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Libya: From the Arab Spring to the identity dissolution

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Of all the states of the Maghreb and Mashreq of the Middle East and North Africa that have experienced the phenomenon of the “Arab Spring” resulting, in some of them, with removing the gerontocratic dictatorships, Libya is a country that has known one of the most striking forms of post-revolutionary development: from the internationally supported banishment of the dictator Muammar al-Gaddhafi in 2011, to a democracy sabotaged from its very first stage of germination, by identity conflicts and tribal and caste contradictions. In the period which followed, up to the present stage where, from the first half of 2014, the former Jamahiriya presents itself to the observer as a state of armed militias, of ambitions for power, of anarchy and rapid slippage towards social dissolution and, apparently, by towards misidentification and national fragmentation.

The fratricidal struggles between the Libyans are not recent, they arose when the TV in print media presented the bloodied and death disfigured face of the one who was the “the great leader of the revolution of September 1, an image in which all Libyans saw a sign of victory, but which each understood ac- cording to ambitions, interests, adventurism and aspirations of power and influence groups, families, tribes and clans of the most diverse, in a society whose demography is perhaps more acutely than in the case of the other Arab states, marked by a complicated ethnic and centrifugal plurimorfism which, in addition to Arabs, is composed of other ethnicities: Imazighen (Berbers), Greeks, Maltese, Italians, Pakistanis, Turks, Indians.  In the well-known tradition of faith in predestination and shifting responsibility for what is going on to anyone else but themselves, the Libyans do not cease to accuse the West, unanimously and regardless of the divisions that separate them, for the state in which Libya is today, nearly four years after the removal and trial less murder of Colonel Gaddhafi, in an advanced state of dissolution.

There is no doubt that the Western community and the influential Arab powers have their share of responsibility the “Libyan spring” – which was and certainly will still be examined in the minutest details – but it is equally doubtless that the Libyans themselves have their own and overwhelming responsibility at least to have too easily forgotten their national identity, the values for which they fought with gun in hand and the free future they are entitled to, and this social, mercantile, customary, territorial ideological and confessional frag- mentation is most clearly expressed in the realities of the multitude of “patriots” and “nationalists” who, on behalf of outdated vocal slogans, defend their own fortifications of concepts and interests.  This study aims to present, to the extent allowed by the printing space, a picture of Libya today, viewed from several perspectives – political, security and military – to facilitate a deeper understanding of contemporary Libya and the chaos in which it is struggling.   

A land of independent ”revolutionaries”  Today, the “private” armed militias are making the law in Libya. Their emergence, which coincided with the overthrow in August 2011, of the Gaddhafi regime, has at least two causal reasons: massive and brutal use of the former regime from, the early moments of social unrest, of military repression against the demonstrators, which determined their reaction to retaliate by using weapons, and secondly, limiting the actions taken by NATO regarding the air bombardment of the positions held by the military or by supporters of the former dictator, in parallel with the arming and the financial and logistical support of the protesters, in order to tilt the balance of forces in their favor. Well armed, both the revolutionaries and the military, the police and security forces defeated with the help of the Western military intervention, were organized in militia divided into two hostile camps, so that, in the next three years, amid the chronic political in- stability and the inability of the installed authorities (by the Western coalition leading the “democratic” Libya) to dissolve the extra-institutional and military formations and end the “militia phenomenon”, they grew numerically and from the point of view of the manpower, becoming, in their whole, a political, military and security force even stronger and more active than the governments that have succeeded and even than the national army.  
According to former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, if in the first days after the fall of Gaddhafi, the number of the “armed” rebels was around 30,000 people, today we speak of the active existence of more than 200,000 “militia” members of various colorations and ideological affiliations. Moreover, with time, the extra-governmental armed formations mosaic managed to impose itself and to substitute the very military institution in the execution of the state security and defense missions normally assigned to the army and police, such as the security and pro- tection of the major importance objectives (port facilities, oil fields, ports, airports, borders etc.).

We are currently experiencing the dramatic situation in which the government itself uses the services of the militia in this sense, as the same procedure is applied to the political parties or alliances engaged in the power struggle or in the liquidation of their political opponents. It is understood that, for their services, the militias require proper rewards which refer not only that the “beneficiaries” satisfy their pragmatic and group claims (of economic-financial nature), but also issues related to the sphere of politics or the interest of national and social unity, as in the case of the request for the establishment of the independent administrative region Brega – the most important reservoir of oil resources of the country – or the monopolization of oil exports out of the control of  any governmental control the requests being supported even by forceful action – the taking over of government and legislative offices, including the parliament building (which was forced, at gunpoint, to adopt the famous law of “political isolation (lustration) of the uncomfortable politicians”, especially those with a Ghaddafist past. In the same category is included  the use of the militias, by the political factors, either to repress peaceful demonstrations calling for reforms and improving the living standards, or for attacking foreign commercial consular or diplomatic representative offices, resulting in hostage taking and even fatalities.  
With the appearance of the retired General Khalifa Haftar on the political-military scene, leader of the inter-militia alliance self-entitled “Karamat Libya” (Dignity of Libya), fierce conflicts and political disputes appeared both within the government coalition and in the parliament, em- bodied, inter alia, by recourse to the support of the “private militias” to resolve political disputes and to organize, in early August, new anticipated elections, which resulted in the establishment of a new parliament and of a new executive disputed by the opponents, so that Libya offers the novelty of a country that has two simultaneous governments and two parliaments which repel each other, not hesitating to support their positions by appealing to strong arguments of the “party and clan militias”.   
The morphology of the military scene the current picture of the Libyan military spectrum dominated by militias is divided be- tween two large groups of armed formations, whose membership we will present in the following lines: It is the alliance that acts as the “Libya Dawn” (Fajr Libya) and its self-entitled adversary “Libya’s Dignity” (Karamat Libya) led by (ret.) General Khalifa Haftar.   

I. The alliance “Libya Dawn” (Fajr Libya) is organized as the oldest structure, consisting of formations encountered in the context of the revolution and the most heterogeneous in what regards the ideological orientations and programmatic objectives. The “alliance” is com- posed of the following main militant currents:  1) The “Shield of Libya” militias (Dar’u Libya) consisting of three regional divisions (central, eastern and western). Having its operational pivot in the Missurata region and city it is, in its great majority, composed of militant-Islamist elements whose ideology and doctrine are inspired and close to those of the “Muslim Brotherhood” movement. 2) “The Libyan Revolutionaries Operations Center”, an Islamist armed militia which acts mainly in the eastern areas of the national territory, fulfilling police specific missions. The formation was constituted in mid-August 2013, in Tripoli, through the merger of several “revolutionary” armed groups.

