Entradas con Categorías Global Affairs África .

ESSAY / Emilija Žebrauskaitė


While the Western Westphalian State – and, consequently, the Western legal system – became the default in most parts of the world, Africa with its traditional ethics and customs has a lot to offer. Although the positive legalism is still embraced, there is a tendency of looking at the indigenous traditions for the inspiration of the system that would be a better fit in an African setting. Ubuntu ethics has a lot to offer and can be considered a basis for all traditional institutions in Africa. A great example of Ubuntu in action is the African Traditional Justice System which embraces the Ubuntu values as its basis. This article will provide a conceptualization of Ubuntu philosophy and will analyse its applications in the real-world scenarios through the case of Gacaca trials in Rwanda.

Firstly, this essay will define Ubuntu: its main tenants, how Ubuntu compares with other philosophical and ethical traditions, and the main criticism of Ubuntu ethics. Secondly, the application of Ubuntu ethics through African Indigenous Justice Systems will be covered, naming the features of Ubuntu that can be seen in the application of justice in the African setting, discussing the peace vs. justice debate and why one value is emphasized more than another in AIJS, and how the traditional justice in Africa differs from the Western one.

Lastly, through the case study of Gacaca trials in post-genocide Rwanda, this essay seeks to demonstrate that the application of the traditional justice in the post-genocide society did what the Western legalistic system failed to do – it provided a more efficient way to distribute justice and made the healing of the wounds inflicted by the genocide easier by allowing the community to actively participate in the judicial decision-making process.

It is the opinion of this article that while the African Traditional Justice System has it’s share of problems when applied in modern-day Africa, as the continent is embedded into the reality of the Westphalian state, each state being a part of the global international order, the Western model of justice is eroding the autonomy of the community which is a cornerstone of African society. However, the values of Ubuntu ethics persist, providing a strong basis for traditional African institutions. 

Conceptualization of Ubuntu

The word Ubuntu derives from the Bantu language group spoken widely across sub-Saharan Africa. It can be defined as “A quality that includes the essential human virtues; compassion and humanity” (Lexico, n.d.) and, according to Mugumbate and Nyanguru, is a homogenizing concept, a “backbone of African spirituality” in African ontology (2013). “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” – a Zulu phrase meaning “a person is a person through other persons” is one of the widely spread interpretations of Ubuntu. 

In comparison with non-African philosophical thoughts, there can be found similarities between Ubuntu and the traditional Chinese as well as Western ethics, but when it comes to the modern Western way of thought, the contrast is striking. According to Lutz (2009), Confucian ethics, just like Ubuntu ethics, view the institution of family as a central building block of society. An Aristotelian tradition which prevailed in the Western world until Enlightenment had some characteristics similar to Ubuntu as well, namely the idea of Aristoteles that human being is a social being and can only reach his true potential through the community (Aristoteles, 350 B.C.E.). However, Tomas Hobbes had an opposite idea of human nature, claiming that the natural condition of man is solidarity (Hobbes, 1651). The values that still prevail in Ubuntu ethics, therefore, are rarely seen in modern liberal thought that prevails in the Western World and in the international order in general. According to Lutz (2009) “Reconciling self-realization and communalism is important because it solves the problem of moral motivation” which Western modern ethics have a hard time to answer. It can be argued, therefore, that Ubuntu has a lot to offer to the global ethical thought, especially in the world in which the Western ideas of individualism prevail and the values of community and collectivism are often forgotten.


However, while Ubuntu carries values that can contribute to global ethics, as a philosophical current it is heavily criticised. According to Metz (2011), there are three main reasons why Ubuntu receives criticism: firstly, it is considered vague as a philosophical thought and does not have a solid framework; secondly, it is feared that due to its collectivist orientation there is a danger of sacrificing individual freedoms for the sake of society; and lastly, it is thought that Ubuntu philosophy is applicable and useful only in traditional, but not modern society. 

When it comes to the reproach about the vagueness of Ubuntu as a philosophical thought, Thaddeus Metz examines six theoretical interpretations of the concept of Ubuntu:

U1: An action is right just insofar as it respects a person’s dignity; an act is wrong to the extent that it degrades humanity.

U2: An action is right just insofar as it promotes the well-being of others; an act is wrong to the extent that it fails to enhance the welfare of one’s fellows.

U3: An action is right just insofar as it promotes the well-being of others without violating their rights; an act is wrong to the extent that it either violates rights or fails to enhance the welfare of one’s fellows without violating rights.

U4: An action is right just insofar as it positively relates to others and thereby realizes oneself; an act is wrong to the extent that it does not perfect one’s valuable nature as a social being.

U5: An action is right just insofar as it is in solidarity with groups whose survival is threatened; an act is wrong to the extent that it fails to support a vulnerable community.

U6: An action is right just insofar as it produces harmony and reduces discord; an act is wrong to the extent that it fails to develop community (Metz, 2007).

While arguing that the concept U4 is the most accepted in literature, Matz himself argues in favour of the concept U6 as the basis of the ethics is rooted not in the subject, but in the object (Metz, 2007).

The fear that Ubuntu tenants make people submissive to authority and collective goals, giving them a very strong identity that might result in violence against other groups originates, according to Lutz (2009), from a faulty understanding of Ubuntu. Even though the tribalism is pretty common in the African setting, it does not derive from the tenants of Ubuntu, but a corrupted idea of this ethical philosophy. Further criticism on the idea that collectivism might interfere with individual rights or liberties can also be denied quoting Lutz, who said that “Ethical theories that tell us we must choose between egoism and altruism, between self-love and love of others, between prudence and morality, or one’s good and the common good are individualistic ethical theories” and therefore have nothing in common with ideas of Ubuntu, which, unlike the individualistic theories, reconciles the common and personal good and goals. 

The third objection, namely the question of whether Ubuntu ethics remain useful in the modern society which functions according to the Westphalian State model is challenged by Metz (2011). While it is true that Ubuntu developed in a traditional setting in which the value of human beings was based on the amount of communal life a human has lived (explaining the respect for the elders and the ancestors in African setting), a variant concept of dignity that in no way can be applied in a modern setting, there are still valuable ethical norms that can be thought by Ubuntu. Metz (2011) provides a concept of human dignity based on Ubuntu ideas, which, as he argues, can contribute to ethics in the modern African setting: “individuals have dignity insofar as they have communal nature, that is, the inherent capacity to exhibit identity and solidarity with others.” 

The Ubuntu ethics in African Indigenous Justice System

The institutionalisation and centralisation of power in the hands of the Westphalian State takes away the power from the communities which are central to the lifestyle in Africa. However, the communal values have arguably persisted and continue to directly oppose the centralisation. While the Westphalian State model seems to be functioning in the West, there are many good reasons to believe that Africa must look for inspiration in local traditions and customs (Malisa & Nhengeze, 2018). Taking into consideration the Ubuntu values, it is not difficult to understand why institutionalisation has generally not been very successful in African setting (Mugumbate & Nyanguru, 2013), as a place where the community is morally obliged to take care of its members, there is little space for alienated institutions. 

Generally, two justice systems are operating alongside each other in many African societies: the state-administered justice system and the African Indigenous Justice System (AIJS). According to Elechi, Morris & Schauer, the litigants can choose between the state tribunal and AIJS, and can apply to be judged by the state if they do not agree with the sentence of the AIJS (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). However, Ubuntu values emphasise the concept of reconciliation: “African political philosophy responds easily and organically to the demands for the reconciliation as a means of restoring the equilibrium of the flow of life when its disturbed” (Nabudere, 2005). As the national court interventions often disharmonize the community by applying the “winner takes it all” approach, and are sometimes considered to be corrupt, there is a strong tendency for the communities to insist on bringing the offender to the AIJS tribunal (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010).

African Indigenous Justice System is a great example of Ubuntu values in action. The system operates on the cultural norm that important decision should be reached by consensus of the whole group as opposed to the majority opinion. AIJS is characterised by features such as the focus on the effects the offence had on victims and the community, the involvement of the litigants in the active definition of harms and the resolution of the trial, the localisation and decentralisation of authority, the importance of the restoration of harm, the property or relationship, the understanding that the offender might be a victim of the socioeconomic conditions; with the main objective of the justice system being the restoration of relationships, healing, and reconciliation in the community (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). Underlying this system is the concept of Ubuntu, which “leads to a way of dealing with the social problems which are very different from the Western legalistic, rule-based system which had become the global default” (Baggini, 2018).

One of the reasons why AIJS can be considered exemplary is its ability to avoid the alienation of the Western courts in which the victim, the offender, and everybody else seem to be represented, but neither victim nor offender can directly participate in the decision making. The system which emphasises reconciliation and in which the community is in charge of the process is arguably much more effective in the African setting, where communities are generally familiar and close-knit. As the offender is still considered a part of the community and is still expected to contribute to its surroundings in the future, the participation in the trial and the decision making is important to the reconciliation: “unlike adjudicated justice, negotiated justice is not a winner take it all justice. Resolution can be reached where the offender, the community, and the victim are each partially wrong” (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). As there is very little hope for an offender to be reintegrated into a close community without forgiving and forgiveness from both parties, this type of approach is pivotal.

Another interesting feature of AIJS is the assumption that the offender is not inherently bad in himself, but is primarily a marginalised victim, who does not have the same opportunities as other members of the community to participate in the economic, political, and social aspects of the group, and who can be made right if both the offender and the community make effort (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). This concept differs from the Western Hobbesian idea of human beings being inherently corrupt and is much closer to traditional Western Aristotelian ethics. What makes the African concept different, however, is the focus which is not on the virtue of the person himself, but rather on the relationship the offender has with his family and community which, although violated by the offence, can and should be rebuilt by amendments (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010).

The Gacaca Trials

The Gacaca trials are the state-administered structure which uses communities (around a thousand of them) as a basis for judicial forums (Meyerstein, 2007). They were introduced by the Rwandan government as an alternative to national justice after the Rwandan genocide.

During the colonial times, Rwanda was indirectly ruled by the colonizers through local authorities, namely the Tutsi minority (Uvin, 1999). The Hutu majority were considered second class citizens and by the time of independence were holding deep grievances. The Rwandan Revolution of 1959-1961 overthrew the monarchy and the ruling Tutsi elite. After the independence from the colonial regime, Rwanda was ruled by the Party of Hutu Emancipation Movement, which was supported by the international community on the grounds of the idea that the government is legitimate as it represents the majority of the population – the Hutu (ibid.) During the period of transition, ethnic violence against Tutsi, forcing many of them to leave the country, happened (Rettig, 2008). In 1990 the Rwandan Patriotic Army composed mostly by the Tutsi exiles invaded Rwanda from neighbouring Uganda (ibid.) The incumbent government harnessed the already pre-existing ethnic to unite the Hutu population to fight against the Tutsi rebels. The strategy included finding a scapegoat in an internal Tutsi population that continued to live in Rwanda (Uvin, 1999). The genocide which soon followed took lives of 500,000 to 800,000 people between April and July of the year 1994 when the total population at the time is estimated to have been around 8 million (Drumbl, 2020). More than 100,000 people were accused and waited in detention for trials, creating a great burden on a Rwandan county (Schabas, 2005).

According to Meyerstein (2007), the Gacaca trials were a response to the failure of the Western-styled nation court to process all the suspects of the genocide. Gacaca trials were based on indigenous local justice, with Ubuntu ethics being an underlying element of the system. The trials were traditionally informal, organic, and patriarchal, but the Rwandan government modernized the indigenous justice system by establishing an organizational structure, and, among other things, making the participation of women a requirement (Drumbl, 2020). 

The application of Gacaca trails to do justice after the genocide was not always well received by the international community. The trials received criticism for not complying with the international standards for the distribution of justice. For example, Amnesty International invoked Article 14 of the ICCPR and stated that Gacaca trials violated the right of the accused to be presumed innocent and to the free trial (Meyerstein, 2007). There are, undoubtedly, many problems that can be assigned to the system of Gacaca when it comes to the strict norms of the international norms. 

The judges are drawn from the community and arguably lack the official legal training, the punitive model of the trials that arguably have served for many as an opportunity for personal revenge, and the aforementioned lack of legal protection for the accused are a few of many problems faced by the Gacaca trials (Rettig, 2008). Furthermore, the Gacaca trials excluded the war criminals from the prosecution – there were many cases of the killings of Hutu civilians by Tutsis that formed the part of the Rwandan Patriotic Front army (Corey & Joireman, 2004). This was seen by many as a politicised application of justice, in which, by creating two separate categories of criminals - the crimes of war by the Tutsis that were not the subject of Gacaca and the crimes of the genocide by the Hutus that were dealt with by the trials – the impunity and high moral ground was granted for the Tutsi (ibid). This attitude might bring results that are contrary to the initial goal of the community-based justice - not the reconciliation of the people, but the further division of the society along the ethnic lines. 

However, while the criticism of the Gacaca trials is completely valid, it is also important to understand, that given the limited amount of resources and time, the goal of bringing justice to the victims of the genocide is an incredibly complex mission. In the context of the deeply wounded, post-genocidal society in which the social capital was almost non-existent, the ultimate goal, while having justice as a high priority, was first of all based on Ubuntu ethics and focused more on peace, retribution, and social healing. The utopian perfectness expected by the international community was nearly impossible, and the Gacaca trials met the goal of finding the best possible solutions in the limits of available resources. Furthermore, the criticism of international community often seemed to stem not so much from the preoccupation for the Rwandan citizens, as from the fact that a different approach to justice threatens the homogenizing concept of human rights “which lashes out to squash cultural difference and legal pluralism by criticizing the Gacaca for failures to approximate canonized doctrine” (Meyerstein, 2007).

While it is true that even Rwandan citizens often saw Gacaca as problematic, whether the problems perceived by them were similar to those criticised by the international community is dubious. For example, Rwanda’s Supreme Court’s response to the international criticism was the provision of approach to human rights which, while not denying their objectivity, also advocates for the definition that better suits the local culture and unique circumstances of post-genocide Rwanda (Supreme Court of Rwanda, 2003). After all, the interventions from the part of the Western world on behalf of the universal values have arguably created more violence historically than the defended values should ever allow. The acceptance that Gacaca trials, while imperfect, contributed positively to the post-genocide Rwandan society has the grave implications that human rights are ultimately a product of negotiation between global and local actors” (Meyerstein, 2007) which the West has always refused to accept. However, it is the opinion of this article that exactly the opposite attitude, namely that of better intercultural understanding and the search for the solutions that are not utopian but fit in the margins of the possibilities of a specific society, are the key to both the efficiency and the fairness of a justice system. 


