Africa-centred Solutions and Peace Processes in 2017
“Our world is in trouble. People are hurting and angry. They see insecurity rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and climate changing…societies are fragmented. Political discourse is polarized. Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide.”
IPSS (Institute of Peace and Security Studies)
Stalled Peace Processes
The above cases of peace deals do not tell the full story regarding the ups and downs of peace processes in Africa, including obstacles and challenges to the application and effectiveness of Africa centered solutions. Admittedly, Africa continues to face cases of stalled or collapse peace processes, including some of the peace deals reached in 2017 and those associated with major armed conflcts.
Some of the notable cases include Burundi, the CAR, Guinea Bissau, Mali, South Sudan, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and the DRC. The usual factors responsible for this include intransigence and the lack of political will amongst conflct parties, failure to implement agreements, fragmentation of armed groups, and tacit preference for military solutions. A few case studies are x-rayed here.
In East Africa, not much progress was recorded in the conflct in Burundi and South Sudan. In the former, there was a relative lull in violence and improvement in the security situation compared with 2015-6. However, human rights violations and the curtailment of civil liberties, targeted political assassinations and isolated skirmishes, continue unabated. Much of the violence is linked to the government and security forces, and the Imbonerakure (youth wing of the ruling CNDD party) and unidentified assailants.44 Politically, the East African Community sponsored Inter-Burundian Dialogue facilitated by former Tanzanian President Mkapa did not make much headway as opposition groups boycotted it over President’s Mkapa’s affiation of Nkurunziza’s presidency.45 In addition, the agreed deployment of 200 human rights observers and military advisers by the AU remains incomplete and underfunded.
South Sudan witnessed a reduction in violence between May and October largely due to the raining season, but violence resumed and increased and spread across the country during the following dry spell. One conservative estimate put the estimated number of fatalities in 2017 at around 1000, with up to 200,000 civilians seeking refuge at Protection of Civilian sites within UNMISS bases and another 700,00 displaced persons fleeing to neighboring states.47 The 2016 peace agreement brokered by IGAD was violated by all warring parties through unilateral actions designed to undermine the provisions of the agreement, especially by the ruling SPLMA/A government over power sharing, and redistricting arrangements. Violent clashes hardly abated even with the signing of additional ceasefire and peace agreements in 2017, including the June 2017 deal between an SPLM/A-IO faction based in Yei River and the SPLM/A in Kampala, Uganda. The 21 December ceasefire agreement signed by the major conflct parties in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, has yet to fully establish conditions for stability.
The fundamental issues in the South Sudan conflct remain unresolved; namely, the sharing of political power, representation, and control over resources. While the ruling SPLM/A government and the Riek
Machar-led main opposition SPLM/A-IO remain the key actors, several splinter and affected militias as well as communal armed groups have sprung in recent times to further complicate the conflct.
South Sudan is dotted by a complex network (layers) of several conflcts playing out simultaneously, and most are coloured by inter-communal, inter-ethnic, and ethno-political competition for power.
For instance, inter-communal clashes is estimated to have reached unprecedented levels in the half of 2017 with nearly 1.5 times more conflct events involving ethno-communal militias compared with
the same period in 2016.
The upsurge in violence in 2017 was a consequence of several factors, including the splintering of conflct parties and armed groups, intransigence of parties, and preference for military solutions.
In March, for instance, General Cirillo Swaka resigned from the SPLM/A and formed the National Salvation Front (NSF) to protest alleged SPLM/A agenda of spreading ethnic violence. The SPLMA/-
IO also suffered internal tensions and splintering by affected militias, some of who are reported to have joined the NSF.50 The conflct was further complicated by rising criminality (armed robberies
and muggings) in Juba. Several battles were recorded in Yei River state (south of Juba), Eastern and Western Nile states, Greater and Central Equatoria and Upper Nile.51 Across these areas, armed groups exchanged control of territories with devastating impacts on civilians as evident in incessant executions, abductions, and looting and burning down of properties carried out by conflct parties.
The prospect for peace in South Sudan is grim, at least in the short to medium term, due to the attitude of key actors and the peculiar nature of the conflct. The political prospect is further compounded by economic problems, including fall in oil revenue, shortage of cash, huge budget shortfalls, and skyrocketing inflation (over 800%).52 The current situation is likely to further deteriorate with the possible foreclosure of free and fair elections, or any political settlement agreeable to the key actors in 2018.
In the Central African region, the broader conflct in the CAR surged in the level, intensity and spread of violence, especially those targeted against civilians leaving over 1,000 reported fatalities. This is in addition to increased attacks against aid agencies and MINUSCA that resulted in the killing of 13 aid workers and 34 MINUSCA peacekeepers in 2017 alone.53 Increased attacks against civilians also led to huge increases in the number of displaced persons to over 1.1 million (25% of country’s population) and the withdrawal of aid agencies.54 The security situation outside of the capital, Bangui, deteriorated in 2017 without major breakthrough in or momentum in the peace efforts. There was also no progress in the disarmament efforts given the weak implementation of sanctions.
Moreover, the Touadéra regime was progressively weakened by accusation of inadequate political will, corruption, and loss of popular support.55 To date, much of the country is still controlled by armed factions belonging to the ex-Séléka and anti-Balaka groups.
The configuration of conflct actors and violence continue to reflect the consolidation of sectarian identities; for instance, predominantly Christian anti-balaka groups target Muslim communities, and vice versa. In addition to existing armed groups, new militias also emerged in 2017, including the Retour, Reclamation and Rehabilitation (3R) formed to protect the Peuhl and Muslims against attacks by anti-balaka militias in places such as Ouham, Ouham-Pendé and Nana-Mambéré in the West.
The Union pour la Paix en Centrafrique (UPC) led by Ali Darassa Mahamat emerged in Bambari to control gold mining and protect Fulanis against FPRC.57 Much of the battles in 2017 involved the UPC and FPRC-MPC in Bambari and the larger Ouaka region. Thus battles continued between intraseleka factions (FPRC versus UPC); between ex-seleka and anti-balaka groups; and between antibalaka groups versus civilians and MINUSCA. It is unlikely that the renewal and strengthening of the mandate of MINUSCA and the authorized increase in its personnel by 900 will change the current conflct dynamic on ground in any significant way.
In West Africa and the Sahel, the conflct in Mali continued in 2017 without much breakthrough in the full implementation of the 2015 Peace Agreement. In fact, the two-year interim period under the peace agreement elapsed without the implementation of key provisions such as cantonment, joint patrols, interim authorities and DDR. This was in spite of two major factions signing a definitive cessation of hostilities accord that re-committed them to the full implementation of the 2015 agreement. Much of problem relates to opposition to constitutional changes proposed by the Keita regime and the general slow pace of some of the government reforms. Other factors include tensions and fragmentation among the coalitions of armed groups as well as changes in their configurations, especially those that emerged in the aftermath of the 2015 peace deal.
Furthermore, there was a major relapse into violence during the first half of 2017 caused by continued disagreement on the composition and inauguration of interim authorities in Northern Mali, and as a result of the activities of a new coalition of armed Islamist groups, the Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, JNIM, also known as Al Qaeda in Mali, AQM. Armed attacks by JNIM affiates quickly spread across the border into Burkina Faso and Niger just as they peaked in the North and shifted to Central and Southern Mali.60 Violence also rose as a result of ethnic clashes involving the Fulanis and Bambaras over grazing land,61 and also between the main rebel group known as Coordination of Movements of the Azawad, CMA, and the pro government Imghad Tuareg and Allies Self-Defense Group (GATIA).