3) “The Revolutionary Phalanx of Tripoli ” (Katibat Thwwar Tarablus), a rebel formation of Islamist ideological doctrine affiliation, close to Abdel Hakim Belhajj, former leader of the Libyan Is- lamic opposition party “Al-Gama Al- Libiya Al-Muqatila” (the Libyan combat group). “The Phalanx” was founded by a former member of this group, Al-Mahdi Al-Harati (also founder of a Jihadist faction fighting in Syria) and who became after the Revolution … mayor of the capital Tripoli.  4) “The Shoura Council of the Revolutionaries of Benghazi”, appeared on June 20, 2014 as a partnership between several tiny Salafist-Jihadist groups, with the objective of fighting against forces led by (ret.) General Khalifa Haftar and the so-called “Al-Saika Battalion”, made up of former soldiers and officers of the Libyan army.  5) “February 17 Brigade”, considered to be the largest and best equipped formation, created as an “armed arm” of the Libyan “Muslim Brotherhood” movement. It works in the port city of Benghazi in the east. 6) “Al-Sahat Ra’fatallah Detachments” that is also present in the perimeter of Benghazi. Although it has announced its willingness to be integrated into the national army, the group has kept two training camps and its entire armament. It was the first militia which engaged fights with General Haftar’s troops in May this year.

7) The “Group of the Shari’a Partisans” militias (Gama’at Ansar Al-Shari’a). The main and most active Jihadist-Salafist party in Libya constituted, in addition to local Libyans, of thousands of foreign fighters coming, especially from Algeria, Tunisia and the sub-Saharan Sa- hel African countries. The group is on the list of terrorist organizations drawn up by the US Sta- te Department.  8) The group “The First Shield of Libya”, of Jihadist orientation, was established and operates in the city of Tripoli. More recently it has merged with the group “Gama’at Ansar Al- Shari’a”, alongside which it is engaged in confrontations with the armed formations led by General Khalifa Haftar.   
II. The Alliance “Libya’s Dignity” (Karamat Libya) is, in turn, a combination of armed military formations constituted by former Libyan soldiers and national army officers which is present in several conflict regions of the country. Accused by the alliance groups “Libya Dawn” of having “anti-revolutionary” objectives and character, the alliance is created and commanded by (r) Lieutenant General Khalifa Haftar and is composed by the following main entities:  1) “Libyan National Army” Forces, which include about a third of the soldiers and officers of the Libyan military. It is under the direct command of General Khaif Haftar.  2) “Al-Sai’ka” Forces (Thunderbolt), coming from the elite units of the national army and ordered by Colonel Younes Abu Hamadeh.  3) “Al-Sawaiq” Brigade (Lightning), belonging to the family of Al-Zintan – the largest as- sociation of Libyan tribes – well equipped and trained, and similar, in what regards the specific tasks and structure, with the Western private security firms. It is commanded by General- Colonel Mustafa Trabulsi, who is in close relations with the monarchy of the United Arab Emir- ates, from which he receives substantial financial and logistical aid.  4) “Qa’qaa” Brigade (translatable, approximately, by “thunder”, “noise” or “weapon noise”), established in 2011 as an armed militia of revolutionaries who fought against the armed forces loyal to Colonel Gaddhafi. It is commanded by Osman Mleiqta

5) “Warshafana” Battalion, a militia calling itself after the name of the tribal clan Warshfana from the ranks of which come most combatants.  6) “Libyan Tribes Council” Battalion, composed of Warshafana clan warriors and several close and ally tribes, in kinship with it.  7) “Tibou” tribal union forces, in the extreme south of the Libyan territory.   
The polarization of the political scene  In July 2012, were held the first free general election that Libya has experienced in the last half century and which provided a first look at the guidelines and beliefs of the Libyan electorate under the new conditions after the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Al-Ghaddafi and his “Jamahiriyan” regime. At that time, 80 of the 200 members of the new parliament in Tripoli – People’s General Congress – were elected on party lists, while the rest, the majority of 120 MPs awarded a nominal victory on the vote. Unlike other countries that have experienced the phenomenon of the “Arab Spring”, the poll revealed the landscape of the predominant orientation of the citizens towards the political liberal mainstream led by Mahmud Jibril who, with a total of 39 seats in parliament, was invested as the first head of post-revolutionary Libyan government.

At the other extreme, another party which entered the election race, the National Front, member of the political coalition self-named National Rescue Front, succeeded to win only three parliamentary seats. Instead, the Justice and Edification Party, derived from the Muslim Brotherhood movement received 17 seats, while two other Islamist parties – Nation’s Party, a center party led by Sami Saadi and the Center National Party, led by Ali Tarhouni, each obtained only two seats in the parliament.   However, the Libyan political life was to focus, quickly, in a different direction than the one crystallized in the first democratic election ballot, that of a strong centrifugal and multipolar movement, generated, in particular, by party, tribal and personal interests of the Libyan political class, so that, at the moment, the Libyan political map has the following plurimorphous configu- ration:  1. National Forces Alliance formed in the wake of the removal from power of the Gaddafi regime and consisting of a mosaic of the first forces and political trends that Libya knew after decades of dictatorship.

The alliance includes a small number of 41 political parties, hun- dred of independent members and civil society organizations and it is headed by Mahmoud Ji- bril, a former member of the Transitional National Council, formed after the regime change in the country. Proclaiming democracy, national identity and human rights as guiding principles of its program, the Alliance is ideologically characterized as liberal and secular, even though its leader, Mahmoud Jibril, said in July 2012, that the Shari’a Islamic law is the main principle of the Alliance’s actions which, besides the already mentioned guidelines, stands for accepting and encouraging the so-called “mid-moderate Islam”. At the legislative elections of July 2012, the Alliance won 39 seats out of the 200 seats of the Libyan parliamentary forum.   

