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Sierra Leone: Victims or Perpetrators

Cemre Yapici

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There has been increasing acceptance that to understand importance of the nature of conflict and post conflict process with the effect of gender roles and masculinity in recent years all over the world (Cockburn,1999; 2001, El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001, Yuval Davis, 1997). Meanwhile, gender issues have come into prominence within all base of society and concerning to prominence of conflict, their effect on situations of armed conflict and peace process are particularly marked in the academic literature(Moser and Clark, 2001). Some feminist scholars claim that considering and studying conflict without gender is incomplete and biased yet, the different roles and behaviors of women, men determine the way that how conflicts and peace process playout (Cockburn,1999; 2001, El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001, Yuval Davis, 1997). In other words, social expectations with the effect of stereotypes have impact upon the way that people play in efforts to armed conflict and peace process (Cockburn, 1999; 2001, El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001, Yuval Davis, 1997). Furthermore, the notion of the victim has been characterized by masculinity dominated gender stereotypes (Cockburn, 1999; 2001, El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001, Yuval Davis, 1997). Gender power is seen to create an assumption that women are only “victims of conflict”, whereas; men are “heroes” and “perpetrators” (Cockburn, 1999; 2001, El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001)

Politicization of rape has been another conspicuous component of victimization of women in order to overshadow active participation and agency of female combatants and create a single –sided and subjective understanding of armed conflict (Cockburn, 1999; 2001, El- Bushra, 2007 Moser and Clark, 2001). On the other hand, stereotypical gender roles and politics of victimhood have played crucial role in terms of effectiveness of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process in conflict areas to keep stable peace and equality between male and female combatants (Carlson andMazurana,2004 MacKenzie, 2009). Female combatants are excluded from these policies because of stereotypical assumption that women are as only victims and symbol of peace and innocence (Carlson andMazurana,2004 MacKenzie, 2009). Regarding these, it is significant to understand that how gender norms and stereotypes interact with armed conflict and post- conflict re-integration process (Cockburn, 1999; 2001, El- Bushra, 2017,) In this essay, I particularly focus on the notion of gender roles, its substituted components such as power, agency and politics of victimization in detail to challenge supposition that men are “perpetrators of conflict”; whereas, “women are victims and peace envoy” and to demonstrate that how stereotypical understanding of conflict impact upon both understanding of armed conflict and integration policies in post- conflict zones with case study and empirical qualitative analysis from Sierra Leone.

Gender Roles, Masculinity and Stereotypes

“Gender refers to socially politically constructed roles, behaviors and attributes that a society considers which one most appropriate and valuable for women and men”(Gender Analysis of Toolkit for Saferworld, 2013; pg.2) Nonetheless, “gender norms are sets of expectations about how people of each gender should participate in society from masculine or feminine perspective and are produced by culture, education, social construction and media” (Gender Analysis of Toolkit for Saferworld, 2013: pg.2). Masculinity refers to anything which is associated with men, just as femininity refers to anything which is associated with women (Gender Analysis of Toolkit, for Saferworld 2013). At the same time, with the effect of constructed gender roles women and femininity are associated with positivity, peace, emotional, innocence, victim, need for protection, nursing, affection, maternity, care and motherhood, whereas; men are associated with war, perpetrators, autonomy, aggression, heroism, rational and protection (Cockburn,1999; 2001, El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001, Yuval Davis, 1997). However, many feminist scholars have emphasized that “gender is not only way to differ women and men but it also is a system of power and agency which shapes to lives, relationship and access to resources within a society, conflict and post- conflict because both agency and power as concepts have applicability”(Cockburn,1999; 20001 El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001, Yuval Davis, 1997). In social sciences, agency is described as the capacity of individuals to act and make their own choices independently (Cockburn, 1999; 2001, El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001, Yuval Davis, 1997).

According to feminist authors, it is important to distinguish between official power and informal power correspond to notions of male and female power to promote a distinct divide between men as powerful and women as powerless and needy respectively (Cockburn,1999; 20001 El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001).On the other hand, Cockburn, analyses “how the importance of gender differentiation and local constructions of masculinities and femininities is embedded in issues of agency and power”(Clark and Moser, 2001: pg.5)She identifies the significance of gendered power relations in order to indicate that stereotyping underestimates people’s role as social actors in different moments of conflict (Clark and Moser, 2001). In each stage, it is the contextually specific female and male stereotyping, positioning and agency in patriarchal gender systems (Clark and Moser, 2001). Also, Sharoni and Butalia challenge the relation between gender, power and agency with the assumption that “power is a male monopoly, whereas, women are perceived as powerless and lacking of agency in armed conflict and political violence” (Clark and Moser, 2001, pg: 8). Therefore, stereotypical essentializing and labelling of women as ‘victims’ particularly of sexual abuse or rape and men as ‘perpetrators’ ‘heroes’ and ‘defender’ on the behalf of the nation and their wives, children and honors have universal phenomenon (Cockburn,1999; 20001 El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001). In other words, many versions of constructed gender roles with the effect of hegemonic masculinity are constituted in the practice of fighting: “to be a real man is to be ready to fight and, to kill and to die” on the behalf of honor of the nation, flag, women and children” (Cockburn,1999; 20001Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001).

