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Away from the spotlight – Central African Republic

Teja Palko

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The conflict in Central African Republic (CAR) is happening away from the spotlights. It seems that the world has forgotten of civil war, which began in the year 2012.

Based on United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 25% of the CAR’s population has been internally displaced by the conflict since December 2013. In 2014 the number of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) was higher than 930.000 and in this year in January was still very high and counted 500.000 IDPs. With country population running away from the conflicts in neighboring countries, civil war has a regional impact. Based on UN (United Nations) reports more than 414.000 have fled to Cameroon, Chad, the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo that are alone way over their heads in different problems.

The country is currently divided along sectarian lines, with the government controlling the south of the country, which is dominated by Christians, and rebels holding the Muslim north. The Séléka group, who staged a coup against former president François Bozizé in March 2013, is one of the two main actors. With rebels sizing power widespread killings of civilians, destroying of homes and other crimes began. Séléka coalition is composed of rebels who are mainly from the Muslim minority. The second actor organized to fight against Séléka are mainly Christian Anti-balaka coalition. They began committing large-scale reprisal attacks against Muslim civilians in Bangui and western parts of the country. Thousands died and hundreds of thousands were displaced by the conflict. The deadly cycle of sectarian violence devastated western parts of the country in 2013 and 2014. Violence has further spread to central and eastern areas. Since the conflict began attacks against civilians are daily reported. Even though a ceasefire had been signed between the mentioned parties in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo in July 2014, it has been sadly largely ignored.

The CAR has been in acute crisis since early 2013. With the enrolment of almost all men and also childrenin different fighting groups and militias caused the collapse of farming sector and thus collapse of economic sector and furthermore, increase of radicalism among the population. In a country where agriculture represented more than half of GDP and where more than 60% of the population lived in outlying area’s civil war has taken a great toll. The country is confronted with poverty, since more than 60% of the population based on UNICEF reports lives below the poverty line and poverty will probably widen because of long lasting conflict. Corruption is also widespread and CAR ranked 150 based on the Corruption percentage index by the Fund for Peace, which means that corruption represents a bigger problem only in 25 other countries in the world. The country has faced weak governance, insurgencies, conflicts and uprising, ineffectiveness and limited state presence.

The CAR is a source, transit and destination for children and adult subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Furthermore, forced prostitution is common among all genders and ages. Increased violence and displacement makes CAR more vulnerable to the recruitment of child soldiers. Despite the UN presence in the country more than 10.000 children have been recruited by different armed groups within the country based on the United Nations child agency UNICEF. Some progress has been made on 5th of May with different CAR militias agreeing to free child soldiers, but there still remains a lot of work to be done including transition of children into normal family life.

Presence of various armed groups and insecurity enables humanitarian interventions and agriculture that could help bring the nation back on its feet. There was fighting before the crisis began in 2012, between the pastoralist and farming communities in rural areas. During the conflict cattle thefts and attacks have affected pastoralists the most, since they were involved in intercommunal revenge attacks and were targets of attacks by different armed groups. In CAR, as elsewhere in the sub-region, the cattle are an important economic capital and have long been both a source of wealth and a cause of violence. Military groups, including ex-Séléka and Anti-balaka, have become experts in cattle thefts and livestock dealers that were sold in different markets in and outside the country. Cattle thefts have become an important source of funding. Different militias have seized control over roads, territories and illegal trade. Some also collect taxes, steal goods, and are extorting civilians. Massive numbers of pastoralists have fled from the west of the country toward Cameroon and Chad. The Crisis Group report from last year shows that meat has become scarce and some regions and that CAR now depend on import of cattle. Cattle slaughtered per day have drastically fallen. That has led to disruption of the sector’s entire supply chain and has brought trade to a standstill.

United Nations multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) current authorization has put 12.870 total uniformed personnel, including 10.750 military personnel, 2.120 police and an appropriate significant civilian component on the ground. Mandate of MINUSCA mission with contribution of military personnel from 38 and police personnel from 18 different countries around the globe is the protection of civilians, support for the implementation of the transition process, delivery of humanitarian assistance, promotion of human rights, disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation. The UN were present in the country before MINUSCA peacekeeping operation with the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Central African Republic (BINUCA) and the African Union-led International support Mission in the CAR (MICSA) with different priorities and mandates from year 2010 forward. France has since 1960 intervened in the CAR seven times since the independence. In December 2013 France intervene with military and its operation Sangaris with 2000 men. Based on Global Security as of 2010, 90 percent of the uranium deposits in Bakouma were owned by Uramin, a private corporation in which Areva, the French nuclear giant, is a 100 percent shareholder. As we know France has significant economic interests in the country since 75% of France’s energy is derived from nuclear sources. Despite the UN and international presence, regardless of motive, violence continued and with it widespread human rights violations. Civilians could not be protected since there were sporadic attacks with a lot of fatalities. The root causes of the conflict have not been resolved and addressed.

