The EU as a peacemaker

In light of the announcement from the Norwegian Nobel Committee that the European Union (EU) is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012, the UCDP wishes to highlight some of the findings from its 2010 report on the EU as a peacemaker. Unquestionably, the EU has been successful in keeping peace between former archenemies such as France and Germany. However, EU member states have nonetheless been engaged in international and intrastate conflicts in the most recent decades. The report demonstrates that there is a need for a new start for EU as a peacemaker. “In the documentation of EU engagement in international affairs, the report finds the record to be below expectations”. It “also asserts that there is a potential for the EU to take on a more significant international role”.

What could be expected of the EU as a peacemaker? Two basic goals for the EU regards international peace and security and the promotion of human rights and democracy. Assessing the EUs performance over time UCDP researchers find a surprisingly weak performance, not the least when looking at EU as a peaceful peacemaker. 25 out of 27 EU member states have at some point been engaged in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The operation takes place under NATO flag and comparing the resources poured into the armed peacemaking the commitment through e.g. EU civil police operations in the country has been fairly small.

With member states militarily engaged in armed conflict, independently or as part of other military organizations, may risk hampering the EUs possibilities to perform as a peaceful peacemaker. Countries such as the UK (involved in the Gulf War 1991, Iraq in the 2000s, with its engagement in Northern Ireland and in Sierra Leone in 2000), Spain (engaged in the same international wars as the UK but also regarding the Basque conflict) and France (in Iraq 1991 and with several interventions in Africa) are three big EU members who both internally and externally have engaged militarily in armed conflict.

In terms of strategy for early crisis management, EU engagement seems to be focused on a few conflicts where it attempts to affect the policies of the government side. EU engagement as a leading third party in conflicts has so far been fairly restricted. Macedonia in 2001 (under the Swedish presidency) and in Georgia (South Ossetia) in 2008 (with the French presidency highly engaged) are two examples. The latter conflict, while inactive in regard of battle-related deaths, remains to see a solution to the underlying incompatibility. Georgia also exemplifies EUs seemingly increased engagement, also outside their direct neighbors, stretching into former Soviet Union states, but also to Africa.

With a limited “willingness to use costly rather than symbolic measures to protect human rights”, EU sanctions have been fairly ineffective. While the EU has been largely successful in brokering peace and terminating conflict where it has been engaged, this effectiveness has not seemed to prevent human rights violations, domestic military involvement in politics or the outbreak of conflict.

Concluding; the UCDP report on EU as a peacemaker finds that:

  • There is a need to refocus Europe’s international conflict activity to constructive engagements for peace and security.
  • The EU needs to make more use of, and develop, its crisis management capacities.
  • The EU needs to strengthen the role of the EU Special Representatives.
  • ESDP/CSDP operations need to increase their weight in conflict resolution and peacekeeping.
  • The EU needs to emphasise its role as a leading force for human rights and democracy by making its actions more effective.
  • The EU needs to draw on the competence of the entire Union.
  • The EU needs to integrate peace dimensions into a new doctrine of peaceful conflict resolution and peacebuilding, firmly rested on the values expressed in the Lisbon Treaty.
  • The EU needs to make its goals clearer and increase its visibility when cooperating with other international bodies for international peace (e.g. UN; OSCE; AU).

 

Read the report here: http://www.pcr.uu.se/digitalAssets/21/21951_UCDP_paper_7.pdf

//UCDP

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Ogaden: Vad handlar det om?

Det är utan tvekan ett glädjebesked att Martin Schibbye och Johan Persson fått komma hem till Sverige efter sin långa tid i etiopiskt fängelse. Mycket har sagts och skrivits om Johans och Martins öde, om Etiopiens regering och rättssystem samt om Lundin Oils och andra oljebolags verksamhet i landet. Mycket litet har dock sagts om själva den väpnade konflikten i Ogaden och utifrån pressens och det som tycks ha varit Schibbyes och Perssons journalistiska uppdrag på platsen kan man lätt få intrycket att det handlar om ännu en oljekonflikt. Så är inte fallet. Vilket då leder mig till frågan: Ogaden, vad handlar det om? (Följande stammar helt från UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia, som man hittar på: http://www.ucdp.uu.se/database)

Ovan en karta som dels visar Ogaden och några av de platser man bekräftat att Johan och Martin befunnitsig

på. Kartan visar även intensiteten i strider och andra våldsamheter mellan den etiopiska regeringen och ONLF

 mellan 1989 och 2010. Helt röda markeringar visar områden med 500 eller fler dödsoffer.