The primary end of the African Indigenous Justice System is to empower the community and to foster reconciliation through a consensus that is made by the offenders, the victims, and the community alike. It encourages to view victims as people who have valuable relationships: they are someone’s daughters, sons, fathers – they are important members of society. Ubuntu is the underlying basis of the Indigenous Justice System and African ethnic in general. While the AIJS seems to be functioning alongside the state’s courts, in the end, the centralization and alienation from the community are undermining these traditional values that flourish in the African setting. The Western legalistic system helps little when it comes to the main goal of justice in Africa – the reconciliation of the community, and more often than not only succeeds in creating further discord. While the criticism of Gacaca trials was undoubtedly valid, it often stemmed from the utopian idealism that did not take the actual situation of a post-genocide Rwanda into consideration or the Western universalism, which was threatened by the introduction of a justice system that in many ways differs from the positivist standard. It is the opinion of this article, therefore, that more autonomy should be granted to the communities that are the basic building blocks of most of the African societies, with the traditional values of Ubuntu being the basis of the African social institutions.



Lexico. (n.d.). Lexico. Retrieved from

Mugumbate, J., & Nyanguru, A. (2013). Exploring African Philosophy: The Value of Ubuntu in Social Work. African Journal of Social Work, 82-100.

Metz, T. (2011). Ubuntu as a moral theory and human rights in South Africa. African Human Rights Law Journal, 532-559.

Metz, T. (2007). Towards an African Moral Theory. The Journal of Political Philosophy.

Lutz, D. W. (2009). African Ubuntu Philosophy and Global Management. Journal of Business Ethics, 313-328.

Hobbes, T. (1651). Leviathan.

Aristoteles. (350 B.C.E.). Politics.

Malisa, M., & Nhengeze, P. (2018). Pan-Africanism: A Quest for Liberation and the Pursuit of a United Africa. Genealogy.

Elechi, O., Morris, S., & Schauer, E. (2010). Restoring Justice (Ubuntu): An African Perspective. International Criminal Justice Review.

Baggini, J. (2018). How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy. London: Granta Books.

Meyerstein, A. (2007). Between Law and Culture: Rwanda's Gacaca and Postolocial Legality. Law & Social Inquiry.

Corey, A., & Joireman, S. (2004). African Affairs. Retributive Justice: the Gacaca Courts in Rwanda.

Nabudere, D. W. (2005). Ubuntu Philosophy. Memory and Reconciliation. Texas Scholar Works, University of Texas Library.

Rettig, M. (2008). Gacaca: Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation in Postconflict Rwanda? African Studies Review.

Supreme Court of Rwanda. (2003). Developments on the subject of the report and different correspondences of Amnesty International. Départements des Jurisdictions Gacaca.

Drumbl, M. A. (2020). Post-Genocide Justice in Rwanda. Journal of International Peacekeeping.

Uvin, P. (1999). Ethnicity and Power in Burundi and Rwanda: Different Paths to Mass Violence. Comparative Politics, 253-271.

Schabas, W. A. (2005). Genocide Trials and Gacaca Courts. Journal of International Criminal Justice, 879-895.

Categorías Global Affairs: África Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Ensayos

15 de junio, 2021

ENSAYOPaula Mora Brito  [Versión en inglés]

El terrorismo en el Sahel es una realidad ignorada que afecta a millones de personas. No es de extrañar que la región sea una de las más afligidas por esta práctica. Sus complejas características geográficas dificultan el control de las fronteras (especialmente las del desierto del Sáhara), y la falta de homogeneidad cultural y religiosa, junto a los continuos retos económicos y sociales, agravados por la pandemia del COVID-19, hacen de la región un escenario frágil y conveniente para los grupos terroristas. Además, los países occidentales (principalmente Francia) están presentes en la zona, provocando cierto rechazo en lo relativo a su intervención a los ojos de la población saheliana. Aunque los datos sobre esta problemática son escasos, lo que dificulta su estudio, este artículo tratará de ampliar los conceptos y conocimientos sobre el terrorismo en el Sahel, ampliando su espectro geográfico, para mostrar la vida cotidiana de sus habitantes desde hace varios años. Se pondrá el foco del análisis en la intervención occidental en la lucha contra el terrorismo. 

El fenómeno terrorista 

El terrorismo es un concepto controvertido, pues está sujeto a la interpretación individual: mientras unos condenan a un grupo por el uso de violencia indiscriminada bajo un objetivo político/social/económico, otros consideran a sus integrantes héroes de la libertad. Solamente su fin define esta actividad: coaccionar e intimidar la intención general sobre una cuestión. Se desarrolla bajo diferentes formas: por el ámbito geográfico (regional, nacional o internacional) o por su objetivo (etno-nacionalista, ideología política y/o económica, religioso o asuntos concretos). Es por ello que cada uno posee unas características distintas. 

El terrorismo religioso, como resaltó Charles Townshend en su libro Terrorism: A very short introduction, posee unas características propias. Citando a Hoffman, explica que el objetivo transciende más allá de la política debido a que se considera una demanda teológica. Es una relación bilateral entre los fanáticos y Dios, en la que no cabe posibilidad de diálogo o entendimiento, solo el establecimiento de la demanda. Esta concepción conlleva a que sea un terrorismo internacional, aunque empiece a nivel regional o nacional, pues el grupo de “enemigos” es más amplio. El mesianismo es el motor de esta actividad, y el martirio su arma más potente. La muerte proveniente de la lucha, se presenta como un acto sagrado y refleja la certeza de los integrantes de estos grupos a su ideología.

Occidente tiene dificultades para abordar estas amenazas, pues entiende el mundo de manera secular. Sin embargo, los Estados en los que se desarrollan estos grupos, la religión representa la nación, los valores y el estilo de vida: el individuo es religión y viceversa. Como dijo Edward Said: “El arraigado Occidente, es ciego ante los matices y al cambio en el mundo islámico”. Y es que el terrorismo religioso islámico surge como una respuesta al colonialismo y a la práctica de soft power en las culturas árabes e islámicas, que se ha reforzado a través de la corriente del fundamentalismo islámico. 

El terrorismo en el Sahel

El Sahel (“borde, costa” en árabe) es una ecorregión que hace de transición entre el norte y el sur del continente africano, así como de oeste a este, con un área total de 3.053.200 km², constituyendo un cinturón de 5.000 km. Está compuesto por Senegal, Mauritania, Malí, Argelia, Burkina-Faso, Níger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudán, Eritrea y Etiopía. Se trata de una zona privilegiada, pues el desierto se entiende como una vía de comunicación.

El área cuenta con 150 millones de habitantes, de los que el 64% son menores de 25 años y mayoritariamente islámicos suníes. En 2018, el último año que hay datos sobre estos países, la tasa de mortalidad anual por cada 1.000 personas era de 8,05, un índice muy alto comparado con el 2,59 de España en el 2019. La tasa de alfabetización de adultos (mayores de 15 años), de las que solo hay datos de siete de los diez países, es de un 56,06 %. En realidad, es muy desigual: mientras que Argelia posee un 81,40%, Níger o Malí tienen un 35%. La tasa sobre la incidencia de la pobreza sobre la base de la línea de pobreza nacional es de del 41,15% (solo cuatro países tienen datos del 2018). La esperanza de vida es de 63 años.

El territorio encara una crisis económica, política y social. El Sahel es una de las regiones más pobres del mundo, con el norte de Nigeria como uno de los territorios con la mayor cantidad de población extremadamente pobre del planeta. La situación empeoró este año con una caída histórica del precio de las materias primas (más del 20%), que representan un 89% de sus exportaciones. La crisis medioambiental dificulta el desarrollo económico. 

El cambio climático ha provocado que el aumento de temperaturas vaya a un ritmo 1,5 veces más rápido que el de la media mundial, lo que ha multiplicado las sequías (de una cada diez años a una cada dos). La inestabilidad política de algunos países, como el Golpe de Estado del 2012 en Malí, dificultan su desarrollo económico. 

En este contexto, la inseguridad se ha incrementado desde los ataques del 2004 en el Borno, estado de Nigeria que hace frontera con Camerún y Chad, por parte del grupo terrorista islámico Boko Haram. La actividad terrorista se ha extendido a través de la dirección de Al-Qaeda en el Magreb Islámico (AQIM), presentes en el norte de Malí, el este de Mauritania, Níger y el oeste de Chad. Esto ha propiciado una crisis demográfica, provocando que 4,2 millones de personas se hayan desplazado y más de un millón se vea incapaz de encontrar trabajo. El programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo estima que, de hoy a 2050, más de 85 millones de sahelianos se verán obligados a emigrar. 

La mayoría de ataques tienen lugar en las triple frontera de Malí, Burkina-Faso y Níger; y la de Níger, Nigeria y Chad. Desde el Tratado de Berlín de 1885, las fronteras africanas han supuesto un grave problema ya que fueron una imposición europea que no respetó la realidad tribal y étnica de muchas regiones, obligando y creando una nación de la que sus habitantes no se sienten parte. Esta realidad se reflejó con el caso de Malí, mostrando la fragilidad preexistente de la región. 

AQMI ha dividido en katibas (ramas) el Sahel: la Yahia Abou Ammar Abid Hammadu, que se establece entre el sur de Argelia y Túnez y el norte de Níger; y Tarik Ben Ziyad, activa en Mauritania, el sur de Argelia y el norte de Mali. La primera, es conocida por ser más “terrorista”, mientras que la segunda es más bien “criminal”. Esto se debe al mayor grado de crueldad empleado por la Hammadu, pues siguen el takfirismo (guerra contra los musulmanes “infieles”) de Zarqawi (ISIS). 

Se apoderan de los territorios a través de negociaciones, en los que establecen un mercado de trafico ilegal. Una vez adquirida un área, establecen sus asentamientos, sus campamentos de entrenamiento y preparan sus próximos atentados. Otro medio de financiación es el secuestro. Es una forma de subyugar, humillar y conseguir ingresos de Occidente. La necesidad de dinero, a diferencia de una organización criminal, no es para el enriquecimiento personal de los componentes, sino para seguir financiando la actividad: comprar lealtades, armas, etc. Del reclutamiento no existen datos de su desarrollo, condiciones, ni objetivos por edades, clase ni sexo.

Las características geográficas y sociopolíticas de la ecorregión han obligado a AQMI ha desarrollar su capacidad de adaptación, como la subdivisión del grupo (Boko Haram), que muestra que ya no necesitan una base física fija como en los años 90s (AQ en Afghanistán). Además, se ha registrado un cambio de estrategia, pues estos grupos están aumentando en un 250%, sus ataques a organizaciones internacionales o infraestructuras del gobierno, y decreciendo los atentados a civiles. Esto puede ser una nueva forma de atraer a los locales pues se promocionan como protectores frente al abuso estatal.

En el 2019 hubo una media de 69,5 ataques mensuales en el Sahel y el Magreb, y el pasado mes de marzo se registraron 438 fallecidos. En 2020 ha disminuido la actividad debido al COVID-19. El terrorismo trae inseguridad política y social, así como económica, pues los inversores no se ven atraídos para hacer negocios en una zona inestable, provocando el mantenimiento de la precariedad. Esto provoca y/o mantiene el subdesarrollo de un estado, ocasionando un gran flujo de migración. Se entra entonces en el círculo vicioso del subdesarrollo y pobreza.

Para España, el suceso más reciente e impactante tuvo lugar el pasado 28 de abril de 2021, cuando los periodistas David Beriain y Roberto Fraile fueron asesinados en Burkina-Faso por la Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin, Grupo de Apoyo al Islam y a los Musulmanes en español; un grupo terrorista vinculado a Al-Qaeda.

La reciente y repentina muerte del presidente chadiano Idris Déby Itno, el 19 de abril de 2021, a manos de los Combatientes del Frente para el Cambio y la Concordia en el Chad (FACT por sus siglas en inglés Fighters of the Front for Change and Concord in Chad), ha aumentado aún más la inestabilidad en la región. El presidente de las últimas tres décadas luchaba contra este grupo rebelde, creado en 2016 en Libia, que pretendía arrojar a Déby y al régimen dinástico de Chad. Desde que se produjo este suceso, masivas protestas han cubierto las calles de Chad, pidiendo una transición democrática en el país, a lo que el ejército ha respondido matando a algunos de los manifestantes. Este levantamiento se debe a lo que a los chadianos les parece una repetición de su historia y la violación de la constitución de la nación. El ejército chadiano había anunciado la formación de un Consejo de Transición, que duraría 18 meses, bajo el liderazgo de Mahamat Idriss Déby, el hijo del anterior presidente. El problema es que su padre, en 1999, creó el mismo órgano político y prometió lo mismo. Sin embargo, sus promesas no se cumplieron. El Consejo Militar de Transición suspendió la Constitución, en la que se establece en su Título Decimoquinto que el presidente transnacional debe ser el presidente de la Asamblea Nacional.

La situación del Chad es clave en la lucha contra el terrorismo en el Sahel. El país se encuentra entre el Sahel y el Cuerno de África. La retirada o el debilitamiento de las tropas en las fronteras del país suponen un gran riesgo no sólo para Chad, sino también para sus vecinos. Los países fronterizos con el Chad, se verán expuestos a los violentos ataques de los grupos terroristas, ya que Chad cuenta con la mayor fuerza conjunta del G5 Sahel. El país es el estabilizador de la región. Al este, impide que la inestabilidad política sudanesa se extienda por las fronteras. Al sur, Chad ha sido el nuevo hogar de más de 500.000 refugiados que provienen de la República Centroafricana y su enorme crisis migratoria. Al oeste, contrarresta principalmente a Boko Haram, que ahora es un actor importante en Níger y Nigeria. Al norte, contrarresta a los grupos rebeldes libios. Es importante entender que, aunque Libia no forme parte del Sahel, su inestabilidad resuena con fuerza en la región, ya que el país es el nuevo centro de los grupos terroristas en el Sahel, como parece demostrar la muerte del expresidente. El país se ha convertido en la plataforma de lanzamiento de los grupos terroristas de África que pretenden imponer su voluntad en todo el continente. Queda por ver lo que ocurre en Chad, porque cambiará por completo el actual paradigma saheliano.

La lucha occidental contra el terrorismo

Existen iniciativas institucionales para abordar estas cuestiones regionales de forma conjunta, como el grupo G5 Sahel, compuesto por Mauritania, Mali, Níger, Burkina- Faso y Chad, contando con el apoyo de la Unión Africana, la Unión Europea, las Naciones Unidas o el Banco Mundial, entre otros.

