el distrito de Gjirokastër, al sur del Albania [Pixabay]

ENSAYOJan Gallemí

El pasado 24 de noviembre de 2019 el gobierno francés de Enmanuel Macron lideró el veto, junto a otros estados como Dinamarca o los Países Bajos, a la adhesión de las naciones balcánicas de Albania y Macedonia del Norte a la Unión Europea. Según justifica el presidente de la Quinta República francesa, esto es debido a que el mayor número de refugiados económicos que entran en Francia son de los Balcanes, en concreto de la ya mencionada Albania. Este último país presentó su candidatura a la Unión Europea el 28 de abril de 2009 y el 24 de junio de 2014 se acordó por unanimidad de los 28 países de la UE otorgar a Albania el estatus de país candidato a la adhesión. Los motivos por los cuales se justifica ese rechazo vienen dados principalmente por motivos económicos y financieros[1]. También existe una ligera preocupación ante la diversidad que existe en la estructura etnográfica del país y los conflictos que esta podría ocasionar en un futuro, no solo dentro del propio país sino también en su relación con sus vecinos, ante todo con la cuestión de Kosovo y las relaciones con Grecia y Macedonia del Norte[2]. Sin embargo, otro aspecto que también ha sido explorado es el hecho de que la adhesión de Albania supondría la incorporación a la UE del primer estado en que la religión con más número de fieles es la islámica, en concreto de la rama suní. En este ensayo se procederá a analizar el impacto de dicho aspecto y observar cómo o hasta qué punto pueden conjugar o divergir los valores albaneses, principalmente por ser de religión primordialmente islámica, con aquellos en los que se fundamentan el proyecto común europeo.

Evolución del Islam en Albania

Hay que remontarse a la historia para tener en cuenta las causas por las cuales un país europeo como Albania ha desarrollado una estructura social en la cual la religión más profesada por parte de la población es la suní. Por la región geográfica en la que se halla, teóricamente sería más común pensar que Albania tendría un mayor porcentaje de población ortodoxa que suní[3]. El mismo caso se da con Kosovo y Bosnia-Herzegovina. En un principio esta región era mayoritariamente de religión cristiana ortodoxa en el sur (como la mayor parte de los estados balcánicos de hoy en día) debido al hecho de que constituía uno de los muchos territorios que conformaban el imperio Bizantino hasta el siglo XIII, cuando esta nación logró su independencia. Sin embargo, la razón por la cual el Islam está tan presente en Albania, a diferencia de sus estados vecinos, es que fue más influenciada en el aspecto religioso por el imperio Otomano, sucesor del Bizantino. Este cayó en 1453 y sus territorios fueron ocupados por los otomanos, un pueblo turco establecido en aquel momento sobre la península de Anatolia. Según historiadores como Vickers fue entre los siglos XVII y XVIII cuando gran parte de la población albanesa se convirtió al Islam[4]; la causa de ello, como indica a su vez John L. Esposito, fue que para las poblaciones albanesas cambiar de religión suponía librarse de los mayores impuestos que los cristianos debían pagar en el imperio Otomano[5].

La religión en Albania se fue moldeando desde entonces a través de los acontecimientos. Por lo que sabemos gracias a estudios como los de Gawrych en el siglo XIX, la sociedad albanesa se dividía entonces principalmente en tres grupos: católicos, ortodoxos y sunís (estos últimos representaban el 70% de la población). Durante este mismo siglo nacieron muchos de los nacionalismos conocidos de carácter europeo y en los Balcanes se inició la que se conoce como crisis del Este. Durante este periodo muchos pueblos balcánicos se sublevaron contra los otomanos, pero los albaneses, al identificarse con ellos por su religión, inicialmente se mantuvieron fieles al sultán[6]. Debido a este apoyo, se empezó a denominar peyorativamente a los albaneses musulmanes como “turcos”[7]. Esto provocó que el nacionalismo albanés se distanciara del emergente pan-islamismo otomano del sultán Abdualhmid II. De ahí surgió, según Endresen, un renacer nacional albanés denominado Rilindja, el cual buscó el apoyo de las potencias de Europa occidental[8].

Generalmente los movimientos independentistas balcánicos que surgieron en el siglo XIX reforzaron el sentimiento cristiano en contraposición al musulmán, pero en Albania no fue así; como indica Stoppel, tanto cristianos como musulmanes albaneses cooperaron en un objetivo nacional común[9]. Esto fomentó la convivencia entre ambas creencias (ya presente en tiempos anteriores) y permitió la diferenciación de este movimiento con el Helenismo[10]. Cabe destacar que en aquel momento en Albania los musulmanes y los cristianos estaban peculiarmente distribuidos territorialmente: en el norte había más cristianos católicos que no fueron tan influenciados por el imperio otomano y en el sur también predominaban ortodoxos por la frontera con Grecia. El 28 de noviembre de 1912 los albaneses, siendo acaudillados por Ismail Qemali, declararon finalmente la independencia.

El reconocimiento internacional de Albania por el Tratado de Londres supuso la imposición de una monarquía cristiana, lo que conllevó la indignación de los albaneses musulmanes, que según las estimaciones suponían el 80% de la población, y provocó la denominada revuelta islámica. La revuelta fue liderada por Essad Pasha Toptani, quien se declaraba como “salvador de Albania y del Islam” y se rodeó de clérigos descontentos. Sin embargo, durante el periodo de la Primera Guerra mundial, los nacionalistas albaneses se dieron cuenta enseguida de que las diferencias religiosas podrían ocasionar la fracturación del propio país y decidieron romper lazos con el mundo musulmán con la intención de poder tener “una Albania común”, lo que llevó a que Albania se declarara como un país sin religión oficial; esto permitió la formación de un gobierno con representación de las cuatro creencias religiosas principales: suní, bektashi, católica y ortodoxa. Las elites secularistas albanesas programaron una reforma del Islam que fuera más acorde con las tradiciones de Albania para que el país se diferenciase más de Turquía, y se nacionalizaron las instituciones religiosas. A partir de 1923 el Congreso Nacional Albanés acabó realizando los cambios desde una perspectiva muy semejante a la del liberalismo occidental. Las reformas más importantes fueron la supresión del hiyab y la ilegalización de la poligamia, y se implementó una forma distinta de orar que substituía el ritual del Salat. Pero el mayor cambio fue la substitución de la sharia por leyes semejantes a las occidentales.

Durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial Albania fue ocupada por la Italia fascista y en 1944 acabó imponiéndose un régimen comunista bajo el liderazgo de Enver Hoxha. Este régimen comunista veía en las distintas creencias religiosas del país un peligro para mantener la seguridad del gobierno autoritario, y por ello declaró a Albania como el primer estado oficialmente ateo y propuso la persecución de las distintas prácticas religiosas. De esta manera se impusieron leyes represivas que impedían profesar las fe católica u ortodoxa, y prohibían a los musulmanes leer o poseer el Corán. En 1967 el gobierno demolió hasta 2.169 edificios de carácter religioso y el resto los transformó en edificios públicos. De 1.127 edificios que guardaban alguna relación con el Islam en aquella época, tan solo se conservan hoy en día unos 50, y en muy malas condiciones[11]. Se considera que el impacto de este tipo de persecución se vio reflejado en el incremento de no creyentes dentro de la población albanesa. Entre 1991 y 1992 una serie de protestas acabó con el régimen. En esta nueva Albania democrática, el Islam volvió a ser la religión predominante, pero se prefirió mantener la aconfesionalidad del estado para garantizar la armonía entre las distintas creencias.

Influencias del campo internacional

Teniendo en cuenta esa realidad de Albania de país con mayoría de población islámica, pasamos a analizar el impacto que supondría su adhesión a la Unión Europea y hasta qué punto los valores de ambas se contradicen o conjugan.

Para empezar, si todo esto se analiza desde una perspectiva basada en la teoría del “constructivismo”, como la propuesta por Helen Bull, puede verse cómo Albania desde los inicios de su historia ha sido un territorio cuya estructura social ha estado fuertemente influenciada por la interacción de los distintos actores internacionales. Durante los años en los que formaba parte del imperio Bizantino, absorbió en gran medida los valores ortodoxos; cuando fue ocupado por los otomanos, la mayor parte de su población adoptó la religión islámica. De la misma manera, durante la desotomanización de los Balcanes, el país adoptó corrientes de pensamiento político tales como el liberalismo debido a la influencia de las potencias de Europa occidental. Eso generó un ánimo de crear un gobierno constitucionalista y parlamentarista cuya visión de la política no se basara en ninguna moral religiosa[12]. También puede verse que el régimen comunista se impuso en un contexto común al de los demás estados de Europa del Este. A la par también volvió a la senda democrática como consecuencia de la caída de la URSS, aun a pesar de que Albania no mantuviera buenas relaciones con el Pacto de Varsovia desde el año 1961.

Desde que Albania presentó su candidatura a la UE, esos valores liberales se han vuelto a fortalecer. En concreto, Albania se esfuerza por mejorar sus infraestructuras y por erradicar la corrupción y el crimen organizado. Por lo que puede observarse que la sociedad albanesa siempre se adapta a ser parte de una organización supra gubernamental. Esto es un aspecto importante porque significa que lo más probable es que el país participe activamente en las propuestas realizadas por la Comisión europea, sin dejarse llevar por los valores sociales internos. No obstante, esto a su vez otorga un punto a favor de aquellos eurodiputados que alegaron que la decisión de veto se trataba de un error histórico. Puesto que si no se aliena con la UE, Albania podría alienarse con otros actores internacionales. Según los propios eurodiputados estos podrían ser Rusia o China.

Sin embargo, hay dos limitaciones ante esta afirmación. La primera es que desde 2012 Albania es miembro de la OTAN, por lo que en parte ya está alienada con Occidente en el aspecto militar. Pero importa más un segundo aspecto, y es que Albania ya intentó durante la Guerra fría alienarse con Rusia y China, pero comprobó que esto le suponía efectos negativos pues le constituía en un estado satélite. Por otro lado, y aquí es donde los valores islámicos entran en juego, Albania hoy en día forma parte de organizaciones de naturaleza islámica como la OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation). Por lo que el rechazo de la UE podría suponer el realineamiento de Albania con otros estados islámicos, como los árabes o Turquía. El propio gobierno de Turquía, actualmente liderado por el partido de Erdogan, posee una naturaleza neo-otomanista: pretende acercar a su influencia los estados que anteriormente constituyeron el imperio Otomano. Albania está siendo influenciada por ese neo-otomanismo y un rechazo europeo podría devolverla al seno de esta concepción[13]. Además, si se acerca a países árabes de Oriente Medio como Arabia Saudí, Albania correría el peligro de asimilar los valores islámicos de estos territorios[14], los cuales son incompatibles con los de la UE debido a que incumplen con buena parte de los artículos firmados en la Declaración Universal de Derechos de 1952.

Islam y Unión Europea

Otro aspecto sería plantearse ¿en qué aspectos se contradicen los valores islámicos con los de la UE? Generalmente la Unión Europea afirma estar en contra de la poligamia, la homofobia o las prácticas religiosas que se opongan a la dignidad de la persona. Esto ha generado, entre otras cosas, un potente debate interno de si el hiyab puede considerarse como una práctica personal que no debe impedirse legalmente. Muchos grupos feministas están en contra de este aspecto puesto que lo relacionan con el patriarcalismo familiar[15]; sin embargo, otros grupos de la UE afirman que se trata tan solo de una práctica personal e individual totalmente respetable y que su supresión sería un gesto de naturaleza islamofóbica. En cualquier caso, como ya se ha mencionado, Albania suprimió en 1923 tanto la poligamia como el uso del hiyab por no reflejar los valores del Islam en Albania[16]. En este aspecto se observa que aun siendo Albania un país de mayoría Islámica, este Islam está mucho más influenciado por las corrientes europeistas del mismo que por las orientales: es decir, un Islam adaptado a las costumbres europeas y cuyos valores se asemejan más actualmente a la de los estados balcánicos vecinos.