Having said that, building upon the imaginary of familial symbolism as another significant result of stereotyping of patriarchy constructed gender roles, because label women as naturally positive, peace envoy, victim and needy for protection (Cockburn,1999; 20001 El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001)To illustrate, images of motherland tend to be symbolized as a woman who is biological reproducer of nation, victim, needy and lacking of agency, whereas enemies tend to be symbolized as a male who threatens, damages or embargos motherland(Cockburn,1999; 2001, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001) As a result, in this way, it is easy to leave aside women’s agency, roles and potentials in armed conflict, and gain them unacknowledged roles; whereas, to gain men activate roles as the most agent social actor responsible for both armed conflict and peace process (Cockburn, 2000, El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2000, Yuval Davis, 1997).

Politics of Victimization: Sexual Abuse, Rape and Violence Against Women

The notion of the ‘victim’ is always feminized by male power women and children are victims, whereas, men are aggressor (Clark and Moser, 2001, Turshen, 2001). The problem is even more complicated and problematic when ‘victim’ is related with ‘lack of agency’ because the notion of victim has become a socially constructed identity which adulterates women experiences and participation of armed conflict (Clark and Moser, 2001, Turshen 2001). That is why, the concept of victim has been attached with sexual violence, and rape against women during armed conflict (Clark and Moser,2001) Having said that, Caroline Moser outlines three categories of violence, citing political and economic violence in addition to the more common reported social or interpersonal violence (Moser, 2001). This informative definition has played significant and advanced role in terms of understanding of gender and armed conflict because it leads to understand the specific reasons of rape and sexual violence during armed conflict (Moser and Clark 2001, Turshen, 2001). On the other hand, sexual violence and conflict have been complicated and controversial themes in terms of armed conflict and political violence in accordance with women’s rights and agency (Clark and Moser, 2001; Cockburn, 2001; Turshen, 2001)

Moser’s analysis about different types of political violence interrogates the political of rape and sexual abuse as an aspect of political and economic violence during armed conflict(Moser, 2001). Moreover, Moser describes her analysis from the aspect of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women yet, both sexual abuse and rape are gendered and male dominated activities because of ideologically male power dominated gender roles, relations, agencies and identities stereotypically (Moser, 2001; Turshen, 2001). In other words, the gendered continuum of rape has been significant role as a systematic strategy of armed conflict because rape during the armed conflict is a socially constructed and male power dominated (Moser, 2001; Turshen,2001). At the same time, it has a traditional sexist role as a result of stereotypical gender relations between men and women (Moser, 2001; Turshen,2001). Especially, systematic and militarized rape and sexual abuse are among the strategies of men to commodify women by disregarding women’s agency and active roles(Turshen, 2001) because militarized rape has been directly related role as a function of formal institutions such as the states’ national security, defense of military arm, and honor of the country(Turshen, 2001).

Meredith Turshen describes the relationship between systematic rape and commodification of women agency in detail. Turhsen claims that “concepts of virtue and family honor objectify women, as does to need to protect a woman’s virginity for the reputation of her family” (Turshen, 20001: pg. 65) in order not to acknowledge women’s individual rights as society’s inalienable property (Turshen, 2001). In this way, militarized and systematic rape have cultural significance role for commodification of women by being honor of the nation, family and state (Moser, 2000, Turshen,2001) because “behind the cultural significance of raping ‘enemy’ women lies at the institutionalization of attitudes and practices that regard and treat women as property and honors of the state” (Turshen,2001: pg. 60). To add more, both biased gender roles and politics of victimization against women have negative impact upon both the understanding of active participation of female combatants in armed conflict and post conflict re- integration, rehabilitation policies(Carlson andMazurana,2004 Cockburn 2000, MacKenzie, 2009, Moser, 2000). In conjunction with these indications, the active role of female combatants in armed conflict has become a crucial theme in gender and conflict studies

