Today we can safely say battles and large-scale wars in Africa are on the decline, as they have been for quite some time. This is the conclusion of the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project 2017.
However, what has happened is that in their place are multiple, co-existing agents who engage in a variety of strategies to secure their place within the political landscape: local militias, pro-government militias, political militias working at the behest of politicians and political parties, civil society organisations forming protest movements, external groups seeking local partners (such as ISIS), and more occasionally, rebel groups seeking to overtake the government. These groups may use similar forms of violence — including attacking civilians, bombing, clashing with security forces, rioting — but they are distinct in their goals,” (ACLED Project 2017).
As I have stated before, peace and stability, which goes hand in hand with conflict resolution is the number one priority for Africa because without peace and stability, there can be no development. Countries that remain of great concern to us Africans with regards to conflict are Libya, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan. These are today the continent’s major crisis areas, with significantly more recorded instances of violence and fatalities than anywhere else, accounting for 33% of all violent conflict in Africa last year. While there were approximately 740 armed, organised events in Libya, Nigeria and South Sudan, there were three times that number in Somalia. “In effect, Somalia’s violence is equal to the combined violence of Libya, South Sudan and Nigeria,” ACLED report found.
Elsewhere, the absence of full-blown civil war or large-scale insurgencies masks disturbing levels of violence. “Despite lesser media coverage, a number of countries across the continent witnessed lower yet sustained rates of armed conflict, as state and non-state actors continue to use violence to influence political dynamics or consolidate their position vis-à-vis other competitors. The political nature of these low-level conflicts is such that, unless a political solution to the crises is found, violence is likely to persist or to escalate in the near future. This situation is common in several African states, but particularly intense in Burundi and Mozambique, the report has found.
The report also found that there was a 4.8% increase last year in the number of events involving rioters and protesters. The increase is mostly attributed to Chad, Tunisia and Ethiopia, but suprisingly South Africa remains the continent’s undisputed protest capital – and, as ACLED notes, the police seem to be doing their best to keep it that way: “Police often resorted to violent means in the attempt of curbing protests, but this repression ended up feeding more disorder. With new general elections scheduled in 2019 and growing in-fighting within the ruling party, violence is likely to feature prominently over the coming months in South Africa.”
ACLED’s data is perhaps most useful when it is used to examine continent-wide trends. For example, some 34% of incidents in 2016 involved state forces, which is high compared to recent years, suggesting that governments are adopting a more forceful approach to maintaining power. This is complemented by another trend, which is the increase in violence committed by political militias, which accounted for 30% of incidents. These are defined as groups that seek to shape and influence the existing political system, but do not seek to overthrow national regimes (the best example of these is the Imbonerakure in Burundi, a “youth organisation” which functions as enforcers for the ruling party).
Where does the DRC measure up on the important question of conflict resolution and its importance to development? According to the report, The country received some good news shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve (2016) when Catholic bishops announced that a deal had been reached to resolve the country’s political crisis. President Joseph Kabila had not yet signed on to the agreement, which required him to step down after elections are held, sometime before the end of 2017. Despite high levels of mistrust between the parties, the deal mediated by the Congolese Catholic Church remains the best chance for a path forward. The overarching challenge now is to prepare for elections and a peaceful transition in short order, for which solid international backing is essential.
Kabila’s determination to cling to power beyond his second term, in defiance of the Congolese Constitution, met with significant opposition and volatile street protests throughout 2016 — and threatens more widespread violence to come. Congo’s endemic corruption and winner-takes-all politics mean Kabila’s entourage has much to lose, so they may not let go easily. African and Western powers need to coordinate efforts to pull Congo back from the brink and prevent further regional instability. MONUSCO, the U.N.’s largest peacekeeping mission, does not have the capacity to deal with such challenges and would be more effective with a narrower mandate, moving away from institution building and toward good offices and human rights monitoring.
Last September, at least 53 people were killed, mostly by security forces, when demonstrations against Kabila’s rule beyond the end of his mandate turned violent. Clashes between security forces and protesters in several cities around the end of his term, on Dec. 19 and 20, reportedly killed at least 40 people. Violence is likely to continue if the elections are again postponed. The main opposition coalition, the Rassemblement, will be prepared to harness the power of the street to try to force Kabila out. The political tension in Kinshasa is also contributing to increased violence in pockets throughout the country, including the conflict-ridden east.