Algunos diputados europeos, generalmente de grupos pertenecientes a la ultraderecha, como bien podrían ser Ressamblement National o Alternativ für Deutschland, aseguran que los valores islámicos nunca serán compatibles con los europeos debido a que son de carácter expansionista y radical. El holandés Geert Wilders afirma que el Corán «es más antisemita que el Mein Kampf»[17]. En otras palabras, alegan que quienes profesan el Islam son incapaces de mantener buenas relaciones con otras confesiones debido a que en el propio Corán se habla de hacer la guerra al infiel a través de la Yihad. Y como ejemplo citan los ataques terroristas que el grupo islamista DAESH ha provocado durante la última década, como los perpetrados en París o Barcelona[18]. Pero habría que recordarles a estos grupos que un texto sagrado como es el Corán puede ser interpretado de muchas maneras y que aunque algunos grupos musulmanes crean en esta incompatibilidad de buenas relaciones con quienes piensan distinto, la mayoría de los musulmanes interpreta el Corán de una forma muy distinta, de igual manera que sucede con la Biblia, aunque unos grupos sumamente específicos se vuelvan irracionales.

Esto sucede claramente en Albania, donde desde su democratización en 1991 ha habido un proyecto nacional integrador de todos los ciudadanos, al margen de sus diferentes creencias. Más bien, a lo largo de su historia como país independiente en Albania solo ha habido un periodo de persecución religiosa y este fue a causa de la represión de un autoritarismo comunista. Una limitación que podría darse en este aspecto sería la revolución islámica que sufrió el país en 1912.  Pero cabe destacar que esta revolución, a pesar de su fuerte sentimiento islámico, sirvió para derribar un gobierno títere; después de ella no se aplicó ninguna ley que impusiera los valores islámicos sobre el resto. Por lo que cabe destacar que el modelo político de Albania es muy similar al expuesto por Rawls en su libro “Political Liberalism”, debido a que configura un estado con múltiples valores (aunque haya uno predominante), pero sus leyes no se redactan en base a ninguno de ellos, sino a unos valores comunes entre todos ellos basados en la razón[19]. Este modelo propuesto por Rawls es una de las bases fundacionales de la Unión Europea y Albania sería un estado que daría ejemplo de estos mismos valores[20]. Así lo afirmaba el sumo pontífice Francisco I en su visita en Tirana en 2014: “Albania demuestra que la convivencia pacífica entre ciudadanos pertenecientes a religiones diferentes es un camino que se puede recorrer de forma concreta y que produce armonía y libera las mejores fuerzas y la creatividad de un pueblo entero, transformando la simple convivencia en verdadera colaboración y fraternidad”[21]

Conclusiones

Puede concluirse que los valores de Albania como un estado de mayoría islámica no parecen ser divergentes a los de Europa Occidental y por ende de la Unión Europea. Albania es un estado aconfesional que respeta todas las creencias religiosas y anima a todos los individuos, independientemente de su fe, a participar de la vida política del país (lo cual tiene mucho mérito debido a la significativa diversidad religiosa que ha distinguido a Albania a lo largo de su historia). Además, el Islam en Albania es sumamente distinto al de otras regiones debido al impacto que tuvo la influencia europea en la región. No solo eso, sino que también el país parece muy dispuesto a colaborar con proyectos comunes. Lo único que, en el campo de los valores, llevaría a pensar que Albania no es apta para entrar en la UE sería que, del mismo modo como se vio influenciada por los actores que han interaccionado con ella a lo largo de su historia, vuelva serlo de nuevo por estados musulmanes de valores divergentes a los europeos. Pero este caso es más probable de darse si la Unión Europea rechazase a Albania, pues esta buscaría el amparo de otros aliados en el campo internacional.

Las implicaciones de la adhesión del primer estado con mayoría musulmana a la UE serían ciertamente ventajosas, puesto que fomentaría la variedad de pensamiento religioso dentro de la Unión y esto podría conducir a un mayor entendimiento entre las distintas creencias que la integran. Habría la posibilidad de una mayor presencia de diputados sunís en el Parlamento Europeo y ayudaría a potenciar la convivencia dentro de otros estados de la UE en base a lo hecho en Albania, como puede ser el caso de Francia, donde el 10 % de la población es musulmana. Cabe decir además que el comportamiento ejemplar multirreligioso de Albania debilitaría seriamente al euroscepticismo y además ayudaría a fomentar la concordia dentro de la región de los Balcanes. Como ha alegado Donald Tusk, hay que dar una perspectiva europea a los Balcanes y es del mayor interés para la UE que Albania se integre a ella.


[1] Lazaro, Ana; El Parlamento Europeo aprueba una resolución contra el veto a Macedonia del Norte y Albania;  euronews. ; última actualización: 24/10/2019

[2] Sputnik Mundo; La actitud de Occidente ante el fantasma de la 'Gran Albania' que preocupa a Moscú; Sputnik Mundo, 22/02/2018. Nota: Hay que tener cuidado a la hora de analizar esta fuente puesto que suele ser utilizada como método de propaganda rusa.

[3] «Third Opinion on Albania adopted on 23 November 2011». Strasbourg. 4 de junio de 2012.

[4] Vickers, Miranda (2011). The Albanians: a modern history. London: IB Tauris.

[5] Esposito, John; Yavuz, M. Hakan (2003). Turkish Islam and the secular state: The Gülen movement. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press

[6] Gawrych, George (2006). The crescent and the eagle: Ottoman rule, Islam and the Albanians, 1874–1913. London: IB Tauris.