Women as Actors in Armed Conflict in Sierra Leone:  Stereotypes versus Evidence

Female combatants’ role, agency and active participation remain invisible during armed conflict because of male power dominated gender roles, whereas; women participate in armed conflict actively (Coulter, 2008, Mazurana and Carlson, 2004). The number of female combatants in armed forces have increasing in recent years despite armed forces have traditionally known asmale dominated institutions (Brett 2002, Coulter, 2008, Coulter et al.. 2008MacMullin and Loughry 2004, Mazurana et al. 2002). Especially, “in many of the African ‘independence wars’, often with a socialist agenda, women’s liberation was seen as sufficient and essential component of the overall struggle” (Nzomo,2002, Coulteret al.. 2008). At the same time, particularly, in African armed conflict women have shown themselves as capable as men in terms of performing acts and what is worse, local populations and data prove that female fighters are even more brutal and cruel than male fighters (Coulter et al… 2008, Coulter, 2008, Carlson, 2004). That is why, it is significant to understand what women do in actual fact of armed conflict (Coulteret al .. 2008). However, there is a tendency even in studies of women, gender and war, women do not participate in armed conflict actively because of some stereotypical assumptions (Cohen, 2013, Coulter, 2008, Mazurana and Carlson 2004). To illustrate, women have either supporting roles such as cooks, cleaners, and sexual slaves to male combatants or are victims of the armed conflict regardless of their death ratio and symbol of innocence, peace, peace envoy or stereophonic icons of war in conjunction with gender biased stereotypes and politics of victimization (Cohen, 2013, Coulter, 2008 Mazurana and Carlson, 2004). Hence, understanding the role of female fighters and combatants technicality in armed conflict has related with other subjects such as victimization, violence, gender and sexual abuse(Cohen 2013, Mazurana and Carlson, 2004). In this part of the essay, I critically analyze women’s role as perpetuators of conflict in order to challenge the general stereotypical understanding of armed conflict with case study about Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone

“The Sierra Leone civil war began on 23 March 1991, when a small rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front, entered southeaster part of the country from Liberia. The war continued in varying degrees of intensity throughout the 1990s, and pace was officially declared on 18 January 2002. The rebels were accused of committing widespread atrocities namely, cutting off people’s limbs, creating mass destruction. The war has been described as one of the more brutal in the late twentieth century, its levels of brutality compared to that of Rwanda or Cambodia in the 1970s. Approximately, 75.000 people were killed, and many more injured. Also, the war was particularly destructive in the rural areas, in particular the diamond rich east.  Today, after two peaceful post- war elections the country enjoys a fragile stability.”(Coulter, 2008:pg.58)

Furthermore, Sierra Leone civil war is not only a case as one of the most brutal conflict, it is also a controversial issue in terms of female combatants because most of them were abducted from rebel forces. Coulter, 2008).Despite, some of them were abducted by rebel forces, they had active participation in formation of armed conflict (Coulter,2008, Mazurana and Carlson, 2004). That is why, the category of female fighters in Sierra Leone civil war (1991-2002) challenges the gendered stereotypes of women as ‘victim’ of armed conflict because of lacking of agency or women have essential services in armed conflict namely, carrying water, washing clothes, finding food, cooking or sexual slave, whereas” men are labelled as the perpetrator, power and heroes of the armed conflict (Coulter,2008, Mazurana and Carlson, 2004).  During the discourse of the Sierra Leone civil war (1991-2002), it is estimated that between 10 and 30 percent of all fighters were women and girls (Richards, 1996;89; Mazurana and Carlson, 2004:  McKay and Mazurana, 2004; 92, Save the Children, 2005). Also, during and after the civil war, stories of brutality of combatant women became a popular and interesting theme especially in terms of gender studies as an example to challenge stereotypical and male power dominated assumptions and to show that female fighters would be more cruel, cold- blooded than men (Coulter, 2004, Cohen, 2013). In Sierra Leone, many female combatants actively participate armed conflict as fighters who kill, and behave both civilians and enemies mercilessly (Coulter,2008, Cohen, 2013). Also, being messengers between rebel camps, spices, communication technician or distributor of weapons to boy and girl fighters and to train them how to attack enemy forces are other decisive roles of female fighters during armed conflict (Coulter, 2008).Dara Kay Cohen and Chris Coulter analysis war time rape and female fighters in civil war with original evidences including interviews with ex-combatants and survey data, which prove that female combatants perpetrated rape and sexual abuse, violence against civilians (Cohen, 2013 Coulter, 2008). Particularly, interviews with ex- combatants in Sierra Leone reveal how gender roles mislead understanding of conflict. For instance, Aminata and Ramatu as ex- female combatants in armed conflict report that,

“If you are not trained and you meet your, enemy, how can you fight to rescue your life? Women were really fighting. If you saw us entering Waterloo on the 5th of January, to enter the city, (Freetown) you would not have been able to look at our faces. We were bloody. We were like slaves, very dirty. So to ask about women fighting! Some were even braver than men” (Interview with Aminata, female ex- fighter in Sierra Leone, January 2004, Coulter, 2008: pg,5).