2. “National Front” Party (Al-Djabha Al-Wataniya) set up in Tripoli, on the remains of the former National Rescue Front (created as a clandestine opposition movement in 1981, au- thor of a failed attempt to overthrow the regime Muammar Al-Ghaddafi by force, in 1984). Be- tween 1987 and 1990, the Salvation Front continued to organize military structures, using for this purpose the territory of the neighboring African country Chad, where they were set up as the “Libyan Patriotic Army”, which was subsequently to be actively involved in armed anti- Gaddhafi confrontations until his removal from power. The National Front, formed after this moment, in 2011, enrolled in its political platform approx. 16 principles and action objectives, including the adherence to the values of democracy, civilian and human freedoms, ensuring the establishment of political plural- ism as an expression of the freedom of opinion, etc. At present, the party is led by Mohammed Mugrif, who was, between 2012 and 2013, the president of the new Libyan parliament (the General National Congress).  

3. The “Muslim Brotherhood” Movement in Libya, which appeared in 1949, but, unlike the Egyptian and Tunisian branches of the “Muslim Brotherhood”, has failed to achieve a significant dissemination in its ideology among the masses, trade unions, and civic organizations, due, mainly, to the draconian repressive measures applied by the Ghaddafi regime. Only on March 3, 2012, did the Movement announce the establishment of a political party of its own, under the name of the “Justice and Edification Party” led by Mohammed Sawwan. Freedoms and human rights, participation of all citizens, without discrimination, to the edification of the society, decentralization and economic liberalization, balanced development of all provinces and regions of the country, reducing unemployment, increasing chances at a job and a life of dignity for all citizens, achieving social harmony and concord, are just some of the objectives of the political program of this party which during the elections in June 2014, won 14 seats in the Legislative forum of Libya.   

4. The federalist political current formed during the revolutionary events of 2011 from the representatives of the Libyan historical provinces Brega and Fezzan, wishing for the cessa- tion of the state of marginalization and underdevelopment that they had experienced during the former regime, claims from the new post-revolutionary authorities to be reintroduced in the na- tional circuit of resources and social and economic values of development. More than one year after the revolution and in response to the indifference with which the authorities in Tripoli have treated these claims, a group of officers led by Ahmed Senoussi Zubeir and several tribal leaders from eastern regions of the country, declared the establishment of a “Council of the Federal Province Brega”, headed by Ahmed Senoussi and having as programmatic objective the “protection and promotion of the province in a federal liberal state”. Simultaneously, another entity led by Ibrahim Jazran, organized as an armed militia, self-proclaimed independent as the “Political Bureau of the Province Brega”, taking control by force, of the oil terminals destined for the Libyan oil exports, as a means of pressure on the central authority to satisfy their grievances, among which the first was the demand for the establishment of the autonomous province Brega within the borders it had during the monarchy period of the Libyan history (from the city of Sirte to Tobruk, near the state border with Egypt). The current is known, in terms of the crises it has caused, and as the “Armed Liberal Current”.   

5. Tibou Movement is the ethnic and tribal groups settled in northern and western part of Chad, in the Tibesti mountain range in the south-eastern oases of Libya, in the far western part of Sudan and northern Nigeria. These are nomadic Bedouin tribes with a total population of approx. 5 million people (of which approx. 400,000 are Libyans), divided into 38 tribes and having as main occupation agriculture and sheep breeding. The Libyan ethnicity of the Tibou group was, starting in 2007, involved in protest and resistance actions against the Gaddafi regime, establishing, in this sense, its own political party the “Tibou Front for the Salvation of Libya”. According to the Tibou leader, Abdel Magid Mansour, the number of the Tibou combat- ants amounts to 1,200.   

The evolution of the internal crisis – main stages  The tensions on the Libyan political and social scene have entered into a process of rapid degradation and violent confrontation with taking control, by the armed militias, of the “field” initiative, which led to continuous pressure put on the policy makers and on the legislative and executive leadership, which progressively amplified the armed confrontations and the regional and international interference in the internal affairs of this country.  – In May 2013, the Parliament adopted the so-called “Law of Political Isolation” aimed at removing the former regime officials and supporters of Gaddafi from the political life. The adoption of the law occurred as a result of the pressure of the armed groups, after they took over government offices, including those of the Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs and threatening to extend such actions.  – On August 3, 2013, armed separatist groups occupied major oil fields by force, claiming the autonomy of the province Brega.

The action, also continued this year, has brought huge losses to the national budget by stopping royalties and income from oil exports.  – In the same month, a new actor in the person of General Khalifa Haftar appeared on the political-military fringes along with his military coalition “Libya’s Dignity”, which marked the entrance of the internal situation in a stage of chaos, violent clashes and of personal and group vengeances, all resulting in loss of life and in significant losses and damage to the national economy of the country.  – On 10 March 2014, the then Prime Minister of the Libyan government, Ali Zeidan chose to resign, taking refuge in Germany after a loaded tanker managed to escape unhindered off- shore in the direction North Korea being, however, stopped by US ships patrol and brought back to the Benghazi port. In Zeidan’s place, the parliament invested Defense Minister Abdallah Al Thaniy to lead the Executive, but he also resigned after a few days, due to his inability to form a new national unity government.  – In early May 2014, the General National Congress (the Parliament) appointed Ahmad Moaytiq as Prime Minister, but the appointment was annulled by the Constitutional Court; – In mid-May this year, Gen. Khalifa Haftar ordered the beginning of the “Libya’s Dignity” national scale operation against the Islamist rebel groups and formations. – June 25: gathered in Cairo, the representatives of Libya’s neighboring states called all groups, forces and militias involved in the confrontation to accept the initiation and execution of an extensive dialogue of national reconciliation, promising, at the same time, to refrain from any intervention in the internal Libyan problem. In its turn, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution to that effect, warning the imposition of international sanctions if the players on the Libyan fringes do not accept a general cease-fire. – On July 21, the Libyans elected a new parliament dominated by liberals and Islamists.
The United States decided to close its embassy in Tripoli and evacuate the personnel.  – As of mid-July, the Libyan conflict takes on the dimensions and characteristics of a genuine civil war, particularly carried out in Tripoli and Benghazi.  – August 4, 2014: the elected Libyan Parliament held its first meeting at Tobruk, in the absence of the Islamist MPs. At the request of Tunisia, a new meeting of the representatives of the neighboring countries is held in Algiers, to analyze the possibilities of achieving a cessation of hostilities between Libyans. Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Mali, Niger and Chad are participating. – August 18 2014: Foreign bombardment devices of unknown identity perform bombing raids on the positions held by Islamist militias and on the international airport in Tripoli. Egypt and the UAE are charged with these actions. Both Cairo and Abu Dhabi reject the accusations.  – August 23: the “Libya Dawn” coalition militias (Fajr Libya) take control on the international airport in the Libyan capital. The Parliament in Tobruk declares the Jihadist groups “Ansar Al-Shari’a” and “Fajr Libya” terrorist organizations. Libya is a country with two governments and two parliaments (Tripoli and Tobruk) who deny each other’s legitimacy. – On August 25, the National General Council (whose mandate had expired since March) appoints Omar Al-Hassi as prime minister. The appointment is challenged by the Coun- cil (parliament) in Tobruk.  – September 4: According to a press release from the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva, about. 250,000 Libyans had fled their homes, finding shelter or in other areas of the country or in the neighboring countries.  

