by: Kow Kwegya Amissah Abraham
The world is gradually witnessing another paradigm shift of actors in conflict around the globe. Historically, state of war has been that which exist between definite and seeming sovereign states. The motivation had been the quest to control resources and territorial aggrandizement which bedeutet power. Quite like after the Second World War the world seemed to have developed a policy for dealing with war which predominantly starts between states; evident in the statutes of the UN charter. The first paradigm shift was the internal conflict between tribes within sovereign states; a rippling effect of colonial structures, resource disparity and management. The world thus never forgets about the conflicts in Somalia which led to the idleness of the UN in the Rwandan genocide, the conflict in Kosovo which saw mass cleansing of ethnic Albanians, and the Chechnya conflict to name but a few. We note that in all these, it was either the international community responded one way or another or led to lie because a superpower was involved.
This paradigm saw a lot of conflicts in African states but the world seem to have gotten the impression that it was only due to trivial misunderstanding between tribes that have led a bunch uncivilized beings butchering themselves. For instance, the infamous guinea fowl conflict between Konkomba and Nanumba tribes in Ghana, 1994. The other side that we never knew was the arbitrary curtains, called borders, drawn on the continent by people who knew nothing about the cultural conglomerations of the continent. The presence of colonial masters suppressed the tribal agitations mainly because of the imperialist dominance, the opportunity therefore emerged when the struggle for self-determination was realized and the pictures really became clearer.
Fully aware of the praise African leaders then have and continue to receive for maintaining these borders which they themselves agreed was senseless but had to maintain it because re-demarcation would have been more chaotic, I maintain that a devolution would have been better. I think the continent was not late in cultural evolution and organic state development. It indeed would have made African unity easier than it is now. When one goes to the national airport of Cote d’Ivoire, there is a big welcoming inscription ‘Akwaaba’ which means welcome. This is the Akan language which is the dominant language in Ghana. However, the citizens in Cote d’Ivoire see themselves more of a francophone country than a part of the Akan tribe. And the same applies to Ghana.
The 21st century is experiencing a new paradigm shift of conflict from tribal and ethnic conflict to armed non-state actors whose identities are multiple. They are designated according as the media and the international community sees them. Some are terrorists; others are rebels, freedom fighters, revolutionists, tribal warlords, etc. Whatever name we give them, they are the new organism of war group battling with legitimate governments. I carefully use the word legitimate government because until these groups emerge to illegitimize governments through protests and armed battles, these governments have been seen as legitimate, be it in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, etc.
The focus here is not so much as the legitimacy of governments rather than the long term security policy approach to this kind of paradigm shift; be they terrorists or freedom fighters. We need to ask, whether the international community is going to continue with the rapid emergency response unit tactics to such conflicts. The situation in Mali leaves a lot to be desired. Its rippling effect on the Algeria oil plant hostage is even worse. We therefore ask, what long term policy is the international community looking at? I intentionally talked about the borders on the African continent because it has made many states ‘quasi states‘ which depend on stronger states for anything they need to survive. Frankly, how possible should it be for a state to be unable to manage an insurgency by a group of militias who dwell in the poorest part of the country? The reality is the state is in itself not self-sufficient, and it depends on stronger states for survival. It therefore wasn’t a matter of surprise to see the swift aid by French troops to try eliminating the Tuareg militia in Mali currently. What this means is that, with the strength armed non state actors have gained now, all quasi states are under threat. And by extension their dependent states are also going to be burden stricken. Even more, what if these armed non-state actors unsettle more than handful quasi states? Are dependent states going to divide their armies everywhere? For how long are we going to resort to emergency put-down? We need a policy direction from our leaders.
There indeed are a lot of questions to be asked and few answers to be given. Pathetically, it seems to be the case that protestors against governments are the first to gain the favors from the international community. It is the case that governments ought to have the capacity to manage protests ensuring the rights and safety of the protestors however, when protests intensify because the government is weak to quell them it does not necessarily mean such governments are inhumane. The London protests were not tolerated in any way, especially when they were on the brink of violence and looting. The difference with this and other protests is that the UK has governmental structures and working institutions that quasi states do not have. The international community must indeed revisit the approach of easily throwing support behind non-state actors to unsettle governments; those we call freedom fighters are some others’ terrorists. This is because at the end of it all tension is heightened, the conflict line is drawn and sides are taken. But I ask again, are we still going to urgently assemble emergency forces to quell insurgency whenever there is the need? I think we need a long term security policy that goes beyond the still developing, though controversial, Responsibility to Protect.
Originally published on Kow’s blog.