Happy 90th, Mr. Mugabe

Zimbabwe is one of the countries I don’t follow too closely, but it was hard to miss President Robert Mugabe’s 90th birthday celebration over the weekend. (His actual birthday was on Friday the 21st). I paid my respects by watching Nando’s “Last Dictator Standing” ad, which features a sad Mugabe reminiscing over the presumably fictionalized good times he had with now-deceased dictators. In the ad, Mugabe has a running golden water gun fight with  Muammar al-Qadhafi, makes sand angels with Saddam Hussein, swings on a swingset with P.W. Botha, and relives the iconic “I’m Flying” scene from the movie Titanic on a tank with Idi Amin. You can watch the full ad here:

On a more serious note, as the ruling ZANU-PF prepares to elect new party leadership during its December 2014 congress, eyes are not only on Mugabe’s longevity, but also on his succession. Leading candidates to replace Mugabe are his current Vice President, Joyce Mujuru, and the Minister of Justice, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Simukai Tinhu has written a really helpful analysis of the succession dynamics at play: “Understanding the ZANU-PF succession: Mugabe’s choice likely to be decisive”.

Lastly, Jeffrey Smith (@Smith_RFKennedy) called my attention to a few of Mr. Mugabe’s accomplishments since taking office in 1980 using the hashtag #MugabeAt90:

Museveni plays peacemaker by day and combatant by night in South Sudan

(Originally published in African Arguments on January 31, 2014)

Within days of the outbreak of the violence in mid-December, the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) deployed to South Sudan at the government’s invitation. The UPDF’s mission at the outset was ostensibly to evacuate the over 200,000 stranded Ugandan nationals and to secure strategic installations in Juba. However, several weeks into the operation, President Yoweri Museveni disclosed that the UPDF was also involved in combat operations alongside government forces.

Indeed, the UPDF’s helicopter gunships, heavy artillery, tanks, and approximately 1,600 soldiers have been instrumental in helping the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) retake cities held by anti-government forces affiliated with former Vice President Riek Machar. In a motion passed in the Ugandan parliament to retroactively approve UPDF operations, the UPDF’s raison d’être in South Sudan was couched in terms of protecting the Ugandan expatriate community, ensuring Ugandan national security, and preventing genocide and other atrocities against humanity.

Nevertheless, the manner in which Uganda is securing its interests compromises concurrent efforts on the part of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), of which Uganda is a member, to mediate the crisis.

(Read the rest of the article on the African Arguments website)

Catching up on CAR, trying to avoid clichés

If you’ve been following the news on the Central African Republic (CAR) over the past 13 months, you have probably seen many references to the country’s abundant mineral wealth, chronic instability, crushing poverty, sectarian (Christian vs. Muslim) strife, and allegations of genocide. Some of the recent analysis and media reporting goes beyond these clichés, so I thought I’d highlight them and explain why these pieces present the reader with a more complex understanding of recent developments in the country. Collectively, this reading list offers four things:

  1. These readings offer background on Catherine Samba-Panza, previously the mayor of Bangui, who was elected last week as the interim president of the Central African Republic. Beyond the fact that Samba-Panza is the first female to hold this position in CAR, these pieces offer insight as to why she’s different from previous leaders and what challenges she will face as she spearheads the transition to an elected government by February 2015.
  2. These readings offer a background of the events leading to and during the transition earlier this month, such as why Michel Djotodia (former leader of the Séléka rebel coalition that toppled former president François Bozizé last March) had to go and the process that dictated the selection of candidates for interim president.
  3. These readings offer a better understanding of identity in the Central African Republic beyond the Muslim/Christian labels, and gives the reader some perspective on notions of foreign-ness in the CAR and how they have come into play throughout the country’s history.
  4. Finally, these readings offer context on the historical and contemporary role of foreign – European AND African – influence on conflicts in the Central African Republic, which is critical for understanding the geopolitics of the region. Major headliners are France (bien sûr!), Chad, Libya, and South Africa.

