Connect with us

Africa

Beautiful Soul Narrative and Gendered Understanding of Armed Conflict : Case Study of the Rwandan Genocide

Published

on

Armed conflict leads to exacerbation of inequalities and power relations that existed in the pre-conflict period as a result of gender stereotypical understanding of the conflict. That is why it is a vast resources in the academic literature to examine the relation between gender roles and armed conflict (Cockburn 1999; El- Bushra 2017; Turshen 1998; Yuval- Davis 1997). According to many feminist scholars, gender is a system of power relation to determine both relations and access to resources within a society. Gender roles point out politically constructed roles, behaviours and norms that society decide which way most proper and appropriate for both women and men. In other words, stereotypical assumptions lead to expectations that men are associated with aggressiveness, perpetrators, defenders, power and fight; whereas women are related to honour of the country, innocence, peacefulness, victimisation, care and maternity. However, as a result of this gendered dynamics of armed conflict women are perceived as substitute in the armed conflict such as cookers, cleaners, sex slaves and nurse into the military life (Cockburn 1999; El- Bushra 2017; Turshen 1998; Yuval- Davis 1997).

Having said that, traditional masculinity dominated gender roles shape the understanding of victimisation in armed conflict. As Cynthia Cockburn analyses (1999) in the chapter of ‘The Continuum of Violence’ gender based war normalises the invisibility of female participation into the military forces. Particularly, it is a common perception that all women and young girls experience rape, sex slavery or faced sex work while, real men fight for the country and honour of the state. In addition, as Turshen describes that this masculinity based understanding of sexual abuse causes to leave aside women’s agency into military life (Turshen 1998)

Furthermore, both gendered war stories and narratives exclude women and their agencies in armed conflict by showing men as perpetrators of the war. Also, both war propaganda and images of motherland are symbolised as a woman who is honour of the country; whereas enemies are symbolised as male who threats the country (Cockburn 1999; El- Bushra 2017; Turshen 1998; Yuval- Davis 1997).  At the same time, particularly victorious war stories and traditional narratives strengthen the negative impacts of gender roles on armed conflict because women are shaped as innocent victim who must be protected by a hero. To illustrate, beautiful soul narrative is identified by Jean Elshtain to clarify the impact of gender roles on the understanding of armed conflict and security. According to Jean Elshtain, victorious war stories have essential role to encourage people especially men to fight for the country by labelling women who are ‘beautiful souls’ and are ‘incorrectly pacifists’ (Elsthain 1995). At the same time, the war stories also emphasise that women are mother of heroes; hence they need to be protected. In this way, it is a traditional gender perception that women should be at home during the armed conflict by providing love and maternity as a supporter for the fighters (Elsthain 1995; Sjoberg 2010).

As many feminist theorist argue that the elements of ‘beautiful soul’ narrative subordinate women and their agencies as a result of the core idea that ‘beautiful soul’ is related with the protection of the women (Elsthain 1995; Sjoberg 2010). It is noteworthy that, there are two core elements of ‘beautiful soul’ narrative. The first element identifies that women are more peaceful than men whereas second one identifies that women are the main reasons of the conflict (Elsthain 1995; Sjoberg 2010). Nonetheless, in this way, ’beautiful soul’ narrative ‘sets women up as the prizes of most wars- fragile, removed from reality, and in need of the protection provided by men’ by showing women as just reason of the armed conflict (Sjoberg, 2010; pg.58) On the other hand, many feminist scholars point out that ‘beautiful soul’ narrative focuses on specific differences between gender roles of women and men and thus; might be identified ‘by the separation of a private sphere (where women are, and naturally belong) and the sphere of war- making and war-fighting (where something has gone terribly wrong if women are included)’(Sjoberg, 2010; pg.58).

However, as many feminist scholars clarify this masculinity based characterization of gender roles into the military life is inaccurate and incomplete thus; it overshadows both agency and active participation of women in armed conflict by creating a perception that women have temporary and supporter role in armed conflict (Cockburn 1999; El- Bushra 2017; Turshen 1998; Yuval- Davis 1997).Additionally, females have more active role and even can be more brutal than men in armed conflict contrary to popular myth. That is, we might claim that ‘beautiful soul’ narrative cannot be obtained in every time in military life. Hence, it is important to examine ‘beautiful soul’ narrative regarding female combatant’s active role in the armed conflict to bring into open women’s agency. In the light of the information that given above, this essay critics the understanding of ‘beautiful soul’ narrative and, delves into both female violent agency and active roles of women into military life with a case study of the Rwandan genocide to clarify that ‘beautiful soul’ narrative cannot be incorporated into the military life.