[7] Karpat, Kemal (2001). The politicization of Islam: reconstructing identity, state, faith, and community in the late Ottoman state. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[8] Endresen, Cecilie (2011). "Diverging images of the Ottoman legacy in Albania". Berlin: Lit Verlag. pp. 37–52.

[9] Stoppel, Wolfgang (2001). Minderheitenschutz im östlichen Europa (Albanien). Cologne: Universität Köln.

[10] Gawrych, George (2006). The crescent and the eagle: Ottoman rule, Islam and the Albanians, 1874–1913. London: IB Tauris.

[11] Nurja, Ermal (2012). "The rise and destruction of Ottoman Architecture in Albania: A brief history focused on the mosques". Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

[12] Albanian Constituition de 1998.

[13] Return to Instability: How migration and great power politics threaten the Western Balkans. European Council on Foreign Relations. 2015.

[14] Bishku, Michael (2013). "Albania and the Middle East".

[15] García Aller, Marta; Feministas contra el hiyab: "Europa está cayendo en la trampa islamista con el velo”

[16] Jazexhi, Olsi (2014). "Albania". In Nielsen, Jørgen; Akgönül, Samim; Alibašić, Ahmet; Racius, Egdunas (eds.). Yearbook of Muslims in Europe: Volume 6. Leiden: Brill.

[17] EFE; El diputado holandés que comparó el Corán con el 'Mein Kampf' no retira sus palabras. La Vanguardia; 04/10/2010

[18] Khader, Bichara; Los musulmanes en Europa, la construcción de un “problema”; OpenMind BBVA

[19] Rawls, John; Political Liberalism; Columbia University Press, New York

[20] Kristeva, Julia; Homo europaeus: ¿existe una cultura europea?; OpenMind BBVA

[21] Vera, Jarlison; Albania: El Papa destaca la colaboración entre católicos, ortodoxos y musulmanes; Acaprensa

Conflict and conflict resolutions in Africa. The future of United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA)

Members of the Blue Helmets in their deployment in Mali [MINUSMA]

▲ Members of the Blue Helmets in their deployment in Mali [MINUSMA]

ESSAY / Ignacio Yárnoz

INTRODUCTION

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)[1].

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[2].

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[3]. 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[4].

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[5]. 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[6]. 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.

Foreign intervention

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)[7].

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[8] 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[9].

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)[10] 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[11] (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[12]. 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[13], 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[25]

 

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[14][15].

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[16].

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[17]. 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[18].

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)[19].

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[20] 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[21].

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.

Conclusion

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[22].

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[23].

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[24]

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.

 

NOTES

[1] United Nations Peacekeeping. (n.d.). Where we operate. [online] Available at [Accessed 21 Dec. 2019].

[2] Renwick, D. (2015). Peace Operations in Africa. [online] Council on Foreign Relations. Available at [Accessed 21 Dec. 2019].

[3] Welsh, M. Y. (2013, January 17). Making sense of Mali's armed groups. Al Jazeera. Available at [Accessed 22 Dec. 2019].

[4] Timeline on Mali. (n.d.). New York Times. Available at [Accessed 22 Dec. 2019].

[5] Oberlé, T. (2012, March 22). Mali : le président renversé par un coup d'État militaire. Le Figaró. Available at [Accessed 26 Dec. 2019].

[6] MINUSMA. (n.d.). History. [online] Available at [Accessed 26 Dec. 2019].

[7] Unscr.com. (2012). Security Council Resolution 2085 - UNSCR. [online] Available at  [Accessed 23 Dec. 2019].

[8] BBC News. (2013). France confirms Mali intervention. [online] Available at  [Accessed 24 Dec. 2019].

[9] Security Council Resolution 2100 - UNSCR. (2013). Available at [Accessed 2 Jan. 2019].

[10] MINUSMA. (n.d.). Personnel. [online] Available at [Accessed 26 Dec. 2019].

[11] EUTM Mali. (n.d.). DÉPLOIEMENT - EUTM Mali. [online] Available at [Accessed 25 Dec. 2019].

[12] France Diplomatie: Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. (n.d.). G5 Sahel Joint Force and the Sahel Alliance. [online] Available at  [Accessed 27 Dec. 2019].

[13] Ecfr.eu. (2019). Operation Barkhane - Mapping armed groups in Mali and the Sahel. [online] Available at [Accessed 25 Dec. 2019].

[14] Un.org. (2015). AGREEMENT FOR PEACE AND RECONCILIATION IN MALI RESULTING FROM THE ALGIERS PROCESS. [online] Available at [Accessed 3 Jan. 2020].

[15] Jezequel, J. (2015). Mali's peace deal represents a welcome development, but will it work this time? | Jean-Hervé Jezequel. Available at [Accessed 8 Jan. 2020].

[16] Nyirabikali, D. (2015). Mali Peace Accord: Actors, issues and their representation | SIPRI. Available at [Accessed 3 Jan. 2020].

[17] MINUSMA. MINUSMA Fact SheetAvailable at [Accessed 2 Jan. 2019].

[18] Digitallibrary.un.org. (n.d.). "UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali" OR MINUSMA - United Nations Digital Library System. [online] Available at [Accessed 3 Jan. 2020].

[19] McKenzie, D. (2019). Ogossagou massacre is latest sign that violence in Mali is out of control. Available at [Accessed 4 Jan. 2019].

[20] Unscr.com. (2019). Security Council Resolution 2480 - UNSCR. [online] Available at [Accessed 10 Jan. 2019].

[21] United Nations Digital Library System. (2019). Budget for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali for the period from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020. [online] Available at  [Accessed 4 Jan. 2020].

[22] Van der Lijn, J. (2019). The UN Peace Operation in Mali: A Troubled Yet Needed Mission - Mali. [online] ReliefWeb. Available at [Accessed 30 Dec. 2019].

[23] Lyammouri, R. (2018). After Five Years, Challenges Facing MINUSMA Persist. Available at [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].