So without further ado, here’s some of the good coverage I’ve read over the past few weeks:

Catherine Samba-Panza being sworn in as interim president of the Central African Republic (SOURCE: http://www.tvzimbo.com/)

Catherine Samba-Panza being sworn in as interim president of the Central African Republic (SOURCE: http://www.tvzimbo.com/)

Si vous lisez français, the articles below offer background on the new interim president, and why her civil society roots and Chadian/Central African heritage may make her the right leader at the right time:

Cessation of Hostilities (or Ceasefire Lite) signed for South Sudan

Yesterday in Addis, a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement was signed between the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement / Army in Opposition (SPLM/A in Opposition). The agreement enters into force 24 hours from the time at which it was signed. Contrary to what some media are reporting, this Cessation of Hostilities is not the same as a Ceasefire, and I would recommend reading this very informative Watch International post on the lexicon of peace agreements to understand the difference between the two. That said, an astute fellow analyst has pointed out that the Cessation of Hostilities has some elements of a Ceasefire:

“Practically, since this agreement also includes provisions for a joint monitoring and verification mission, it mirrors a lot of the components of a ceasefire. However, unlike a lot of ceasefires, it doesn’t call for the United Nations to be involved in monitoring violations. Instead, it leaves that in the hands of the two parties, plus their mediator, the regional IGAD organization.”

Therefore, it may be more appropriate to refer to this Cessation of Hostilities as a Diet Ceasefire or Ceasefire Lite – to use the technical terminology of the field.

The signing of this Cessation of Hostilities raises many questions on the way ahead, which I will pose below:

  1. Is the SPLM/A in Opposition as cohesive as it’s made to appear in the agreement? I’ve long doubted that Riek Machar has a monopoly on anti-government force since the crisis started last month, and the SPLM/A in Opposition may not be able to control violence perpetrated by SPLA defectors General Peter Gadet or General James Koang Chuol or by the resurgent White Army, which has vowed to fight on. In fact, there’s a chance that SPLA defectors and members of ethnically-defined localized armed groups may see no benefit in adhering to a Cessation of Hostilities between political elites.
  2. What comes after the Cessation of Hostilities? It is very important to recognize that the Cessation of Hostilities is not a peace agreement that spells out political and military power-sharing arrangements, reconciliation initiatives, and plans for Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR). Rather, it’s better to think of the Cessation of Hostilities as a “Time Out” that effectively freezes parties to armed conflict in place, requires them to disengage from fighting, and allows for humanitarian access. I think the Cessation of Hostilities is an enabler that at least gets the warring parties apart long enough to set up a formal peace process that could address these deeper issues.
  3. Who are the guarantors to this Cessation of Hostilities? Although this is not a peace agreement, I think we can draw some insights from that body of academic literature. Glassmyer and Sambanis (“Rebel-Military Integration and Civil War Termination,” Journal of Peace Research, May 2008 vol. 45 no. 3, pp. 365-384) and Hoddie and Hartzell (“Civil War Settlements and the Implementation of Military Power-Sharing Agreements, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 40, no. 3, 2003, pp. 303-320) argue that the presence of third-party actors can verify compliance with the terms of a peace agreement and can act as guarantors of security. In some cases – and I would argue that South Sudan is one of them – third-party actors need to have the diplomatic clout to convene warring parties and ensure implementation and the military power to deter or physically separate warring parties if the agreement falls apart. In the present case of South Sudan, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) which brokered the talks, is responsible for setting up a Joint Technical Committee (JTC) which will establish a Monitoring and Verification Team (MVT) that is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the agreement. However, the issue of who can provide a military deterrent is unclear. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is not mentioned in the Cessation of Hostilities, but even if it was, UNMISS is still in the process of receiving the additional 5,500 soldiers and 440 police to strengthen the mission, plus GRSS is in a war of words with UNMISS over what it perceives to be the UN’s impartiality in South Sudan. IGAD has also approved a 5,500 person force to be sent to South Sudan, and there is a chance that this force could consist of IGAD member states but contribute to the new UNMISS mandated force strength. However, the problem with IGAD troop contributors is that they may be perceived as impartial like Sudan or (Ahem!) Uganda, or like Kenya and Ethiopia, may be militarily overextended due to their commitments to other peacekeeping missions. That leaves Djibouti and Somalia as potential troop contributors to an IGAD force, so I’m just going to hazard a guess and say that by default, UNMISS will have to be the military guarantor of the Cessation of Hostilities –  or there will be no guarantor at all.