– September 7, 2014: A military transport plane loaded with weapons for the militia coalition “Libya Dawn” is intercepted and forced to land. Sudan’s military attaché is declared persona non grata and expelled in connection with this incident.  – September 22, 2014: the Libyan Parliament elected (in Tripoli) approved the composition of a second government led by Abdallah Al-Thaniy. 13 states (including the US and France) and the UN and the European Union address, in New York, a collective call for “an immediate ceasefire in the Libya immersed in political and security chaos” and the two parallel governments and parliaments each claims their legitimacy. – October 2, 2014: The violent fighting continued in Benghazi, 50% under the control of the Islamist rebels, between the “Shoura Council of the Revolutionaries of Benghazi” militia and units of the Alliance “Libya’s Dignity”, commanded by General Khalifa Al-Haftar, who sought help from the aviation and armor. Five attacks with explosives carried out by Islamist fighters caused the death of more than 50 soldiers from the units of General Haftar. The 15 members of the Security Council addressed a new call to the cessation of the armed confrontation, warning with the imposition of new international sanctions against Libya.  – On October 6, the self-entitled Jihadist movement “The Shoura Council of the Revolutionaries of Benghazi”, member of the “Libya Dawn” proclaimed the city and oil district Derna in the east of the country as “Islamic emirate”, pledging, at the same time, the oath of allegiance and loyalty to the leader of the Islamic State, “Caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was the first significant penetration of the Da’ish Jihadist offensive in Libya which, in the absence of an urgent national reconciliation dialogue between all parties involved in the Libyan war, “threatens to expand rapidly and make the Libyan territory the third part of the “Islamic caliphate” in Syria and Iraq”, according to Bernardino Leon, the representative in Libya of the UN Secretary General. – 15 to 16 October: the Libyan army and the forces led by General Khalifa Haftar triggered a strong ground offensive, supported by aircraft and armored vehicles, on the positions held by the Islamist militias in the northeast and in the city of Benghazi. News releases, formally belied both by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cairo and by the spokesman of the US State Department referred to the Egyptian involvement in the bombing raids on Islamist parties. The attacking units took control of the quarries in the south and west of the city Benghazi, as well as on the sites and logistics of the militia and self-entitled “February 17 Brigade” – the armed arm of the Libyan movement “Muslim Brotherhood”.  

Libya, which, after the dictatorship of Muammar Al-Gaddafi, went through a “bloody spring” just to come under the dictatorship of gangs, militias and armed tribes, seems to move rapidly towards social dissolution and national and territorial dismantling despite the regional and international community attempts to determine, through dialogue or through penalties and economic pressures, a ceasefire and transition to a national reconciliation process. Such prospects still remain remote, as long as, in addition to the ambitions and interests of the political class, of the “professional revolutionaries” and tribal influences, this situation is maintained by the regional actors, including by funding and support of a political orientation or of one or the other of the armed militias.  Will the new multinational anti-terrorist campaign have a positive influence – be it only as a warning – on this complicated and dramatic situation? Only short-term developments will allow an answer to this question.  

 

First published in “Geostrategic Pulse

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South Africa: Ruling ANC removes Jacob Zuma from Presidency

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South Africa’s ruling party ordered Jacob Zuma on February 13 to step down as head of state but gave him no firm deadline to go, setting the stage for a potential fight to wrest him from power.

Leading members of the African National Congress now want new party leader Cyril Ramaphosa to replace Zuma. Zuma had promised to respond to the order by Wednesday. That appeared to herald the end of the road for a leader whose near decade in power divided Nelson Mandela’s post-apartheid ‘Rainbow Nation’.

Since mid-November when Ramaphosa emerged as a real ANC leadership prospect, economic confidence has started to pick up. The rand – a telling barometer of Zuma’s fortunes – has gained more than 15 percent against the dollar over that period.

In explaining its decision to order Zuma to leave power, the ANC did not refer directly to the scandals surrounding his presidency. But it said his continued presence could “erode the renewed hope and confidence among South Africans” since the choice of new party leaders in December.

There was confusion over whether Zuma would address the public. Privately owned eNCA TV said Zuma would hold a media briefing at 10:00 a.m. local time (0800 GMT) on Wednesday, but an anchor on the state broadcaster SABC said the presidency had denied plans for such a briefing. Zuma’s spokesman could not be reached for comment.

ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule said he had met Zuma personally to pass on the order to resign “The organization expects him to go.” Zuma had asked the party to give him a notice period of three to six months but that had been rejected, Magashule said. The NEC believes that this is an urgent matter so it should be treated with urgency,” he said.

South Africa’s cabinet meeting set for Wednesday has been postponed indefinitely, the government’s communication service said. ANC chairman Gwede Mantashe told a meeting in the Eastern Cape province that the party had given Zuma an ultimatum to resign or face a motion of no-confidence, the Independent online news service reported. “Once you resist we are going to let you be thrown out through the vote of no confidence because you disrespect the organization and you disobey it, therefore we are going to let you be devoured by the vultures,” Mantashe said in a message to Zuma, according to the Independent.

Zuma is already facing a no-confidence motion in parliament set for Feb. 22 and brought by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters. The ANC could throw its weight behind such a vote if it lost patience with Zuma. But that would be a painful option for the ruling party. “Instructing MPs to vote with the opposition and against their own leader would add to splits in the party and provide an embarrassing political coup to the opposition,” a leader Ashbourne said.

Zuma himself engineered the ouster of former President Thabo Mbeki in 2008 shortly after taking the helm of the ANC. Mbeki was also “recalled” by the party, ending a nine-year rule marked by economic growth but marred by accusations of abuse of power that he denied.

In power since 2009, President Jacob Zuma has been dogged by corruption allegations. Zuma’s presidency has been overshadowed by allegations of corruption which he has always vehemently denied. In 2016, South Africa’s highest court ruled that Zuma had violated the constitution when he failed to repay government money spent on his private home.