Active Participation of Female Combatants: Are they ‘Beautiful Souls’ or Perpetrators of Armed Conflict: A Case Study of Rwanda

Throughout history, women have been active involvement in armed conflict as fighters and combatants in many international conflict such as the American revolution, the Mexican revolution, World War I, The Vietnam War, The Sierra Leone Civil war and The Rwandan Genocide whereas; ‘beautiful soul’ narrative shows women as more peaceful, innocent and naive than men (Sjoberg, 2010; pg.58).At the same time, it is noteworthy that women’s participation to armed conflict is not only as substitute roles but also as fighter role in many International cases. Furthermore, gender and armed conflict studies show that active participation of women is increasing during the last years and female combatants sometimes commit more brutal and oppressor war crime than male combatants in armed conflict by killing, raping civilians mercilessly (Schjølset 2013; Sjoberg 2010). In other words, gender studies show that women are not either more peaceful nor reason of the conflict by focusing on many different case studies all around the world. Hence, it is essential to delve into women’s role into military life from an objective and gender-neutral perspective. All in all, this part of the essay will critically analyse the active involvement of the female combatants in the Rwandan genocide to challenge the understanding of ‘beautiful soul’ narrative and traditional gender roles into military life.

A Case Study of Rwanda Genocide: Historical Background about the genocide

Rwanda had been known as a country of a mainly three different ethnic groups; the Hutu, the Tutsi, and the Twa. Interactions and inter-marriages between those groups particularly the Hutu and the Tutsi groups were situation of daily life (Hogg 2010; Brown 2014; BBC News Rwanda). However, the distinction between Hutu and Tutsi,’ the perpetrators and victims of the genocide respectively’ was historically related to their social status which was socially constructed by colonial powers (Brown 2014). Having said that, the colonial rules exacerbated effectively the social status differences by giving both social and administrative power to the Tutsi group to create perception that Tutsis are superior group. However, this situation ‘portrayed the Tutsis as the direct antagonizes of the discrimination that had been directed toward the Hutus for decades.’(Hogg 2010; Brown 2014). As a result of social inequalities, created by colonial power, on 6th April 1994 Rwandan genocide started right after extremist Hutu power announced that to kill and excruciate Tutsi people (BBC News: Rwanda). According to the United Nations report about Rwanda (2015), 8000 people were slaughtered, many of them were raped, and tortured within 100 days. As most academics stated that on April 1994, Rwanda witnessed an unforgettable and unprecedented genocide in the history of the humanity as a result of ethnic and gender based problems into the society. Briefly, Rwandan genocide has still been a controversial topic in the armed conflict field in terms of many reasons such as female fighters, ethnicity problems, and the role of colonial powers. In order to analyse specifically, this part of the essay will particularly focus on female involvement in the genocide.

Women As Perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide

‘I had seen war before, but I had never seen a woman carrying a baby on her back kill another women with a baby on her back.’ (UNAMIR interviewer in 1996) (Johns 2010; 82)

‘I believe that women are just as guilty of this genocide as men’ (Female genocide suspect, Kigali Central Prison)’

As stated in the introduction to this part of the essay, the Rwandan genocide has been unprecedented in the history of genocide in terms of the prominent role of female combatants. Women’s active participation into the military life in the 1994 Rwandan genocide added a new dimension to gender-based assumption of armed conflict. As Brown states that the agency of women to participate in the genocide challenged the gender based narratives. In other words, women in the Rwandan genocide reshaped patriarchal understanding of war narratives by showing how a mother became a cruel murderers. To exemplify, interview with Victor Karega enlightens how female participant in the genocide reshaped patriarchy and masculinity based understanding of armed conflict in Rwanda. Karega claims that,

In our culture, women has always been a symbol. A symbol of maternity, a symbol of love. It was a symbol of social cohabitation. Even when there were problems, ethnic problems and political problems, women were always like a link, a linkage, between different categories of people, because they were marrying from, or to, both sides…. But during the genocide, they were also involved in perpetrating the genocide (Interview Victor Karega of the Rwandan Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Affairs, November 3, 1998) (Sharlach, pg 393)

At the same time, in the academic literature, there are vast feminist resources to analyse female participation into the military life in the Rwandan genocide to show that women are capable of use of force in contrast to ‘beautiful soul’ narrative and masculinity based understanding of armed conflict (Hogg 2010; Johns 2010; Brown 2014). Hence, this section of the essay will particularly focus on the specific dominant roles of female combatants in the genocide to indicate that ‘beautiful soul’ narrative cannot be incorporated into the military in all conditions.