U.S. to help stand up Nigerian Army Special Operations Command (NASOC)

Last week, Nigeria announced the creation of an Army Special Operations Command (NASOC) at a Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Insurgency Lessons Learned Exchange between the United States and Nigeria. I’d been tracking developments with regard to bilateral security cooperation and had heard about the creation of NASOC when I was in Nigeria last summer, which is why this announcement piqued my interest. According to the Nigerian Army’s Chief of Transformation and Innovation, NASOC would be a “low density high level strategic utility force capable of conducting direct action at low visibility operations. NASOC operation will be governed by precision of conduct, accuracy timely, speed and execution, surprise to keep any adversary off balance while in special operations.” (I’m not gonna lie – I have no clue what this quote actually means, but I digress.)

The announcement of the NASOC preceded President Goodluck Jonathan’s sacking of some of his Chiefs of Defence (the equivalent of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the United States) a few days later. As part of this reshuffle, former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, took over from Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim as Chief of Defence Staff (position equivalent to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the U.S.), Air Vice Marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu took over for Badeh as Chief of Air Staff (position equivalent to the Air Force Chief of Staff in the U.S.), Major General Kenneth Tobiah Jacob Minimah took over for Lieutenant General Azubike O. Ihejirika as Chief of Army Staff (position equivalent to the Army Chief of Staff in the U.S.), and Rear Admiral Usman O. Jibrin took over from Vice Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba as Chief of Naval Staff (position equivalent to the Chief of Naval Operations in the U.S.). Air Marshal Badeh, the new Chief of Defence Staff, hails from Adamawa state, which is one of three Nigerian states (the others being Borno and Yobe states) in which President Jonathan had declared a Boko Haram-related state of emergency that is set to expire in April 2014, unless it is renewed for a second time.  At the moment, I do not know what, if any correlation there is between the Chiefs of Defence reshuffle and the establishment of NASOC to counter the Boko Haram insurgency.

Through U.S Africa Command (AFRICOM), U.S. Special Operations Command, Africa (SOCAFRICA), and the Office of Security Cooperation in the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, the United States will be helping stand up the NASOC by providing training and a limited amount of equipment. From the information I have, it sounds like NASOC will have a force up North to deal with Boko Haram, a force in the South to deal with security in the Niger Delta, a Headquarters force to focus on hostage rescue, and an expeditionary force for external use – perhaps to contribute specialized capabilities for peacekeeping operations. Unfortunately, I don’t know the precise size of NASOC or of its component forces.

One reason U.S. support to establish NASOC is significant is that I have not gotten the sense that the U.S. military had as strong service-to-service relations with the Nigerian military as it would  like, and working with them to establish NASOC provides opportunities to strengthen the army-to-army relationship. In addition, as a new command, NASOC will need to create military units from scratch, which avoids some of the tensions surrounding Leahy vetting that have impeded bilateral security cooperation as a result of the Nigerian government’s heavy-handed approach to Boko Haram in the North. (The Leahy Amendment requires that partner nation military units that receive U.S. security assistance are vetted to ensure that they have not been implicated in gross human rights violations.) Just to give you an example of the extent to which allegations of human rights violations by the Nigerian military had recently affected Leahy vetting:

One of the ways the United States provides security assistance to Nigeria and other countries on the African continent is through Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA), which trains partner nation militaries to participate in peacekeeping operations. You may recall that during the first six months of 2013, Nigeria contributed approximately 1/6 of the troops to the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) before they had to withdraw most of their troops in July. These troops likely received ACOTA training prior to their deployment. In April, Human Rights Watch published satellite imagery from the town of Baga in Borno State, showing 2,275 destroyed and 125 severely damaged buildings, and asking the Nigerian government to investigate allegations that soldiers carried out widespread destruction and killing in the town. Although the Baga incident was just one of many allegations of human rights violations by the Nigerian military in its fight against Boko Haram, my understanding is that most military units rotate personnel through northern Nigeria, and as a result, Nigerian military units were becoming tainted by association as far as Leahy vetting goes. As a result, Nigeria’s domestic handling of Boko Haram was raising questions over whether the United States would be able to support Nigerian troop contributions to Mali and other peacekeeping missions.

Thus to bring us back to the establishment of NASOC and the U.S. military’s support for this effort – will the newly-created  “clean” NASOC units be able to avoid the human rights violations that have restricted the space for U.S. military engagement with their non-special forces counterparts?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,051 other followers

%d bloggers like this: