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War, peace and politics in Africa since the end of the Cold War

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The challenge will be to reintroduce politics into the heart of wars. War since the 1970s has been depoliticized and must be repoliticized to understand it, which is not just an academic issue, but also a concrete issue because the depoliticizing vision of war has had an effect on the way wars were perceived by policy markers. There were communicating vessels between the theories and analyses of war. The same depoliticization of war analysis can be found in peace analysis.

The end of the Cold War was accompanied by immense hope with the idea that it would bring a much broader peace to the whole world because there was a perception of conflicts that were dragging on in proxy wars that were not real wars, but allowed the indirect confrontation of the two major blocs. The idea was that the end of the confrontation between the two major blocs would bring peace to the world.

In Africa, until the early 1990s, there was an increase in the number of conflicts, a change in the violence of these conflicts and an increase in their brutality. That is the impression we have had in the face of this immense humanitarian tragedy, such as those involving Rwanda, Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Somalia and the Horn of Africa. The increase in these conflicts seemed inconsistent, producing gratuitous violence, without purpose and without political foundations. There has also been an almost exponential increase in civilian casualties.

These wars were apparently not linked to a coherent political programme that would be brought to the military field because it cannot be conducted on the political field. The dominant discourse that has developed in these years is one related to the analysis of States in Africa. The impressive increase in the number of conflicts and the brutality of these conflicts has been seen as an expression of the failure of states no longer able to have a monopoly on the control of legitimate violence that allows the proliferation of rebel movements that attack the state or as a direct consequence of bankruptcy. However, it is a simplifying and reducing bias that does not allow us to understand these conflicts and find good solutions.

Main theories of war in the 1990s[edit | edit source]

We will discuss three models that emerged in the 1990s:

  • Robert Kaplan analyzed these conflicts as an expression of the rise of a new barbarism with the entry into a period of complete anarchy.
  • Paul Collar contrasts the economic and political causes of war[greed vs. Grievances]
  • Mary Kaldor analyzed these "new wars" of the 1990s as radically different from "old wars".

If we put together these different models of war, we obtain a depoliticizing vision.

Kaplan’s coming anarchy[edit | edit source]

Morton Kaplan

In The Coming Anarchy. How scarcity, crime, overpopulation, tribalism, and disease are rapidly destroying the social fabric of our planet[9], Kaplan has produced a play that is more polemical than academic, but it has an influence in American policy-making circles. Kaplan announces a new anarchy that will take over the world as the result of a double evolution, namely:

  • an ecological evolution due to climate change that further reinforces global health problems on the basis of a rapidly growing and uncontrolled population. It is a neo-Malthusian vision of society that sees population growth as the source of future anarchy.
  • a clash of civilizations between the parts of the world according to an essentialist approach.

It is a reductive vision that both builds civilisational and homogeneous groups, taking up the notion of a clash of Huntington's civilisations, giving a dark picture of a world without any future.

Greed vs. Grievances [P. Collier][edit | edit source]

Collier at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in 2013.

The dichotomy between the issue of greed and political claims as a source of conflict and the results of research conducted by Collier and a series of economists attached to the World Bank in the mid-1990s. It is a study that uses macroeconomic data to try to understand the share of economic factors in explaining the origin of civil wars in the world. The conclusion is that it is mainly in countries where there is an abundance of mineral-type resources that we find the highest incidence of civil wars, of civil wars that resume after peace attempts and of civil wars that last the longest.

Based on this empirical observation. Collier and his colleagues conclude that the rebellion or rebellions of the post-Cold War years around the world, and in particular in East Africa, is above all a form of crime that is structured around it and aims at the large-scale predation of productive activities, namely mineral extraction. The new wars of the 1990s were characterised above all by the fact that they were wars with economic objectives and the rebels became entrepreneurs and economic operators linked to global criminal and mafia networks whose main aim was to enrich themselves by capturing first-rate political positions. There is no political project behind these rebellions, being motivated solely by the economic aspect.