Moreover, it is essential to note that, women have prominent role in a variety of the genocide by murdering, stealing, and looting resources of Tutsis, and acting as an accessory for rapes contrary to the perception of ‘beautiful soul’ narrative discourse. As stated by Odette Kayirere, Executive Secretary of AVEGA and Sabine Uwase, staff attorney, the genocide-related crimes committed by female combatants in the genocide might be categorised under two main forms violence namely; acts of direct violence and acts of indirect violence (Brown 2014). Acts of direct violence is related to use of physical force such as killing, rape, torture, sexual assault and beatings (Galtung 1969) whereas indirect violence is not related to physical force such as looting, supervising and ordering indirect violence (Brown 2014). However, one of the main direct violence committed by female perpetrates in the genocide is to rape to Tutsi young boys by dishonouring them (Hogg 2010). For instance, Charles, as a male victim of female perpetrated rape confirmed that Hutu women forced them to have sex involuntarily by giving drugs (Brown 2014). Also, women participated actively in the killings and excruciating of so many Tutsi civilians regardless of age, and gender mercilessly. Having said that, according to African Rights investigators women combatants not only caused so many killings and torturing in the genocide but they also behaved more brutal than male combatants as commanders (Hogg 2010; Brown 2014). In addition, Adam Jones examples in his research that there are many female commanders who committed more brutal genocide crimes than male commanders in Rwanda. To exemplify,

Rose Karushara, a councillor in Kigali, who ‘took extremely active role in the genocide’, by wearing military uniform. She was a tall and physically strong woman, she attacked the refugees herself ‘before handing them over to her interahahmwe for the final kill.. At least five thousand people were killed, all thrown into the Nyabarongo River under orders from Karushara. (Jones,2002 pg.83)

As another example of female commanders Sister Julienne Kizito, one of a number of nuns who was prominent figures of the women participation in genocidal atrocities. She was accused of working directly with the killers by burning people alive (Jones, 2002)

Furthermore, it essential to focus on that women not only committed direct violence in the Rwandan genocide, but also they committed indirect violence by both act looting resources and supervising murdering of Tutsis. As Adam Jones emphasizes (2010) that particularly female leaders dominated the genocide by looting resources and stripping bodies of Tutsis. Such that, they did not hesitate to assisted in killings and torturing of their neighbors. What is worse, many Hutu women appealingly assisted in even killings of children and babies of Tutsis to cause extinction of Tutsis. Having said that, Hutu women led to so many rapes and sexual harassment of Tutsis appealingly by helping male Hutu combatants. Especially, they had active role in forcing Tutsi women to accept their designated fate as sex-slaves for male Hutu soldiers.

Survivor of the genocide described that how Tutsi women deforced them at their houses to be raped by Hutu male soldiers (Jones 2010). To illustrate, one of the survivors of the genocide describes that ‘Many of women of your kind have been taken by dog-like vagabonds. And here you are, rejecting this nice young man… What are you waiting for?’ (Jones 2010 pg.84). Also it is significant to analyse that, Hutu women also participated in the genocide as spies by denouncing and tolerating killings of Tutsis as another significant indirect role (Hogg 2010). Additionally, women had prominent roles in the key political positions to provoke the Hutu people against the Tutsis during the genocide. Mainly, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, previous Minister of Family Affairs and Women’s Development was accused of being the reason of thousands of killings by provoking the Hutu women with the effect of her political power (Hogg, 2010).All in all, in the light of the information regarding female involvement in the genocide, it is essential to analyse that, the cases of female combatants in the Rwandan genocide refute the idea of  ‘beautiful soul’ narrative into the military life. That is, the Rwandan genocide has been a milestone to demonstrate that how ordinary women became brutal combatants on the contrary of the general assumption that women are more peaceful and naive than men.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this essay delves into the active role of women into  military life in the Rwandan genocide in the discourse of understanding of gender based armed conflict and ‘beautiful soul’ narrative. Gender is seen as a set of expectation that society determine what is more proper for both male and female into the society. Having said that, there is a growing acceptance that gender issues have crucial impact on the understating of armed conflict and political violence in the academic literature. Also, there are specific gender roles in armed conflict as a result of masculine understanding of military life. However, it is noteworthy that male power dominated gender roles overshadow both the active role of women and their agencies by creating assumption that women are victims of the armed conflict whereas; men are defenders of the conflict even though, women actively participated in armed conflict and political violence like soldiers, combatants and commander throughout the history.

