Tag Archives: UNSC

Conflicts to Watch in 2013 (Part I)

1 Jan

The Council on Foreign Relations and Foreign Policy have both come out with lists of potential conflicts to watch in 2013.  Both provide good summaries of potential global hotspots, but instead of concentrating on potential geopolitical struggles, I’d like to take a brief look at the conflicts that will likely be important for civilian protection advocates.  While the conflicts in the DRC and Burma, for example, are always at the top of the civilian protection list, I’d like to focus on six conflicts that have the potential to 1) impact civilian populations and 2) take a very different form in 2013 than they did in 2012.  Here are the first three.

Sudan

The insurgencies in Blue Nile and South Kordofan are likely to continue, and the government’s heavy handed response is also likely to stay the same.  While these two issues are currently the country’s two biggest humanitarian crises, they might not even be the biggest problems in 2013.  Growing divisions within the NCP caused what appears to have been a coup attempt in November, and combined with the return of #SudanRevolts, Bashir now looks far weaker than he has in years. Jay Ulfelder’s 2013 coup forecasts puts the chances of another coup in Sudan at number two worldwide, an event which is likely to not only initiate major power struggles within the Khartoum elite, but also involve various factions fighting it out on the ground.  There is also a real danger of a low-intensity war between North and South Sudan along the border, as the North continues to bomb within Southern territory.  In South Sudan, cattle raids between the Dinka, Lou Nuer, and Murle tribes are accruing huge casualties, and there are no signs that the South Sudanese governments will seriously address this crisis.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan has been in the news for years as one of the most violent places in the world, but in 2013, it’s only going to get worse.  In short, U.S. policy in Afghanistan has been a total failure, and the Afghan government does not look ready to govern on its own once U.S./NATO forces begin their draw-down, and eventually leave in 2014.  Afghan security forces are ill-trained and unable to function independently, the government is impressively corrupt, the Taliban remains strong, and Pakistan continues to meddle.  All of these factors point to an uptick in violence in the coming year.  There are few positive signs for 2013.

Mali

Designating Mali as the new Afghanistan is simplistic, but like Afghanistan, Mali is a hot mess.  In March, junior officers angry at the government’s inability to properly supply soldiers fighting a Taureg rebellion in the north mutinied, and then, perhaps accidentally, seized the state.  A few weeks later, Tuareg rebels succeeded in pushing Malian forces at of northern Mali and declared the independence or a new state, Azawad.  Since then, there has been another coup against a prime minister who pulled too hard on the leash held by the original coup plotters.  Despite facades of democracy, the real power in Mali rests in Kati, an army town outside of Bamako.

In the north, things are even worse.  Following the defeat of the the Malian army, the situation in the north collapsed into yet another civil war, as the MNLA, a secular Tuareg group, battled Ansar Dine, an Islamist faction.  The Islamists eventually gained the upper hand.  The struggle for Azawad is a complex mix of ethnic and political affiliations, and this deadly, multifaceted conflict has had a disastrous affect on the civilian population.  The conflict has caused a full-fledged humanitarian crisis, with hundreds of thousands becoming either refugees or internally displaced.  On December 20th, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to back the creation of the international force to retake northern Mali.  The plan, according to both Susan Rice (who called it “crap) and Daniel Drezner, has some problems, “…the Security Council has pledged to send peacekeepers on a timetable that makes academic publishing seem speedy, without any idea of how it will be funded, staffed, or operate with indigenous forces, married to vague calls for political action to lay the groundwork for said peacekeepers.”  With or without an intervention force, the lack of any real progress toward a political solution will mean a long, deadly year for northern Mali.

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What We Mean When We Say “Security Sector Reform”

20 Dec

I’ve always been suspicious of security sector reform (SSR).  This partially comes from a lack of clarity regarding how it would be implemented in the DRC, and what the term even means.  Is it human rights classes, military advisers, or a goal that other governments ask Congo to move toward?  These competing definitions cloud the real meaning, and in my experience, security sector reform is a vague term that is not afforded the appropriate scrutiny.  I wish I were able to create better policy proposals regarding SSR than I am, but even without that expert knowledge, there are several problems with SSR proposals that I see.

Firstly, the term “reform” is misleading.  When we talk about SSR we really mean “security sector enhancement”.  Surely, there are parts of SSR, such as increasing civilian levels of control over the military, that fall under the reform category, but the meat of the proposed measures, such as increasing pay and professional behavior, are enhancements.  Therefore, I think it is important to acknowledge that security sector reform isn’t just an effort to create a more humane army; it intends to mold the FARDC into a more effective killing machine.  A more efficient military can strengthen security, but recognizing that SSR intends to better arm an armed force with a terrible record of human rights is vital.  Secondly, speaking about SSR without acknowledging the way it shapes our discourse on solutions is detrimental to advocacy and analysis.   Any military conclusion in eastern Congo will have to be accompanied by a robust political solution (and perhaps even talk of a solution is misguided).  SSR is a likely component of any civilian protection strategies in eastern Congo, but it is only one component.  The roots of the violence are localized conflicts, poor governance, and foreign meddling, and creating a more professional army won’t solve any of the three.

For me, SSR is problematic for the reasons listed above.  More broadly, however, I fear what will happen in a country with a strong military and weak institutions.   Human rights classes and increased civilian control are fine, but giving an abusive army more guns and training on how to make them more deadly?  As we saw during the Congolese elections, increasing military capacity in a country with weak democratic institutions is just as likely to lead to an increase in repression as security.  Significant caution, which I have not seen, is necessary before preceding with SSR.  I, of course, can not speak for anyone else (much less high-level policy makers who I have very little contact with), but I worry that this caution is not present in many individuals I’ve interacted with.  There are so few policy options regarding Congo, and so advocates and policy makers are much more likely to cling to the few options they have, even if they’re bad options.