By Afro-Middle East Centre

The recent African Union decision adding a more ‘robust’ peace enforcement component to the current 12 000 strong UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) risks further militarising an ostensibly political conflict over resources and patronage. Further, even if implemented, the proposed force will be difficult to sustain in light of the complex and overlapping nature of the conflict and the differing agendas of outside actors. The ‘temporary’ replacement of now former vice president Riek Machar with Taban Deng through an internal coup in the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLMIO) underscores the complexity and fluidity of South Sudanese politics and alliances.

The decision, at the just-concluded AU heads of state summit in Rwanda, follows a proposal by the East African Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) for the AU to request that the UN expands its mission in South Sudan to include peace enforcement modelled on the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in eastern Congo. The proposal came in the wake of a collapsing power-sharing agreement between the two main protagonists in South Sudan, President Salva Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar, in early July when conflict erupted between their security details in Juba.

Since its establishment in 2011, South Sudan has experienced continual conflict; first was the clash imposed on it by its northern neighbour, Sudan, over oil revenue and borders in 2012; more recently – between December 2013 and August 2015 – militia allied to Machar and Kiir clashed. That conflict was halted through a power-sharing agreement reached in August 2015, in terms of which the rivals would retain their prior positions as president and vice president, and would integrate parts of their militia. The deal only came into force in April this year when Machar was restored as vice president and entered Juba with 1 400 troops as part of the pact. The agreement was fraught from inception. It assumed that there were only two belligerents, Kiir and Machar, and failed to integrate other groups such as the Shilluk clan (South Sudan’s third largest tribe after the Dinka and Nuer), and address more localised concerns between tribes over land and revenue distribution. Further, it failed to adequately consider the roles played by outside forces such as Uganda in propping up Kiir, skewing the balance of forces and disincentivising compliance. Moreover, it failed to adequately consider South Sudan’s fractious history and lack of institutional capacity as engendering a situation wherein securitisation is prioritised and instrumentalised by political actors. Thus, even before the agreement was concluded, Kiir expressed dissatisfaction, arguing that it was a foreign imposition, and because militia loyal to him held the balance of power. Further, no effort was made toward reversing his decision to redraw South Sudan’s provincial borders, increasing the number of provinces from ten to twenty-eight in order to benefit tribes and militias loyal to him. Deng’s power play – possibly engineered by Kiir – changes little because South Sudanese politics is still governed by force, and Deng’s support and influence in this area is less than Machar’s.

The proposed intervention force will be hamstrung by a number of factors. First, distinguishing the main belligerent in an arena wherein there is a multiplicity of groups – often with local grievances – will complicate and stall armed intervention measures. This is especially true in light of Machar’s ‘temporary’ replacement. Will UNMISS distinguish between Machar’s well-armed support and that of Deng, who is even distrusted by Kiir?

Moreover, the brigade is to comprise forces from Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda and Sudan, all with differing interests in the conflict, which currently support different actors, maintain antagonisms toward each other in the quest for sub-regional hegemony, and – in the case of Uganda – has already deployed thousands of troops to support Kiir.

Further, South Sudan’s lack of central institutional governing capacity and fractious nature will complicate territorial handovers and administration efforts. The neutrality of the force will also be questioned, impeding its legitimacy. This is mainly because UNMISS has often coordinated activities with Kiir’s forces, even when these had been accused of being partly responsible for intensifying the most recent conflict. Notably, UNMISS’s mandate included working with Kiir’s government in the pursuit of state building following South Sudan’s independence, and, at the conflict’s inception, the force was outnumbered and outgunned, and forced to rely on the government for its survival.

Last, the global economic slowdown will mean that funding the expansion will be challenging. Already, some EU members have reduced their contributions to peacekeeping missions by over twenty per cent. This is significant, as the brigade will not only comprise a few thousand troops, but will require advanced weaponry and airpower to confront government forces. Even in the DRC, where the FIB has been viewed as a template for the South Sudan mission, problems are currently plaguing the mission.

The AU resolution thus will escalate the militarisation of a complex political matter. A properly enforced arms embargo could contain the situation better, and allow time to conceptualise and implement a more inclusive power-sharing agreement through IGAD, especially since South Sudan is landlocked and reliant on its neighbours, and because the USA and China can pressure the Ugandan and Sudanese governments to comply. Moreover, this would require less funding and be easier to implement. In the meanwhile, conflicts continue in Jonglei, Equatoria and other states, while the international community is fixated on the capital Juba, and on the notion that there are two clearly distinguishable belligerents.