At the same time, as Elstahin argues (1995) that with the effect of traditional gender roles in armed conflict war stories associates women as reason to men die for by creating assumption that women are more naive than men. However, this gender based assumption contradicts reality into the military life because gender studies indicate that women can be more brutal fighter who victimise civilians regardless of sex. In other words, female combatants kill, rape and victimise on the contrary of ‘beautiful soul’ narrative during the conflict. Especially, the Rwandan genocide added a new dimension in terms of gender and war field. Thus, it has essential role to challenge the idea that women are more naive and peaceful than men hence; they need to be protected.

According to The United Nations report and other gender studies that greater proportion of female combatants took extremely active role as killers, commander and torturer in the genocide. To exemplify, the cases of female leaders demonstrate that female combatants had dominant role  ‘in the post-massacre looting and stripping bodies, which often involved climbing over corpses piled thigh-high in the confined spaces in which many Tutsis met their end.’(Jones 2002, pg84). What is more, studies show that female commanders commit more war crimes than men commanders during the genocide. Briefly, the active involvement of many Hutu women in the killings during the Rwanda genocide objects to both ‘beautiful soul’ narrative and gender based dynamics of armed conflict. Hence, it is noteworthy that the perception of ‘beautiful soul’ narrative cannot be truly incorporated into real military life thus; the role of female combatants in armed conflict should be consider without masculinity based stereotypical lenses.

Bibliography

  • Adam Jones (2002) Gender and genocide in Rwanda, Journal of Genocide Research, 4:1, 65-94, DOI: 10.1080/14623520120113900
  • Anita Schjølset (2013) Data on Women’s Participation in NATO Forces and Operations, International Interactions: Empirical and Theoretical Research in International Relations, 39:4, 575-587, DOI: 10.1080/03050629.2013.805326
  • African Rights. 1995. “Not So Innocent: When Women Become Killers”. London: African Rights.
  • BBC News Rwanda: How the Genocide Happened Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13431486
  • 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
  • El- Bushra, Judy, Sahl, M.G. Ibrahim (2005). “Cycles of Violence: Gender Relations and Armed Conflict”. Agency for Co-operation and Research in Development ACK Garden House
  • Elsthain,Jean Beathe (1995) “Women and War” The University of Chicago Press. Chicago and Press.
  • Hogg, Nicole (2010) ‘Women’s Participation in the Rwandan genocide: mothers or monsters?”, International Review of the Red Cross, Volume 93 Number 877, 69-102.
  • Sara E. Brown (2014) “Female Perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide, International Feminist Journal of Politics”, 16:3, 448-469, DOI: 10.1080/14616742.2013.788806.
  • Sjoberg, L. and Gentry, C. 2007. Mothers, Monsters, Whores: Women’s Violence in Global Politics. London: Zed Books.
  • Sjoberg (2010) ‘Women fighters and the ‘beautiful soul’ narrative’ International Review of the Red Cross.
  • The United Nations Report on Rwanda (2015) Available at:http://research.un.org/en/docs/reports
  • Turshen, M and Twagiramniya (eds) (1998). “What Women Do in War Time: Gender and Conflict in Africa,”. London, New York: Zed Books.
  • Walby, S. 1989. ‘Theorising Patriarchy’, Sociology 23 (3): 213–34.
  • Yuval Davis, N. 2006. ‘Intersectionality and Feminist Politics’, European Journal of Women’s Studies 13 (3): 193–209.
  • Yuval-Davis, Nira. (1997).”Gender and Nation“, Sage Publications, London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi.

Continue Reading
Comments

Africa

South Africa on the right side of history or captured by Cold War allies?