Even with existing military, executive, legislative and judicial branches CAR is a country defined by its borders on the map not by effective state control over its whole territory. Massive natural wealth should provide high standard for more than 4 million inhabitants, but instead the country is among least developed nations. The crisis in CAR has exacerbated old conflicts in rural areas and created new ones. Everything in the CAR is on suspension, none of regular activities are happening and country is trapped into many fields of violence. To end the crisis in the country that has seen many conflicts, coups and uprising since its independence, rural guerrilla war needs to be taken into an account. Months of violence led to wrecked state institutions, leaving millions on the brink of starvation and threatened to suck in the wider region. Thousands of people are believed to have been killed and millions, more than half of the entire population, needs humanitarian aid. Since fighting broke out between Séléka elements and Christian self-defence militias called Anti-balakas the state lost its ability to maintain order. Security, humanitarian, human rights and political crisis and its regional implications in the CAR are rising concerns and wider public, media, international organization should not turn away from the suffering of civilians and population of the country.

Teja Palko is a Slovenian writer. She finished studies on Master’s Degree programme in Defense Science at the Faculty of Social Science at University in Ljubljana.

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Africa

Why Young African Scholars Must Engage the Law and Politics of Africa through New Perspectives

Olalekan Moyosore Lalude

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The Year of Africa was a powerful phase, a transitional moment that saw Africa in liberated black and white images. In one, a woman wearing sunglasses and sitting astride a motorcycle scooter communicated freedom and a promise of a bold future.In another, a smiling, young woman in a polka dot dress wore Independence in a sash, followed by a happy crowd. In yet another, a grinning man borne on the shoulders of two other men in a throbbing crowd, carried a placard that read: COMPLETE INDEPENDENCE 1961. It was the year that saw seventeen African states begin a journey of black statehood. Those images were metaphors of liberty in a continent that had been kept away from deciding the course of its own destiny. 1960 was a beginning and the end of the African struggle.

It was the beginning of the African struggle because Africans in the independent states were transitioning from struggling against colonialism to contending against the political realities of their post-independent states. And it was the end, because those Africans didn’t have to contend against colonialism any more. In the true picture of things, it was a transition from the political control of people who sought the wealth of the continent to a struggle with murderous regimes, and the sad realization of the true damage that colonialism had wreaked in the political arrangement of the people.In Nigeria, it was the beginning of the weaponization of ethnicity and of resentful distrust in state politics.

Africa in the 1960s was a dramatic spectacle of violence, new beginnings and the creation of histories that has informed the present. Independence movements aspired towards liberated African states. The consciousness of colonial restraints inspired actions that marked the trajectory of the continent’s destiny. The political history of Africa’s becoming is a timeline of seesaw moments. Dictators have risen and have fallen in the hubris of forgetfulness thatthe powers that saw to their rise could see to their fall. The legal systems, processes, institutions and the politics of Africa were forged in the turbulence of African history.

Today it is easy to say that Africa has made progress in its strides towards social and political evolution, but the past is a mirror of solutions to present problems. This is why it has become imperative for newer approaches to emerge in the study of law and politics in the context of Africa. Founded in 2020 by me, the Carnelian Journal of Law and Politics is Africa’s response to the need for new insights on law and politics in the African context. This new journal gives young African researchers the opportunity to contribute top quality perspectives to the discourse on the law and politics of Africa. This is important as newer voices are needed to give an inter-generational balance to the debate on African law and politics. And this is why the journal has emerged to bridge the scholarly gap.

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Africa

A Tale of Two Sudans

Simon Wolfe

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For the first time in decades, Sudan is on a path to peace and democracy, turning the fall of a dictatorial regime into a reckoning with entrenched societal fissures and the overhaul of the institutions that reinforced them. On the other hand, South Sudan and its unity government, once a darling of western governments and NGOs as a model for religious freedom and democratic potential, continues to struggle to build peace and stability in the absence of any consolidated, legitimate institutions of authority.

It may be time to re-examine what we think we know about the war that split them apart.

Sudan: A Case for Cautious Optimism

Since the 2019 protests and coup that ended the repressive 30-year reign of dictator Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s transitional government is slowly working to undo decades of damage and emerge from isolation.