Last year the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that he must face 18 counts of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a 1999 arms deal. More recently,  Zuma’s links to the wealthy India-born Gupta family, who are alleged to have influenced the government, have caused his popularity to plummet. Both Zuma and the Guptas deny the allegations.

Zuma has been living on borrowed time since Ramaphosa, a union leader and lawyer once tipped as Mandela’s pick to take over the reins, was elected as head of the 106-year-old ANC in December.

Zuma has resisted increasing pressure to quit since December, when Cyril Ramaphosa replaced him as leader of the ANC. It is unclear how Zuma will respond to the formal request to step down, which is expected to be issued later on Tuesday. Earlier, Ramaphosa left the meeting of the ANC’s national executive committee to travel to Zuma’s residence, where he is said to have told the president he would be recalled if he did not step down. He later returned to the ANC conclave.

Zuma has survived other such votes but he is not expected to pull it off again. A confidence vote would be considered a humiliating process for him and the party. South African media are calling President Zuma’s seemingly inevitable exit “Zexit”. His predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, resigned in 2008, also after a power struggle with his deputy. The deputy in question was Jacob Zuma, who took over the presidency the following year. Zuma cannot legally return to power in any case.

It will be very difficult for him to resist a formal request to resign but he would not be legally obliged to do so and could technically carry on as president despite losing the faith of his party. However, he would then be expected to face a confidence vote in parliament. This has already been scheduled for 22 February.

Jacob Zuma is the most colorful and controversial president South Africa has had since white-minority rule ended in 1994.  He has been a politician of nine lives, surviving a series of scandals which would have surely ended anyone else’s career. But Zuma, the man born into poverty who went into exile to fight apartheid before rising to become “the people’s president”, cannot survive forever.

Zuma’s bid for the presidency was written off before he had even really started. In the run-up to the 2009 election, he was simultaneously battling allegations of rape and corruption. He was acquitted of raping an HIV-positive family friend in 2006 – although the fact he told the court he had showered in order to avoid catching HIV would continue to haunt him throughout his presidency. His second – and final – term in office is coming to an end. He is no longer leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). And those charges of corruption – always vehemently denied – appear to be catching up with him. President Zuma, whose poor roots, charisma and strength in adversity partly explain his ability to hold on to power, is set to face his ninth vote of no confidence in parliament – if his own party doesn’t succeed in removing him first.

South African economy is tatters although cricket matches with India are in full swing to make extra money. The rand currency weakened, with traders blaming uncertainty caused by the lack of a clear timetable.

Since becoming president in 2009, Zuma has been dogged by scandal. He is fighting the reinstatement of corruption charges that were dismissed before he became president over a 30 billion-rand (now $2.5 billion) government arms deal arranged in the late 1990s. More recently, the country’s anti-corruption watchdog wrote in a 2016 report that the Gupta family, billionaire friends of Zuma, had used links with the president to win state contracts. The Guptas and Zuma have denied any wrongdoing.

South Africa’s economy has stagnated during Zuma’s nine-year tenure, with banks and mining companies reluctant to invest because of policy uncertainty and rampant corruption.

The party’s national executive was split on precisely when Zuma should step down. The ANC was badly rattled by its performance at the 2016 local elections when it won its lowest share of the vote since coming to power under the late Nelson Mandela in 1994. It wants to project a fresh image for next year’s general election. Having served two terms in office (South African presidents are elected by parliament), On Monday, opposition parties called for an early election to lead this country, must get their mandate from the people of South Africa

Though he has survived several no-confidence motions in the past, now his time is up. Zuma’s entire cabinet would have to step down if a parliamentary vote went through.

South African presidency is not for life time of Zuma who is no more wanted as president and he knows the signals.

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The Role of Sustainable Development in Preventing the Relapse of Conflict in Africa

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Authors: Charles Matseke and Bhaso Ndzendze

In this paper we will discuss the interplay between violence and development and lack thereof and then lay down the framework from which we situate the relationship. Secondly, we will articulate the role of sustainable development in preventing the relapse of conflict through two empirical studies (China and Rwanda). Then lastly, we will lay out some suggestions which the case studies point out in terms of future policies by South Africa as a leader in the continent, the AU as a continental multilateral body and the United Nations’ various organs.

The Peace-Development Nexus

Three disturbing patterns exist regarding civil wars and their recurrence. First, civil wars have a surprisingly high recidivism rate. Of the 103 countries that experienced some form of civil war between 1945 and 2009 (from minor to major conflict), only 44 avoided a subsequent return to civil war. That means that 57 percent of all countries that suffered from one civil war during this time period experienced at least one conflict thereafter. This confirms what Collier and Sambanis (2002) have called the “conflict trap;” once a country experiences one civil war, it is significantly more likely to experience additional episodes of violence.

Second, recurring civil wars have become the dominant form of armed conflict in the world today. In fact, since 2003 every civil war that has started has been a continuation of a previous civil war. Third, civil wars are increasingly concentrated in a few regions of the world. Prior to the end of the Cold War, civil wars were spread over almost every continent, in countries as diverse as Bolivia, Greece, Indonesia, Lebanon and Nicaragua. The end of the Cold War, however, brought an end to many of these conflicts, especially those in Central America and Southeast Asia. The result is a greater number of civil wars concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa.

The interplay between conflict and poverty is a storied one. With very few exceptions, where there is conflict, there is more often than not grinding poverty which acts to bring about conflict in a variety of ways:

Poverty leads to unemployment which in turn leads to a lack of opportunity cost for those youths especially who are both dis-incentivised away from being good and law-abiding citizens and in turn are drawn to violent groups, be they rebel militia and terrorist groups. Religious terrorist groups throughout the continent, capitalizes on local conditions by offering envisioned solutions to the grievance shared by the surrounding communities. They portray the situation in terms of an impoverished Nigerian Muslim population  as being oppressed by non-Muslim rulers, and “apostates” backed by sinister forces that intend to keep the local Muslim communities subservient.