También hay ayuda internacional a la región, principalmente de Francia y la Unión Europea. Desde 2013, a petición del gobierno de Malí, el gobierno francés puso en marcha la Operación "Serval" con el objetivo de expulsar a los grupos terroristas en el norte de Malí y otras naciones del Sahel. Le sucedió un año después la Operación "Barkhan", que se centra en la asistencia a los Estados miembros del G5 del Sahel, tratando de proporcionar los recursos y la formación necesarios para que estos países puedan gestionar su propia seguridad de forma independiente. En esta Operación también participan España, Alemania, Estonia y el Reino Unido. El año pasado, 2020, se puso en marcha la Task Force "Takuba", compuesta por fuerzas especiales francesas y estonias, en el cinturón Sáhara-Sahel. A día de hoy, Francia ha desplegado 5.100 militares, ha entrenado a más de 7.000 soldados del G5 Sahel, ha desplegado 750 actividades de entrenamiento o apoyo al combate y tiene 75 oficiales de cooperación en la región.

Francia también ha liderado la intervención internacional en el Sahel. En 2012, en el Consejo de Seguridad de las Naciones Unidas promovió la Resolución 2085 para subrayar la necesidad de asistencia internacional en la región. En 2017, Francia fue la precursora de la Misión Multidimensional Integrada de Estabilización de las Naciones Unidas en Malí (MINUSMA), creada en virtud de la Resolución 2391 para prestar asistencia al gobierno de Malí en la estabilización de su país. Cuenta con más de 15.000 efectivos civiles y militares que prestan apoyo logístico y operacional.

La Unión Europea también ha participado a través de tres misiones principales en el marco de la Política Común de Seguridad y Defensa (PCSD): Misión de Formación de la Unión Europea (EUTM) Malí, EUCAP Sahel Malí y EUCAP Sahel Níger. La primera se creó en 2013 para formar y asesorar a las fuerzas armadas malienses. También coopera con los Estados miembros del G5 Sahel para mejorar el control de las fronteras. Las otras dos son misiones civiles cuyo objetivo es formar a la policía, la gendarmería y la guardia nacionales, así como asesorar las reformas de seguridad del gobierno nacional. La EUCAP Sahel Níger se creó en 2012 y sigue en vigor. En cuanto a la EUCAP Sahel Malí, se creó en 2014 y se ha prolongado hasta 2023. Además, Francia y la Unión Europea también contribuyen financieramente a la región. El año pasado, la Unión Europea aportó 189,4 millones de euros a la región. Francia aportó alrededor de 3.970 millones de euros durante 2019-2020.

Sin embargo, la incertidumbre por la muerte de Déby ha reconfigurado la percepción local de la intervención occidental, principalmente la francesa. Las protestas que han tenido lugar estas últimas semanas en el Chad también han supuesto una acusación a Francia por respaldar al consejo militar en contra de la voluntad del pueblo. Junto con la Unión Africana y la Unión Europea, Macron declaró en el funeral de Déby "Francia nunca podrá hacer que nadie cuestione (...) y amenace, ni hoy ni mañana, la estabilidad y la integridad de Chad", tras las promesas de Mahamat de "mantenerse fiel a la memoria" de su padre. Estas declaraciones fueron entendidas por los chadianos como que Mahamat seguirá el estilo de liderazgo de su padre y que a Francia no le importa la opresión que ha sufrido el pueblo durante décadas. Es en este punto donde Francia se arriesga a sólo preocuparse por la estabilidad que aportaba Chad en la región, sobre todo en sus intereses geopolíticos en lo que respecta especialmente a Libia y África Occidental. Quizás por ello Macron sintió la necesidad de aclarar una semana después sus palabras: "Seré muy claro: apoyé la estabilidad y la integridad de Chad cuando estuve en N'Djamena. Estoy a favor de una transición pacífica, democrática e inclusiva, no estoy a favor de una sucesión", dijo. No obstante, los sahelianos se están cansando de ser las marionetas de los juegos occidentales, como se ha demostrado este año en Malí con las protestas de los habitantes contra la presencia militar francesa en el país. Occidente debe mostrar su compromiso real con el fomento de los derechos humanos presionando por una transición democrática mientras mantiene su lucha contra el terrorismo.

En conclusión, el terrorismo religioso islamista ha ido en aumento en los últimos años como contrapunto al poder de Estados Unidos en la Guerra Fría. El Sahel es uno de los escenarios predominantes de estas actividades, ya que es una zona con inestabilidad político-económica preexistente que los terroristas han aprovechado. El terrorismo está cambiando sus formas de actuar, mostrando su adaptabilidad en términos de geografía, métodos de actuación y adquisición de recursos. Francia ha demostrado ser el líder de la iniciativa occidental en la región y ha hecho progresos en la misma. Sin embargo, Occidente, especialmente los países europeos, deben empezar a prestar más atención a las causas de los problemas de esta región, recopilando datos y conociendo su realidad. Sólo entonces podrán abordar estos problemas con eficacia, ayudando a las instituciones regionales existentes, buscando soluciones a largo plazo que satisfagan a la población.

Categorías Global Affairs: África Seguridad y defensa Ensayos

Conexión eléctrica entre Ceuta y la Península: un asunto de seguridad energética y medioambiental

El trazado de un cable submarino para la transmisión eléctrica a la plaza española lleva parado desde 2016

El trazado de un cable submarino para la transmisión eléctrica a la plaza española lleva parado desde 2016

El proyecto de interconexión eléctrica entre Ceuta y la Península, de la Red Eléctrica Española, lleva ya cinco años de retraso. Su ejecución debe ser una prioridad para integrar a la ciudad autónoma en los trazados futuros de conexión Europa-África.

ARTÍCULO /  Ignacio Urbasos Arbeloa

En el año 1997 se terminó la interconexión eléctrica submarina entre Tarifa y Punta Fardioua en Marruecos. Esta nueva conexión se unía al gasoducto inaugurado en 1996 que cruzaba Marruecos desde Argelia hasta España y Portugal, forjando una alianza energética hispano-marroquí que permitiría el desarrollo económico y la seguridad en el suministro energético de ambos socios. Esta infraestructura, con una capacidad de 700 MW, era capaz de suministrar a Marruecos cerca del 50% de sus necesidades eléctricas anuales. Se trataba de un enlace estratégico para el país del Magreb que experimentó un crecimiento de la demanda eléctrica del 5,8% anual durante la década de 1990. En 2006 esta interconexión dobló su capacidad hasta 1,4 GW, siendo la primera interconexión internacional entre dos continentes del mundo en alcanzar estas dimensiones. A pesar de las recientes fricciones entre España y Marruecos por la inmigración ilegal, los acuerdos pesqueros y sobre todo el incidente de Perejil, el recién llegado ejecutivo socialista liderado por José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero apostaba con estrechar lazos entre ambas orillas del Estrecho, continuando con la interconexión energética. Si bien en un comienzo el cable submarino se utilizaba principalmente para la exportación de electricidad desde España, en los últimos años los intercambios bilaterales han ido equilibrándose, resultado de la estrategia marroquí de autonomía energética.

Desde Ceuta, el trazado del cable submarino siempre ha sido considerado como una oportunidad histórica perdida. La ciudad autónoma produce electricidad a partir de antiguos generadores de diésel, que aparte de ineficientes y caros, cuentan con altos niveles de emisiones de partículas en el aire y gases de efecto invernadero. La ciudad ceutí es la única región de España sin producir electricidad renovable, situación con escaso margen de mejora teniendo en cuenta la escasez de espacio para su desarrollo. Desde Red Eléctrica Española ya existe un plan para desarrollar un cable submarino entre La Línea (Cádiz) y Ceuta, el cual ha encontrado oposición de grupos ecologistas gaditanos y el propio alcalde de la zona, lo que ha obligado a retrasar su instalación desde 2016 hasta la actualidad. La CNMC otorgó en febrero de 2021 a petición de Red Eléctrica Española el carácter de proyecto singular a esta interconexión, lo que debería facilitar el comienzo de la instalación que ya plantea trazados alternativos para alcanzar el necesario consenso social. El cable submarino contará con una rápida amortización, ya que eliminará los costes asociados al sistema eléctrico aislado ceutí, y permitirá reducir las emisiones de carbono de esta Ciudad, en línea con la Estrategia Climática de España, que ambiciona con alcanzar las cero emisiones netas de gases de efecto invernadero para 2050. El cable se unirá a otras infraestructuras de interconexión similares en España, como las existentes entre el sistema eléctrico balear y la Península o el cable submarino que une el Golfo de Vizcaya con la región francesa de Aquitania.

El cable también permitirá diversificar las futuras interconexiones entre España y Marruecos, las cuales deberán crecer conforme Marruecos incremente la cantidad de energías renovables en su mix eléctrico. Marruecos, que cuenta con una ambiciosa estrategia de descarbonización, apuesta por el desarrollo de energías renovables como motor del futuro crecimiento económico nacional y como palanca para garantizar su liderazgo regional. Marruecos ya cuenta con interconexiones con Argelia de 1,2 GW, y está planteando una línea de conexión con Portugal y Mauritania.

En cualquier caso, está claro que España es un socio necesariamente vital para el proyecto verde marroquí, que pretende exportar tanto electricidad como hidrógeno renovable en el futuro a la Unión Europea. La posición de España como puente energético necesario debe servir como argumento de fuerza en las negociaciones bilaterales. En este sentido, Ceuta debería convertirse en un punto estratégico de las futuras ampliaciones en la interconexión eléctrica a ambos lados del estrecho. La estrategia marroquí de presión implícita en Ceuta y Melilla cerrando el comercio transfronterizo o permitiendo el cruce de inmigrante ilegales es un movimiento que cumple claramente con la definición de una ofensiva en la zona gris. La dinastía alauita lleva décadas, concretamente desde su independencia en 1956, haciendo público y palpable su anhelo tradicional e interés estratégico que para ellos tienen los dos únicos territorios no insulares con los que España cuenta en el Norte de África. Conectar el sistema eléctrico peninsular con Ceuta debe ser considerado como un proyecto estratégico en beneficio de la seguridad energética nacional, la reducción de gases de efecto invernadero y la mejora de la calidad del aire. Además, plantear Ceuta como un punto de paso necesario en las futuras interconexiones eléctricas entre África y Europa ofrecería a España capacidad de disuasión y negociación frente a un Marruecos que no duda en emplear la presión directa sobre las ciudades de Ceuta y Melilla para alcanzar sus objetivos en las relaciones bilaterales España-Marruecos.

Categorías Global Affairs: Unión Europea África Energía, recursos y sostenibilidad Artículos

Gacaca trials, a powerful instrument of transitional justice implemented in Rwanda [UNDP/Elisa Finocchiaro]

ESSAY /  María Rodríguez Reyero

One of the main questions that arise after a conflict comes to an end is what the reconstruction process should be focused on. Is it more important to forget the past and heal the wounds of a community or to ensure that the perpetrators of violence are fairly punished? Is the concept of peacebuilding in post-conflict societies compatible with justice and the punishment for crimes? Which one should prevail? And most importantly, which one ensures a better and more sustainable future for the already harshly punished inhabitants?

One of the main reasons in defence of the promotion of justice and accountability in post-conflict communities is its significance when it comes to retributive reasons: those who committed such atrocious crimes deserve to get the consequences. The accountability also discourages future degradations, and some mechanisms such as truth commissions and reparations to the victims allow them to have a voice, as potentially cathartic or healing. They may also argue that accountability processes are essential for longer-term peacemaking and peacebuilding. Another reason for pursuing justice and accountability is how the impunity of past crimes could affect the legitimacy of new governments, as impunity for certain key perpetrators will undermine people’s belief in reconstruction and the possibilities for building a culture of respect for rule of law.[1]

On the other hand, peacebuilding, which attempts to address the underlying causes of a conflict and to help people to resolve their disputes rather than aiming for accountability, remains a quite controversial term, as it varies depending on its historical and geographical context. In general terms, peacebuilding encompasses activities designed to solidify peace and avoid a relapse into conflict[2]. According to Brahimi, those are undertaken to reassemble the foundations of peace and provide tools for building up those foundations, more than just focusing on the absence of war[3]. Some of the employed tools to achieve said aims typically include rule of law promotion and with the tools designed to promote security and stability: disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of ex-combatants (DDR), and security sector reform (SSR) and others such as taking custody of and destroying weapons, repatriating refugees, offering advisory and training support for security personnel, monitoring elections, advancing efforts to protect human rights, reforming or strengthening government institutions and promotion of the formal and informal process of political participation.[4]

Those conflict resolution and peacebuilding activities can be disrupted by accountability processes.[5] The concern is that accountability initiatives might even block possible peace agreements and lengthen the dispute as they remove the foundations of the conflict, making flourish bad feelings and resentment amongst the society. The main reason behind this fear is that those likely to be targeted by accountability mechanisms may therefore resist peace deals. This explains why on many occasions and aiming for peace, amnesties have been given to secure peace agreements Likewise, there is a prevailing concern that transitional justice tools may reduce the impact in the short term the durability of a peace settlement as well as the effectiveness of further peace-building actions.

Despite the arguments in favour and against both mechanisms, the reality is that in practice post-conflict societies tend to strike a balance between peacebuilding and transitional justice. Both are multifaceted processes that do not rely on one system to accomplish their ends, that frequently converge. However, their activities on occasions collide and are not complimentary. This essay examines one of the dilemmas in building a just and durable peace: the challenging and complex relationship between transitional justice and peacebuilding in countries emerging from conflict.

To do so, this essay takes into consideration Rwanda, a clear example of the triumph of transitional justice, after a tragic genocide in 1994. 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[6]. After the genocide, Rwanda was on the edge of total collapse. Entire villages were destroyed, and social cohesion was in utter deterioration. In 2002, Rwanda boarded on the most arduous practice in transitional justice ever endeavoured: mass justice for mass atrocity, to judge and restart a stable society after the bloody genocide. To do so, Rwanda decided to put most of the nation on trial, instead of choosing, as other post-conflict states did (such as Mozambique, Uganda, East Timor, or Sierra Leone), amnesties, truth commissions, selective criminal prosecutions.[7]

On the other hand, Sierra Leone is a clear example of the success of peacebuilding activities, after a civil war that led to the deaths of over 50,000 people and a poverty-stricken country. The conflict faced the Revolutionary United Front (RUF[8]) against the official government, due to a context of bad governance and extensive injustice. It came to an end with the Abuja Protocols in 2001 and elections in 2002. The armed factions endeavoured to avoid any consequences by requesting an amnesty as well as reintegration assistance to ease possible societal ostracism. It was agreed only because the people of Sierra Leone so severely needed the violence to end. However, the UN representative to the peace negotiations stated that the amnesty did not apply to international crimes, President Kabbah asked for the UN’s assistance[9] and it resulted in the birth of Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL or Special Court).[10]

Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) and transitional justice

Promoting short and longer-term security and stability in conflict-prone and post-conflict countries in many cases requires the reduction and structural transformation of groups with the capacity to engage in the use of force, including armies, militias, and rebel groups. In such situations, two processes are of remarkable benefit in lessening the risk of violence: DDR (disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration) of ex-combatants; and SSR (security sector reform).