[24] Tull, D. (2019). UN Peacekeeping in Mali. [online] Swp-berlin.org. Available at [Accessed 25 Dec. 2019].

[25] MINUSMA. MINUSMA Fact Sheet. Available at [Accessed 2 Jan. 2019].

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

United Nations Peacekeeping. (n.d.). Where we operate. [online] Available at [Accessed 21 Dec. 2019].

Renwick, D. (2015). Peace Operations in Africa. [online] Council on Foreign Relations. Available at [Accessed 21 Dec. 2019].

Timeline on Mali. (n.d.). New York TimesAvailable at [Accessed 22 Dec. 2019].

Welsh, M. Y. (2013, January 17). Making sense of Mali's armed groups. Al JazeeraAvailable at [Accessed 22 Dec. 2019].

MINUSMA. (n.d.). History. [online] Available at [Accessed 26 Dec. 2019].

Oberlé, T. (2012, March 22). Mali : le président renversé par un coup d'État militaire. Le FigaróAvailable at [Accessed 26 Dec. 2019].

Unscr.com. (2012). Security Council Resolution 2085 - UNSCR. [online] Available at [Accessed 23 Dec. 2019].

BBC News. (2013). France confirms Mali intervention. [online] Available at [Accessed 24 Dec. 2019].

MINUSMA. (n.d.). Personnel. [online] Available at [Accessed 26 Dec. 2019].

EUTM Mali. (n.d.). DÉPLOIEMENT - EUTM Mali. [online] Available at [Accessed 25 Dec. 2019].

France Diplomatie: Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. (n.d.). G5 Sahel Joint Force and the Sahel Alliance. [online] Available at [Accessed 27 Dec. 2019].

Ecfr.eu. (2019). Operation Barkhane - Mapping armed groups in Mali and the Sahel. [online] Available at [Accessed 25 Dec. 2019].

Un.org. (2015). AGREEMENT FOR PEACE AND RECONCILIATION IN MALI RESULTING FROM THE ALGIERS PROCESS. [online] Available at [Accessed 3 Jan. 2020].

Digitallibrary.un.org. (n.d.). "UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali" OR MINUSMA - United Nations Digital Library System. [online] Available at [Accessed 3 Jan. 2020].

United Nations Digital Library System. (2019). Budget for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali for the period from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020. [online] Available at  [Accessed 4 Jan. 2020].

Van der Lijn, J. (2019). The UN Peace Operation in Mali: A Troubled Yet Needed Mission - Mali. [online] ReliefWeb. Available at [Accessed 30 Dec. 2019].

Tull, D. (2019). UN Peacekeeping in Mali. [online] Swp-berlin.org. Available at [Accessed 25 Dec. 2019].

McKenzie, D. (2019). Ogossagou massacre is latest sign that violence in Mali is out of control. Available at [Accessed 4 Jan. 2019].

Unscr.com. (2019). Security Council Resolution 2480 - UNSCR. [online] Available at [Accessed 10 Jan. 2019].

Security Council Resolution 2100 - UNSCR. (2013). Available at [Accessed 2 Jan. 2019].

Nyirabikali, D. (2015). Mali Peace Accord: Actors, issues and their representation | SIPRI. Available at [Accessed 3 Jan. 2020].

Lyammouri, R. (2018). After Five Years, Challenges Facing MINUSMA Persist. Available at [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].

Jezequel, J. (2015). Mali's peace deal represents a welcome development, but will it work this time? | Jean-Hervé Jezequel. Available at [Accessed 8 Jan. 2020].

Russia’s sharp power in Africa: the case of Madagascar, Central Africa Republic, Sudan and South Africa

A picture of Vladimir Putin on Sputnik's website

▲ A picture of Vladimir Putin on Sputnik's website

ESSAYPablo 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.

Main targets

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.

Madagascar

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

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.

South Africa

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.

 

REFERENCES

Alba, Davey, and Sheera Frenkel. 2019. “Russia Tests New Disinformation Tactics in Africa to Expand Influence.” The New York Times, 30 October.

Allison, Simon. 2019. “Le retour contrarié de la Russie en Afrique.” Courrier international, 5 August.

Ashraf, Nadia, y Jeske van Seters. 2020. «Africa and EU-Africa partnership insights: input for estonia’s new africa strategy.» ECDPM.

Grossman, Shelby, Daniel Bush, y Renée Diresta. 2019. «Evidence of Russia-Linked Influence Operations in Africa.»

Harding, Luke, and Jason Buerke. 2019. “Leaked documents reveal Russian effort to exert influence in Africa.” The Guardian, 11 June. Accessed November 25, 2019.

Hurley, John, Scott Morris, y Gailyn Portelance. 2019. «Examining the debt implications of the Belt and Road Initiative from a policy perspective.» Journal of Infrastructure, Policy and Development (EnPress Publisher) 3 (1): 139.

Madowo, Larry. 2018. Should Africa be wary of chinese debt.

Mlambo, Courage, Audrey Kushamba, y More Blessing Simawu. 2016. «China-Africa Relations: What Lies Beneath?» Chinese Economy (Routledge) 49 (4): 257-276.

Mora Tebas, Juan A. 10/2019. http://www.ieee.es/. 2019. ««Rusiáfrica»: el regreso de Rusia al «gran juego» africano.» Documento Marco IEEE. Último acceso: 30 de Nov de 2019. http://www.ieee.es/.

Nye, Joseph. 1990. Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. London: Basic Books.

Salzman, Rachel S. 2019. Russia, BRICS, and the disruption of global order. Georgetown University Press.

Singh, Mandip. 2018. “From Smart Power to Sharp Power: How China Promotes her National Interests .” Journal of Defence Studies.

Standish, Reid. 2019. Putin Has a Dream of Africa. Foreign Policy.

Stanford Internet Observatory. 2019. «Evidence of Russia-Linked Influence Operations in Africa.»

Walker, C. and Ludwig, J. 2019. «The Meaning of Sharp PowerForeign Affairs.