“All members of the fighting party, including the women and the girls, would then drink the blood so they would not be afraid during the attack. They would then cut the person’s throat turn them upsdie down: and ‘squeeze them from toe to head’ to drain their blood into bucket”. (Interview with Ramatu T, female ex- combatants in Sierra Leone).

Furthermore, the results of empirical data display to what extent female combatants have active role and are cruel. Cohen analyses that, there is a hypothesized correlation between the large number of women fighters and high levels of civilian rape (Cohen,2013). In fact,

“data from Sierra Leone indicate that the proportion of women in an armed group is positively associated with the sexual violence committed by the group and the date contradict one of the central observable implications of the traditional perspective: groups with more women not only committed rape but actually committed more rape than did groups with fewer women” (Cohen 2013: pg.399).Allin all, empirical analyses, interviews and data from Sierra Leone indicate that female combatants commit an offense in armed conflict just as male combatants do.

Women’s and Girl’s Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) Policies in Sierra Leone

International policy makers classify Disarmament, Demobilization and Re- integration programs as one of the most crucial components for post- conflict areas to keep peace process and gender equality stable (Carlson and Mazurana ,2004). Indeed, DDR programs have played essentialrole in terms of peace- keeping process for The United Nations and other international peace operations because they build secure field in post conflict zones by improving human capacity(Carlson and Mazurana, 2004). The World Bank has defined a successful DDR program as the key factor for an effective transition from war to peace (Carlson and Mazurana, 2004). The United Nations defines disarmament as “.. the collection of small and light and heavy weapons within a conflict zone” (Carlson andMazurana,2004: pg,8). Demobilization is described “as both the formal disbanding of military formations and the release of combatants from a ‘mobilized’ state”; (Carlson and Mazurana, 2004: pg,8)whereas, reintegration refers “initial reinsertion such as the short – term arrival of an ex- combatants into his| her former home or into a new community and long-term reintegration” (Carlson and Mazurana, 2004: pg,8). However, the lack of recognition women’s active role and participation in armed conflict leads to doubled victimization of female combatants in reintegration and rehabilitation policies in post conflict areas (Carlson andMazurana,2004 MacKenzie, 2009). Sierra Leone’s case study of female ex- combatants evidently demonstrates the negative impact of gender roles on post- conflict integration and rehabilitation programs in terms of particularly females (Carlson and Mazurana,2004 MacKenzie,2009).

“DDR programs started to be implemented in Sierra Leone from 1998 to 2003 and it has been supported from the United Nations, the World Bank. From the time of its implementation in 1998, 72,500 former combatants passed through the program, including 4,751 women (6.5 percent)” (Carlson, Mazurana, pg:6).

In theory, female combatants have been included in DDR processes but, as Mazurana and Carlson noted, “most programmes are more effective in reaching out to male fighters than female fighters who are constantly underserved” (Mazurana and Carlson 2004:pg 2). Also, DDR program in Sierra Leone was seen as a fundamental and indispensable element for the country’s transition out of civil conflict (Mazurana and Carlson, 2004). However, MacKenzie, Mazurana and Carlson critically examines the recommendations of DDR programs into the country. In her analysis, MacKenzie demonstrates that the extent to which females participated as combatants, in contrast to low numbers participated in DDR programs (MacKenzie, 2009). On the other hand, Mazurana and Calrson’s study and analysis about DDR programs and female fighters in Sierra Leone strengthen MacKenzie’s analysis. Mazurana and Carlson state that majority of the women and girls as ex- combatants and fightersneither participated nor benefited from DDR programs in Sierra Leone (Mazurana and Carlson, 2004). That is why, ex- female combatants are excluded from the society in Sierra Leone (Mazurana and Carlson, 2004, MacKenzie, 2009). On the other hand, there are some specific reasons to understand exclusion of female fighters from DDR programs in Sierra Leone. MacKenzie, Carlson and Mazurana explain these specific reasons of exclusion of women combatants from DDR process in detail.