Published

on

Authors: Professor Gerrit Olivier and Michèle Olivier* 

A seemingly non-negotiable principle of SA’s foreign policy, is to be on the side of autocrats and dictators and habitually anti-West, irrespective of the issues. Cosy relations with the likes of Ethiopia’s Mengistu Haile Mariam, Sudan‘s Omar al Bashir Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, characterised our foreign policy under all presidents since Nelson Mandela. With the present government being enamoured with a rabid war criminal like Vladimir Putin, we see a continuation of this policy.

Obsessed with a myopic partisan ideology and habitual hop-nobbing with dictators, of course, come at a high price, particularly degrading SA’S erstwhile high international prestige, role and status as well as stunting our all-important economic development. In short, this means that SA’s prevailing foreign policy is totally out of zinc with its intrinsic national interests. 

According to ANC declarations, SA would ’stick to its principles‘ and not take sides in this war in spite of blatantly illegal and murderous Russian war crimes. Hence, it abstained from voting against Russia together with a motley minority of 34 other UN members in the 2 March General Assembly resolution (only 5 states voted against whilst 141 voted in favour). 

The minister of the department of international relations and development (DIRCO), Naledi Pandor, issued a statement demanding Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. This clearly upset the Marxist, anti-West faction in the ANC policy establishment who subsequently prevailed upon president Ramaphosa, to denounce the statement, no doubt to assuage Russian and local communist’s displeasure. 

For many, both inside and outside the country, this was a controversial decision resulting in a rare local public debate about our wayward foreign policy. What emerged was a conflict of opinion between the ideologues and realists in the foreign policy establishment. A hopeful sign, but unfortunately of little consequence in our fossilised ANC foreign policy establishment. 

All along, the ideologues accepted that being in cahoots with war criminal Russia was in SA’s best interests notwithstanding the normative constitutional dictates and founding moral principles concerning respect for human rights, sovereignty, democracy, and territorial integrity. 

What followed was indeed a case study of expedient, if not downright ’Walter Mitty’ diplomacy.  First, president Ramaphosa rushed to telephone Putin, obviously to bask the reflected glory and honour of speaking to the ‘great man’. Afterwards, he subserviently thanked ‘’his excellency president Vladimir Putin‘’ for taking his call.  At the same time, our ’great negotiator’ refused official engagement with the local Ukrainian ambassador as well as with ambassadors of the European Union, our biggest trading partners.

In the latest General Assembly meeting on Ukraine, SA persisted with its pro-Russian pseudo-neutrality but got a humiliating bloody nose after presenting a draft resolution, excluding the country of all blame. No wonder as this resolution was strictly in line with Kremlin propaganda lies casting doubt as to where exactly SA’s UN diplomats got their instructions from. 

Ramaphosa’s aim, it seems, is to push himself forward as facilitator in the conflict, recalling at length in parliament his past experiences a negotiator.

‘Illusions of grandeur’, it may be called, as SA ’s international status and role during about 3 decades of uninterrupted misrule has declined close to being almost insignificant. While most of the world reached out to end the horrible and unthinkable human and material misery inflicted upon Ukrainian people, he offered them naught for their comfort, except portending to be a great negotiator reporting for service.  

Belatedly, after strong criticism he rejected war as an instrument of policy, and signalled his wish to also speak to Ukrainian pres Volodimyr Zelinskiy, impressed perhaps by the latter‘s sterling performances addressing the American senate and the British, Canadian, Israeli, Italian and Japanese parliaments and the  German Bundestag. The pièce de résistance of his kindergarten diplomacy, was to blame NATO for being deaf to earlier warnings against eastward expansion, ignoring the Russian brutal invasions, of inter alia, Finland, Latvia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, in the previous century not realising that NATO membership was their safeguard against future Ukrainian-type of invasions. Theirs was a wise decision.  Indeed, Mr President, ignorance is bliss….!    

Of course, good relations with countries like Russia are important provided they are based on pragmatism and national interest rather than sentimental ideological predilections. However, the ANC still acts as being a captive of the Cold War and, as if it still owes permanent a feudal fealty to Russia at a time when Soviet Union is passe and with communism on the ash heap of history. 

While the world must perforce deal with a totally different and dangerous Putinist Russia, the ANC obstinately refuse to accept that its subservient posture vis-a- vis that country is not in SA’s best interest. Lamentably, the global moral imperatives that saw them to power no longer guide its foreign policy. Like the apartheid regime, Putinist Russia today commits a crime against humanity in Ukraine with the support of the ANC government. 