Warsaw Institute. 2019. “Russia in Africa: weapons, mercenaries, spin doctors.” Strategic report, Warsaw.

A comparative study of the effectiveness of women’s political participation. The case of Spain, Rwanda and South Africa

Farewell of Espérance Nyirasafari (left) as minister of Gender and Family Promotion, in Rwanda's capital in 2018 [Rwanda's Gov.]

▲ 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[1] (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.

Rwanda

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 [2]. 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.[3] 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.[4]

The Rwandan genocide ended with the deaths of one million people and the rape of more than 200,000 women.[5] 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.[6]

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%.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12]

South Africa

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."[13] 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,[14] 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.[15]

Spain

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).[16] 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.

Conclusion

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),[17] 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.[18]

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.

 


[1] World Economic Forum (December 2020), The Global Gender Gap Report 2020. World Economic Forum. Accessed 14/02/2020

[2] Max Roser and Mohamed Nagdy (2020), "Genocides". Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Accessed 14/02/202

[3] Natalie Keffler (2019)., ‘Economic growth in Rwanda has arguably come at the cost of democratic freedom’, World Finance. Accessed 14/02/2020

[4] Charlotte Florance (2016), 22 Years After the Rwandan Genocide. Huffpost. Accessed 14/02/2020

[5] Violet K. Dixon (2009), A Study in Violence: Examining Rape in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Inquires journal. Accessed 14/02/2020

[6] Inter-parliamentary Union (2019), ‘Women in national Parliaments’. IUP. Accessed 14/02/2020

[7] World Bank (2019), The World Bank in Rwanda. World Bank. Accessed 14/02/2020

[8] Natalie Keffler (2019)., ‘Economic growth in Rwanda has arguably come at the cost of democratic freedom’, World Finance. Accessed 14/02/2020

[9] Tony Blair. (2014), ‘20 years after the genocide, Rwanda is a beacon of hope.’ The Guardian. Accessed 14/02/20

[10] Antonio Cascais (2019), ‘Rwanda – real equality or gender-washing?’ DW. Accessed 14/02/2020

[11] Álex Maroño (2018), ‘Ruanda, ¿una utopía feminista?.’ El Orden Mundial. Accessed 14/02/2020

[12] 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

[13] Peter S. Goodman (2017), ‘End of Apartheid in South Africa? Not in Economic Terms.’ The New York Times Sitio. Accessed 14/02/2020

[14] Gopolang Makou (2018), ‘Femicide in South Africa: 3 numbers about the murdering of women investigated.’ Africa Check. Accessed 14/02/2020

[15] British Broadcasting Corporation (2019), ‘Sexual violence in South Africa: 'I was raped, now I fear for my daughters'. BBC News. Accessed 14/02/2020

[16] European Institute for Gender Equality (2019). ‘Gender Equality Index.’ EIGE. Accessed 14/02/2020

[17] Gerd Hankel. (2019), ‘Gacaca Courts’, Oxford Public International Law. Accessed 14/02/2020

[18] Instituto de la mujer (2016), ‘Estadísticas violencia de género.’ Ministerio de Igualdad de España. Accessed 14/02/2020

Islamic fundamentalism and the case for inter-civilizational dialogue in Nigeria and Cameroon

People in a rural area of Cameroon [Photokadaffi]

▲ People in a rural area of Cameroon [Photokadaffi]

ESSAY EMILIJA ŽEBRAUSKAITĖ

Introduction

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. 

Ideological background-check

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. 

Conclusion

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?

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Amnesty, I. (2011). Nigeria: Human Rights Agenda 2011-2015. Amnesty International Publications, 30.

Amoo, A. (2018, July 30). educeleb.com. Retrieved from educeleb.com: https://educeleb.com/young-adult-literacy-rate-in-nigeria/

Collier, P. (2007). The Bottom Billion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Comolli, V. (2017). The evolution and impact of Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin. Humanitarian Exchange, 7-10.

Economist, T. (2011). Nigeria's New Government: One and a Half Cheers for the Economy. None for Security. Economist, 56.

Fred Kammer, S. (n.d.). Catholicism and Capitalism. Retrieved from http://www.loyno.edu/jsri/catholicism-and-capitalism

Amnesty, I. (2011). Nigeria: Human Rights Agenda 2011-2015. Amnesty International Publications, 30.

Amoo, A. (2018, July 30). educeleb.com. Retrieved from educeleb.com: https://educeleb.com/young-adult-literacy-rate-in-nigeria/

Collier, P. (2007). The Bottom Billion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Comolli, V. (2017). The evolution and impact of Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin. Humanitarian Exchange, 7-10.

Economist, T. (2011). Nigeria's New Government: One and a Half Cheers for the Economy. None for Security. Economist, 56.

Fred Kammer, S. (n.d.). Catholicism and Capitalism. Retrieved from http://www.loyno.edu/jsri/catholicism-and-capitalism

Heungoup, H. D. (2016, April 6). Q&A: Boko Haram in Cameroon. Retrieved from International Crisis Group : https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/central-africa/cameroon/q-boko-haram-cameroon

https://educeleb.com/young-adult-literacy-rate-in-nigeria/. (n.d.).

Huntington, S. P. (2002). The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: SIMON & SCHUSTER.

Ibrahim Index of African Governance. (n.d.). Retrieved from Mo Ibrahim Foundation: http://iiag.online

Lake Chad attack: 'Dozens of fishermen' killed near Cameroon border. (2020, January 3). Retrieved from BBC News: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50987123

News, B. (2020, January 3). Retrieved from BBC News: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50987123

News, B. (2020). Lake Chad attack: 'Dozens of fishermen' killed near Cameroon border. BBC News.

News, B. (2020). Lake Chad attack: 'Dozens of fishermen' killed near Cameroon border. BBC News.