In recent weeks, Sudan has signed successive peace deals with rebel forces addressing grievances that have long inhibited a permanent resolution to the conflict. The agreements separate religion from the state and establish a commission for religious freedom mandated to protect the country’s Christian minority. They also grant autonomy to the contested regions of Blue Nile and South Kordofan and set Darfur on a path to reunification under its own governor. An August 31 agreement on Darfur also covers power sharing, security, transitional justice, land ownership and the return of internally displaced persons and refugees.

In addition to completing the peace processes mandated in Sudan’s interim constitution, Sudan has also taken steps to reset relations internationally. Though the transitional government has limited power in this area, indications are encouraging for the potential normalisation of Sudan’s relationship with Israel – which would, in turn, support Sudan’s case for removal from the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Positive as the outlook appears to be, Sudan has a long, difficult road to recovery ahead. The transitional government has 26 months left to lay the groundwork for a civilian, democratically elected government to take over. In addition to the colossal challenge of rebuilding institutions nearly from scratch, the pandemic and the global commodity market collapse have generated urgent economic woes.

Moreover, anyone with experience on the ground in Sudan will warn against misplaced confidence at this early stage. Connection with the international community – and international markets – has long served as an incentive to end the conflict, but even the most promising of peace agreements has failed to produce sufficient stability for sustained development.

South Sudan: A Grim Reality

If Sudan calls for cautious optimism, South Sudan demands a reckoning with the failure of the international response.

When South Sudan seceded in 2011, observers were optimistic. Those in the international community – both in the omnipresent NGO sector as well as foreign governments (principally the United States) believed that the oppressed Christian South would finally be free from its Islamic subjugators in the North, and the resolution of this religious divide would finally bring peace to the region. Instead, two years after independence, a brutal civil war broke out between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and former First Vice President Riek Machar, displacing significant numbers of people and leaving large swathes of the country reliant on humanitarian aid. Best estimates of numbers killed are upwards of 400,000, which at times has rivaled the war in Syria that received far greater attention.’

So, what happened? How did the Cinderella story of South Sudan’s independence become a nightmare?

The Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), the rebels turned political party who governed the country at independence, were ill-prepared to fulfil the functions of a state, despite the heavy investment and optimism afforded them by their international supporters leading up to 2011. Well before South Sudan split from the north, NGOs and aid groups had provided the overwhelming majority of state services, often with incorrect or incomplete knowledge of where resources were going. Some organisations even unwittingly provided direct financial to support to militias or funded ‘dialogues’ that served primarily as brand rehabilitation for war lords looking to take advantage of a sprawling and largely unregulated aid industry.

Arguably the international humanitarian response formed the economic, social and political foundations for the South Sudanese state that emerged in 2011. The sad irony is that these foundations have been purged by years of corruption and mismanagement since.

This dynamic followed South Sudan beyond independence, creating a cycle of escalating violence enabled by a steady flow in billions of dollars of humanitarian aid. The assumption that the Southern forces represented a unified Christian bloc fighting for religious freedom and human rights was convenient for warlords seeking resources and legitimacy and appealing to the international NGO and donor community – especially to faith-based aid efforts – but it has proved to be devastating for the millions affected by the ongoing conflict.

Ultimately, because the 2005 peace process took the Southern rebel forces’ branding at face value – with the support of the aid industry – it failed to confront the fragmentation and factionalism that had destroyed South Sudan and anticipate that these fissures would continue and undermine state-building efforts today. Though a tragedy for the South Sudanese, lessons from the failure of peacebuilding efforts in South Sudan may prove valuable to its northern neighbour – and Sudan’s transitional government appears to be learning already.

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Africa

Russia Readies for Challenges and Opportunities in Africa

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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Within the framework of the joint declaration adopted at the historic Russia-Africa Summit, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation has established a Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum. The Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum has also moved to create an Association of Economic Cooperation with African States (AECAS).

The Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum primary task is to coordinate efforts for promoting cooperation between Russian and African integration associations, ensure political and diplomatic support for projects in Africa carried out with Russia’s leading state-run and private companies’ involvement, and for other aspects of preparations for Russia-Africa summits.   

The Association of Economic Cooperation with African States was established as a non-profit organization on 12 April 2020 in accordance with a directive of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin dated 21 March 2020 with the assistance of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  

On September 9, the Roscongress Foundation and the Association of Economic Cooperation with African States (AECAS) held a ceremony in Moscow to sign a cooperation agreement as part of a presentation of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum. The agreement was signed by Roscongress Foundation CEO and Chairman of the Board, Head of the Russia—Africa Partnership Forum Coordinating Council Alexander Stuglev and the Head of AECAS Alexander Saltanov.

The speeches delivered at the meeting provided detailed information on the current and prospects of cooperation, and development of relations between the Russian Federation and African countries in the context of the results of the Sochi Summit. The discussions offered an insight into the main areas of activity of the Secretariat and the Association, their tasks to expand and strengthen Russian-African ties in within the framework of the dialogue mechanism of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum. 

“The Russia-Africa agenda has taken on special relevance today: the first Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum demonstrated the true potential of strategic relations between our countries. We are ready to make efforts and, jointly with the Association, help to create a favourable business climate, while serving as a bridge between Russian and African businesses and providing both sides with high-quality conditions for collaboration,” Stuglev said at the signing ceremony.

On his part, Saltanov said “Russia’s interest in economic, scientific, and cultural cooperation with African countries is long-term, sustainable and importantly, has historical roots. For their part, African countries are interested in Russian investments, technologies, and opportunities for training skilled personnel. The Association’s current goal is to actively search for new growth points and build a structure to expand the scope of common interests and further cooperation with the African continent.”

Mikhail Bogdanov, Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, attended the event. Delivering the opening speech, he said that “The first Russia-Africa Summit, a truly historic event that took place in Sochi in October last year was a response to these changing global challenges. It convincingly illustrated that Russia and its friends in Africa see each other as important and promising partners.

He further explained: “To provide efficient functionality for this new dialogue mechanism the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum has been created. This structure aims to coordinate the entire range of relations with the African countries. It will oversee the formation of interagency expert groups that will come up with tangible solutions to develop and enrich economic, research, and humanitarian cooperation with the preparation for new Summits in mind.”

Oleg Ozerov, Ambassador-at-Large and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum, stressed that “The first Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum was a landmark event and achievement that made it possible to bring together all key politicians and business representatives from Russia and the African continent, establish contacts and agree on future cooperation areas. The second Russia-Africa event, in turn, will demonstrate the results of our efficient interaction, and, above all, economic results.” 

In May, Ozerov was appointed Ambassador-at-Large and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum. The secretariat will prepare the second Russia-Africa Summit due in 2022 as per the agreements reached at the first ever Russia-Africa Summit held in Sochi. Biographical document made available says Ozerov is a diplomat with extensive experience at the Foreign Ministry, including with Arab and African countries.

As part of its preparation for the next Summit in 2022, the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum has created three new Councils. (i) The Coordinating Council will be led by CEO and Chairman of the Roscongress Foundation Alexander Stuglev, (ii) The Research Council will be chaired by Irina Abramova, Director of the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and (iii) The Public Council will be headed by Yevgeny Primakov, Head of Rossotrudnichestvo.

These three councils will closely cooperate and hold regular meetings, under the control and with the participation of the Russian-Africa Partnership Forum Secretariat. Besides coordination, the Councils will deal with developing substantive conceptual offers for the development of economic, science-technical, humanitarian and other types of cooperation between Russia and the African states.

Russia has been looking for ways to continue building relations based not only on the nostalgic memories of shared past, that of the liberation of African states, but on new values as well: protection and reinforcement of the African states’ sovereignty, the idea of maintaining and strengthening peace, good neighbourliness and cooperation with Russia.

Further, Russia is interested in the exploration and development of mineral resources and energy. It has not significantly invested in needed infrastructure in the continent, while agriculture remains only as a promising area for cooperation. That compared to the golden days, Soviet specialists built major infrastructure facilities, including hydroelectric power plants, roads and industrial enterprises across Africa.

Now, Russian companies are ready to work with their African partners to upgrade transport infrastructure, develop telecommunications and digital technologies, provide information security, and offer the most advanced technologies and engineering solutions.

In 2018, Russia’s trade with African states grew more than 17 percent and exceeded $20 billion. During the Sochi summit, President Vladimir Putin said he would like to bring the trade figure to, at least, $40 billion in the next years. Experts, however, argue that with more than two decades of missed opportunities, Russia could significantly increase trade by improving its own export products and that means competing with other foreign players in Africa.

The first Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum was held in Sochi in October 2019 under the slogan – For Peace, Security, and Development. That event attracted over 6,000 participants, including representatives of all 54 African countries, 45 of which were represented by Heads of State and Governments.

The Summit culminated in the adoption of a final declaration that sets out the goals and objectives that have been endorsed for further development of Russia-Africa cooperation in different dimensions. It designated the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum as a new mechanism for dialogue in addition to summits in the Russia-Africa format once every three years. The second Russia-Africa Summit will be held in 2022.

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