According to James J. Forest, terrorists and criminals thrive in a climate of sustained grievances. It is no coincidence that the worst forms of political violence in Nigeria today originates in the most socio economically disadvantaged part of the country. In the north, where unemployment and poverty are the highest, radical Islamists and the imposition of Shari’ah have challenged the authority of the state (Forest, 2012: 45).In the south, where environmental destruction resulting from oil extraction in the Niger Delta has made local Nigerians traditional groups and armed militant gangs often consisting of unemployed youth have engaged in kidnapping, extortion, car bombings, murder, and other forms of violent attack against the government and the nation’s critical oil infrastructure. This shows that issues like ideology and ethnical grievances are merely benchmarks or contingents and that the real issue at the core of conflict is (1) a lack of resources, (2) a lack of opportunity and (3) therefore a lack of development. And allowing violent groups to provide the first two can lead to a complete shutoff of the third because civil violence in turn has developmental implications in several ways:

Firstly, terrorist attacks enhance uncertainty. This comes to limits investments and diverts FDI to “safer venues” (Gaibulloev and Sandler, 2011).

Secondly, augmented security outlays by a targeted government led to the crowd-out effect on what would otherwise be productive public and private investment.

Thirdly, an anti-terrorism campaign increases “the costs of doing business” through, for example, more expensive insurance premiums, higher wages, and higher security expenditures, which can themselves plummet profits, undermine productivity, and therefore economic growth.

Fourthly, in relation to the first point, terrorist attacks can lead to the undermining of growth through the destruction or degrading of social overhead capital that “facilitates commerce (for example, transportation, communication and electricity) and daily routines.”

Finally, terrorism tends to impact specific industries airlines and tourism and this may directly limit growth; “this may be especially true when terrorists target export-sector assets in an export-led-growth economy”. For example, states that purchase the target country’s export(s) may take their business elsewhere to states that have more reliability. (Gaibulloev and Sandler, 2011: 91-92).

The 2011 World Development Report’s authors argue that violence is not just one cause of poverty among many: it is becoming the primary cause. Countries that are prey to violence are often trapped in it. Those that are not are escaping poverty. This has profound implications both for poor countries trying to pull themselves together and for rich ones trying to help.Conflict in impoverished states thus becomes a self-reproducing loop which needs to be interrupted. Misunderstanding this relationship is what many states and organisations have done best, however.

The NATO aid budget for Afghanistan, for example, is focused almost entirely on military expenditure – about 90% — whereas only 10% is on developmental issues. And the shift in the White House’s rhetoric to further prioritise militant means over social ones and to not understand the factors leading to the need for violence in the first place further undermine multilateral efforts at culling conflict through development.

This section will now detail case studies wherein the logic discussed above has been lent some weight.

Brief Case Studies: In War and Peace, Poverty and Development

China: Performance Legitimacy and Beyond

Pre-1949 China, under the Qing was a political anomaly.Its feudal arrangement was one which the citizens were not entirely citizens and had no productive capacity. This, in addition to a lack of a stable and strong state, and one, moreover under increasingly intrusive Western control, lent itself to massive violence and chaos that resulted in a Warlord era, under which various civil insurgencies vied for control over the corpse of the once great empire.

But even when the People’s Republic was declared, and stability was brought onto the land, there was still the potential for massive citizen dissatisfaction and therefore of major uprising. Indeed, some scholars have argued that the Cultural Revolution only took place because youths were not incentivized away from violence. China is too big, and therefore preventing insurgency can only be done through massive development output and that is just what China has done since the 1970s.

To begin with, the Communist Party, has carried out what is labeled as “performance legitimacy” by political scientists through which it maintains its hold on power and brings about stability due to the wide approval it maintains due to its economic output. To that end, some 90% of Chinese society approve of the CCP; and some 60% of Chinese people believe their country is a democracy.

Additionally. In order to fight the perceived socioeconomic roots of terrorism, China has launched a number of development initiatives. Beijing is trying to stabilize the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region by improving the living standards of Uyghurs, creating jobs and integrating Xinjiang with the Chinese economic heartland. These efforts intensified with the proclamation of China’s Silk Road Economic Belt initiative in 2013.The Silk Road initiative has also brought about stability in the Asian continent outside of China’s borders to include the states of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan; Pakistan is a particularly interesting case in point because of the well-documented history is has had with terrorism.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) constitutes one of the largest foreign investments China has made in the framework of the OBOR initiative. The expenditures planned for the coming years in the amount of approximately $46-billion will further intensify relations between China and Pakistan as well as provide Beijing with access to the Arabian Sea, increasing its trade with Europe and the Middle East and Africa. On the other hand, there have been benefits for Pakistan, a country whose median age is 22.7 years, in terms of its fight against terrorism on which the government spends $67.93 billion per year fighting.

Already, this has been described by Pakistani officials as a “fate changer for Pakistan”; Pakistani economist Dr Gulfaraz Ahmed has estimated that some 700,000 jobs will be created along the silk road and through the newly created infrastructure and special economic zones and industrial zones. This is especially so in transportation, energy and some manufacturing.

Thus despite fears that the belt and road would be disrupted by violence, the Pakistani and Central Asian cases show the extent to which the violence can be pre-emptively halted through development.

Rwanda: Optimism, Economic Incentives and Social Responsibility

On 6 April 1994, with the world’s media focused on the election of Nelson Mandela, a plane was shot down in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. It had been carrying Rwanda’s president, Juvénal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the Hutu president of Burundi. The double assassination triggered the state-sponsored genocide of approximately 800,000 of Rwanda’s minority Tutsi population and moderate Hutus. The mass slaughter was carried out in 100 days by government-backed perpetrators in the army, police, militias and by thousands of Hutu civilians across the country.

In 1996 an OECD report stated that the Rwandan government and international financial institutions face a major challenge: “maintaining macroeconomic policy in favour of growth and development.”

One of the first things the new government did was to eliminate the reference to ethnicity in identification documents. From then on, the country’s inhabitants were all “Rwandans.” In fact, children are educated in schools that are strongly encouraged to desist from using potentially divisive labels. Pupils are discouraged from identifying themselves as Hutu or Tutsi and are instead asked to focus on building the future of a common Rwanda. To this end, in 2001, the government unveiled a new flag and national anthem.

The practice of doing regular community work, which was grounded in the Rwandan tradition of “umuganda,” was reintroduced not only as part of the effort to rebuild the country but as a way to foster a community spirit. Once a month, Rwandans are called upon to perform communal tasks such as building a house for the needy, laying a road or sweeping a square. On a national level, traditional community courts called “gacaca” were revived in 2001. Between 2005 and 2012 these courts tried almost two million people across the country.

For several years, the members of the community of Simbi have been organized in an agricultural cooperative called “Duharanire Ubumwe N’Ubwiyunge” – “Working Toward Unity and Reconciliation.” Together, the members of the cooperative want to boost agricultural production – for them, a sign of development.