Lite historia

Etiopien är ett av väldigt få länder i Afrika som undgick att koloniseras (Liberia undslapp också, men fler länder kan jag inte komma på på rak arm), då territoriet vid tiden för koloniseringarna styrdes av ett relativt starkt kejsardöme. Landet föll dock under italiensk kontroll efter en invasion på 1930-talet (då Etiopien ofta kallades Abyssinien). Den siste kejsaren på tronen var alla rastafaris bäste vän Haile Selassie, som jag återkommer till om en kort stund.

Området som vi nu kallar Ogaden ligger i sydöstra Etiopien och kom under etiopisk kontroll på 1880-talet. Ogaden är inte dem term för området som den etiopiska regeringen använder, utan de föredrar att kalla den för dess administrativa namn: Somali regionen. Befolkningen här är – till skillnad mot resten av Etiopien – etniskt somaliskt och därmed också muslimsk. Det är förstås på grund av detta faktum som regionen ofta kallas Somali. En annan populär term för området är Västra Somalia, vilket används av de inom området som söker att få området att ingå i ett Stor-Somalia. Just detta, dvs att regionen angränsar till Somalia, av många somalier ses som en del av Somalia, och att befolkningsmajoritet är just somalisk och muslimsk är av vikt för att förstå konflikten.

Hur trevlig och mysig Haile Selassie än framstår som poster boy för rastafaris och reggaemusiken så är det kalla fakta att han var en diktator som behandlade folket i Ogadenregionen synnerligen illa. De flesta i Ogaden levde som nomader och hade konservativa värderingar. Selassie hade inte mycket sympati för detta utan skapade skattesystem som svårt missgynnade dessa nomader samt drev igenom stängningar av koranskolor och omskrivningar av lagar som ogadenierna inte var speciellt nöjda med. I och med Somalias självständighet på tidigt 1960-tal och de drömmar om ett Stor-Somalia som då väcktes (som även innefattade Djibouti och delar av Kenya) tog vissa somalier i Ogaden mod till sig och började kräva autonomi och självständighet. Kring 1963 bildades Ogadens första rebellorganisation Ogaden Liberation Front (OLF). Denna hade dock inte mycket att sätta emot Selassies kejsardöme och utplånades i stort sett under 1964.

Efter detta första uppror blev Selassie än mindre mysig och trevlig. En pacificeringskampanj inleddes och innefattade misshandel, mord, beslagtagning av boskap (vilket är problematiskt om man är nomad) samt en relativt hård kampanj av att placera ut jordbrukare från Amharafolket i de bördigaste områdena i regionen. Värre blev det också när svältkatastrofen 1974-75 slår till i regionen. Många påpekar också att denna blev värre än vad som hade varit nödvändigt eftersom regeringen beslagtagit så pass mycket boskap och förhindrat nomadernas fria rörlighet till bättre betesmarker. Mycket roligare blev det inte heller när kejsare Selassie avhystes från tronen av Mengistu, ledaren för ’Derg’: en mycket mycket barbarisk marxist-leninistisk rörelse som tog kontroll över Etiopien.

Det var således inga större chock att en ny rebellrörelse bildades i kölvattnet av dessa katastrofer. 1976 framträder WSLF (Western Somali Liberation Front), vilka som namnet antyder, stödde Ogadens anslutning till Somalia. Gruppen understöddes mycket kraftigt av Somalias diktator Said Barre, en övertygad kommunist med drömmar om ett Stor-Somalia. WSLF hade en del initiala framgångar mot de etiopiska styrkorna då dessa var synnerligen försvagade av den enorma mängd väpnade konflikter de var inblandade i parallellt med Ogadenkonflikten. ’Dergen’ var som tidigare antytts en extremt brutal regim som inte fick några nya vänner bland de många olika folkgrupperna i Etiopien. Siad Barre i Somalia var dock inte nöjd med WSLF:s framgångar utan beordrade 1977 en invasion av området för att ansluta det till Somalia. Det gick inget vidare och de somaliska styrkorna kastades ut ur landet tillsammans med stora delar av WSLF, som ändock fortsatte göra motstånd fram till 1983 men i betydligt minskad skala. Till slut krossades dock även WSLF till följd av en mycket brutal insats av Mengistus mannar: bland annat ihopfösandet av alla civila i ’skyddade byar’ för att neka WSLF någon form av folkligt stöd.