 

AMEC's Ebrahim Deen, with Minister Of State Security Mr David Mahlobo, and Sheila Khama of the Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Rights Commission, talking about terror attacks in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Interviewed on SABC's Media Monitor

AMEC executive director Na'eem Jeenah talks to SABC's Eben Jansen on AMEC's latest publication, Tomorrow's Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa, written by Nick Turse

Buy your copy now

Written while the euphoria of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) uprisings was still palpable, this is a collection by an international mix of respected academics and active political roleplayers who reflect on the changing face of the MENA region since the end of 2010. The book examines the theoretical frameworks within which the uprisings and the movements for and towards democracy in the region might be situated; and chronicles and analyses the uprisings in the various countries where they occurred, their causes, the role of external actors, and the impact of the uprisings on the African continent.AMEC book: MENA uprisings and transformations and their impact on Africa

Carefully focusing on different countries, while not ignoring the regional tapestry which served as a background for the uprisings, this book presents a fascinating and thoughtful look at one of the most exciting – albeit brief – periods in the MENA region in recent times.

Contributors:

Ahmed Abd Rabou, Ashur Shamis, Daryl Glaser, Ebrahim Ebrahim, Ebrahim Shabbir Deen, Francis Nguendi Ikome, Garth le Pere, Hadi Enayat, Houchang E Chehabi, Lutfi Zaitoun, Na’eem Jeenah, Phyllis Bennis, Yahia H Zoubir

Chapters:

Part One MENA UPRISINGS: THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES

Transitions, revolutions, and democratisations: Conceptual clarifications - Houchang E Chehabi

The long road from revolution to democracy in the Middle East and North Africa: Challenges and threats facing states in transition - Garth le Pere

Part Two THREE YEARS OF UPRISINGS: POLITICAL ACTIONS AND ACTORS

Springs and winters: Interventions and interferences in the Arab uprisings - Phyllis Bennis

‘Islamists’ above ground and poised to lead: A Libyan Islamist perspective - Ashur Shamis

Islamist re-awakening in Egypt: From opposition movements to ruling parties - Ahmed Abd Rabou

Law and the judicialisation of politics in the Egyptian revolution - Hadi Enayat

Egyptian liberals in the struggle for and against democracy - Daryl Glaser

The Tunisian intifada and the way forward - Lutfi Zaitoun

Consequences of Ennahda’s relative weakness in Tunisia: Problematising negotiated revolutions - Ebrahim Shabbir Deen

The Arab uprisings: Is Algeria exceptional? - Yahia H Zoubir

Part Three MENA AND THE REST OF AFRICA

After Gaddafi and Mubarak: A new role for North Africa in the African Union - Francis Nguendi Ikome

Lessons from South Africa’s reconciliation process for post-uprising states - Na’eem Jeenah and Ebrahim Shabbir Deen

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You won’t see segments about it on the nightly news or read about it on the front page of America’s newspapers, but the Pentagon is fighting a new shadow war in Africa, helping to destabilize whole countries and preparing the ground for future blowback. Behind closed doors, US officers now claim that “Africa is the battlefield of tomorrow, today.” In Tomorrow’s Battlefield, award-winning journalist and bestselling author Nick Turse exposes the shocking true story of the US military’s spreading secret wars in Africa.Tomorrow's Battlefield, by Nick Turse

“A dogged and intrepid journalist who won’t take ‘no comment’ for an answer, Nick Turse has done a fantastic job of exposing the US military’s expansion into Africa and the proliferation of its secret missions on the continent.”

—Craig Whitlock, Pentagon correspondent, Washington Post

“[Turse’s] investigations of US military missions in Africa in Tomorrow’s Battlefield reveal a secret war with grave implications for Africans and Americans, alike.”

—Glenn Greenwald

“Nick Turse’s investigative reporting has revealed a remarkable picture of evolving US military operations in Africa that have been concealed from view but have ominous portent, as he demonstrates vividly and in depth.”

—Noam Chomsky

Nick Turse, an award-winning journalist and historian, is the author and editor of several books, including The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare (Haymarket Books), the managing editor of TomDispatch, and a fellow at the Nation Institute.

Chapters include:

  • America’s Shadow Wars in Africa: Obama’s Scramble for Africa
  • Blowback Central: The Terror Diaspora
  • AFRICOM’s Gigantic “Small Footprint”: The Pivot to Africa
  • American Proxy Wars in Africa: A New Model for Expeditionary Warfare
  • Nonstop Ops: US Military Averaging More Than a Mission a Day in Africa
  • AFRICOM Becomes a “War-Fighting Combatant Command”: Going to War on the Sly
  • The Pentagon, Libya, and Tomorrow’s Blowback Today: How Not to End Violence in a War-Torn Land
  • How “Benghazi” Birthed the New Normal in Africa: A Secret African Mission and an African Mission That’s No Secret
  • An East–West Showdown: China, America, and a New Cold War in Africa
  • Christmas in July and the Collapse of America’s Great African Experiment: As a Man-Made Famine Looms, Christmas Comes Early to South Sudan
  • American Monuments to Failure in Africa? How Not to Win Hearts and Minds
  • American “Success” and the Rise of West African Piracy: Pirates of the Gulf of Guinea
  • The Outpost That Doesn’t Exist in the Country You Can’t Locate: A Base Camp, an Authoritarian Regime, and the Future of US Blowback in Africa
  • Finding Barack Obama in South Sudan

 

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