The war in Ukraine may yet lead to unthinkable consequences for the world at large. What happens there is really a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. Putin does not want a democratic Ukraine at his doorstep exposing his bland authoritarianism and precipitating a ’colour revolution’.  Given the solidarity in the democratic West and the sluggish performance of the Russian forces in Ukraine, he will probably end up losing. SA policy makers are demonstrably  myopic not realising the consequences for being on the side of a war autocratic war criminal war criminal. Like apartheid SA it would probably end up as an isolated global pariah.

An independent SA foreign policy is called for rather than one subservient to the preferences and dictates of Moscow and Beijing. This is the best way in which SA can regain international respect. The way in which it has handled the Ukraine crisis once again laid bare its diplomatic deficiencies, particularly lack of clear headed leadership. This will not change unless foreign policy making is democratised and professionalised rather than being monopolised by a small clique of badly trained  and inexperienced ideologues with the help of a few advocating stand-patters. 

* Michèle Olivier is a consultant of international law

Continue Reading

Africa

Reviewing Russia-Mali Strategic Partnership

Published

on

After withdrawing from the Joint Military Force of the G5-Sahel group which the United Nations described as “unfortunate” and “regrettable” middle of May, Malian Foreign Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, made a snapshot visit, for the second time under the new military administration to Moscow, intended to review various aspects of strategic partnership deals with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“We paid special attention to the practical aspects of organizing deliveries from Russia of wheat, mineral fertilizers and petroleum products that are so much needed by the people of Mali today in conditions of illegitimate Western sanctions,” Lavrov said at a press conference after talks with Diop in Moscow.

The sound pace of military and military-technical contacts between the two countries was noted during the talks, according to Lavrov, and thanked his Malian counterpart for support for Russia’s resolutions at the latest session of the UN General Assembly. Lavrov made to explicit reference to the meeting of the UN Security Council the Western countries that consistently tried to “put their blame at Russia’s door” and to shirk responsibility for the food crisis. 

“It goes without saying that we discussed the situation in Ukraine and around it, including the meeting of the UN Security Council devoted to world food security issues, where the Western countries tried to put their own blame at somebody else’s door. They argued that the crisis, which by and large is a result of their own efforts, allegedly stems from the crisis in Ukraine. Of course, they blamed it entirely on Russia,” Lavrov said.

Russia reaffirms its readiness to render Mali support in raising the fighting efficiency of its armed forces. “We reaffirmed Russia’s readiness as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to further contribute to normalizing the situation in Mali, render Bamako comprehensive support on a bilateral basis, in particular, in the sphere of raising the combat efficiency of the Malian armed forces, training troops and law-enforcement personnel,” Russia’s top diplomat said.

France’s decision together with Western allies to end the anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane and the European special forces mission Takuba does not contribute to restoring security in Mali and the entire Sahel region. Reports say France has approximately 5,100 troops in the region under Operation Barkhane, which spans five countries in the Sahel – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

With the final exit and the vacuum created by France, Russia now sees Mali as an excellent conduit to penetrate into the Sahel by pushing the much-criticized Wagner Group that organizes private military for countries in conflict. It is aggressively targeting the Sahel region, an elongated landlocked territory located between north Africa (Maghreb) and West Africa region, and also stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.

“There is an obvious danger of the emergence of enclaves of power vacuum where militants of various outlawed armed gangs will feel free at hand and they have already prepared for such acts. This threatens the country’s territorial integrity and we repeatedly told our French counterparts about that,” Russia’s top diplomat said.

On March 2 at the United Nations General Assembly, African representatives and their votes were considered very interesting, and have geopolitical implications for study and analysis. Some 17 African countries abstained from the vote at the UN General Assembly to deplore the Russian invasion of Ukraine while some other 28 countries in the continent voted in favour. Mali was among those that abstained from vote. Eritrea was the only African country that voted against the resolution. It opposes all forms of unilateral sanction as illegal and counterproductive.

“All our initiatives were supported by Mali. We agreed to enhance coordination on the UN platform and in other international organizations. We are determined to work for this in earnest, including in the recently created Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations,” Lavrov assured.

During his first official visit in November 2021 to Moscow, Abdoulaye Diop and Sergei Lavrov, in fact, focused on increasing bilateral cooperation in economic sectors. But particularly significant was Russia’s military assistance to strengthen the position of the new military government and to fight rising terrorism in the Sahel region.

As developments explicitly show, Mali already stands in isolation there as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, the United Nations, and the bilateral and multilateral partners endorse and support the implementation of sanctions and other strict measures to ensure a peaceful return to constitutional and democratic government in Mali.

Mali, a landlocked West African state with an impoverished population, faces increasing isolation from the international community over the political power grab. Even as the African Union (AU), the continental organization, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the regional bloc, both suspended the membership of Mali following military coups in August 2020 and May 2021, the ruling military officials are still holding onto political power by delaying the proposed elections in February 2022.

The African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and foreign organizations such as the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) have requested a quick transition to a civilian government. They further urged that efforts are taken to resolve outstanding issues relating to sustainable development and observing strictly principles of democracy in the Republic of Mali in West Africa.

Moscow is still planning to hold the second Russia-African summit. The “special military operation” approved by both the Federation Council and the State Duma (legislative chambers) to “demilitarize and denazify” the former Soviet republic of Ukraine has pushed the United States and Canada, European Union members and many other external countries to impose sanctions against Russia.

Continue Reading

Africa

Mali’s withdrawal from G5 Sahel, Joint Force ‘a setback’ for the region

Published

on

UN peacekeepers patrol the Menaka region in northeast Mali. MINUSMA/Harandane Dicko

Mali’s decision on 15 May to withdraw from the G5-Sahel group and its Joint Force is “unfortunate” and “regrettable”, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council on Wednesday, as she urged countries in the region to redouble efforts to protect human rights, amid protracted political and security crises. 

Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, said the Joint Force was created in 2017 by the “G5” Heads of State – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – to counter terrorism in the Sahel “head on”. 

Challenging dynamics 

However, the challenging political and security dynamics in the Sahel – and uncertain outcomes of transitions in Mali and Burkina Faso, in particular – has already slowed Joint Force operations.  The G5 Sahel, meanwhile, has not convened a high-level political meeting since November 2021, while its Defence and Security Committee has not met in over six months. 

Thanks to Commander General Oumar Bikimo, she said, the Joint Force has been able to carry out operations in all three of its sectors since the Council last met in November, despite the absence of Malian battalions.  

How Mali’s decision to leave the G5 and the Joint Force will impact the dynamics in the region remains to be seen.  “It is most certainly a step back for the Sahel,” she said. 

MINUSMA on hand 

For its part, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) will continue to provide support to the Joint Force long as it is mandated to do so by the Council.  It has been working with contractors to deliver life support consumables to the contingents and will honour requests received by the other four contingents outside of Mali. 

Cycle of radicalization 

“Protecting the most vulnerable has become ever more important,” she stressed.  

She cited reports of serious violations committed against civilians – by terrorist armed groups, as well as reportedly by armed and security forces.  

To be sure, uprooting terrorist groups deeply enmeshed or embedded within communities is “uniquely challenging” in the Sahel, she said, making counter terrorism operations immensely difficult to carry out.   

But if civilians fall victim to these groups, “those very efforts are going to be pointless”.  Terrorist operations cause immeasurable human suffering, seriously undermine trust in the State and fuel radicalization. 

Time for a re-think 

“It is perhaps time to rethink our approaches and change the way we do our work” she added.  “We need innovative approaches in the face of the constantly evolving tactics of terrorist groups, whose influence keeps expanding”. 

She noted that for the last five years, the international community, donors and partners have struggled to reach a consensus on the most effective support mechanism for a collective security response in the Sahel.   

And the lack of consensus persists – despite the recognition by all, that the terrorist onslaught in the Sahel constitutes a slow-burning, mortal threat to international peace and security. 

Holistic approach needed more than ever 

“It is now more urgent than ever to act,” she said.   

She called for a holistic approach that honours “the primacy of politics”, addresses the causes of poverty and exclusion, and provides opportunities and fulfilled lives for the many young people in the region. 

The African Union Commission and the United Nations Secretariat will jointly carry out a strategic assessment of security and governance initiatives in the Sahel, she said, with the goal of strengthening support to the G5-Sahel, its Joint Force and other security and governance initiatives in the region. 

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Trending