Rent historiskt har det alltså mest gått utåt för människorna i Ogaden. Från att mest ha ignorerats av det etiopiska kejsardömet på 1880-talet övergick uppmärksamheten till strukturellt förtryck för att avslutas med brutalt våld från både Selassies och Mengistus sida.

Slutet på Mengistu

Även om WSLF hade krossats effektivt dök det snart upp nya aktörer på arenan. Omkring 1984 bildades Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), vilka är den rebellgrupp som Johan och Martin hälsade på. Denna grupp är den enda som fortfarande är aktiv i någon större grad i området. ONLF:s uttalade mål var och är att skapa ett självständigt Ogaden (dvs inte gå ihop med Somalia) och befria sitt folk från vad de anser vara etiopisk kolonialism. Under 1980 och början av 1990-talen var ONLF inte speciellt militärt aktiva eller framgångsrika. Man hade en obetydlig del i det uppror som slutligen kastade ut Mengistu från makten i maj 1991 och som leddes av EPRDF (Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front). Då man var en sådan obetydlig maktfaktor i landet tog man fasta på EPRDF:s erbjudande om att ge Ogaden regional autonomi, även om målet fortsatt var självständighet. I samband med detta avtal fick man även en plats i regeringen. I valen 1992 vann ONLF stora segrar i Ogaden, men samexistensen med centralregeringen (som dominerades av Tigrayfolkets TPLF) darrade betänkligt under 1992 och 1993. Vilket i sin tur ledde till att administrationen i Ogaden (då helt kontrollerad av ONLF) utnyttjade sin konstitutionella (faktiskt) rätt att bli självstyrande. Konstitutionellt eller inte så var detta inte vidare populärt i centralregeringens kretsar och den väpnade konflikten bröt ut igen 1994.

Redan 1994 hade ONLF ett visst bett i käftarna, men man växte inte till sig militärt förrän 1998 då kriget mellan Etiopien och Eritrea (som är en helt annan och ganska bisarr saga) ledde till en stor beredvillighet hos Eritrea att skicka vapen och annat stöd till de rebellgrupper som ville separera sig från den etiopiska staten. Strategiskt sett var tanken här att tvinga Etiopien att omplacera styrkor från gränsen i norr ner till de sydöstra delarna. ONLF blev dock inte ens under Etiopien-Eritreakriget speciellt framgångsrikt militärt sett. Dock fortsätter gerillakriget även i skrivande stund.

Oljan

Olja tycks ha haft mycket litet med utbrottet av den väpnade konflikten att göra. Oljefyndigheter i Ogadenregionen blev en het potatis först på 2000-talet, dvs mer än 40 år efter att rebellgrupper fått rot i området. Det vore dock förenklat att säga att de potentiella oljefyndigheterna inte spelat eller spelar någon roll. Möjligheten till oljeinkomster påverkar givetvis den etiopiska centralregeringens ovilja att tillåta en självständig stat i Ogaden. Och en väldig expansion av antalet etiopiska soldater skedde 2006 delvis som ett svar på ONLF:s hot om att anfalla de främst kinesiska (Zhongyuan Petroleum) och malaysiska (Petronas) prospekteringarna i området. När ONLF 2007 anföll ett kinesiskt oljefält och dödade cirka 74 personer tog regeringsstyrkorna verkligen till hårdhandskarna. Det var vid detta tillfälle som regeringsarmén slog en järnring runt stora delar av Ogaden och kastade ut såväl ICRC som MSF och journalister. Inte mycket har läckt ut från området sedan dess (även om det var svårt att få information redan innan), men av det vi kunnat lägga vantarna på från pålitliga källor framgår det att svåra brott mot mänskliga rättigheter utförs. Och framförallt av regeringsstyrkor. Det skall dock tilläggas att ONLF inte heller är några duvungar.

Avslutning

Det här får räcka som en sammanfattning, även om en hel del mer finns att säga. Speciellt har jag tyvärr uteslutit detaljer om de faktionsstrider som rasat inom ONLF rörande huruvida man skall bedriva sin kampanj militärt eller ej. Men kort och gott kan man säga att ONLF:s kampanj för ett fritt Ogaden har djupa rötter och berör en långtgående historia av negligering och förtryck av olika centralmakter. I mångt och mycket liknar konfliktens historia den som utspelat sig i många andra etiopiska inbördeskonflikter såsom i Oromiya, Afar och Sidamaland.