DDR entails a range of policies and programs, supporting the return of ex-combatants to civilian life, either in their former communities or in different ones. Even if not all ex-combatants are turned to civilian life, DDR programs may lead to the transfer and training, of former members of armed groups to new military and security forces. The essence of DDR programming and the guarantees it seeks to provide is of utmost importance to ensuring peacebuilding and the possibility of efficient and legitimate governance.

It is undeniable that soldiers are unquestionably opposing to responsibility processes enshrined in peace agreements: they are less likely to cede arms if they dread arrest, whether it is by an international or domestic court. This intensifies their general security fears after the disarming process. In many instances, ex-combatants are integrated into state security forces, which makes the promotion of the rule of law, difficult, as the groups charged with enforcing new laws may have the most to lose through the implicated reforms. It is also likely to lessen citizen reliance on the security forces. The incorporation of former fighters not only in the new military but also in new civilian security structures is common: for example, in Rwanda, the victorious RPF dominated the post-genocide security forces.

While the spectre of prosecutions most obviously may impede DDR processes, there is a lesser possibility that it might provide incentives for DDR, as might happens where amnesty or reduced sentences are offered as inducements for combatants to take part in DDR processes. For them to be effective, the reliability of both the threat of prosecution and the durability of amnesty or other forms of protection are essentials whether it is in national or international courts. Even if this is not related to the promotion of transitional justice processes, it is another example of how it can have a long-term effect on the respect of human rights and the prevention of future breaches.

As previously stated, some DDR and transitional justice processes may share alike ends and even employ similar mechanisms. A variety of traditional processes of accountability and conflict resolution often also seek to promote reconciliation. DDR programs increasingly include measures that try to encourage return, reintegration, and if possible, reconciliation within communities. This willingness of victims to forgive and forget could in theory be promoted through a range of reconciliation processes like the ones promoted by transitional justice with the assistance of tools like truth commissions, which facilitate a dialogue that allows inhabitants to move forward while accepting the arrival of former perpetrators.  

The triumph of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in 1994 finally put an end to the genocide in the country. The new government focused on criminal accountability for the 1994 genocide and as a result of this prioritization, the needs of survivors have not been met completely Rwanda is the paradigm and perfect example of prosecution of perpetrators of mass atrocity by the employment of transitional justice mechanisms, that were kept separated from DDR programs in order not to interfere with the attribution of responsibilities.[11] The Rwandan one is a case where DDR largely worked notwithstanding firmly opposing amnesty. Proof of this outstanding DDR success is how Rwanda has managed to successfully reintegrate around 54,000 combatants since 1995 thanks to the work of the Rwandan Demobilization and Reintegration Commission (RDRC). Another clear evidence of the effectiveness of DDR methods in Rwanda is the reintegration of child soldiers. Released child soldiers were installed in a special school (Kadogo School), which started with 2,922 children. By 1998 when it closed, the RDRC reported that 73% of its students had reunited with one or both parents successfully.[12]

On the other hand, Sierra Leone’s case on DDR was quite different from Rwanda’s success, as Sierra Leone's conflict involved the prevalence of children associated with armed forces and groups (CAAFG). By the time the civil war concluded in 2002, data from UNICEF estimates that roughly 6,845 children have been demobilized,[13] although the actual number could be way higher. Consequently, the DDR program in Sierra Leone is essentially focused on the reintegration of young soldiers, an initiative led by UNICEF with the backing of some local organizations, as the National Committee on DDR (NCDDR)of Sierra Leone. Nonetheless, in practice, Sierra Leone's military did not endure these local guidelines, and as a result the participation of children in the process often had to be arranged by UNICEF peacekeepers in most cases. In addition to that initial local reluctance, some major quandaries aroused when it came to the reintegration of children in the new peace era in Sierra Leone, mainly due to the tests and requirements for children to have access to DDR programs, such as to present a weapon and demonstrate familiarity with it.[14] As a result, many CAAFG were excluded from the DDR process, primarily girls who were predominantly charged with non-directly military activities such as “to carry loads, do domestic work, and other support tasks.”[15]

Thus, the participation of girls in Sierra Leone’s DDR was particularly low and many never even received support. While it is not clear how many girls were abducted during the war, data from UNICEF calculates that out of the 6,845 overall children demobilized, 92% were boys and only 8% were girls. The Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children has pointed out that as many as 80 per cent of rebel soldiers were between the ages of 7 and 14, and escapees from the rebel camps reported that the majority of camp members were young captive girls.[16] Research also reported that 46% of the girls who were excluded from the program confirmed that not having a weapon was the reason for exclusion. In other cases, girls were not permitted by their husbands to go through the DDR,2 whilst others chose to opt-out themselves due to worry of stigmatization back in their neighbourhoods.[17]  It is worth noting that many of those who succeeded to go through the demobilization phase “reported sexual harassment at the ICCs, either by male residents or visiting adult combatants”, while others experienced verbal abuse, beatings, and exclusion in their communities.[18]

Another problem that underlines the importance of local leadership in DDR processes is that the UN-driven DDR program lets children decide to receive skill training rather than attending school if they were above 15 years. However, the program provided little assistance with finding jobs upon completion of the apprenticeship. Besides, little market examination was done to learn the demands of the local economy where children were trying to reintegrate into, so they are far more than the Sierra Leonean economy could absorb, which resulted in a lack of long-term employment for demobilized child soldiers. Studies by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers[19] and Human Rights Watch[20] revealed that adolescents who had beforehand been part of armed organizations during the war in Sierra Leone were re-recruited in Liberia or Congo because of the frustration and the lack of economic options for them back in Sierra Leone.

Promotion of the rule of law and its contributions to peacebuilding

Amongst many others, the promotion of the rule of law in post-conflict countries is a fundamental factor in peacebuilding procedures. It contributes to eradicating many of the causes of emerging conflicts, such as corruption, disruption of law... Even if it may seem contradictory, peacebuilding activities in support of the rule of law may become contradictory to transitional justice. Sometimes processes of transitional justice may displace resources, both capital, and human, that might otherwise be given to strengthening the rule of law. For instance, in Rwanda, it has been claimed that the resources invested in the development and assistance to national courts should have been equal to those committed to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and the extent to which trials at the ICTR have had an impact domestically remains to be seen.

However, transitional justice also presents other challenges to the reconstruction of the rule of law. Transitional justice processes might also destabilize critically imperfect justice sectors, making it more difficult to improve longer-term rule of law. They can stimulate responses from perpetrators which could destabilize the flimsy harmony of nascent governments, as they might question its legitimacy or actively attempt to undermine the authority of public institutions. Judging former perpetrators is an arduous task that is also faced with corruption and lack of personal and resources on many occasions. Additionally, the effort by national courts to prosecute criminals is an undue burden on the judicial system, which is severely damaged after a conflict and in many cases not ready to confront such atrocious crimes and the long processes they entail. Processes to try those accused of genocide in Rwanda, where the national judicial system was devasted after the genocide, have put great pressure on the judicial system, and the lack of capacity has resulted that many arrested remained in custody for years without having been convicted or even having had their cases heard, in the majority of the cases in appalling prison conditions. Such supposed accountability initiatives may have a counterproductive effect, contributing to a sense of impunity and distrust in justice processes.

Despite the outlined tensions, transitional justice and rule of law promotion are also capable to work towards the same ends. A key goal of transitional justice is to contribute to the rebuilding of a society based on the rule of law and respect for human rights, essential for durable peace. The improvement of a judiciary based on transparency and equality is strictly linked to the ability of a nation to approach prior human rights infringements after a conflict.[21] Both are potentially mutually reinforcing in practice if complementarities can be exploited. Consequently, rule of law advancement and transitional justice mechanisms however combine in some techniques.

To start with, the birth of processes to address past transgressions perpetrated during the conflict, both international and domestic processes, can help to restore confidence in the justice sector, especially when it comes to new arising democratic institutions. The use of domestic courts for accountability processes helps to place the judiciary at the centre of the promotion and protection of human rights of the local population, which contributes to the intensification of trust not only in the judicial system but also in public institutions and the government in general. Government initiation of an accountability process may indicate an engagement to justice and the rule of law beforehand. Domestically-rooted judicial processes, as well as other transitional justice tools, such as commissions of inquiry, may also support the development of mechanisms and rules for democratic and fair institutions by establishing regularized procedures and rules and promoting discussions rather than violence as a means of resolving differences and a reassuring population that their demands will be met in independent, fair and unbiased fora, be this a regular court or an ad hoc judicial or non-judicial mechanism. This is not to assume that internationally driven transitional justice mechanisms do not have a role to play in the development of the rule of law in the countries for which they have been established, as the hybrid tribunal of Sierra Leone demonstrates.[22]

In general terms, the refusal of impunity for perpetrators and the reformation of public institutions are considered the basic tools for the success of transitional justice. Transcending the strengthening of the judiciary, different reform processes can strengthen rule of law and accountability: institutions that counteract the influence of certain groups (including the government) like human rights commissions or anti-corruption commissions, may contribute to the establishment of a strong institutional and social structure more capable of confronting social tensions and hence evade the recurrence to conflict.[23]

Achieving an effective transitional justice strategy in Rwanda is an incredible challenge taking into consideration the massive scale as well as the harshness of the genocide, but also because of the economic and geographical limitations that make perpetrators and survivors live together in the aftermath. To facilitate things, other post-conflict states with similarly devastatingly high numbers of perpetrators have opted for amnesties or selective prosecutions, but the Rwandan government is engaged in holding those guilty for genocide responsible, thus strongly advocating for the employment of transitional justice. This is being accomplished through truth commissions, Gacaca traditional courts, national courts, and the international criminal tribunal for Rwanda combined. This underlines the dilemma of whether national or international courts are more efficient in implementing transitional justice.

Gacaca focuses on groups rather than individuals, seeks compromise and community harmony, and emphasizes restitution over forms of punishment. Moreover, it is characterized by accessibility, economy, and public participation. It encourages transparency of proceedings with the participation of the public as witnesses, who gain the truth about the circumstances surrounding the atrocities suffered during the genocide. Also, it provides an economic benefit, as Gacaca courts can try cases at a greater speed than international courts, thus reducing considerably the monetary cost as the number of incarcerated persons waiting for a trial is significantly reduced.

Alongside the strengths of the Gacaca system come flaws that seem to be inherent in the system. Many have come to see the Gacaca as an opportunity to require revenge on enemies or to frighten others with the threat of accusation, instead of injecting a sense of truth and reconciliation: the Gacaca trials have aroused concern and intimidation amongst many sectors of the population. Additionally, the community service prescribed to convicted perpetrators frequently is not done within the community where the crime was committed but rather done in the form of public service projects, which enforces the impression that officials may be using the system to benefit the government instead of helping the ones harmed by the genocide. Another proof of the control of Gacaca trials for benefit of the government is manifested by the prosecutions against critics of the post-genocide regime.

On the other hand, Sierra Leone’s situation is very different from the one in Rwanda. To help restore the rule of law, the Special court settled in Sierra Leone must be seen as a role model for the administration of justice, and to promote deterrence it must be deemed credible, which is one of its main problems.[24] There is little confidence in the international tribunals amongst the local population, as the Court’s nature makes it non-subordinated to the Sierra Leonean court system, and thus being an international tribunal independent from national control.[25] Nevertheless, it is considered as a “hybrid” tribunal since its jurisdiction extends over both domestic and international crimes and it relies on national authorities to enforce its orders. Still, in practice, there is no genuine cooperation between the government and the international community, as there is a limited extent of government participation in the Special Court’s process and the lack of consultation with the Sierra Leonean population before the Court’s endowment. This absence of national participation, despite causing scepticism over citizens, has the benefit that it remains more impartial when it comes to the proceedings against CDF leaders.

Another major particularity of the case of Sierra Leone and its process of implementation of transitional justice is once again the high degree of implication of children in the conflict, not only as victims but also as perpetrators of crimes. The responsibility of child soldiers for acts committed during armed conflict is a quite controversial issue. In general, under international law, the prosecution of children is not forbidden. However, there is no agreement on the minimum age at which children can be held criminally responsible for their acts. The Rome Statute, instituting the International Criminal Court (ICC), only provides the Court jurisdiction over people over eighteen years. Although not necessarily directly addressed to the prosecution of child soldiers, Article 40 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child foresees the trials of children (under eighteen), ordering that the process should consider their particular needs and vulnerabilities due to their shortage.

The TRC for Sierra Leone was the first one to focus on children's accountability, directly asserting jurisdiction over any person who committed a crime between the ages of fifteen and eighteen. Concerning child soldiers, the commission treated all children equally, as victims of war, but also studied the double role of children as both victims and perpetrators. It emphasized that it was not endeavouring to guilt but to comprehend how children came to carry out crimes, what motivated them, and how such offences might be prevented. Acknowledging that child soldiers are essentially victims of serious abuses of human rights and prioritizing the prosecution of those who illegally recruited them is of utmost importance. Meticulous attention was needed to guarantee that children’s engagement did not put them at risk or expose them to further harm. Proper safeguard and child-friendly procedures were ensured, such as special hearings, closed sessions, a safe and comfortable environment for interviews, preserving the identity of child witnesses, and psychological care, amongst others.

However, shall children that have committed war crimes be prosecuted in the first place? If not, is there a risk that tyrants may assign further slaughter to be performed by child soldiers due to the absence of responsibility they might possess? The lack of prosecution could immortalize impunity and pose a risk of alike violations reoccurring eventually, as attested by the re-recruitment of some child soldiers from Sierra Leone in other armed conflicts in the area, such as in Liberia. Considering the special conditions of child soldiers, it becomes clear that the RUF adult leaders primarily are the ones with the highest responsibility, and hence must be prosecuted.[26]

It is known that both the Sierra Leonean government and the RUF were involved in the recruitment of child soldiers as young as ten years old, which is considered a violation of both domestic and international humanitarian law. Under domestic law, in Sierra Leone, the minimum age for voluntary recruitment is eighteen years. International humanitarian law, (Additional Protocol II) fifteen is established as the minimum age qualification for recruitment (both voluntary or compulsory) or participation in hostilities (includes direct participation in combat and active participation linked to combat such as spying, acting as couriers, and sabotage.). Additionally, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child[27] to which Sierra Leone is a signatory, requires “state parties . . . to take all necessary measures to ensure that no child below age eighteen shall take direct part in hostilities” and “to refrain in particular from recruiting any child.”

Nevertheless, victims who have been hurt by children also have the right to justice and reparations, and it also comes to ask whether exempting children of accountability for their crimes is in their best interest. When the child was in control of their actions (not coerced, drugged, or forced) acknowledgement might be an important part of personal healing that also adds to their acceptance back in their communities. The prosecution, however, should not be the first stage to hold child soldiers accountable, as TRC in Sierra Leone also performs alternatives, so the possibility of using those should first be inquired, as these alternatives put safeguards to ensure the best interest of the child and the main aim is restorative justice and not criminal prosecution.