The government in Kigali is also counting on economic progress to help the country achieve lasting reconciliation. A poverty reduction program, with measures such as the introduction of health insurance for all, the targeted improvement of educational opportunity as well as a promotion of the private sector had already yielded results

Rwanda had reduced its poverty rate by 12 percent within 5 years. It now stood at 45%, adding that in comparison to other African countries that was an extremely good result.

The capital, Kigali, has 1.2 million inhabitants. It is regarded as a symbol of Rwanda’s progress. In the city center, one commercial skyscraper after the next is being built. Mayor Fidele Ndayisiba is convinced that “if the pace of development continues, in 10 years time Kigali will be a modern, flourishing city.” Even if the people beyond the city center still have to wait for modernity to arrive, Rwandans are patient and optimistic about the future. Today D’ Artagnan Habintwali, the traumatized boy from Butare, is 25 years old. He has almost completed his studies and wants to become a writer. “There will come a time when everything will be alright,” he says confidently.

Today, the country can boast that 97% of its children attend primary school – the highest rate in Africa. UNESCO noted this by naming it as one of the top three countries globally for improving access to education. Yet with the youth unemployment rate persisting above 40%, there is clearly much to be done to support the people who will drive the country’s economic growth.

The youths are no longer susceptible to being Interahamwe, and pursuing violent means through which to voice their grievances – there is optimism and therefore there is peace. Which is in turn another more positive feedback loop; and one to be built on.

Multilateral Policy Implications

From the case studies it is clear that there is a role for the international community to play in terms of bringing about sustainable development. In China, the international community has served the capacity of consumers. In Rwanda the international community is playing the role of the consumer but also that of developmental partner in terms of developmental aid

As we look at various conflicted and post-conflict societies in transition, we must acknowledge the role to be played by regional organisations and leaders such as South Africa and African Union in Africa, and international organisations – primarily the UN.

Sustainable peace, development and democracy have three mutually reinforcing dimensions, namely; societal reconciliation, democratization and economic reconstruction. Henceforth, greater coordination during post-conflict reconstruction is of greater need not only within the UN coordination but also within the entire aid community. Prospectively, it requires bringing together economic aid and political assistance, and thus have more comprehensive and integrated methods by the UN organizations and the Bretton Woods institutions. The Carnegie Commission report on Preventing Deadly Conflicts recognizes the symbiotic tensions between economic conditionality and the peace imperative, and look more into the binary distinction between neo-liberal economic reforms advocated by the international financial institutions and the contingencies of post-conflict countries (Patrick and Salomons, 1999). It thus calls on the Bretton Woods financial institutions ‘to establish better cooperation within UN’s political structures for economic inducements to facilitate a more central position in terms of early prevention and in post-conflict reconstruction. For example, the peace agenda of El Salvador has been diminished by the competing neo-liberal economic agenda and the prospect for peace in Guatemala continue to depend largely on the adaptation of the neo-liberal economic prescriptions.

Inside the UN structures, the UNDP facilitated a leading role with the UN in as far as to support recovery from conflict and sustaining democratic peace. The peace settlement of 1972 in El Salvador and the 1996 peace settlement of Guatemala together with the transitional election of 1990 Nicaragua were formidable in the sense that they intertwined peace and development, thus creating a key role for UNDP. In its efforts to secure good governance and reconciliation, programs in post-conflict countries, the UNDP took full appreciation of ‘the peace process of Central America were the first instance of UNDP involvement in overtly political and diplomatic, as well as developmental activities’. These experiences had a profound effect on the developmental philosophy of the UNDP and the stage whereby an organization vests its focus on countries with special circumstances (UNDP, 1999). At the Ibero-American Summit of 1996, a ‘Democratic Governance and Development’ resolution was adopted, UNDP made flagship for a more robust ‘Political Cooperation for Democratic Governance’, which at a later stage subscribed to policies and strategies on UNDP regional bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNDP, 1996).But how primed are these actors for such responsibilities, and what policy prescriptions can be given in relation to this particular context we find ourselves in?

The first thing to note about the UN peacekeeping budget is how small it is, at least when compared with the defence budgets of national governments.At $8bn, the entire peacekeeping budget is equivalent to one month of US military spending in Afghanistan at the height of the conflict in 2010, or just 1.4% of the current US defence budget, which stands at $573bn.

At the same time, peacekeeping operations are not considered as purely military interventions. United Nations Peacekeeping and Health noted there was a problem “of peacekeepers providing healthcare to the local population in situations where the quality of medical care provided to the mission’s own personnel is not always in accordance with WHO guidelines”.

While Monusco, the UN Peacekeeping mission in the DRC, is the most expensive operation, Minusca, the mission in Central African Republic, received the biggest increase in funding in 2016; rising 220% to over $800m, amid an intensification of fighting in the country.

Military and police personnel costs have increased by more than 300% to more than $350m, while spending on consultants, has increased by over 1,000% to $462,600. Medical spending increase to $9m, up 712% on the previous year, but this dwarfed by the $20m spent on communications, an increase of 37% on 2015. But despite the increase in funds, the missions faces numerous problems.

Area-Based Development Approach to Conflict

An area-based developmental approach significantly represent a precise instrument for conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction and has been extensively implemented in conflict regions. In order to evaluate the applicability of the Area-based developmental approach in addressing conflict situations, the comprehension of conflict and its nature. Conflict is endemic in human society, and conflict of interest is inherent as well, this calls for all societies to introduce a range of norms and institutions to prevent the tension from developing into an open conflict between the groups or various government bodies. In order to systematically arrange various characteristics and conditions of conflict, this section will illustrate literature found in Brown’s categorization and clustering of the main factors of conflict divided into four categories, namely; structural, political and governance, economic and social, and cultural and perceptual (Ross, 1986).

Structural factors

Structural factors as most scholars would suggest, include inter-state security objectives including location in war-prone neighborhoods and undemocratic regions, mountainous country or rough terrain, size of the population, military capability, ethnic demographics including high ethno-linguistic and religious diversity. Collier and Hoeffler discovered through their lengthy econometric analysis that the risk of conflict is proportional to a country’s population, siting both opportunities and grievances increase with the size of the population (Collier and Hoeffer, 2007). The tradition of conflict and time difference since the previous conflict including ethnic dominance, understood as one ethnic group being a major stakeholder of the population also have a significant effect on the risk of conflict. On the other hand, one structural factor that is often omitted is the role of neighboring countries. Refugee problems, economic contestation which often leads to the disruption of trade, communication and production networks and military problems including the use of a neighboring state’s territory for shipment of arms and supplies and as a base for operation, can all substantially contribute to regional instability (Brown, 1996).