Så, detta är vad Ogaden handlar om.

Besök UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia:s Etiopiensida för mer info.

Backgrounder: Ethnic clashes in Kenya

News surfaced today (22 August) of lethal ethnic clashes in the south-eastern parts of Kenya, more specifically in the Tana river district in Coast province. BBC News reports “at least 48 people” having been killed.

Clashes here reportedly stood between members of the Orma and Pokomo ethnic groups, killing mainly women and children, many of whom were apparently hacked to death with machetes. The clashes are reported to have been a consequence of earlier minor raids between the groups, caused by disputes over grazing rights. Some news outlets have reported these clashes to be the most violent since the large-scale ethnic and political clashes that followed on Kenya’s 2007 elections. As it stands today this is probably not correct, with clashes between Pokot, Samburu and Turkana groups have killed at least as many people sinec the election fighting. Still, the outbreak of fighting between the Orma and Pokomo may escalate into even worse fighting.

The Orma ethnic group practically only inhabits the desert regions around Tana River and is one of the smallest of Kenya’s circa 70 ethnic groups. It is generally said that this group is closely related to the Wardei, but their histories took separate paths when the Ormo people were conquered by Somalis in the early 19th century (with many Wardei being enslaved and brought to Somalia). Both the Orma and Wardei have essentially semi-nomadic cultures and despite their close ties cattle raiding between these groups is not uncommon.

Pokomo culture is, in contrast, relatively firmly entrenched around agriculture around the flood plains of the Tana river, as well as fishing. The Pokomo group is also a very small ethnic group in Kenya, with some estimates placing the group’s size at only 50 000 people.

The Orma and Pokomo groups have clashed before, most notably in 2001, when at least 66 people were killed in raids similar to the one reported today (other reports say at least 130 people were killed that year). This has been reported in several news outlets, although the 2001 clashes also included the Wardei group fighting on the side of the Orma.

An excerpt from the UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia on the 2001 episodes provides some background to the frequent (but normally less intense) clashes in the Tana River district:

The Tana River district in south-eastern Kenya is generally dry with erratic rainfall and frequent droughts. It is only along the Tana River and its flood plain that water resources are stable and agriculture possible. This flood plain is inhabited by the agriculturalist Pokomo, while the Orma and the Wardei live as semi-nomadic pastoralists in the dry area outside the flood plain. The clearly defined homelands and the different livelihoods result in generally peaceful co-existence, interrupted by occasional cattle raids between the Orma and the Wardei. However, sporadically this co-existence is interrupted by disputes over water and grazing land.

Concerning the actual fighting in 2001 the Conflict Encyclopedia carries only a short entry:

The conflict between the Orma and the Wardei on one hand and the Pokomo on the other hand erupted the first time in March (2001), when Pokomo farmers refused Wardei herders access to watering points. The situation calmed down and remained peaceful until the end of November when Orma and Wardei attacked Pokomo villages over grazing rights. In the following weeks, the two sides engaged in a series of attacks and retaliation attacks. The situation only calmed down after state security forces were reinforced in the second week of December.

Since this attack appears to have been the first large-scale assault in the current dispute it would not be unexpected if more deaths will follow as retaliation is to be expected. An intervention by Kenyan security forces appears to be necessary to hinder such a scenario. But, for long term coexistence, other measures are also likely to be necessary.

//Ralph Sundberg

Backgrounder: Islamist conflicts in Egypt

Egypt has now successfully carried out presidential elections via several rounds of voting over the last few weeks. The electoral process has been tainted by allegations of corruption and maneuvering by the ruling military council (SCAF) to remain in power. Despite these accusations the electoral process was completed and won by Mohammed Mursi; representing the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood – the Freedom and Justice Party. 500 days after Mubarak was forced from power Mursi, supported by approximately 25 % of the electorate could pronounce himself the first post-Mubarak president of Egypt.