The one of the most important reasons is that the representative of the stereotypical and historical understanding of women roles such as “camp followers”, “sex slaves” or wives of male leaders (MacKenzie, 2009) to explain why DDR programs failed in terms of female fighters in the post conflict context in Sierra Leone. The second important reason is the requirement of weapon in order to be defined as combatant (MacKenzie, 2009). In Sierra Leone, Coulter found that half of the interviewed female ex- fighters claimed that they had actually wanted to disarmand re- integrate but only a handful could participate because out of those 22 percent stated that the reason for this was that they did not have access to a weapon (Coulter ,2004, MacKenzie, 2009). In addition, MacKenzie, Carlson and Mazurana regard international and local communities responsible because of their stereotypical, male power dominated attitudes toward female combatants as another reason to explain the exclusion of female combatants from DDR programs (Mazurana and Carlson, 2004, MacKenzie, 2009).MacKenzie criticizes that the international organizations and media concentrate on just female victims (MacKenzie, 2009).”There are many examples of internationally supported programs directed at female victims of conflict; whereas, there are few programs (in fact almost none) that are directed at ex-female combatants” (MacKenzie, 2009; pg, 245)Finally, MacKenzie focuses on importance of leaving aside traditionally male dominated gender roles in order to keep stable peace and (gender equality) in Sierra Leone (MacKenzie, 2009). Briefly, Sierra Leone’s DDR process failed to attract women combatants compare to male combatants yet, females’ active experiences, roles, and agencies during the armed conflict were not acknowledged because of the assumption that women and girls are only victims, and symbol of innocence, peace, sex slaves and cooker in armed conflict (Carlson and Mazurana, 2004, MacKenzie, 2009).

Conclusion

Male power dominated gender roles and stereotypes have crucial impacts upon both understanding of armed conflict and post- conflict disarmament, reintegration policies in conflict zones because women are labelled as peace envoy, sign of innocence, sex slaves and victim; whereas, men are labelled heroes, and perpetrator of armed conflict. At the same time, politics of victimisation toward just females to underestimate their agency and power in armed conflict have another impact upon shaping of armed conflict. However, in reality, females have active participation as combatants in armed conflict and commit an offence like male combatants do. Sierra Leone civil war has plays important role in order to challenge this male power dominated understanding of armed conflict because female combatants have participated actively in conflict and committed rape just like men combatants have done. Results of both qualitative and quantitative research about Sierra Leone indicate that groups with more women not only committed rape but actually committed more rape than did groups with fewer women. Despite the fact that, female combatants have active participation in armed conflict, they are excluded from Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) process in post- conflict context because of male dominated stereotypes and understanding of conflict in Sierra Leone. Also, attitudes of both international and domestic communities and NGOs toward female fighters as a victim of the conflict led to exclusion of female fighters from DDR process into the country. In other words, DDR process failed to integrate ex- female combatants into the society.

References

Cohen, Dara Kay. (2013). “Female Combatants and the Perpetration of Violence: Wartime Rape in the Sierra Leone Civil War“. World Politics, 65, pp 383-415 doi:10.1017/S0043887113000105

Coulter, Chris,( 2008) “Female Fighters in the Sierra Leone war Challenging the assumptions?”.  Feminist Review, Iss. 88: 54-73

Cockburn, Cynthia. (1999) “Gender, Armed Conflict and Political Violence”Backgroun Paper for Conference on Gender, Armed Conflict and Political Development, Washington ,DC, 9-10 June.

El- Bushra, Judy. (2017) “Why Does Armed Conflict Recur, and What has Gender Got to with it”  LSE Women, Peace, Security Paper Series. Available at: lse.ac.uk\wps

Jacobs, Susie, Jacabson, Ruth and Marchbank, Jen (2000). “States of Conflict: Gender, Violence and Resistance“. New York: Zed Books.

MacKenzie, Megan. (2009): “Securitization and Desecurization: Female Soldiers and the Reconstruction of Women in Post- Conflict Sierra Leone“. Security Studies, 18:2, 241-261.

MacMullin, Colin, Loughry,Maryanne. (2004). “Investigating Psychological Adjustment of Former Child Soldiers in Sierra Loene and Uganda”. Journal of Refugee Studies, Volume 17, Issue 4, 1 December 2004, Pages 460–472, https://doi.org/10.1093/jrs/17.4.460

Mazurana, Dyan, and Khristopher Carlson. 2004.From Combat to Community: Women and Girls of Sierra Leone. Cambridge, MA: Women Waging Peace Policy Commission.

McKay, Susan and Mazurana , Dyan (2004) ” Where are the Girls? Girls in Fighting Forces in Uganda, Sierra Leone and Mozambique: Their Lives During and After the War” (Ottawa, Canada: Rights and Democracy, 114.

Moser, Caroline, Clarck,Fiona (2001). “Victims, Perpetrators or Actors?: Gender, Armed Conflict and Political Violence”.  New York: Zed Books

Moser, Caroline, C. Mcllwaine(2000c). “Violence in a Post- ConflictContext:Urban Poor Perceptions from Guetamala“, World Bank, Washington, DC.

Save The Children, 2005 Annual Report: Available at: http://www.savethechildren.org/atf/cf/%7B9def2ebe-10ae-432c-9bd0-df91d2eba74a%7D/ar2005.pdf

Turshen, M and Twagiramniya (eds) (1998). “What Women Do in War Time: Gender and Conflict in Africa,”. London, New York: Zed Books.

Yuval- Davis, Nira. (1997) “Gender and Nation“, Sage, Newbury Park.

