Today, President Obama kicks off his second visit to Africa as since becoming president, and will be visiting Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania over the course of the next week. Accordingly, Thomas Tieku, Mwangi Kimenyi, Cobus van Staden, Witney Schneidman, and I are featured in Think Africa Press’ Experts Weekly: What Next for US-Africa Relations?
My comments in particular refer to the emphasis the Administration placed before the President’s visit to the continent in 2009 on including Ghana in a multi-region tour that included Russia and the G8 in Italy to demonstrate that Africa was ‘not a world apart, but a part of our interconnected world.’ (See the reference to this concept in the full text of his July 2009 Ghana speech). Four years later, this emphasis has been lost. Check out the rest of what I have to say about the significance of the President’s visit, as well as the contributions of my colleagues!
On August 7th and 8th, International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) heads of state met to discuss the deployment of an international force to fight the M23 rebel movement that has been active in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu region since April of this year. While they did not end up reaching a consensus on an intervention force, I still thought I’d attempt to think through the kind of questions that would need to be answered to establish such a force.
- What would the mission be? Like the current discussions the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is having about a regional intervention force for Mali, it will be essential for regional stakeholders to articulate what their objectives are and what their concept of operations might be in order to attain said objectives. Will they be focusing on fighting M23, or will they also be addressing instability caused by the Raia Mutomboki? Would this force attempt to address the underlying causes of the ongoing conflict in North Kivu, which could be a long-term commitment that would surpass a purely military intervention? Would this force focus on protecting civilians while allowing the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC in French) to deal with rebel groups? Starting to answer these types of mission-oriented questions would be a prerequisite for obtaining African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) mandates, which could facilitate international support – which gets to my next question.
- Who would pay for this deployment?Troop-contributing countries (I’ll get to who they might be in a minute) would need to determine whether they can afford to pay the salaries of the units they would deploy, the use of (or acquisition of) contingent-owned equipment during the deployment, the transport of military assets to the eastern Congo, and the maintenance of these assets in the field. (I’m sure I forgot something, but you get the picture.) If troop-contributing countries cannot foot the bill, then the AU, UN, European Union (EU), United States would need to be willing and capable of providing financial assistance – either on a bilateral basis or on a multilateral basis – which gets to my next question.
- What framework would be used for an intervention force? The UN already has just under 20,000 military and police personnel as part of the UN Organization and Stabilization Mission in the DRC(MONUSCO), but it is possible that the UN (and the AU for that matter) are overtasked, both globally and in the DRC itself. Therefore, we might be looking at a sub-regional organization taking the lead akin to what ECOWAS is attempting to do in Mali. Unlike the situation in Mali, however, the DRC is not a member of a sub-regional organization that has a functional security component with a precedent for regional military intervention. The DRC is a member of both the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC in French) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and these sub-regional organizations are supposed to have regional brigades that would fall under the African Standby Force (ASF). However, I don’t know whether the SADC Standby Force Brigade (SADCBRIG) or its CEEAC equivalent, the Central African Multinational Force (FOMAC in French), would be willing and capable of leading an intervention force. Therefore, if there is no sub-regional organization that has an established military component is able to take the lead, then how would this intervention force be comprised?
- Who would the players be? Since we don’t know whether a sub-regional organization or a multilateral coalition of countries would intervene in the DRC, it’s difficult to ascertain which countries could be part of this notional force. But since the ICGLR is talking about such a force, we’ll start with their members: Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo, the DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan (not sure if South Sudan is a member), Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. If I were compiling an intervention dream team from these members, I would want Angola, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda on my team. Why these and not the others? Off the top of my head, these countries have reasonably professional militaries with proven warfighting capabilities, are active in AU and UN peacekeeping operations (with the exception of Angola), and have countries stable enough that deploying soldiers abroad would probably not inhibit their armed forces from addressing other national security threats. That said, many of these countries have baggage in the DRC as a result of their involvement in the 1998-2003 civil war (Angola, Rwanda, and Uganda), or more recently, alleged support for M23 (ahem…Rwanda). Also, would these countries even be interested in intervening? I would say Rwanda would because of the threat it perceives from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Angola’s participation would depend on the extent to which its security is affected by events on the opposite side of the Congo, as well as the extent to which the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA in Portuguese) feels more comfortable keeping the military at home in case there is instability surrounding this month’s elections or to contain additional protests by civil war veterans. And while I don’t think Kenya has baggage in the DRC, I doubt that instability in North Kivu is compelling enough to deploy the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) there when their focus is really on Somalia. Thus, the militaries that might be the most capable of fighting M23 in North Kivu may either fail to be perceived as a neutral force or their countries lack a compelling reason to get involved. As a result, an intervention force might have to look further afield to get troop contributors or make do with less capable forces.
So I guess the bottom line is that I don’t think an intervention force will come to fruition for the eastern Congo due to some of the issues I’ve raised above.
Earlier this month, Senegal’s recently elected president, Macky Sall, revoked 29 licenses of pelagic fishing vessels belonging to Russia, Comoros, Lithuania, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Belize. This decision came a month after Sall’s first presidential speech in which he declared urgency to act in the country’s fisheries sector, and pledged to review the conditions for granting fishing licenses to foreign ships. Sall’s concern for the fisheries sector may be influenced by the need for a new, more engaged approach to the issue of food security, as well as the potential economic and national security implications of declining fisherman livelihoods.
Article 62, Section 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) states that a country may authorize other countries to fish in their exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Accordingly, Senegal and other West African countries have had fishing access agreements with foreign governments for decades. However, as demand for fish continued to increase in Europe and other parts of the world, fish stocks have decreased. According to a paper released by the United Nations Development Program, pressure on fish stocks in West Africa increased six-fold between the 1960s and 1990s – mainly due to fishing from European, Russian, and Asian fleet.
These large, mechanized fleets often employ fishing practices that damage the marine environment by dragging large nets across the ocean floor, unsettling fish breeding grounds and catching fish that are too small to be sold commercially or below the age of sexual maturity required for sustainable fish stocks. These fleets are also capable of catching, freezing, storing, and transporting large quantities of fish without needing to offload in nearby ports. The size of these fleets and the efficiency of their operations have decimated inshore fisheries and have made it harder for local artisanal fishers, who tend to use environmentally sustainable fishing practices, to make a living. It is estimated that one large trawler can catch up to 250 tons of fish per day, which is roughly equivalent to what 50 artisanal fishermen in pirogues would catch in a year.
Depleted fish stocks have implications for food security. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that fish provides 22% of the protein intake in sub-Saharan Africa, and 47% of protein intake in Senegal in particular. Fishing practices employed by foreign vessels exacerbate food insecurity by causing fish shortages, higher prices, and a decline in the quality of fish available for local consumption.
Depleted fish stocks have implications for economic security. A United Nations Environment Program report from 2002 estimated that Senegal’s fishing industry generates 100,000 jobs, of which more than 90% were in artisanal fishing. An additional 600,000 people are employed in related industries including building and repairing nets and transporting, selling, and processing fish. Additionally, fish caught and shipped in excess of government quotas or treaties, or illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is believed to result in over $1 billion per year in lost government revenues in sub-Saharan Africa.
Depleted fish stocks have implications for national security. There has been speculation that the declining livelihoods of artisanal fishermen could drive them to engage in piracy, as some believe this to be the initial cause célèbre for Somali pirates. While I have yet to see data linking unemployed fishermen to piracy in particular, it is certainly plausible that declining livelihoods could lead to increased involvement in general illicit maritime activity – including trafficking in arms, humans, and narcotics. In fact, last year the United Nations Office on Drugs and Organized Crime (UNODC) released a report that found that fishing vessels around the world were used for a range of illicit activities. However, while local fishermen were recruited for their skills and knowledge of the sea, they were seldom the masterminds of criminal enterprises.
Regulation and Enforcement within the Fisheries Sector
Part of the solution to these challenges to Senegal’s fish stocks has to do with regulation – and Sall appears to be engaged on that front. Under Sall’s predecessor, there had been allegations that the government’s fishing licensing system was vulnerable to corruption, and that local politicians could profit by soliciting bribes in exchange for issuing licenses. Another issue raised has been that under international law, the country where a fishing vessel is registered is also responsible for ensuring that vessels flying their flags adhere to local fishing regulations. However, many foreign fishing fleets fly flags of convenience while operating in the exclusive economic zones of Senegal and her neighbors. Many countries that issue flags of convenience tend to have minimal capacity or intention to ensure that vessels registered in their countries are adhering to legal and sustainable fishing practices. (For additional details on the issue of flags of convenience, see Real and Present Danger: Flag State Failure and Maritime Security and Safety.)
The other part of the solution to the challenges to Senegal’s fish stocks has to do with local capacity to enforce regulations. At this point, I do not know if Sall intends to complement his review of fisheries regulations with a review of enforcement mechanisms. But in order to enforce fisheries regulations, Senegal’s maritime security forces would need to be capable of monitoring the country’s exclusive economic zone and being able to conduct boardings, searches, and seizures of vessels suspected of operating illegally. Increased enforcement capability could result in fines paid to the government, which could be reinvested into improving fisheries management and further building the capacity of the country’s maritime security forces.
That said, any progress made in Senegal with regard to marine fisheries regulation and enforcement would be compromised by lack of progress on these fronts in neighboring littoral countries. After all, fish do not respect international boundaries.