The election of a high-ranking member of the Muslim Brotherhood has attracted the attention of the world since Egypt has experienced significant amounts of violence linked to various Islamist groups. The Coptic minority have also expressed grave concerns over Mursi’s candidacy, fearing discrimination and maltreatment with Mursi as President. The background to these concerns is the violence that took place in Egypt during the mid to late nineties and again during 04-05, and lastly in the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution.  An understanding of this violence is useful when trying to fully appreciate the delicate situation in Egyptian politics. UCDP has recorded organized violence in Egypt on several occasions and beneath is a small summary of the UCDP’s fact about Egypt’s conflicts.

Egypt’s past years have seen violence between Islamist groups and the Egyptian government as well as violence between Muslims and Christians. The Muslim Brotherhood was an object of persecution during the Mubarak regime and was banned until the fall of Mubarak in early 2011. The sectarian violence that has taken place in Egypt has not, however, included the Muslim Brotherhood directly. Violence in Egypt has spanned a number of categories, including violence directed towards civilians, as well as violence between non-state actors; and carried out by both Islamist groups and the Egyptian government. The Islamist groups recorded in the the UCDP’s records are al-Gamma’a al Islamyya (the Islamic Group), who were active in fighting the government in 1993-98, and Tawhid wal Jihad (Unity and Holy War, or Monotheism and Holy War), who targeted civilians in 2004 and 2005. al-Gamma’a al Islammyya also targeted civilians in 1995-1997.

The al-Gamma’a al Islamyya, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, was bent on replacing the secular regime of Hosni Mubarak and establishing an Islamist caliphate. This was to be achieved through violent means, in contrast to the Muslim Brotherhood’s stance on the issue. al-Gamma’a al Islamyya experienced, as many Islamist groups, an upsurge in its numbers as fighters returned from Afghanistan were they had been fighting alongside the mujahideen against the Soviet Union. This influx of troops and combat experience would be of importance throughout the entire North African and Middle Eastern region.

The first recorded death attributed to al-Gamma’a al Islamyya in UCDP data is in 1981, but it was not until 1993 that they crossed the 25 death threshold for inclusion into the database (the UCDP definition of an ‘armed conflict’). The peak of al-Gamma’a al Islamyya’s activity and the one event that gave them international notoriety was in 1997, when the group massacred 58 western tourists at Luxor. The following year, in 1998, al-Gamma’a al Islamyya split between moderates and extremists and since then they have not been recorded as active in UCDP data. A harsh counterinsurgency campaign against the group also took its toll.

The graph above displays the number of battle-related deaths (Government versus al-Gamma’a al-Islamyya) between 1992 and 2000.

The map above map the locations and estimated number of battle-related deaths in Egypt, between 1993 and 1998; the years the conflict crossed the 25 deaths threshold.

The second group recorded in UCDP one-sided data is Tawhid wal Jihad. This group was more opaque than al-Gamma’a al Islamyya. They are believed to have been inspired by Al-Qaeda and have carried out two high profile bombings in Egypt. Tawhid wal Jihad’s motives have not been clearly defined and some speculated that the group in fact had secessionist ambitions for the Sinai Peninsula. These speculations have not been verified. The recorded violence carried out by Tawhid wal Jihad consist of two major attacks on civilians, all on the Red Sea in the Southern Sinai. Other attacks have also been carried out by Tawhid wal Jihad, but these have however not passed the 25 deaths threshold. One such notable attack was the one in Dahab in 2006.

Graph of one-sided violence perpetrated by both al-Gamma’a al-Islammya and Tawhid wal-Jihad.

Map showing the locations and estimates of deaths of attacks by al-Gamma’a al-Islamyya and Tawhid wal-Jihad,perpetrated in those years that tolls surpassed the 25 deaths threshold. Attacks by TwJ circled in red.

Want to learn more on these conflicts? Visit the UCDP’s Conflict Encyclopedia, specifically the page on Egypt.

Organized violence in relation to the Muslim brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt have not, despite being targeted by the Egyptian government, been recorded as an actor in the UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia; much in contrast to the Muslim Brotherhood in e.g. Syria who have been engaged in conflict with the Syrian government (ending in 1982 with the destruction of the Muslim Brotherhood), or Hamas (an MB offshoot) who are engaged in the Israel-Palestine conflict. There are however fears, most notably from the Coptic minority, that the appointment of a highly ranked member of the Muslim Brotherhood will worsen the conditions for the Copts, and with the recent (2011) clashes between Muslims and Copts these fears may have some credence.