Then there is the new nation, South Sudan, worlds youngest nation at 5 years old and already holding the mantle as the most violent country on the continent. After three years of civil war, Sudan is still bedeviled by multiple conflicts. Grievances with the central government and cycles of ethnic violence fuel fighting that has internally displaced 1.8 million people and forced around 1.2 million to flee the country. There has been mounting international concern over reports of mass atrocities and the lack of progress toward implementing the 2015 peace agreement. In December, President Salva Kiir called for a renewed cease-fire and national dialogue to promote peace and reconciliation. Whether or not these efforts succeed depends on the transitional government’s willingness to negotiate fairly with individual armed groups and engage with disaffected communities at the grassroots level.
The internationally backed peace agreement was derailed in July 2016 when fighting flared in Juba between government forces and former rebels. Opposition leader and erstwhile Vice President Riek Machar, who had only recently returned to Juba under the terms of the deal, fled the country. Kiir has since strengthened his position in the capital and the region as a whole, which creates an opportunity to promote negotiations with elements of the armed opposition, including groups currently outside the transitional government.
The security situation in Juba has improved in recent months, although fighting and ethnic violence continue elsewhere. International diplomatic efforts are focused on the deployment of a 4,000-strong regional protection force — a distraction that would do little to quell an outbreak of major violence and pulls energy away from the deeper political engagement needed to consolidate peace. The existing U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, needs urgent reform — which is especially clear following its failure to protect civilians during last July’s spasm of violence in Juba. A glimmer of hope in the country’s tragedy is the delicate rapprochement underway among South Sudan, Uganda, and Sudan that might one day help guarantee greater stability.
There is no end in sight to violence in Libya, with the interim government ill-equipped to take on Islamic State and the patchwork of militias that hold power in the country. A long-awaited referendum on a new constitution could be held in 2017.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s claim to have “crushed” Boko Haram appears optimistic. Deadly attacks and defiant statements from the Islamist terror group indicate that the eight-year battle will grind on.
Conflict in the Central African Republic continues despite several ceasefire deals. International donors have pledged $2.2 billion to support a government peace plan.
There has equally been a rise in positive sentiment across the continent due to some shifts in both the political economic landscape bringing fresh hope about Africa being the last frontier of development. The former security guard who defeated a 22-year incumbent in Gambia’s presidential election. Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos is to step down after 37 years, although his party will likely stay in power. Africa’s first elected female president — Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia — will also leave office, and could be replaced by soccer legend George Weah.
On the economic front, Africa has largely been on a positive trajectory. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is likely to be the most spectacular megaproject to be unveiled — a $5 billion, 6,000-megawatt monster that will become the largest dam and hydropower plant in Africa.
The Kenyan government is confident the much-anticipated $4 billion Standard Gauge Railway project will also be completed, connecting the capital Nairobi with the port of Mombasa and dozens of shiny new stations in between.
The world’s largest concentrated solar plant will be expanded in Morocco, while Nigeria embarks on a major overhaul of its transport and manufacturing infrastructure.
Among the companies were expected to be making headlines in 2017, Nigeria’s largest e-commerce firm was one of the safer bets: Konga has grown rapidly since its launch in 2012, raising over $100 million in funding, and will scale up further this year through a new network of warehouses and development of its payment platform Kongapay. Another company with abundant potential is Kenya’s SteamaCo, which is applying smart technology to the challenge of rural electrification through the creation of microgrids, offering a low-cost solution for unconnected households. With just 19% of Kenyans connected to the grid the potential market is vast.
Rwanda is targeting horticulture as an engine of growth in 2017, boosted by the new Gishari Flower Park in Rwamagana, and the state-owned Bella Flowers company will lead the charge. Mobile recruitment website Giraffe won the prestigious Seedstars competition for start-ups last year, and will use the boost in funding to tackle South Africa’s unemployment crisis.
Forward thinking African governments continue to thrive and move away from resource dependency.
In this regard, the ANC has confirmed the centrality of Africa in our foreign policy, our commitment to the African Agenda, and the realization of a peaceful and prosperous continent, as envisaged by Agenda 2063 of the African Union.
The realization of a prosperous, stable, secure and peaceful Africa is an important objective of the ANC’s International Relations Policy.
ANC has already done much work for Africa’s peace and developments but our efforts need to be doubled.
South Africa will never truly proper whilatest Africa languishes behind.
ANC Policy Conference must make strong resolutions on Africa.
Yonela Diko is the Media Liaison Officer of ANC Western Cape.