Political and governance factors

Political and governance factors are most likely to include issues such as a weak or failed state, exclusionary national ideologies and inter-group, elite and identity politics, and discriminatory political institutions. Weak or failing states both from the perspective of political legitimacy and its capability to exercise authority over the population and the overall territory under its jurisdiction and provide services for its citizens, is an important factor potentially contributing to conflict. Eroded elite and public confidence in the legitimacy and capability of government is one of the factors, which in combination with economic and social factors increases the probability of civil violence (Nafziger and Auvinen, 2005). Reiterating the significance of political factors and the weakness of the conventional economic illustration of inter-ethnic tensions. Horowitz influential work on Ethnic Groups in Conflict maintains that the developing elite of a subordinate group generally aspire not to economic power and business opportunities, but are focused on political power. Violent eruptions of conflict is therefore generally linked to the political system and in a particular degree in which the institutions of government are discriminatory or based on exclusionary ideologies Hegre and Sambanis, 2005).

Economic and social factors 

This crucial and comprehensive category of conflict factors is in academic writing portrayed by failed microeconomic policies, limited access to the market, low level and slow growth and structure of income, vertical inequalities such as income inequality, economic and social horizontal inequalities, failure of social contract, role of the Diaspora and male secondary education enrolment. According to Collier and Hoeffler, the key supporters of economic or feasibility theory of conflict, maintains that economic attributes such as the level, growth and structure of income are significant in the analysis of war initiation (Collier and Hoefer, 1998). Moreover, the Diaspora holds the potential to significantly increase the risk of conflict renewal, being a possible source of finance and having more sentimental views than the domestic population. An examination of the ties between humanitarian agencies and their hypothesized source in less-developed countries by Auvinen and Nafziger also confirms that stagnation and decline in real GDP, high income inequalities and a high ratio of military expenditure to national income are associated with the emergencies (Auvinen and Nafziger, 1999).

Environmental factors

Environmental factors can be broadly defined into three groups including threats related to scares resources, such as water, energy, sea passage and fishing grounds, to environmental externalities and those relating to social upheaval or environmental refugees. Environmental externalities consist of issues such as upstream river and trans-boundary air pollution and illegal trade in toxic waste. Environmental refugees and social upheaval result from forced migration in response to ecological disaster or chronic shortage of natural resources (Rawabizambuga, 2007).

Cultural and perceptual factors

Finally, these are factors which illustrates patterns of cultural discrimination, inequitable educational opportunities, legal and political constraints on the use and teaching of minority languages, religious freedom as well as problematic group histories and incendiary perception (Brown, 1996). Many if these attributes are linked to the structural, political and social factors and horizontal inequalities mentioned above.

Conclusion

Coordination among international organisations and states so as to not undermine one another’s developmental efforts. A case in point is the IMF and World Bank’s advocating for the rollback of the state via structural adjustments and therefore taking away of the social nets and developmental efforts being done in those countries. Likewise, blindly giving aid by the UN, AU and South Africa is counterproductive when it cannot be guaranteed that it is actually going to the advertised core issues. Policy should therefore be framed around sustainable development; development which yields results. Indeed the most important result of development is its self-reproduction and therefore a positive feedback loop in terms of peace and development; and therefore development and peace

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Africa

Saudi Arabia, Iran compete in Sahel

Javad Heirannia

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Authors: Javad Heiran-Nia & Somayeh Khomarbaghi

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are supporting the Sahel Joint Military Force, the latest indication of a competition for influence with Iran in West Africa.

The force falls under the rubric of G5 Sahel, which brings together Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad for regional cooperation on political and security issues.

To bolster the finances of this organization, France invited UAE, Saudi Arabia, Germany. and Italy to coordinate with this organization. Saudi Arabia committed $118 million and the UAE offered $35 million to fund the joint military force. In addition, the UAE has promised to establish a “school of war” in Mauritania.

Support for this joint force allows Saudi Arabia to claim that it is leading the fight against global terrorism, alongside the creation of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition of 40 Islamic states. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, in particular, wants to prove his leadership in this fight. It also allows both Saudi Arabia and the UAE to plan for a long-term presence in the region, with an eye toward countering Iran.

Iranian Presence in Africa

The presence of Iran in Africa dates to the 1980s. During the Cold War, Iran was located in the bloc of US-aligned states. After the Islamic Revolution, Iran became interested in spreading Shiite thought in West Africa through cultural, economic, diplomatic, and media initiatives.

Most African countries are rich in natural resources such as gas, oil, gold, iron, copper, diamond, platinum, and phosphate. Poverty in the Sahel Region and West Africa, however, opened the doors of the region to Iran. Iran implemented hundreds of economic projects in many African states like Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Sierra Leon, Benin, Nigeria, and Ghana. Iranian leaders—Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, Sayyed Muhammad Khatami, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad travelled to these states and signed many bilateral agreements.

Iran also benefitted from these deals, and not just the expansion of Shiite thought. The deals allowed Iran to break out of the international isolation generated by its nuclear activities. They created new markets for Iranian products, particularly the oil that was under global sanctions, and provided access to raw materials, like uranium. Iran earned billions of dollars from the implementation of joint projects, including facilities that refined Iranian oil.

Saudi Concerns

Saudi Arabia’s concerns about increased Iranian influence have prompted it to push back, particularly after the ascension of King Salman. Saudi Arabia poured investments into the public and private sectors in West Africa and the Sahel. But Saudi penetration also extended into the religious realm, with a focus on the Maliki Muslims who compose the majority of West African population. Since 78% of African Muslims are Sufis, their beliefs generally stand in contrast to a Saudi culture that features elements of Salafism.

To compete for influence, then, Saudi Arabia has gone beyond economic projects and religious programming. That’s why it has created an unofficial coalition with Mauritania and Senegal and is also preparing a new coalition with Libya and Chad. The presidents of Senegal and Mauritania travelled to Riyadh in April 2015, and Senegal has committed to sending hundreds of troops to the Asefah Al-Hazm military operation under Saudi command.

Saudi Arabia has contributed to the joint military force of the Sahel to earn international legitimacy in the fight against terrorism and to further its political and economic interests in West Africa. But countering Iran is the main rationale. Stemming Iranian influence in this region and globally remains one of the cardinal pivots of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy.

First published in Mehr News Agency

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