The political landscape of Egypt today is extremely uncertain; the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has dissolved the Parliament and declared the newly drafted constitution null and void, leaving the SCAF as the most powerful political body in Egypt. This development has caused widespread demonstrations and accusations of a de facto coup by the Egyptian military. These accusations have been somewhat muted by the fact that Mursi won the bid for the presidency since his competitor was Ahmed Shafiq, an ex-air-force captain and member of the Mubarak regime’s apparatus. Critics still claim that SCAF has deprived the presidency of any real power through their political maneuvering and that Mursi will be no more than a symbolic figure and that SCAF will in fact be in control. The truth of the matter is too early to know. The situation is however precarious as the political turmoil appears to have created a sense of hopelessness amongst the Egyptian population, manifested in the low voter turnout for the presidential election (24 of 50 million actually voted and out of the registered voters 800 000 votes were blank).

//Samuel Taub, Research Assistant, UCDP

Backgrounder: Escalating violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The level of violence is again escalating in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Again Rwanda is accused of supporting the rebel faction which has defected from the army: a group called M23. This Tuesday (19/6) the UN Group of Experts submitted a report on the Congo to the Sanctions Committee of the Security Council. But the most controversial part – an annex talking about Rwanda’s involvement in the recent violence – was separated from the report and has not yet been submitted.

The background is that the DRC has been plagued with recurrent violence for many years; in 1996-1997 an armed conflict toppled President Mobutu Sese Seko who had dominated the political life in then Zaire since the 1960s. The rebellion supported by amongst other Rwanda was swiftly completed and the new President Laurent Kabila quickly managed to alienate many of his former allies (amongst them Rwanda) when trying to establish himself as the new leader of the nation.

Organized violence in the DRC 1996-1997 

In August 1998 a new war broke out. Again the rebels were supported by Rwanda. This war is often referred to as Africa’s First World War since so many countries were drawn into the fighting, either supporting one of the rebel groups or the Kabila government.

In January 2001 President Laurent Kabila was killed and his son Joseph Kabila took over office. Real negotiations started and a peace agreement was concluded in late 2002. In 2006, the historical elections provided for in the peace agreement were held in DRC. These elections brought Joseph Kabila to power as the country’s first democratically elected president in 40 years.

 Organized violence in the DRC, 1998-2002

Hopes nurtured by the elections in 2006 were soon shattered, when CNDP (Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple, National Congress for the Defence of the People), a new rebel outfit supported by Rwanda, launched their struggle against the newly elected government. On 23 March 2009 CNDP concluded a peace agreement with the government. Under the agreement CNDP was promised political participation in the government if they transformed into a political party. The agreement also stipulated an amnesty and the release of political prisoners. The agreement also provided for the return of Banyamulenge refugees.

Organized violence in the DRC, 2006-2010 

In 2011 DRC again held general and presidential elections, the sitting President Joseph Kabila and parties loyal to him remained in power. And even though the elections were peaceful in most parts of the country, some believe the main opponent Etienne Tshisekedi was the true winner of the elections.

In late March this new rebellion broke out when former CNDP members left the Congolese army (FARDC) to launch M23.

So what do the rebels want?

The initial aim seems to have been to resist Kinshasa’s attempt to break up CNDP networks in the East and to achieve full implementation of the March 23 Agreement. The group has also said they will unseat the President and some officers have been speaking about taking Masisi territory under their control.

Many believe the M23 is a front to hinder the government of DRC to arrest Bosco Ntaganda, a former CNDP leader and one of the M23 defectors, wanted by the ICC.

Stina Högbladh

Project Manager, UCDP

Backgrounder: Communal conflicts in Nigeria

(click image for a larger version!)

The map above shows the spatial patterns of communal conflicts across Nigeria between 1989-2010. Although clashes between communal groups classified as Christians and Muslims are the ones most often portrayed in the media there are also several other groups who have been in conflict over the years since 1989.

The major hotspots of violence between Christian and Muslim communities is circled on the map with a blue circle. The violence depicted here has been classified along these ‘Christian versus Muslims’ lines, but some specific communities can also be singled out. These contain, but are not limited to, the Hausa and the Fulani (mainly Muslim), Tarok (Christian), Yoruba (mixed religion), Igbo (Christian), Kataf (Christian) and Yugur (mixed, with Christian and traditional beliefs). Plateau, Bauchi, Kaduna, Kano and Taraba states are the heartlands of these conflicts, geographically speaking.

While it is not necessarily erroneous to label these conflicts as being religious ones (since such lines are often visible) the communal conflicts in Nigeria can be ascribed also ethno-linguistic as well as pastoralist-farmer and political characteristics. An excerpt from the UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia reads:

The conflict between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria is part of a bigger context of ethnic and religious tensions that are present in the Nigeria society. These tensions have on certain occasions escalated into armed conflict. The conflicts often start with a seemingly trivial disagreement and then rapidly deteriorate into religious clashes. The fact that Christianity and Islam are the prominent religions in Nigeria and that the religions are represented in different parts of the country has on several occasions led to mobilisation along religious lines. Another fact that might explain the presence of religious conflicts in Nigeria is the fact that a majority of the 200 ethno-linguistic groups in Nigeria adhere to either Christianity or Islam; thereby it is possible to frame ethnic conflicts in Nigeria as being centred on religious issues. That might very well be the case, and in fact true in some cases, it should however be thoroughly investigated so that it is not a “meta identity” given to the group due to lacking information from news media. Nevertheless there are Christian – Muslim conflicts in Nigeria, the point is that a majority of the ethnic and communal clashes in Nigeria can be described using this overarching labelling.

As is visible from the map there are also other communal conflicts in Nigeria, beyond the Christian versus Muslim dichotomy. The southwest part of Nigeria stands out as a second hotspot, mainly in the states of the Nigerian delta. There is a very large number of groups who have fought each other since 1989 in these areas, and the conflicts here are not easily classified in terms of Christians versus Muslims or any other religions. A common theme here has instead been conflicts over land-owner rights, as these areas in Nigeria’s delta are sources of the country’s enormous oil wealth. But there are many other political and economic grievances stated by and between these groups.Many of the ethnic groups here have formed ethno-political interest groups, such as the Ogono group MOSOP and the Ijaw groups IYC and NDV. An excerpt from the UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia reads:

The southern region of Nigeria, and especially the delta area, is where the crude oil that constitutes a substantial amount of the Nigerian revenues is located. The fact that the oil and the subsequent incomes that can be extracted from it are concentrated to this area, in which several ethnic groups have their homeland, has led to violent episodes between ethnic groups contesting the ownership of land in and around the oil rich delta area. Given these conditions, a number of groups mobilized and formed interest groups speaking on the behalf of the ethnicities. This polarized the already fragile relations in the southern parts of Nigeria, and led to a situation where contested ownership of land, taxation of land or even number of employees at the oil facilities were all potential conflict issues.

The most intense conflicts in this area have stood between the Adoni and Ogoni communities (around Port Harcourt, circled in green), the Ijaw and Itsekiri (mainly in the Warri area, circled in yellow), the Aguleri and Umuleri (around Onitsha, circled in purple) and the Ife and Modakeke (around Ibadan and Ondo, circled in white).

The last two hotspots show fighting between the Ukele and Izzi (south of Oturkpo on the map), and between Hausa and Yoruba around Lagos.

Want to read more about these conflicts and their varying characteristics? Visit the Nigeria page of the UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia.

//R

Backgrounder: Situation in Mali

The situation in Mali has now become a relatively large issue in the news, especially so with the proclamation of an independent Islamic state called the Islamic Republic of Azawad. What has been going on in Mali can look pretty confusing, especially since earlier news focused mainly on the issue of the Touraeg rebellion. So, here’s a short backgrounder on what’s been going on:

From the UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia:

“In the early 1990s, Touareg and Arab nomads inhabiting the sparsely populated northern part of Mali formed MPA (Mouvement Populaire de l’Azaouad, Azawad People’s Movement) with the aim to achieve autonomy for their home region called Azawad. After a peace agreement in 1991, MPA stopped fighting the government, whilst a break-away faction called FIAA (Front Islamique Arabe de l’Azaouad: Islamic Arab Front of Azawad) did not support the accord and continued the struggle in 1994. However, the following year FIAA accepted to reintegrate itself into the peace process and declared a permanent cease-fire that led to a cessation of hostilities. The late 1990s and early 2000s saw a growing dissatisfaction among the former Touareg fighters who had been integrated into the army. Subsequently, in 2007 a new Touareg rebel group emerged and briefly fought the government.”

In short, numerous rebel groups and breakaway factions from within the Touareg people have been fighting the government of Mali since the early 1990s. Like in many conflicts in these parts rebel groups come and go and often integrate into the national army as consequences of not very far-reaching peace agreements (i.e. they don’t very often attempt to resolve the main issue in the conflict.

The main issue is (from the UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia):

“The territorial conflict, fought between a number of Touareg and Arab rebel groups and the Malian government, concerns the status of the Azawad region in northern Mali. With some seeking independence and others fighting for autonomy, the rebels have at times been very successful in fighting the government on their own home turf. Due to the government’s inability to respond effectively to the rebels’ guerrilla warfare, the latter have managed to pursue their on and off armed struggle during the 1990s and the 2000s.[…] The Azawad is an area comprising parts of northern Mali, northern Niger, and part of southern Algeria. In Mali the territory includes portions of the Kidal Region”

So, the conflict stands over the status of this mainly Touareg-inhabited area called Azawad, which spans several countries. Armed conflicts have also taken place in Niger between Touaregs and that government over this territory.

Resentment towards the government from the Touareg side stems from a north-south divide which is prevalent in many countries that were formerly French colonies in the area. The Touaregs feel –with some justice- neglected by the government:

“The Touaregs are a pastoral, nomadic people, scattered among a number of West- and North African states. In Mali, they comprise less than ten percent of the total population, but make up much of the population in the sparsely populated northern regions of the country, deep in the Sahara desert. This area is called Azawad by the Touaregs, a term used in the names of all rebel groups in the armed conflict in the 1990s. Traditionally, the North in general, and the Touaregs in particular, have been both economically and politically neglected. This neglect has been compounded by severe drought and a brutal, southern, military presence. Dissent has been expressed numerous times since independence, but until the 1990s, the government managed to repress it.

In the mid-1970’s and onwards, large numbers of young Touaregs from both Mali and Niger emigrated to Libya and Algeria due to severe droughts. The ones who ended up in Libya received military training, as General Qadhafi incorporated some into his regular military forces and inducted others into a Libyan-sponsored “Islamic Legion”. The latter was subsequently dispatched to Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan, where numerous Touaregs acquired considerable combat training. Along with the military training received, the emigrants in Libya were politically active and formed the Mouvement Touareg de Libération de l’Adrar et de l’Azawad, an organisation dedicated to the liberation of the northern areas of Mali and Niger. In 1988, encouraged by Libya, the Malian section of the movement split from the Nigerien one, and formed MPLA (Mouvement Populaire de Libération de l’Azaouad: Popular Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) under the leadership of Iyad ag Ghali. In the late 1980s, most Malian Touaregs were expelled from Algeria and Libya, due to deteriorating economic conditions in the host countries. Newly received military capabilities combined with protracted historic grievances and a lack of alternatives, subsequently led the Touaregs in MPLA to initiate an armed struggle against the Malian government in June 1990.”

Nowadays none of the rebel groups mentioned above are big players or players at all in the conflict. The latest fighting has stood instead between the government of Mali and the MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) and Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith); an Islamist outfit. Throughout the first months of this year these two groups took control of some of the major towns in northern Mali, such as Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal.

The intensification of the conflict in 2012 and the subsequent successes by these two rebel outfits was likely brought on by two different factors: (1) the ousting of Khaddafi in Libya and (2) the coup in Mali. As was mentioned earlier in this post many Touaregs took part in Khaddafi’s armies and when he fell many  streamed back into northern Mali and created the MNLA (the MNLA is a fusion of two previous Touareg movements: the NAM and the MTNM). Also, the ousting of Khaddafi appears to have led to an influx of weapons to Islamist outfits in the region, such as the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar Dine. The coup in Mali then opened up the field for a wide offensive in the north, as chaos reigned in the capital in the south.

After the offensive many were expecting the advent of infighting between Ansar Dine and the MNLA, as Ansar Dine is explicitly Islamist whilst the MNLA has a more nationalist inclination and has never spoken out in favor of sharia law. This didn’t happen, and instead these two groups formed a pact and proclaimed the Islamic Republic of Azawad.

This of course caught the eye of western powers and the western media, as it is a clear expansion of Islamist power in the region. AQIM already has an established presence in Mauretania and Algeria and an Islamist presence in northern Mali may serve to bind together a vast expanse of territory under the control of these organizations.

The reasoning of the MNLA in this regard is unclear. Joining up with an Al-Qaeda affiliated outfit is probably not the most strategic of choices, as I am sure we will soon see.

//Ralph Sundberg