Yuval-Davis, Nira. (1997).”Gender and Nation“, Sage Publications, London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi.

Watson, Charlotte, Wright ,Hannah, and Gronewald, Hesta. (2013). “Gender AnalysisOf Conflict: Toolkit ForSaferworld”. Available at: https://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/publications/1076-gender-analysis-of-conflict

Cemre Yapıcı, master student at Trinity College Dublin at the department of M.phil Race, Ethinicity and Conflict.

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Defense

Could a maritime chain hub between US-Japan-Viet Nam-India to tackle China?

Gitanjali Sinha Roy

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The rise of China in the last few years has been a cause of concern and as China grew economically, it strengthened its claws in the realm of defense and has been expanding its paws into the territories of other countries which is a violation of a country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Chinese aggressiveness has become the bone of contention and this is a serious matter of concern for all the countries who are facing the China threat. China’s need to dominant certain trade routes; sea-lanes of navigation and communication jeopardizes the concept of a free and open navigable sea route which is unacceptable as no one country completely owns any sea-lanes and routes of trade and communication. Therefore, in order to protect the national interest and freedom of navigation of many countries, this article tries to build an argument on could there be a possibility for a formation of a maritime chain hub consisting of Guam, Okinawa, Cam Ranh Bay and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands which could tackle China’s maritime aggressiveness.

Guam, a former Spanish colony and now one of the 17 non-self-governing territories of the United States of America. Guam has been a military asset since the World War II as the U.S. moved its military aircraft.  Also, during the Viet Nam War, Guam was a major asset in the Pacific as it was a base used by the Americans. Presently, it serves as a major military base for America and has the U.S. Air Force and Navy installations and is also a major hub for the submarine communications cables between the western United States of America, Hawaii, Australia and Asia. There is a huge military presence in Guam and the United States of America moves its military assets and personnel to Okinawa, the Japanese island.  Guam as a naval base port plays a rather important part as it is home to the four nuclear-powered fast attack submarines and two submarine tenders. Also, Guam has the Andersen Air Force Base which hosts the Navy helicopter squadron and Air Force bombers and along with this has two-three kilometers runways and also caters as a storage facility for fueling purposes.

In June 2020, the U.S. Naval Base Guam has been designated as a ‘safe haven liberty port’ and the U.S 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge(LCC 19) and the USS Bunker Hill(CG 52) have been placed here and eventually, on 24 June 2020, the Nimitz Carrier Strike group which consists of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN68), Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Sterett (DDG 104) and the USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) all placed in the safe haven liberty port in Guam. This move to make Guam a safe heaven liberty port should be seen from the perspective of a potential logistical re-supply, possible repairs and a safe place where the sailors could rest and rejuvenate themselves amidst the global Coronavirus pandemic. One needs to understand that Guam needs to be militarized to ensure that North Korea doesn’t attempt any form of attack on Japan which is under the Security umbrella of the U.S. and also, Guam which is an American territory needs to protect itself from North Korea it is in a feasible striking distance and so, this military buildup in Guam by the United States of America is justified.

Japan’s Okinawa is strategically very important for the United States of America as it is a vital component in America’s grand strategy towards the region of East Asia.  Also, the geographical location of Okinawa has a greater meaning as Okinawa is placed between the Philippines, East China Sea and the South China Sea and also the neighbourhood consists of China, Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula and of course the mainland Japan which is a sure game-changer. Okinawa makes an important military outpost, protects the freedom of navigation and the American national cum security interests which inevitably help in the stability of this region. The bases at Okinawa are of geostrategic value as it deals with a fairly flexible range of positions to counter any potential threat and so, help keep interests of Japan safe especially with regard to the Senkaku Islands and the presence of America at Okinawa is a clear deterrent for China incase it tries to create any provocation. Also, South Korea is in an alliance with the United States of America and so, Okinawa also acts as a critical component in dealing with North Korea and in order to maintain peace in this region, the American marines plays a vital role as protectors. Also, for Taiwan, the presence of American forces at Okinawa helps Taiwan from China’s threats. Therefore, Okinawa plays the role of a major game-changer in the region of East Asia.

Viet Nam’s Cam Ranh Bay has always been a melting point of strategic interest since the 19th century as it was a hub of continuous positing of countries like France, Russia, Japan and the United States of America where their navies were stationed well as the Cam Ranh Bay acted as an excellent protected natural harbour along with being a refueling station. The geostrategic location of Cam Ranh Bay is near the South China Sea and this is therefore called the ‘Apple of the Eye of the East’ as it can help contain Chinese aggressiveness in the region. Also, the Japan-Guam-Australia Fiber-Optic Submarine Cable System Project is being developed with the help of Japan and the United States of America. Cam Ranh Bay if redeveloped could the most valuable asset that Viet Nam has.

India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands is as of today one of the most sort after strategic hub of islands as it is being developed into a maritime and startup hub and the recent inauguration of the submarine optic fiber cable between Chennai and these islands would change the face of digital connectivity. India has also proposed transhipment hub in the Andamans helping these group of islands become a major centre for blue economy and maritime cum startup hub. Also since 2019, the Indian Naval Air Station-INS Kohassa has been developing the island in full swing and this could well become a vital strategic outpost for India  and can easier watch and monitor the rival navies activities along with set an integrated surveillance network.

The question is how does Guam-Okinawa-Cam Ranh Bay-Andaman and Nicobar Islands form a strategic maritime chain hub?

First, Guam is an American territory, Okinawa, a Japanese territory, Cam Ranh Bay, a Vietnamese port and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an Indian group of islands and so, all these countries are a part of the Quad and this Quad grouping is believed to tackle China’s aggressiveness.

Second, all these countries have excellent relations with another and aim for stronger strategic relations. Japan is in a Security Alliance with the United States of America and Japan is India’s all-weather friend. Due to Japan as a common friend between India and the U.S, they too have excellent strategic partnership with one another. Viet Nam and the United States have been developing relations and are working towards becoming strategic partner. Japan’s relations with Viet Nam has been a major part of their ASEAN relations and separately too, Japan has been working on strengthening stronger relations with Viet Nam and in fact, the first visit of Prime Minister Suga is to Viet Nam which highlights Viet Nam’s importance for Japan. India also has wonderful relations with Viet Nam and Viet Nam being the ASEAN Chair in the times of pandemic has played a vital role in medicine, rice and mask diplomacy and has created its niche as a vital and understanding partner in the ASEAN along with evolving as a regional and a global partner in the Indo-Pacific region.

Third, all these four countries are facing security concerns with China.  China has off late made several advances in the East China Sea, South China Sea and the Indian Ocean and all this has impacted the United States of America, Japan, India and Viet Nam as their geostrategic locations are of prime importance to these countries. China has been making aggressive claims in these waters is a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the US, Japan, India and Viet Nam.

Fourth, Japan has been the pioneer of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific region aiming for a rules-based order so as to have the freedom of navigation and access to sea-lanes and routes to all the nations. After Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy at the 196thSession of the Diet in January 2018, this strategy was soon adopted by the United States of America and India. ASEAN too adopted this strategy which meant that Viet Nam too has accepted this strategy. Many believe that this Indo-Pacific Strategy is to tackle China’s aggressiveness.

Fifth, Japan’s initiative of the Expanded Partnership for Quality Infrastructure is aimed to promote infrastructure and development cooperation among the countries could also pave the way for port infrastructural development among thee US, India and Viet Nam.

Therefore, keeping in mind, the above-mentioned arguments could well pave the way for a possible formation of a maritime chain hub consisting of Guam, Okinawa, Cam Ranh Bay and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands which could tackle China’s maritime aggressiveness.

The views expressed are personal

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Defense

Hidden Traces in the Armenia-Azerbaijan Сonflict

Dr.Basel Haj Jasem

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From a geographical perspective, the location of the Azerbaijani city of Tovuz, which witnessed penultimate clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia in July, proves that the recent clashes had nothing to do with the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, as it is far from the Azerbaijani territories occupied by Armenia.

The city of Tovuz is located near the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural gas pipeline, both of which are gates for Azerbaijan to transport its oil and natural gas, the so-called “Caspian Sea wealth,” to Turkey, Europe and other global markets.

A Blow to Russian Interests

The location of the attack or the clashes indicates that they were against Turkish-Western and Turkish-Azerbaijani interests. Nonetheless, they are also a blow against Russia’s interests and role in a region of great geopolitical importance for Moscow and other international and regional players who are worried by the state of consensus emerging Between Ankara and Moscow in Syria. Attempts are being made to repeat such consensus in Libya, with foreign media having reported headlines addressing the new “front” between Moscow and Ankara in this context.

Paris believes that the missile attack (in the first months of 2018) launched by the U.S., Britain and France in Syria created a rift between Russia and Turkey, who have different views on some issues, especially in Syria. French President Emmanuel Macron said this in a televised interview.

It is no secret that the Western attacks in Syria at that time sought, among other things, to cause a rift in relations between Russia and Turkey. Thus any disagreement between Moscow and Ankara is in the interest of the West, so the West will continue to exert pressure on the points of difference between them.

Barely hours after Moscow and Ankara announced the beginning of a Russian-Turkish agreement regarding Libya weeks ago, Macron told reporters on July 23 that “in this part of the Mediterranean, which is vital for our countries, energy and security issues are essential…The issue is related to a struggle for influence, especially by Turkey and Russia, which are asserting their presence more and more, and in the face of this, the European Union has so far done little.” He continued, “It would be a grave mistake to leave our security in the Mediterranean in the hands of other parties. This is not an option for Europe, and this is something France will not let happen.”

