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Roots of Conflict

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on January 21, 2022 13:16

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Africa remains mired in political unrest, violence and upheaval. Continental initiatives to resolve its problems seem ineffectual. Interventions fail to address lack of governance. Strong-man policies alienate voters, fragment social cohesion and invite foreign intervention.

Africa saw more than 13 000 violent protests and riots in 2021, with almost 1 300 fatalities reported. Most of these anti-government protests were about a lack of safety and the rule of law, rising inequality, corruption, and oppression. The African Union's Peace and Security Council (PSC) acted quickly to sanction unconstitutional government changes in Sudan, Mali, and Guinea by suspending these countries from their activities after being criticized for seeming to condone the military transition in Chad in May of 2021. Military reaction to the growing threat of terrorism was one area where the African Union had more success - closing the stable doors after the horse of civic trust had bolted?

The African Union was less effective in prompting member states to address the lack of governance that underlies the increase of civil unrest. Excessive power is usually vested in the President, his advisers, and officials, the latter often engaged in faction fighting and succession struggles. Business interests by officials further delegate the constitutions and the rule of law to an inferior position. 

Lack of governance often compels citizens to look elsewhere for political expression, as was the case with the insurgency in the Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique. Years of political neglect and economic mismanagement created an ideal breeding ground for violent opposition, as was the case in Mali and along the Niger River. The resultant low-intensity civil war is an invitation for foreign intervention. 

The Central African Republic (CAR) is seeing a new phase in its long-drawn-out struggle, with growing resentment against foreign forces becoming apparent. Since its independence from France in 1960, it has lurched from one extreme to another, even flirting with Monarchy. By 2011, then-President Bozizé managed to be re-elected in an election that was widely seen as fraudulent. Several opponents gained popular support to depose him, and a peace deal saw a brief period when various factions and ethnic groups forgot their differences. But not for long. 

The December 2020 Presidential elections were held under a cloud of distrust. Ex-President Bozizé was disqualified for not satisfying the constitution's 'good morality' requirement. 14% of polling stations could not be opened due to armed gangs controlling the countryside. President Faustin Touadéra was re-elected by some 54%, but the elections were criticized for not being fair and inclusive and not representing the people's will. 

Touadéra acted swiftly, welcoming some 2 000 members of the Russian Wagner private military group. Together with some Rwandan soldiers, these prevented armed opposition groups from capturing the capitol, then routing rebels from the countryside. However, they were quickly accused of targeting specific ethnic and religious groups. The same group is being deployed in Mali, where the military junta is under pressure from various opposition groups. 

Lasting stability and security cannot be brought by confrontation, foreign guns, and money. It can only come from listening to the voice of the people- from constitutional democracy. 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on January 21, 2022 13:16

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Source: The Guardian

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