Finally, after parsing where peacebuilding and justice clash and when do they have shared methods, we can assert that establishing an equitable and durable peace requires pursuing both peacebuilding and transitional justice activities, taking into consideration how they interact and the concrete needs of each community, especially when it comes to the needs of former child soldiers and the controversial debate around the need for their accountability and reinsertion in communities, as despite the pioneer case of Sierra Leone, the unusual condition of a child combatant, which is both victim and perpetrator still presents dilemmas concerning their accountability in international criminal law.[28]

Additionally, it becomes of utmost importance in assessing post-conflict societies, whether it is to implement peacebuilding measures such as DDR or to apply justice and search for accountability, that international led initiatives include in their program’s local organizations. Critics of international criminal justice often assume that criminal accountability for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes are better handled at the national level. While this may well hold for liberal democracies, it is far more problematic for post-conflict successor regimes, where the benefits of the proximity to the affected population must be seriously weighed against the challenges facing courts placed in conflict-ridden societies with weak and corrupt judiciaries. 

Local systems however have more legitimacy and capacity than devastated formal systems, and they promise local ownership, access, and efficiency, which seems to be the most appropriate way to ensure peace and endurability of peace. Additionally, restorative justice methods put into place thanks to local initiatives emphasize face-to-face intervention, where offenders have the chance to ask for forgiveness from the victims. In many cases restitution replace incarceration, which facilitates the reintegration of offenders into society as well as the satisfaction of the victims.

To conclude, it has become clear that improving the interaction between peacebuilding and transitional justice processes requires coordination as well as a deep knowledge and understanding of said community. It is therefore not a question of deciding whether peacebuilding initiatives or transitional justice must be implemented, but rather to coordinate their efforts to achieve a sense of sustainable and most-needed peace in post-conflict countries. Taken together, and despite their contradictions, these processes are more likely to succeed in their seek to foster fair and enduring peace.


[1] Sooka, Y., 2006. Dealing with the past and transitional justice: building peace through accountability. [online] International Review of the Red Cross. [Accessed 5 April 2021].

2Boutros-Ghali, B. (1992). An Agenda for Peace:Preventive Diplomacy, Peacemaking and peace-keeping.Report of the Secretary-General UN: [Accessed 5 April 2021].

[3]Brahimi. (s.f.). Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations. 55th Session: Brahimi Report | United Nations Peacekeeping  [Accessed 5 April 2021].

[4] United Nations Secretary General (1992). "An Agenda for Peace, Preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peace-keeping UN Doc. A/47/277 - S/24111, 17 June.", title VI, paragraph 55.<A_47_277.pdf (>. [Accessed 5 April 2021].

[5] Sooka, Y., 2006. Dealing with the past and transitional justice: building peace through accountability. [online] International Review of the Red Cross. Available at: < > [Accessed 5 March 2021].

[6] Roser, M. and Nagdy, M., 2021. Genocides. [online] Our World in Data. Available at: < Genocides - Our World in Data > [Accessed 5 March 2021].

[7] Waldorf, L., 2006. Mass Justice For Mass Atrocity: Rethinking Local Justice As Transitional Justice. [online] Temple Law Review. Available at: < > [Accessed 5 March 2021].

[8] Gibril Sesay, M. and Suma, M., 2009. Transitional Justice and DDR: The Case of Sierra Leone. [online] International Center for Transitional Justice. Available at: < > [Accessed 5 March 2021].

[9] Roht-Arriaza, N., & Mariezcurrena, J. (Eds.). (2006). Transitional Justice in the Twenty-First Century: Beyond Truth versus Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 2, Sigal HOROVITZ: Transitional criminal justice in Sierra Leone. <(PDF) Transitional Criminal Justice in Sierra Leone | Sigall Horovitz - >[Accessed 5 March 2021]

[10] Connolly, L., 2012. Justice and peacebuilding in postconflict situations: An argument for including gender analysis in a new post-conflict model. [online] ACCORD. Available at: < > [Accessed 5 March 2021].

[11] Waldorf, L., 2009. Transitional Justice and DDR: The Case of Rwanda. [online] Intenational Center for Transitional Justice. Available at:    < >[Accessed 5 April 2021].

[13] UNICEF (2004). From Confict to Hope:Children in Sierra Leone’s Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme. [Accessed 5 April 2021].

[14] SESAY, M.G & SUMA, M. (2009), “Transitional Justice and DDR: The Case of Sierra Leone”,International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) [Accessed 5 April 2021].

[15] WILLIAMSON, J. (2006), “The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers: social and psychological transformation in Sierra Leone”, Intervention 2006, Vol. 4, No. 3, Available from: <> [Accessed 5 April 2021].

[16] : A. B. Zack‐Williams (2001) Child soldiers in the civil war in Sierra Leone, Review of African Political Economy, 28:87, 73-82, DOI: 10.1080/03056240108704504 [Accessed 5 April 2021].

[17] MCKAY, S. & MAZURANA, D. (2004), “Where are the girls? Girls in Fighting Forces in Northern Uganda, Sierra Leone and Mozambique: Their Lives During and After War”,Rights & Democracy. International Centre for Human Rights & Democratic Development,.[Accessed 5 April 2021].

[18] UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) (2005), “The Impact of Conflict on Women and Girls in West and Central Africa and the Unicef Response”, Emergencies, pg.19,Available from: <>  [Accessed 5 April 2021].

[19] Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers (2006), “Child Soldiers and Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration in West Africa”. [Accessed 5 April 2021].

[20] HRW (Human Rights Watch) (2005), “Problems in the Disarmament Programs in Sierra Leone and Liberia [1998-2005]”, Reports Section, Available from: <>  [Accessed 5 April 2021].

[21] Herman, J., Martin-Ortega, O. and Sriram, C., 2012. Beyond justice versus peace: transitional justice and peacebuilding strategies. 1st ed. Routledge. <Beyond justice versus peace: transitional justice and peacebuilding strategies | Taylor & Francis Group> [Accessed 5 March 2021]

[22] Young, G., n.d. Transitional Justice in Sierra Leone: A Critical Analysis. [online] PEACE AND PROGRESS – THE UNITED NATIONS UNIVERSITY GRADUATE STUDENT JOURNAL. Available at: < > [Accessed 5 March 2021].

[23] Herman, J., Martin-Ortega, O. and Sriram, C., 2012. Beyond justice versus peace: transitional justice and peacebuilding strategies. 1st ed. Routledge. <Beyond justice versus peace: transitional justice and peacebuilding strategies | Taylor & Francis Group> [Accessed 5 March 2021]

[24] Stensrud, E., 2009. New Dilemmas in Transitional Justice: Lessons from the Mixed Courts in Sierra Leone and Cambodia. [online] Journal of peace research. Available at: <New Dilemmas in Transitional Justice: Lessons from the Mixed Courts in Sierra Leone and Cambodia on JSTOR> [Accessed 5 March 2021].

[25] Roht-Arriaza, N., & Mariezcurrena, J. (Eds.). (2006). Transitional Justice in the Twenty-First Century: Beyond Truth versus Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 2, Sigal HOROVITZ: Transitional criminal justice in Sierra Leone. <(PDF) Transitional Criminal Justice in Sierra Leone | Sigall Horovitz - >[Accessed 5 March 2021]

[26] Zarifis, Ismene. "Sierra Leone’s Search for Justice and Accountability of Child Soldiers." Human Rights Brief 9, no. 3 (2002): 18-21. [Accessed 5 April 2021].

[27] Article 22 of the AFRICAN CHARTER ON THE RIGHTS AND WELFARE OF THE CHILD , achpr_instr_charterchild_eng.pdf ( [Accessed 5 April 2021].

[28] Veiga, T. G. (2019). A New Conceptualisation of Child Reintegration in Conflict Contexts. E International Relations: [Accessed 5 April 2021].

Categorías Global Affairs: África Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Ensayos

[Carlos Lopes, Africa in Transformation: Economic Development in the Age of Doubt (London: Palgrave, 2018), 175 pp]

REVIEW /  Emilija Žebrauskaitė

The emergence of a new discourse about ‘Africa rising’ is not at all surprising. After all, the continent is home to many fastest-growing economies of the world and the African sub-regions experienced economic growth way above the world average for more than a decade. New opportunities are opening up in the continent and Africa is becoming to be viewed as an attractive opportunity for investments and entrepreneurship. 

However, Carlos Lopes views the discourse about ‘Africa rising’ as a narrative that was created by foreigners interested in the continent and the economic opportunities it offers, without the consideration to the Africans themselves. In his book Africa in Transformation: Economic Development in the Age of Doubt Lopes presents an alternative view of the continent, it’s challenges and achievements: an alternative view that is centered on Africans and their needs as opposed to the interests of the foreign investors.

The book describes a wide scope of topics from political to economic to intellectual transformation, all of them focusing on the rethinking of the traditional development models and providing a new, innovative approach to building the continent and its future.

One of the main points Lopes highlights is the importance of the agricultural transformation in Africa as a starting point for industrialization and development. The agricultural sector provides nearly 65% of Africa’s population with employment. It is, therefore, one of the most important sectors for the continent. Drawing on historical evidence of other countries successfully climbing out of poverty relying on the transformation of the local agriculture, he comments that while some African countries have managed to increase their agricultural production, comparing to the rest of the world, the progress so far is pretty modest.

Lopes also points out that countries with low agricultural production are less industrialised as well. The solution he offers for Africa’s industrialisation starts with agricultural transformation. He argues that the first step is the need for agricultural transformation that would lead to increased labour productivity, which would, in turn, lead to greater access to food per unit of labour, reducing the price of food relative to the income of the worker of the agricultural sector, allowing for the budget surplus to appear and become an impetus for the demand of goods and services beyond the agricultural sector.

While Lopes argues that the increase of Africa’s labour productivity is as best “modest” compared to other developing regions of the world, at first glance this statement might seem contradictory to the fact that many African countries are among the fastest-growing economies of the world. However, the critique of Lopes highlights that despite the economic growth of the continent, it did not generate sufficient jobs, nor it was equally distributed across the continent. Furthermore, the growth did not protect African economies from the rocky nature of the commodity exports on which the continent relies, making the growth unstable.

According to Lopes, not only the diversification of the production structures is required, there is a need for the creation of ten million new jobs in order to absorb the immense youth number entering the markets. As the trade liberalisation forced unequal competition upon local African industries, Lopes suggests using smart protectionist measures that are not directly trade-related and therefore outside of the influence of WTO. In the end, the African economy must be internally driven and less dependent, and the policies should focus to protect it.

This leads us to another focus of the book, namely the lack of policy space for African countries. The economic and political theories reflected upon Africa by the developed countries, specifically the US, do not leave enough space for African countries to develop their own policies based on local circumstances and necessities. In cases where the ideas imposed from abroad fail to function in African circumstances, the continent is left without much space for adjustment. Lopes discusses the failure of the Bretton Woods institutions to remain impartial in their policymaking, and the disastrous effect the neo-liberal policies, enforced on the whole world until the crisis of 2008.

While Lopes agrees that the lack of the capability of enforcing the IMF and World Bank policies by the implementing countries contributed to their ineffectiveness, the lack of flexibility from the part of the international organizations to adapt the policies to the regional circumstances and the arrogant denial to admit their inefficiency were the major factors contributing to the negative social impact, namely inequality, that neo-liberalism enhanced in Africa. According to Lopes, now that the trustworthiness of the international financial institutions has decreased, more space is left for Africa to reformulate and enforce its own policies, adapting them to the existing circumstances and needs.

In the end, the book approaches the problems faced by modern-day Africa from a multidisciplinary point of view, discussing topics ranging from ideology and ecology to economy and politics. Carlos Lopes is a loud and confident voice when it comes to the contribution of the ‘Africa rising’ narrative. While he does not deny the accomplishment of the continent, he is cautious about the narrative that portrays Africa as an economic unit, interesting due to and only because of new economic possibilities that are opening for foreign interests. His alternative is the idea of ‘Africa in transformation’ – the view that focuses on the growth of the possibilities for the people of Africa and transformation of a continent from an object of someone’s exploitation, to a place with its own opportunities and opinions, offering the world new ideas on the most important topic of contemporary international debates.

Categorías Global Affairs: África Economía, Comercio y Tecnología Reseñas de libros


ESSAY  Pablo Arbuniés


In 1994 both South Africa and Rwanda embarked on a journey of political change that to this day seems unfinished. The first saw the end of apartheid and the beginning of a transition to non-racial democracy, while the latter saw the end of a civil conflict that sparked a genocide.

Both countries faced fundamental changes of a political and social nature at the same time in two very different ways. South Africa faced such change from the perspective of democracy, while Rwanda saw the collapse of a radical ethnic regime under Habyalimana after the civil war in 1994.

Understanding that countries move in a wide spectrum between democracy and non-democracy, that is, that they often are in a liminal political status, is the very basis to study these processes. Comparing these countries that experienced monumental political change at the same time can be useful to understand how societies can be rebuilt after a dark period. Depending on how the transition started, either through force as is the case in Rwanda or via political consensus or constitutional change as in South Africa, the path that the country will follow can vary greatly. It is also worth exploring how a post-conflict consensus can be the basis of a renewed system. Of key interest is how long such dispensation go uncontested and how stable it can sustain the project.  

The case of South Africa and Rwanda

South Africa is classified by some as a Flawed Democracy[1], meaning that there are free and fair elections but there are factors that prevent it from arriving at a full democratic rule. In 1990, the government re-established multi-party politics. Then, the 1992 referendum approved universal suffrage, including black people in the democratic process, and the 1994 general elections were the first democratic and universal vote in the history of the country. The African National Congress (ANC) came to power and has won all the following elections.

The ANC—and similarly, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)—has a sense of exceptionalism, a belief that it has an extraordinary mandate to finish the revolution that only it can fulfil[2]. However, recent elections have shown a decrease in popular support for the ANC. Yet the fact that, over time, the ruling party during a transition process eventually loses free elections is a sign of a consolidated democracy[3].

Rwanda on the other hand is deemed an authoritarian regime by the EIU[4]. In the aftermath of the civil war and the genocide, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) positioned itself as a guarantor of security, consolidating control over all sectors of society. This provision of security and stability in the wake of a conflict, accompanied by an authoritarian use of power, can be referred to as the authoritarian social contract, prioritising security over democracy and fundamental rights, but with a sufficiently transparent and accountable government.

This article will proceed to explore a few indicators like transitional justice, legal framework and institutions, separation of power and rule of law, transparency and accountability plus civil society to test whether South Africa and Rwanda have attained democratic transition through building sustainable political institutions.

Transitional justice

The South African Constitution highlights the importance of healing the consequences of apartheid and establishing a society based on human rights, democracy and social justice. Thus, in 1995 the Government established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), tasked with uncovering past injustices and establishing the truth about the apartheid.

The TRC was composed of three committees: Human rights violations, Reparation and Rehabilitation and Amnesty. Their ultimate goal was to restore the dignity and encourage the spirit of forgiveness between the victims and the perpetrators.

However, in terms of accountability, the TRC has fallen short. The offer of “amnesty for the truth” as well as the de facto back door amnesty provided by the National Prosecuting Authority’s Prosecution Policy have meant effective immunity for apartheid-era perpetrators even if they did not apply for amnesty nor helped the TRC. Even after the “back door” was declared unconstitutional in 2008, none of the cases affected has returned to the courts.[5]

In Rwanda, the priority after the civil war and genocide was also rebuilding social peace. Civil war crimes and genocide were treated differently from each other in transitional justice, partly due to the reluctance of the RPF to judge its crimes as a belligerent actor in the civil war, and also because of the prioritising of genocide prosecution.[6]

Rwanda’s main challenge for transitional justice was the vast number of people that took part in the genocide. Despite other countries facing similar problems and opting for amnesties or selective prosecution, Rwanda chose the way of accountability through criminal trials. To achieve this, the government had to create community courts (Gacaca) to make accountability possible for low-level genocide suspects.

This choice of criminal prosecution was defended by the RPF as a measure to end impunity culture that led to the genocide. However, the massive prosecutions have ended up overwhelming the system and hindering the rule of law.

Legal framework and institutions


In its transition to democracy, South Africa chose to completely re-write its constitution. The 1996 Constitution was promulgated by Nelson Mandela and entered into force in 1997, in place of the 1993 interim constitution. The interim constitution set the bases for the final one, including universal adult suffrage, the prohibition of discrimination, multi-party democracy, separation of powers, etc.

However, the biggest achievement of the South African transition is how the institutions in charge of the elections have been built on consensus and with the guarantee of non-interference by the ruling party, making the Electoral Commission a body publicly perceived to be neutral and impartial.[7]

Rwanda held a referendum in 2003 to approve a new constitution, after a deep public consultation process. A new constitution was approved, prohibiting ethnic politics along with other forms of discrimination. This clause has been widely used by the government to maintain a one-party system by illegalising opposition parties and attacking any form of political dissent under the façade of preventing another genocide[8]. In 2015 term limits were abolished by referendum, allowing president Kagame to run for a third 7-year term.

Separation of powers and rule of law

In terms of separation of powers and checks and balances, South Africa ranks above the average of its region according to the world justice and rule of law index. Its overall score in the Rule of Law Index is of 0.59, making it the 45th country out of 128.  The lowest rated indicators for the country are absence of corruption at 0.48 and criminal justice at 0.53. In terms of fundamental rights, all indicators are above average and above the upper-middle threshold except for no discrimination, valued al 0.54.

Constraints on government powers are measured at 0.63, and all indicators are above average and above the “upper-middle” threshold. Legislative and judiciary checks and balances are valued at 0.58 and 0.67 respectively, meaning that there is an effective separation of powers. However, and despite the absence of corruption ranking above average, in the legislative power is below the upper-middle threshold and valued at a worrying 0.23, and in the executive branch it is also below said threshold at 0.4. Corruption in the executive and the legislative powers can be explained as a consequence of the political dominance of the ANC and its firm grab onto power, and it should eventually fade away when a new party reaches power.

On the other hand, Rwanda is a fascinating case, since it presents a very low score on the democratic index[9] but an overall decent rule of law index.[10] In other words, Rwanda’s government might not be democratic, but it does play by the rules, hence reinforcing the idea of an authoritarian social contract that is indeed being fulfilled by the government. In fact, despite being an authoritarian country, Rwanda’s rule of law index is higher than South Africa’s, and the second highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, only bettered by Namibia (one of the best-ranked democracies in the region).

To further prove the point of the authoritarian social contract, looking at the different indicators of the Rule of Law Index, one can notice that its lowest-rated indicators are the fundamental rights ones (0.51, ranking 81st in the world) and it’s the best indicator is order and security (0.84, ranking 22nd in the world) with a perfect score in absence of civil conflict (1.00).

Limits to governmental power by the legislative and judiciary powers are worth mentioning too. In the case of legislative checks and balances, the country ranks below the Sub-Saharan average, partly due to the predominance of RPF parliamentarians dominating the legislature. Hence they provide little checks on the executive. On the other hand, Judiciary checks and sanctions for official misconduct are above the Sub-Saharan average, showing a surprising level of judiciary independence for a country deemed as authoritarian.

Transparency and accountability

Transparency indicators show South Africa leading the regional chart, well above the Sub-Saharan average and also above the upper-middle threshold, which means that the government can be considered transparent enough. In the other hand, persistent levels of corruption in the executive and legislative power, as well as in the police and military (ranked above regional average but below the upper-middle threshold) show worrying signs that could obstruct the accountability of those holding power. Indeed, sanctions for official misconduct are the weaker link in constraints on government power, showing a limited action taken against corruption, but still ranking above the Sub-Saharan average.

In Rwanda, judiciary independence and sanctions for official misconduct are also above average for the region, showing an acceptable degree of accountability in the exercise of power that yet again can be surprising in an authoritarian country.

In terms of transparency, Rwanda ranks above the Sub-Saharan average in all indicators: publicized laws and government data (0.60), right to information (0.61), civic participation (0.53) and complaint mechanisms (0.60). Corruption indicators are above regional average as well with corruption in the legislative power being the worst of the lot despite still being better than that of its neighbouring counterparts.


Civil society

The ANC has, in a similar fashion to the RPF, tried to become a gatekeeping power, attempting to draw the limits of what is acceptable opposition or an acceptable discourse. This allows the parties to monopolize the social cohesion discourse by presenting themselves as the only legitimate actor to tackle the issue.

In South Africa, the ANC accuses the opposition parties of trying to bring back apartheid; for instance, it claims that the Democratic Alliance aims to return to a minority rule system. Thus, the party presents itself as the only one that can prevent the Boers from returning to power. A state of constant alert is promoted by the ANC, not only within national politics and against civil society actors, but also claiming that foreign agendas are seeking a regime change in the country and trying to turn the people against their leaders.[11]

In Rwanda, the government took advantage of the post-conflict situation to limit public participation in the political sphere. Those opposed to the government are marginalised and their discourse is rejected as genocide-promoting or supportive of ethnical divisions. This is key for the government to retain popular support, as any dissenting voice will be delegitimized and presented as a call to go back to the worst moments of Rwanda’s history, and thus publicly rejected. As for dealing with foreign civil society actors, Kagame tends to delegitimize them by associating any dissenting foreign opinion with colonialism.[12] This overall helps the RPF sustain their rhetoric of the Rwandicity of the people as the only way of keeping social peace and cohesion.

This discourse that attempts to create national unity as well as within the parties, has a constant “rally around the flag” effect, silencing dissenting opinions and deterring potential civil society actors, in fear of being singled out as apartheid or genocide promoters. This results in a weakened civil society often deterred from criticising the government in fear of being marginalised and portrayed as either a colonialist or a promoter of ethnic division and genocide. Dissenting voices are turned into enemies of the nation and used for an “us versus them” political discourse.

Despite this, non-governmental checks on the exercise of power in South Africa are valued at 0.71, well above the Sub-Saharan average as well as the upper-middle threshold. Freedom of expression has the same score and again y both above the regional average and nearly reaching the higher threshold.

Overall, South Africa has a robust civil society that plays a key role in creating and sustaining political culture, tackling the gaps between national and local politics, as well as holding public officials accountable and checking their use of power. This can be seen in the outing of former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma through consistent mobilisations and lawsuits.[13]

For Rwanda, as expected in an authoritarian country, civil society is not a key actor. Non-governmental checks to the use of power are low (0.45), and likely limited by an also low freedom of expression indicator (0.45).


Treating democracy and non-democracy as a dichotomy instead of the two sides of a wide spectrum would not allow us to look at how different variables are key to understanding national politics. Instead, it is crucial to understand that many countries occupy a liminal space between democracy and non-democracy without necessarily moving towards either. Therefore, it is in that space that they should be analysed in order to be fully understood. That being said, South Africa and Rwanda both occupy very different liminal spaces, with the first being much closer to full democracy than the former.

The civil society indicators, as well as the role of transitional justice, show a very clear difference between South Africa and Rwanda, which is rooted in the legitimation of the power of the ruling party, as well as in the background of their political changes. The RPF came to power by winning the civil war and used transitional justice to whitewash its image as no RPF member has been investigated for alleged war crimes[14]. Thus, the lack of accountability and the militaristic nature of the transition can be seen as factors that discourage citizen participation in politics. On the other hand, South Africa had an easier task with transitional justice, but the result cannot be considered perfect or ideal, and many criticise the South African model of transitional justice for being too superficial and symbolic and not providing the needed social healing. Also, South Africa’s transition is built on political consensus instead of the outcome of a civil war, and that spirit of consensus can be seen in the much bigger role of civil society nowadays. The ability of civil society actors to hold political ones to a high enough standard is key in rebuilding a country.

The transparency indicators show that both countries have open and transparent governments, with Rwanda scoring better than South Africa in the publicized laws & government data as well as the right to information indicators, which can be surprising due to the authoritarian nature of the Rwandan government.

Although both countries seem to be in very different positions, they share a political discourse based on party exceptionalism and rejection of dissenting voices as encouragers of genocide or apartheid. The fear of ethnic conflict is the very basis of the traces of an authoritarian social contract that still prevails in the South African and Rwandan politics.

In terms of institutional transformation, South Africa shows how important it is to build trustworthy institutions, with the best example being the Electoral Commission. Also, political trust in pacific transitions of power after an election is a sign of a consolidated democracy and shows the success of South Africa.

The level of transparency of the Rwandan government, added to its success in the accountability and security aspects and the high civil and criminal justice indicators (all above regional average) show how an authoritarian country can effectively deal with a post-conflict situation without abandoning its non-democratic model. Rwanda is a fascinating example of a successfully fulfilled authoritarian social contract in which civil liberties are given up in exchange for a peaceful and stable environment in which the country can heal economically as the quite positive GDP per capita projections show.[15]

[1] The Economist Intelligence Unit; Democracy Index (2019)

[2] Beresford, A. Liberation movements and stalled democratic transitions: reproducing power in Rwanda and South Africa through productive liminality 

[3] Huntington, S. P. (1991). The third wave: Democratization in the late 20th century.

[4] The Economist Intelligence Unit; Democracy Index (2019)

[5] International Center for Transitional Justice, South Africa

[6] Waldorf, L, Transitional Justice and DDR: The Case of Rwanda, International Center for Transitional Justice

[7] Ahere, J. R. (2020). Africa's dalliance with democracy, but whose democracy? In N. Sempijja, & K. Molope, Africa rising? Navigating the nexus between rhetoric and emerging reality (pp. 37-54). Pamplona: Eunsa.

[8] Roth, K. The power of horror in Rwanda,

[9] The Economist Intelligence Unit; Democracy Index (2019)

[10]  World Justice Project, Rule of Law Index 2020

[11] Beresford, A. Liberation movements and stalled democratic transitions: reproducing power in Rwanda and South Africa through productive liminality

[12] Beresford, A. Liberation movements and stalled democratic transitions: reproducing power in Rwanda and South Africa through productive liminality 

[13] Gumede, W. How civil society has strengthened South Africa’s democracy

[14] Waldorf, L, Transitional Justice and DDR: The Case of Rwanda, International Center for Transitional Justice

[15] IMF. "Rwanda: Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in current prices from 1985 to 2025 (in U.S. dollars)." Chart. October 12, 2020. Statista. Accessed January 25, 2021.

Categorías Global Affairs: África Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Ensayos


COMMENTARY /  Norman Sempijja

When President Yoweri Museveni came to power in 1986, he oversaw a reset of Ugandan politics for the next 35 years. He outlawed parties and formed a movement system which although has sometimes been described as a one-party state was crucial in bringing all groups on board to chart the way forward for a country that had been ravaged by misrule and conflict for almost 20 years.

Fast forward 2021, we are faced with a slightly different situation but of likely grave consequences. Uganda is in the middle of a stand-off between President Museveni and his challenger Mr Robert Kyagulanyi (also known as Bobi Wine). The issue relates to the outcome of the 2021 presidential election which although was held in a very peaceful manner had gross vote-counting irregularities. The Uganda electoral commission gave Museveni 58.6% and Kyagulanyi 34.8%. On the other hand, the tallying centres set up by Kyagulanyi’s team using the Uvote app where declaration forms were uploaded once counting was done have so far given Kyagulanyi 71% and Museveni around 25% of the vote. Vote counting is still ongoing. With Kyagulanyi unlikely to concede Museveni decided to put him under house arrest to prevent him from leading mass protests. The internet was also switched off for 5 days and at the moment social media can only be accessed through the use of VPN services.

Amid this melee is Covid-19 virus rampaging through the country. The health services are still not fully prepared to deal with a massive outbreak and although the lockdown has been eased, the economic impact will be felt for years. For a country that is largely agro-based and relies heavily on the informal sector, the impact has been dire on the already struggling population. Secondly, a worrying trend has emerged internationally where various variants of the Covid virus have been registered. For example, we have new covid-19 strains in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil and Japan for now. Thus, questions have lingered about the effectiveness of the current vaccines in circulation to combat these new variants. But that is beside the point. Uganda has not secured any of the vaccines yet.

Therefore, Museveni as head of state faces a difficult situation. Does he pour the meagre resources at his disposal to contain Kyagulanyi? Or does he negotiate with him to chart a way forward out of this debilitating situation? Obviously, in trying to answer these questions he will have to weigh the cost-benefits to the solutions and gauge if they fit in his agenda.

So, let us imagine Museveni throws all his resources at containing Kyagulanyi. Well, he will have to curtail social media especially as it was crucial to ending former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. It is that powerful. But we should note that the internet is hard to police and is a medium through which a lot of people make a living. Either way patience will run out for the people whose livelihoods will be curtailed in the process. They will have no option but to organise protests. The bad news for Museveni is that according to African Union brief on the Sahel 2020 it is clear that violent clashes and violence against civilians are on the rise during these covid-19 times. If we mirror that with the November riots in Uganda, we are likely to see more protests if the heavy-handed policies of the state are continuously applied.

Museveni will also have to maintain Kyagulanyi under house arrest, but he will further draw the ire of the international community as his current gambit on the elections was a stretch too far. He may have burnt up his remaining currency with several international stakeholders. Apart from Western societies, citizens in different African countries have grown tired of Museveni and are pressuring their countries not to acknowledge his electoral win. This exasperation is among the young people especially in Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and South Africa to mention but a few.

A combination of continental and international loss of support could set Uganda the same path as Zimbabwe under Mugabe if Museveni resorts to outright violence. We could see sanctions being applied on top of the travel restrictions already imposed on key players within Museveni’s government. The problem for Museveni is Uganda does not possess strong support in East Africa as Mugabe did in Southern Africa. Plus, Museveni’s relationship with President Kagame has been frosty, to say the least. Either way, he will have to deal with mass protests in support of freedom for Kyagulanyi in Uganda. This will call for further investment in the police and army to contain the situation. Let us not forget that with the fluid nature of Covid-19 pandemic, the country could face deep human security issues. Hence containing Kyagulanyi will come at a very political and economic cost both to Museveni and Uganda.

What if Museveni decided to negotiate with Kyagulanyi and form a government of national unity? This wouldn’t be without precedent as Museveni set into place the movement system discussed earlier that brought everyone on board and for 10 years the country benefitted from collective governance (except the north which was experiencing an insurgency). I’m of the persuasion that Uganda is again on similar footing. Institutions have been degraded and cannot perform independently. There is a lot of frustration with the current regime as exemplified by the parliamentary elections where the vice president and 24 ministers lost their seats. By inviting Kyagulanyi onboard Museveni will be pressing the reset button especially as he will inject young people into the system, and they could play a key role in reducing corruption and improving service delivery.

It would cost Museveni some political capital among the entrenched supporters, but it will save his legacy. He will be seen as a father of a nation mentoring young leaders to take over from him. Right now, he is seen as an insensitive, power-hungry despot. But that could change in an instant if he goes for a coalition with Kyagulanyi and other leaders like Mugisha Muntu, Nobert Mao and Patrick Amuriat. The resources that would have been spent on containing them would be allocated to the heavily challenged health care system to combat Covid-19 and other ailments.

Moreover, this will save the National Resistance Movement political party from oblivion once Museveni goes. The reason for this is the party has struggled to attract a strong intellectual and ideological talent within its ranks as it has been accused of nepotism. This would be a good time to reset the party and its structures and prepare for the transition from Museveni. By co-opting the opposition into government this will put them under scrutiny and any blunders they make will further give NRM a softer landing come 2026.

The benefit for Kyagulanyi would be experience in government. Although he was a member of parliament, gaining further experience in public governance would do him a lot of good and also build a strong support base within the country. Since his political party has the largest number of opposition members of parliament this will give him further credibility and foundation to strengthen his National Unity platform party (NUP). The same will apply for the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) led by Mugisha Muntu. The other parties like Forum for Democratic Change (led by Patrick Amuriat) and Democratic Party (led by Nobert Mao) will get a new lease of life.

Therefore, due to the circumstances afoot, it would be of immense political worth to form a government of national unity under the leadership of President Yoweri Museveni but with considerable influence of the other parties especially the National Unity Platform, Alliance for National Transformation, Democratic Party and Forum for democratic Change. This will pause the political animosity as the country goes into reforms to ensure more transparent electoral and governance processes.

Categorías Global Affairs: África Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Comentarios

Could Spain partner up with Morocco in the field of solar energy?

The two countries are greatly exposed to solar radiation and they already share electricity interconnectors

The two countries are greatly exposed to solar radiation and they already share electricity interconnectors

Spain was an early developer of solar energy, but it didn’t keep the pace with the required investments. The effort in renewables should mean a clear increase in installed capacity for solar energy. A partnership with Morocco, gifted with even stronger solar resources, could benefit both countries in producing and marketing this particular renewable energy. Spain and Morocco are about to have a third electricity interconnector.



Spain has a lot of potential in solar energy. Currently, its Germany who produces more photovoltaic electricity than Spain, Portugal or Italy in Europe. In fact, in 2019, Germany produced five times more solar energy than Spain (50 GW of installed capacity versus just 11 GW). This fact has little to do with the raw solar energy that the countries receive, considering that Spain is located in Southern Europe.

For how much solar irradiation Spain receives, the solar energy it produces is scarce. Up until 2013, the installed capacity for solar energy grew rapidly. However, since then, the country has fallen behind many other European countries in the development of capacity. The country initially had a leading role in the development of solar power, with low prices that encouraged a boom in solar power installed capacity. However, because of the 2008 financial crisis, the Spanish government drastically cut its subsidies for solar power and limited any future increases in capacity to 500 MW per year. Between 2012 and 2016, Spain was left waiting while other countries developed. The cost of this was high, seeing as Spain lost much of its world leading status to countries such as Germany, China and Japan.

However, as a legacy from Spain’s earlier development of solar power, in 2018 Spain became the first country in the world using concentrated solar power system (CSP), which accounts for almost a third of solar power installed capacity in the country. Nevertheless, in 2019, Spain installed 4,752 MW of photovoltaic solar energy, which situated Spain as the sixth leading country in the world. As of 2019, Spain has a total installed solar generation capacity of 11,015 MW: 8,711 of photovoltaic energy and 2,304 of solar thermal.

Photovoltaic solar (PV) energy is usually used for smaller-scale electricity projects. The devices generate electricity directly from sunlight via an electronic process that occurs naturally on semiconductors, converting it into usable electricity that can be stored in a solar battery of sent to the electric grid. Solar thermal energy (STE) capture is usually used for electricity production on a massive scale, for its use in the industry.

Low solar energy generated in Spain

By 2020, Spain national system has reached the maximum generation capacity ever recorded: 110,000 MW of wind energy, photovoltaic (PV), hydraulic, conventional thermal power (natural gas, coal, fuel oil), nuclear, etc. This amount of energy contrasts with the increasingly thin demand of power, which in 2019 was 40,000 MW (40 GW). According to the data published by Red Electrica de España, the renewable quota of energy amount to a total of 55,247 MW (55 GW out of 110 GW). This 55 GW is composed of 46% corresponding to wind energy, 16% are photovoltaic and the rest (38%) corresponds to other renewable technologies. During 2019, the national renewable production has been 97,826 GW-hour, which represents 37.5% of the kilowatt-hour that the country demanded last year (the remaining 62.5% has been produced in nuclear power plants or facilities that burn fossil fuels).

So, we can clearly see that the percentage of solar energy is extremely low (3,5% solar photovoltaic and 2% solar thermic of the total kilowatts-hour generated). Nevertheless, Spain has the capability to increase these numbers. According to a report on power potential by country published by the World Bank, Spain has a long-term energy availability of solar resource at any location (average theoretical potential) of 4.575 kilowatts-hour per square metre (kWh/m2). This potential is indicated by the variable of global horizontal irradiation (GHI) on the country, which will vary according to the local factors of the land. Furthermore, the power output achievable by a typical PV system, taking into consideration the theoretical potential and the local factors of the land (average practical potential) is 4.413 kWh, excluding areas due to physical/technical constraints (rugged terrain, urbanized/industrial areas, forests…) PV power output (PVOUT), power generated per unit of the installed PV capacity over the long-term, is an average of 1.93 kilowatt-hours per installed kilowatt-peak of the system capacity (kWh/kWp). It varies according to the season from 1.43 to 2.67 kWh/kWp. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Spain’s electric consumption (balance of production and external trade) in 2019 was of 238 TWh (= 2,38 x1011 kWh).

The colors indicate the average solar radiation; the black dots indicate places where there could be a greater use of solar energy [Mlino76]

Morocco’s solar energy plan

Africa is the continent that receives most solar irradiance, thus being the optimal continent to exploit solar energy. In this regard, Morocco is already aiming to take advantage of this natural resource. At first, this country launched a solar energy plan with investment of USD 9 billion, aiming to generate 2,000 MW (or 2 GW) of solar power by 2020. It has developed mega-scale solar power projects at five locations; at the Sahara (Laayoune), Western Sahara (Boujdour), South of Agadir (Tarfaya), Ain Beni Mathar and Ouarzazate. But Morocco is planning to go further. Morocco announced during COP21 that it planned to increase the renewables capacity to reach 52% of the total by 2030 (20% solar, 20% wind, 12% hydro). To meet the 2030 target, the country aims to add around 10 GW of renewable capacities between 2018 and 2030, consisting of 4,560 MW of solar, 4,200 MW of wind, and 1,330 MW of hydropower capacity. The Moroccan Agency for Renewable Energy revealed that by the end of 2019, Morocco’s renewable energy reached 3,685 megawatts (MW), including 700 MW of solar energy, 1,215 MW of wind power, and 1,770 MW of hydroelectricity.

Now, what would happen if Spain partnered up with Morocco? Morocco is the only African country to have a power cable link to Europe. In fact, it’s through Spain that these two electricity interconnectors arrive to Europe. The first subsea interconnection, with a technical capacity of 700 MW, was commissioned in 1997 and started commercial operation in 1998. The second was commissioned in the summer of 2016. Furthermore, a new interconnection had been commissioned. This should not only reduce the price of electricity in the Spanish market but it should also allow the integration of renewable energy, mainly photovoltaic, into European electricity system.

Moreover, Red Electrica de España (REE) stated that a collaborations agreement between the Spain and Morocco had been formed “to establish a strategic partnership on energy, whose objectives will be focused on the integration of networks and energy markets, the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency.” But the possibilities don’t stop there. If both countries further develop their solar energy capacities, they could jointly provide enough electricity to sustain Europe, through sustainable and renewable resources.

Categorías Global Affairs: Unión Europea África Energía, recursos y sostenibilidad Artículos


ESSAY Álvaro de Lecea Larrañaga

From the moment colonial empires left the African continent and the new republics celebrated their first democratic elections, the issue of election violence has been present in the majority of the countries. It is a problem that has not changed and that keeps disturbing national and international supporters of a peaceful democratization of the African continent. It is not the first time in history we know about election violence in democratic states, such as France during the nineteenth century; nevertheless, the African dynamics are quite peculiar.

Violence, in general terms, has become a political instrument in the African democratic dynamics (Laakso, 2007). Depending on the actor making use of it, the motivation behind it is different. It is also important to take into account the historical, political, socio-cultural and economic context of each country to understand the purposes of the usage of this controversial mechanism. The spur is not the same for the ruling party or the opposition party, or other groups like the youth. Hence the use of violence has a lot of influence in the outcomes of an election process as it is an effective means that shapes the democratic dynamics when it comes to the election of the representatives at all stages of the electoral processes. For example, the ruling parties use it to avoid being removed from their powerful positions and all the benefits that come from them (Mehler, 2007).

This issue of power, with a high level of influence of money, is probably the most common motivation for every actor involved in these dynamics (Muna & Otieno, 2020, pp. 92-111). Not only the ruling powers but the ones trying to substitute them or the ones trying to impose a new order are, in some way, motivated by the powerful positions they could attain. The violence therefore permeates all party structures and is also noticeable within the parties.

The issue of intra-party violence has not received a lot of attention due to more frequency of state inspired violence against the opposition. Yet it is becoming more prevalent especially in political parties that hold power. This is because the belief is usually entrenched that if one represents the ruling party the chances of getting elected get higher. It should also be noted that the risk of intra-party violence increases as inter-party competition decreases, making intra-party violence more common in districts where a single party dominates (Bech Seeberg, Skaaning, & Wahman, 2017).

The timing of the violence is very relevant to understand the problem of election violence. The different three kinds of election violence (pre-election violence, post-election violence and violence during the Election Day) carry different connotations with them (Daxecker, 2013). They are the result of the general context of the country and represent the behaviour of their citizens towards the democratic principles of the nation. This can also be a response to the electoral campaigns of both the ruling and opposition parties, which sometimes involve violent means too.

Pre-election violence is normally recorded within parties as they carry out their primaries to select representatives and during the campaign process in a bid to hinder opponents from getting access to the people. Violence on Election Day is usually designed to disrupt areas where some candidates suspect they will lose or feel the election process has not been fair. While post-election violence is mainly an expression of dissatisfaction with the outcome of the election.

The role of media and international observers are also key for drafting the big picture of the problems involving election violence. These to some extent can escalate the conflict or reduce it. The power of information is huge and these agents are the most reliable sources to the local and international communities. If an international observer, such as a Committee from the United Nations, declares an election fraud, post-election violence is a very possible outcome (Daxecker, 2012). However, the media, and more concretely a trustworthy local media agent, has the power to calm the masses and bring peace.

Finally, the electoral system chosen by each country will also have a direct effect on the violence because of the interests behind the election. The plurality voting is the most used system among African states. These kinds of systems are also known as winner-takes-all, because the winner gets all the power. Even if it is not necessarily a negative system, as successful countries such as France or Brazil also use them, the difference of power between a common citizen and a politician is so big in Africa that the interest of getting those posts is higher (Reynolds, 2009). This will cause that any means justified to get there, including the use of violence.

To further analyze the motivations behind election violence in Africa and the effects it has on the region, and to try to offer a functional solution for this issue the article explores two case studies: Kenya 2007 and Burundi 2010.

African election violence case studies

Kenya 2007

The presidential and parliamentary elections held in Kenya in 2007 are a great example of election violence where external factors had influences on the outcomes. However, these external factors were not the only ones causing the violence. Internal issues such as the historical culture of the country, the electoral system or the will of power were also influential in this case. To understand the big picture, it is always important to analyze every relevant aspect.

Since the first multi-party democratic elections in Kenya, held in 1992, post-election violence has been very present. During the almost thirty years of dictatorship in Kenya after their independence from the British Crown, repression was promoted throughout the whole territory. Abuses of human rights, nepotism, widespread corruption and patronage were very common (Onyebadi & Oyedeji, 2011), therefore Kenyans are used to protest, violently if needed, against political fraud and suppression of their democratic rights.

Mwai Kibaki’s victory in the 2007 elections brought a whole wave of violent protests because of the fraudulent accusations the elections received (Odhiambo Owuor, 2013). Not only the opposition leader Raila Odinga denounced the election as massively rigged, but also the international community did so. As they condemned the election as fraudulent, the United Nations intervened and helped reach a deal between both party leaders. In this case, the violence produced arrived after the elections (post-election violence) and was motivated by the fraudulent accusations made by international and national observers.

The solution reached was to recognize Kibaki as president and to create a new position of Executive Prime Minister for Odinga. Furthermore, they stipulated that cabinet positions were to be shared by the disputants and their political parties. This characteristic outcome was accepted with more enthusiasm by the Kenyan people because it divided the power in more than one person and, therefore, the abuse of it as it had happened before was not so probable. The electoral system, which is explained later on, has helped these abuses to be produced, so this different outcome meant a significant change in the Kenyan policy-making.

In the case of Kenya, media is very relevant, as the two most successful newspapers, the “Daily Nation” and “The Standard”, with a combined strength of 75% market share, do not receive funding from the government. Without falling into sensationalism, these newspapers were able to become agents of peace and reconciliation. As violence raged in the post-election period, the newspapers adopted a thematic approach to reaching a peaceful outcome (Onyebadi & Oyedeji, 2011).

This conflict, apart from the effects it had on the electoral outcome, influenced the economic situation of the country. The annual percentage growth of GDP fell from 6.8% in 2007 to 0.2% in 2008, the annual percentage of GDP per capita growth was negative (-2.5%) and the growth on the percentage of employment regarding total labour force began increasing again in 2008, going from 2.5% that year to 2.7% in 2009 (World Bank, 2020). However, this data is biased because of the economic recession several countries, including Kenya, suffered due to the 2008 financial crisis.

Finally, Kenya’s first-past-the-post single member constituency electoral system gives the electoral winner plenty of power. Moreover, the economic inequality, the domination of the powerful elites of the country who are very influential in the political system and the fact that Kenyan political parties are not usually founded on ideology but serve the ideas of the funders, produce a form of democracy that represents the few rather than the majority. Therefore, it is very complicated to terminate the desire for political power from the Kenyan mindset.

Burundi 2010

Burundi’s history has been marked by the Hutu-Tutsi rivalry. Since it got independence in 1962, the ethnic cleavages between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi have been remarkable. The 2010 elections are not quite different from the rest, as the outcomes resulted in boycotts and violence. Burundi is a country that has used violence as a tool of solving conflicts several times and has a violent historic precedent regarding “democratic” elections (Mehler, 2007). Several prime ministers and presidents from the different ethnic groups have been assassinated throughout Burundi’s democratic history, which has led to a series of coups and ethnic clashes.

During the 2010 elections, the United Nations also sent a mission to observe the democratic process followed. They affirmed that the winning party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD–FDD), were able to campaign throughout the country, whereas the opposition parties had much less visibility (Palmans, n.d.).

The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), which is supposed to organize, conduct and supervise the elections independently from any party were not as transparent as they were meant to and didn’t respect the rights of the political parties, which caused the boycott led by the opposition (Niang, n.d.). In Burundi too, elections have mainly been a struggle for power as a means of gaining access to economic resources through control of the state. So, the tensions have always been great during elections. Thus, violence tends to be used by nearly every actor involved.

The peculiarity within this case is that the violence didn’t only take place after knowing the results of the elections, but also before the Election Day. Pre-election violence came as a consequence of systematic disagreement between CNDD-FDD and opposition parties. Although several institutions were created to ensure the legality and transparency of the election, such as the CENI, the CNDD-FDD tried to arrange the legal and institutional context to force the process into its advantage and ensure its victory against the opposition.

The pre-election violence transformed into post-election violence leading to the main opposition leader, Agathon Rwasa, having to flee the country. Even though the violence was not as widespread as in Kenya, the situation remained tense in the country. The results didn’t change, and the political rivalries were further entrenched. In this case, the use of violence and coupled with display of power won the elections which created more fear and despair within the population.


Election violence is very common in several countries over the world, with an emphasis on Africa. There, it has become some kind of political instrument which, despite being anti-democratic by nature, is part of the policymaking, campaigning and electoral process. It is different depending on the timing it appears and plenty of factors influence its appearance and control. Within the most remarkable we can find the role of international and national observers, the role of the media, both national and international, and the will of power, usually linked to the economic benefits the winner receives. Furthermore, depending on who the actor is making use of it, the factors behind it can change drastically.

After having analyzed the two case studies, Kenya 2008 and Burundi 2010, and having interpreted the impact these issues have had in their internal socio-economic parameters, it is also obvious that these anti-democratic practices do have some impact in every aspect of the society involved in it. Its most remarkable influence can be seen on the election outcome. In both cases, violence was key for establishing the results. In the case of Kenya, it was the motor that boosted a change in the policymaking, and in the case of Burundi, it helped the winning party keep the power.

The three main factors that influence this kind of policymaking and that should be reviewed and, if necessary, modified to end the violence are the electoral system most African countries follow, the ethnic nature of violence and the common African mindset regarding power. The majority of the electoral systems followed in Africa are winner-takes-all systems that makes it hard for the loser to give up power and lose the benefits it brings. Also, as the case of Burundi has shown, ethnic rivalries are a very common reason motivating the violent outcomes of elections, even if the state follows a democratic regime. This, together with the great will of power present on the African societies, demonstrated by the intra- and inter-party violence, provokes the unsustainable situation present nowadays.


Bank, W. (2020). World Bank Database. Retrieved from

Bech Seeberg, M., Skaaning, S.-E., & Wahman, M. (2017). Candidate nomination, Intra-party Democracy, and Election Violence in Africa. ResearchGate.

Daxecker, U. E. (2012). The cost of exposing cheating: International election monitoring, fraud, and post-election violence in Africa. Journal of Peace Research.

Daxecker, U. E. (2013). All quiet on Election Day? International election observation and incentives for pre-election violence in African elections. Electoral Studies, 1-12.

Laakso, L. (2007). Insights into Electoral Violence in Africa. En M. Basedau, G. Erdmann, & A. Mehler, Votes, Money and Violence: Political Parties and Elections in Sub-Saharan Africa (págs. 224-252). South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.

Mehler, A. (2007). Political Parties and Violence in Africa: Systematic Reflections against Empirical Background. In M. Basedau, G. Erdmann, & A. Mehler, Votes, Money and Violence: Political Parties and Elections in Sub-Saharan Africa (pp. 194-223). South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.

Muna, W., & Otieno, M. (2020). The ‘Money Talks Factor’ in Kenya’s Public Policy and Electoral Democracy.

Niang, M. A. (n.d.). Case study: Burundi. EISA.

Odhiambo Owuor, F. (2013). The 2007 General Elections in Kenya: Electoral Laws and Process. EISA, 113-123.

Onyebadi, U., & Oyedeji, T. (2011). Newspaper coverage of post-political election violence in Africa: an assessment of the Kenyan example. Media, War & Conflict, 215-230.

Palmans, E. (n.d.). Burundi's 2010 Elections: Democracy and Peace at Risk? European Centre for Electoral Support.

Reynolds, A. (2009). Elections, Electoral Systems, and Conflict in Africa. The Brown Journal of World Affairs, 75-83.

Categorías Global Affairs: África Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Ensayos

El conflicto del Sáhara se complica para España con la crisis migratoria en Canarias

La reactivación de la guerra en la excolonia deja a Madrid con poco margen de maniobra por la ola migratoria que llega al archipiélago canario.

La reactivación de la guerra en la excolonia deja a Madrid con poco margen de maniobra por la ola migratoria que llega al archipiélago canario

España no ha tenido nunca un fácil papel en el conflicto del Sáhara Occidental. Su salida de ese territorio norafricano se produjo en un contexto de prisa descolonizadora por parte de una ONU que luego ha preferido tomarse tiempo en el proceso. España se ha visto atascada entre la defensa de los derechos de los saharauis y la conveniencia de no perjudicar la complicada vecindad con Marruecos. Ahora que el Frente Polisario ha reabierto la guerra, con el fin de que algo se mueva internacionalmente en torno al conflicto, España se ve atada por crisis de la llegada de migrantes a Canarias, archipiélago situado frente a la línea divisoria de Marruecos y el Sáhara Occidental. He aquí un resumen de los últimos acontecimientos en la cuestión saharaui.


ARTÍCULO / Irene Rodríguez Caudet

El Frente Polisario ha declarado la guerra a Marruecos después de 29 años de paz. Esta organización, creada fundamentalmente para defender la independencia del Sáhara Occidental frente a España, representa una parte importante de la población saharaui que busca la autodeterminación de su pueblo.

El reino alauita, por su parte, reclama la soberanía sobre los territorios. Emprendió medidas que detonaron el reciente conflicto en el paso fronterizo de Guerguerat, donde unos manifestantes cortaron la carretera que une el Sáhara Occidental con Marruecos. Los militares marroquíes dispararon contra los asistentes a la concentración el 13 de noviembre y el Frente Polisario declaró el estado de guerra.

El Sáhara Occidental es un territorio en estado de descolonización desde 1960 bajo los auspicios de la ONU como parte de los procesos llevados a cabo durante la segunda mitad del siglo XX para poner fin a los imperios coloniales europeos. Este proceso prosiguió hasta 1975, año de la Marcha Verde, en la cual un ejército de 350.000 civiles marroquíes se adentró hacia la antigua colonia para reclamarla como suya, al lado de Mauritania. En ese momento, el Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro (Frente Polisario), dio inicio a una guerra de guerrillas que no encontraría un alto al fuego hasta 1991.

A pesar de los esfuerzos de Marruecos por poseer la antigua colonia española, los saharauis tienen proclamada su propia república desde 1976, la República Árabe Saharaui Democrática (también conocida bajo el acrónimo RASD), reconocida por varios estados —en total 84, aunque más de la mitad de ellos han cancelado, congelado o suspendido el reconocimiento dada la violación de sus obligaciones internacionales— y presidida por Brahim Gali.

Desde que España abandonó el territorio, la ONU ha dictado varias resoluciones que exigen la celebración de un referéndum de autodeterminación que marque el futuro del Sáhara Occidental como país independiente o proponga otras alternativas.

En este conflicto, las diferentes partes involucradas siguen distintas estrategias. Marruecos, por su lado, tiene la intención de prolongar el conflicto para poder consolidar su poder en territorio saharaui. No contempla la independencia de la excolonia española, sino que promueve planes de autonomía limitada en un proyecto de Acuerdo Marco conocido como la “tercera vía” para lo que considera sus provincias meridionales. Además, ocupa estas provincias militarmente, mediante pasos fronterizos, seis bases militares y con más de la mitad del territorio saharaui bajo su control.

Frustrado por la posición inmovilista de las Naciones Unidas, el Frente Polisario siempre ha contado con la amenaza de retomar el conflicto armado. La RASD solo consta de unos pocos territorios que estén completamente supervisados por ella —aproximadamente una cuarta parte del Sáhara Occidental— y ha obtenido menos reconocimiento mundial que el Frente Polisario como organización, al que la ONU admite como representante del pueblo saharaui.

La falta de nuevas propuestas más imaginativas procedentes de la ONU, junto con la actitud de las partes involucradas, en particular de la marroquí, han imposibilitado el avance hacia una solución satisfactoria del conflicto. La falta de progreso, sin embargo, no obedece únicamente a estas razones. También es necesario tener en cuenta los refugiados saharauis radicados en Tinduf, Algeria. Es la crisis humanitaria más larga de la historia, que lleva 45 años prolongándose y afecta a 173.600 refugiados, de los cuales muchos no han conocido otra vida.

La estrategia violenta, que imperó durante más de quince años, se dejó de lado en 1991 para mantener un alto el fuego y para pasar a tácticas de negociación que no están siendo muy fructíferas. Pese a los intentos de acuerdos pacíficos, a mediados de noviembre de este año, el Frente Polisario decretó el estado de guerra, poniendo fin a una paz que se mantuvo durante casi 20 años.


Marruecos reclama los territorios saharauis como suyos y llega al punto de incluirlos sin tapujos como parte de Marruecos en los mapas oficiales del Reino más recientes, semejantes a los de inicios del siglo XX, momento en el cual el país magrebí tenía el control sobre el Sáhara. Por esa razón, después de la colonización española y la posterior descolonización, Marruecos reclama la excolonia. Según expresan constantemente sus autoridades, las llamadas “provincias saharauis” siempre han estado bajo su soberanía.

El conflicto no solo enfrenta a Rabat con El Aaiún, sino que también involucra a las partes que apoyan a unos líderes o a otros. Por un lado, están los países árabes —Jordania, Arabia Saudí, Qatar, Emiratos Árabes Unidos o Kuwait— que apoyan a Marruecos, y por otra parte una nación, que a pesar de tener un deseo muy expreso de ejercer su propia soberanía y reclamar la legitimidad de la RASD, cuenta con pocos o ningún apoyo internacional.

En 2021, la MINURSO, la misión desplegada por la ONU para garantizar la paz y la celebración del referéndum de autodeterminación, cumplirá 30 años desde que empezó su despliegue; a día de hoy cuenta con 240 observadores, pero no ha visto coronado su objetivo. Los saharauis defienden que la tarea de la ONU no ha sido efectiva en ningún aspecto y que únicamente ha permitido el expolio marroquí de los recursos naturales del Sáhara. Tampoco se ha observado ningún avance respecto al referéndum de autodeterminación, y la falta de acción ha llevado al levantamiento del alto el fuego por parte del gobierno saharaui. El Frente Polisario ha optado ahora por emprender estas medidas dado que cada vez se hace más evidente la falta de avances de la misión de la ONU.

El país de Mohammed VI ha enviado efectivos para apaciguar las manifestaciones en las principales ciudades saharauis y en las vías de comunicación que conectan Marruecos con Sáhara Occidental. Mientras tanto, su contraparte asegura haber causado pérdidas materiales y humanas en las bases militares marroquíes situadas en territorio saharaui. Marruecos no reconoce ninguna de estas alegaciones, pero se defiende con uso de fuego frente a la amenaza del Frente Polisario.

Entre tanto, Dajla, la segunda ciudad más poblada del Sáhara Occidental, está sirviendo de corredor para pateras y cayucos, que en los últimos días llegan en multitud al puerto de Arguineguín, en Gran Canaria. Este hecho causa que Marruecos y España estén todavía más pendientes de la situación en el Sáhara y que tengan que afrontar este problema de forma conjunta, algo complicado debido a las históricas confrontaciones entre los dos países por el conflicto saharaui. Sin embargo, mientras unos están de paso, yéndose, otros vuelven a su tierra nativa: el Frente Polisario ha hecho un llamamiento a todos los saharauis que viven en territorio nacional y extranjero para unirse a la lucha.

La situación del Sáhara Occidental queda pendiente de nuevos desarrollos en el conflicto y de las decisiones que adopte Marruecos. Mientras hay posiciones internacionales que siguen reclamando la celebración de un referéndum de autoterminación, el statu quo acabar influyendo en la ONU para la aceptación de la propuesta de autonomía hecha por Marruecos. El gobierno español ha evitado pronunciarse a favor del plebiscito, aunque en esto hay división entre el PSOE y Podemos, formación que urge a la celebración de la consulta. Aunque la crisis migratoria de Canarias obedece a dinámicas más complejas, la sospecha de que Marruecos ha permitido la llegada de más refugiados en momentos decisivos del reabierto conflicto del Sáhara obliga a España a una actitud de cautela.

Categorías Global Affairs: África Seguridad y defensa Artículos

Mostrando el intervalo 1 - 10 de 27 resultados.