Russian-Turkish Rapprochement

The rapprochement with Turkey was a positive event for Russia, especially in light of the sanctions imposed by the West on Moscow after the Ukraine crisis. The Astana process was a kind of compromise, a success for both Moscow and Ankara, and Syria turned into a stage for an exciting reconciliation between the two. This coincided with the coldness of their relationship with the West.

The increased economic cooperation and growth of trade volume are beneficial for both Ankara and Moscow, which both need it. The deals signed, including a nuclear plant and a gas pipeline that will allow Moscow to gain independence from Ukraine and export its gas to Europe via the Black Sea and Turkey, all are steps of good cooperation.

The handover of the Russian S-400 system to Turkey is also a matter of pride and sovereignty for the latter, which feels the West’s betrayal of it on several issues. This includes membership in the European Union, Washington’s support for the Syrian extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) (classified on NATO’s terrorist lists), and the extradition of Gulen.

However, all of the above does not mean Ankara has turned its back on the West, as the strategic partnership continues, despite the current rapprochement with Russia imposed by geopolitics and economy.

Trying to Feel For a Pulse

Amid the exchange of accusations between Baku and Yerevan about igniting the recent clashes, whoever started it is targeting Moscow first, and secondly, torpedoing the rapprochement that is likely to develop between Russia and Turkey. It may be in the context of an attempt to feel for a pulse, see if Moscow will adopt a new position on this conflict that has extended since the end of the last century. This is especially after the recent political developments, with the new government taking office in Armenia maintaining a Western policy.

Moscow is aware that Armenia needs Russia more than Russia needs Armenia, yet a fallout would mean losing one of its back gardens in the former Soviet yard. This may affect Russia’s long-term influence and ability to manoeuvre, imposing its opinion as an international power in the global arena in general, and in the former Soviet space in particular.

Russia needs Armenia, a traditional ally, in the Collective Security Organization and other regional economic alliances, as well as in light of the Georgia-Russia conflict. Moscow also needs Azerbaijan, a country that occupies an important geopolitical position.

Moscow and Baku are linked in many areas of joint cooperation, from cross-border security and energy to the exploitation of Caspian Sea resources and transport projects. The Kremlin does not want to turn Azerbaijan or Armenia into Georgia or Ukraine again, so Moscow will not push Baku away, thus allowing foreign powers to push Russia out of the region.

In fact, one would find that Russia is allied with Armenia, and there is a state of partnership with Azerbaijan, with Moscow playing a mediating role (acceptable to both sides) in settling the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.

From our partner RIAC

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Defense

Germany continues to expand its military presence in Lithuania

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The German Air Force is setting up a Deployable Control and Reporting Centre (DCRC) at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, supplemented by additional sub-elements at Skede, Latvia and Ämari, Estonia. German soldiers are preparing to augment the static CRCs at Karmėlava, Lielvarde (Latvia) and Tallinn (Estonia) and support situational awareness for the airspace in the Baltic region. Subdivisions of the DCRC are also deployed in Skede (Latvia) and Amari (Estonia).

The German Air Force Control and Reporting Centre are closely connected with the other Baltic CRCs and NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem, Germany, to help control NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission and demonstrate interoperability.

Germany is Lithuania’s principal ally and a cornerstone guarantee of security and stability in Europe. The Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Lithuania and the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany concerning Temporary Stays of Members of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Lithuania and the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Germany in the Territory of the Other State was written in the summer of 2020.

Germany is also an active participant of the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic States and delegates officers to the NATO Force Integration Unit in Vilnius.

Germany is the framework nation of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group deployed for deterrence and defence purposes in Rukla since early 2017, and has the largest portion of troops there. A Mechanised Infantry Brigade of the Lithuanian Armed Forces was affiliated to a German Bundeswehr Division in 2018.

Generally, the Baltic States are now on the front line of the increasing tension between NATO and the Russian Federation. In order to lure the NATO and American militaries into their territory, the Baltic governments compete in propaganda, day and night broadcasting message about the “hand of Moscow” that allegedly threatens them.

Further positioning of NATO forces in the Baltic region could spark inadvertent escalation. NATO’s joint forces and its subsequent efforts to keep the Baltics by massive force deployment would irritate Moscow.

Russia might escalate the situation and even could use nuclear weapons. In addition, Ambiguous Nuclear Doctrines in NATO’s and Russia’s nuclear policies create the potential for deliberate escalation.

Thus, a potential conflict between NATO and Russia could provoke not only the use of conventional weapons, but also nuclear weapons.

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