Okpi, A. (2018, August 29). Africa Check. Retrieved from Africa Check: https://africacheck.org/reports/nigerias-economy-services-drive-gdp-but-oil-still-dominates-exports/

Rawls, J. (1933). Political Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press.

Smith, D. (2009). Nigeria Islamist group leader killed in police custody. The Guardian.

Solomon, H. (2012). Counter-Terrorism in Nigeria: Responding to Boko Haram. The Rusi Journal, 6-11.

Thomson, V. (2012). Boko Haram and Islamic Fundamentalism in Nigeria. Global Security Studies, 46-57.

UNDP, U. N. (2017). Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers. Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment. new York: United Nations Development Programme.

Yusuf, M. (2009, July 31). (BBC News, Interviewer)

Lebanon, a need for a systemic change

A demonstration in Beirut as part of 2019 protests [Wikimedia Commons]

▲ A demonstration in Beirut as part of 2019 protests [Wikimedia Commons]

ESSAYDavid España Font

1. Introduction

A shared feeling has been rising across the globe for the last three years, but with special strength during the last six months. The demonstrations since February in Algeria, since September in Egypt, Indonesia, Peru or Haiti, and in Chile, Iraq or Lebanon since October are just some manifestations of this feeling. The primary objective of this essay will not be to find a correlation among all demonstrations but rather to focus on the Lebanese governmental collapse. The collapse of the Lebanese government is one example of the widespread failure most politicians in the Middle East have to meet public needs.[i]

Regarding the protests that have been taking place in Egypt and the Levant, it is key to differentiate these uprisings from the so-called Arab Spring that took place in 2011, and which caused a scene of chaos all over the region, leading to the collapse of many regimes.[ii] The revolutionary wave from 2011, became a spark that precipitated into many civil wars such as those in Libya, Yemen or Syria. It is important to note that, the uprisings that are taking place at the moment are happening in the countries that did not fall into civil war when the Arab Spring of 2011 took place.

This essay will put the focus on the issue of whether the political power in Lebanon is legitimate, or it should be changed. Are the Lebanese aiming at a change in leadership or rather at a systemic change in their political system? This essay id divided into four different parts. First, a brief introduction summarizes the development of the October demonstrations. Second, it throws a quick overview into recent political history, starting from the formation of the Lebanese state. Third, it will approach the core question, namely which type of change is required. Finally, a brief conclusion sums up the key ideas.

2. October 2019

On Thursday October 17th, thousands of people jumped into the streets of Beirut to protest against political corruption, the nepotism of the public sector and the entrenched political class. There hadn’t been a manifestation of public discontent as big as this one since the end of the civil war in 1990. The demonstration was sparked by the introduction of a package of new taxes, one of which aimed at WhatsApp calls.[iii] Roads were blocked for ten days in a row while citizens kept demanding for the entire political class to resign. Although, apparently, the demands were the same as those forwarded in 2011, the protests might have been looking more for a change in the whole political system than for mere changes in leadership.

It must not be forgotten the fact that Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, warned that such protests could lead to another civil war and that the right to demonstrate had to be abolished as soon as possible. He literally stated: “I’m not threatening anyone, I’m describing the situation. We are not afraid for the resistance; we are afraid for the country.”[iv] Certainly, a change in the political power could make   such a power notably stronger, Hezbollah is now enjoying the weakness of the Lebanese political power and prefers to maintain the status quo.

This arising conflict must be analysed bearing in mind the very complicated governmental structure which seems to be very effective towards conflict avoidance, but not towards development and progress. The country is governed by a power-sharing system aimed at guaranteeing political representation for all the country's 18 sects.[v] Lebanon’s government is designed to provide political representation of all Lebanese religious groups, the largest ones being the Maronites, the Shiite and the Sunni. The numbers of seats in the Parliament is allotted among the different denominations within each religion. The President must always be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni and the Speaker of Parliament as Shiite.[vi]

Therefore, it goes without saying that the structure of the political power is designed for survival rather than for coexistence. Each representative is inclined to use his position in favour of the interest of the sects that he belongs to instead of that of the national, common interest. There is no chance for common policies to be agreed as long as any of these interfere with the preferences of any one of the sects.

3. A quick overview into recent history

Since the end of the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire managed to control all the region today known as Levant and Egypt. However, the area known as Mount Lebanon remained out of its direct influence[vii]. The region became a self-governed area controlled by powerful Christian Maronite families. Because the Ottoman Empire did not allow European Christians to settle in the territory and benefit from trading activities, the Europeans used the Lebanese Maronites as their commercial representatives.[viii] This was one of the main ways how the European legacy penetrated the region, and one of the reasons that explains why Christians in Lebanon and Syria had a good command of French even before the arrival of the French mandate, and why they became, and still are, richer than the Muslims.

Following World War I, the League of Nations awarded France the mandate over the northern portion of the former Ottoman province of Syria, which included the region of the Mount Lebanon. This was a consequence of the signature in 1916 of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, by which the British and the French divided the Middle East into two areas put under their control. The British would control the South, and the French the North.[ix]

In 1920 the French carved out the region of Lebanon from their mandated area. The region would later be granted the independence in 1943. The means of such demarcation had as primary objective the guarantee and protection of the Christian’s free and independent existence in the Muslim Arab world, not even the protection of their rights but rather the recognition of their existence. Since the very first moment of Lebanon’s establishment as a separate territory from Syria, Sunni Muslims rejected the very idea of a Lebanese state which was perceived as an act of French colonialism with the objective of dividing and weakening what was perceived to be the united Arab Nation.[x]

Because the preservation of the greater Lebanon was the primary objective for the Christians and they were not going to give up that objective for the sake of a united Arab Nation, a gap between the Maronite and the Sunni communities opened that had to be closed. The legal agreement that came up from efforts in this sense came to be known as the National Pact of 1943 “al-Mithaq al-Watani.”[xi] At the heart of the negotiations was on the one hand the Christians' fear of being overwhelmed by the Arab countries, and on the other hand the Muslims' fear of Western hegemony. In return for the Christian to accept Lebanon's "Arab face," the Muslim side agreed to recognize the independence and legitimacy of the Lebanese state in its 1920 boundaries and to renounce aspirations for union with Syria.[xii]

With hindsight, the pact may be assessed as the least bad political option that could be reached at this time. However, as mentioned earlier, this pact has led to a development of the governmental structure that doesn’t lead to political construction and development but rather to mere survival.

4. Change in leadership or systemic change?

The issue at stake is very much related to the legitimacy that could be given to the Lebanese political power. In order to tackle this issue, a basic approach to these terms is a must.

The concept of political power is very vague and might be difficult to find a set definition for it; the basic approach could be “a power exercised in a political community for the attainment of the ends that pertain to the community.”[xiii] In order to be political, power inherently requires  legitimacy. When the power is fully adapted to the community, only then this power can be considered a political power and therefore, a legitimate power.[xiv] While it is possible to legitimize a power that is divided into a wide variety of sects, it cannot be denied that such power is not fully adapted to the community, but simply divided between the different communities.

Perhaps, the issue in this case is that there cannot be such a thing as “a community” for the different sects that conform the Lebanese society. Perry Anderson[xv] states that in 2005, the Saudi Crown reintroduced the millionaire Rafik Hariri into the Lebanese politics getting him to become prime minister. In return, Hariri had to allow the Salafists to preach in Sunni villages and cities, up to the point that his son, Saad, does not manage to control the Sunni community any longer. How is it possible to avoid such a widespread division of sects in a region where politics of influence are played by every minimally significant power?

Furthermore, in order to be legitimate, power must safeguard the political community. However, going deeper into the matter, it is essential that a legitimate power transcends the simple function of safeguarding and assumes the responsibility of maintaining the development of the community. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, in this case there might be no such thing as a community; therefore, the capacity of the political power in this specific case, legitimacy might be link to the idea of leading the project of building and developing such idea of community under one united political entity. Possibly, the key to achieve a sense of community might be the abolition of confession-based politics however…is it possible?

Additionally, another reason for which I do not believe that there is a full politization of the state is because it has still not transitioned from power, understood as force, into power understood as order. The mere presence of an Iranian backed militia in the country which does have a notable degree of influence on the political decisions doesn’t allow for such an important change to happen. In the theory, the state should recover the full control of military power however, the reality is that Lebanon does need the military efforts of the Shiite militia.  

Finally, a last way to understand the legitimacy of the power can be through acceptance. Legitimacy consists on the consent given to the power, which implies the disposition to obey of the community, and the acceptance of the capacity to force, of the power[xvi]. Until now there has been acceptance. However, being these protests the biggest ones seen since the end of the civil war, it is an important factor to bear in mind. It might be that these protests delegitimize the political power, or they might simply reflect the euphoric hit that many of these events tend to cause before disappearing.

5. Conclusion

After three months since the beginning of the protests, it seems that steps have been taken backwards rather than forwards. Could Hariri’s resignation mean a step forward towards the construction of the community and the abolition of the sectarian division?

The key idea is the nature of the 1943 agreement. The Pact’s core idea was to help overcome any philosophical divisions between the two main communities, the Christian and the Sunni. The Christians were not willing to accept a united Arab Nation with Syria, and the Muslims were not willing to be fully ruled by the Christians. However, 80 years later, the importance of confessionalism in the political structure is still there, it has not diminished.

To sum up, there are two additional ideas to be emphasised. One is that Lebanon was created in order to remain a non-Muslim state in an Arab world, the second one is that the principal reason for stating that the political powers in the Arab world have so little legitimacy is because of the intrusion of other regional powers in the nation’s construction of a community and the persistent war that is being fought between the Sunni and the Shiite in the region in

[i] B. Alterman, J. (2019). Lebanon’s Government Collapses. Retrieved 16 December 2019, from 

[ii] B. Alterman, J. (2019). Lebanon’s Government Collapses. Retrieved 16 December 2019, from

[iii] B. Alterman, J. (2019). Lebanon’s Government Collapses. Retrieved 16 December 2019, from

[iv] B. Alterman, J. (2019). Lebanon’s Government Collapses. Retrieved 16 December 2019, from

[v] CIA. (2019). World Factbook (p. Lebanese government). USA.

[vi] CIA. (2019). World Factbook (p. Lebanese government). USA.

[vii] Hourani, A. (2013). A history of the Arab peoples (p.). London: Faber and Faber.

[viii] el-Khazen, F. (1991). The Comnlunal Pact of National Identities: The Making and Politics of the 1943 National Pact [Ebook] (1st ed., pp. 7, 13, 14, 49, 52,). Oxford: Centre for Lebanese Studies, Oxford. Retrieved from

[ix] Taber, A. (2016). The lines that bind (1st ed.). Washington: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

[x] el-Khazen, F. (1991). The Comnlunal Pact of National Identities: The Making and Politics of the 1943 National Pact [Ebook] (1st ed., pp. 7, 13, 14, 49, 52,). Oxford: Centre for Lebanese Studies, Oxford. Retrieved from

[xi] el-Khazen, F. (1991). The Comnlunal Pact of National Identities: The Making and Politics of the 1943 National Pact [Ebook] (1st ed., pp. 7, 13, 14, 49, 52,). Oxford: Centre for Lebanese Studies, Oxford. Retrieved from

[xii] Thomas Collelo, ed. Lebanon: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1987.

[xiii] Zemsky, B. (2019). 2000 [Blog]

[xiv] Cruz Prados, A. (2000). Ethos y Polis (2nd ed., pp. 377-400). Pamplona: EUNSA.

[xv] Mourad, S. El mosaico del islam: una conversación con Perry Anderson (1st ed., pp. 81-82). Madrid: Siglo XXI de España Editores, S. A., 2018.

[xvi] Jarvis Thomson, J. (1990). The Realm of Rights (1st ed., p. 359). Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

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