There are still important debates. The main positive thing to remember, according to Paul Collier, is that his teams carried out an analysis of the economic factors that were set aside during the Cold War. With the post-Cold War era, we are changing the explanatory framework that requires a different understanding of these wars. Collier has a vision as an economist and economist of the economy with an economic vision that dominates the whole. He is one of a number of researchers who are trying to find the element that will make it possible to understand all wars. It is a drastic reduction that is trying to explain that all wars try to explain that there are abundant resources in this or that country. Wars cannot be reduced to one element. What has also often been questioned is sampling, because they come from countries where statistical data are very poorly collected. There is also a kind of confusion with resources as a means of warfare and resources as a means of warfare. One of the advantages of this approach is that it has reintroduced the notion of greed. In a way, behind Paul Collier's analysis of wars, there is the idea that the State is always the victim of war. There is a weak, failed or even decadent state, it is there, an object of war because it is subject to rebel attacks. However, studies show that civil wars are also understood as processes that are an integral part of the formation of these states. The rebel attack cannot necessarily be interpreted as a neutral element in which the state is in a defensive position.

and New Wars [M. Kaldor][edit | edit source]

Mary Kaldor en 2000.

Mary Kaldor distinguishes between "old wars" and "new wars" in her book New and Old Wars: Organised Violence in a Global Era[10]

  • ideology: the wars of before were structured around and by questions above all political. The concern during the Cold War was a block logic. One of the striking elements of these new wars of the 1990s is that identity issues are at the centre of all these wars. Identity has taken precedence over politics, we no longer fight in the name of ideals, but of whom "we are" within the framework of an essentialist vision and identity. While wars built around ideology were inclusive, identity wars are exclusive because it is ontological barriers and distinctions that justify massacres, structures and explain them.
  • the old wars were made to defend the interests of the people while in the new wars we fight against the people. It is based on statistics of civilian casualties in wars. At the time of the First World War, there was a ratio of 1:8, or 1 civilian for every 8 soldiers killed; in the post-Cold War period, the ratio was 7:1. In the post-Cold War wars, rebels have no qualms about killing en masse in order to achieve their objectives. There is extreme violence against civilians, showing that we have gone from wars for the people to wars against the people.
  • there is a change in the war economy induced by globalization that has a very direct impact on the way war is fought and criminal and mafia networks have an impact on these wars that feed on minerals with a value only if they are exported, hence the need for organized networks.

She concludes that the resources to fight and achieve a goal have become the goals, the rebels' only objective is their personal enrichment.

In New and Old Civil Wars: A Valid Distinction?[11] of Kalyvas shows that elements of new and old warfare can be found throughout history at all times and that Kaldor's distinction is not a new one, but one that must be qualified. It is important to see the continuities between the different ways of waging war instead of talking about a very strict rupture and that the extreme brutality of wars is not in itself a new phenomenon, but that we must try to trace the violence of wars through the different periods of recent history. Comparing the ratio of civilian to military casualties is arbitrary because war technologies have changed significantly.

These different theories have one thing in common, which is to see the new wars through the very tiny place that politics takes, through the place that ideology takes in the rebels' demands. War is no longer seen as a political phenomenon, but as a phenomenon of organized crime and more as an expression of social and political inequalities. According to Paul Richards in No Peace, No War. An Anthropology of Contemporary Armed Conflicts, all these theories make a very clear distinction that appears obvious with war as something bad on the one hand and peace as the very ideal of living in society and which is the space governed by principles on the other. From a sociological perspective, there is no point in taking war out of context, isolating it and making it into something ontologically wrong. On the one hand, we must move away from the search for the causes of conflicts, but also from the illusion that we can explain the wars of a main cause in order to try to have a more complete vision. Moreover, all these theories, implicitly, no longer see war as something that destroys more than exists. If we look at the situation of Syrian civilians who are refugees in Lebanon or elsewhere, war is above all destructive of any social order.

As an analyst and as a peace-builder, we will never be able to understand wars if we do not try to have new orders emerge. Charles Tilly notes that even in the midst of civil war, daily activities of social and individual life take place primarily outside the war. We must try to understand this order in order to better understand the causes of war and, above all, to better understand how to conduct war situations in peace situations and to establish political institutions at the local or national level. We must try to understand how to build institutions between local and global governance to build peace.

Bringing politics back in: the legitimacy of rebellion[edit | edit source]

Klaus Schlichte in In the Shadow of Violence. The Politics of Armed Groups[12],

shows the main results of a research programme carried out in Germany. One of the starting points of this study concerns African countries as well as the Balkans and Latin America. Empirically, in post-war situations, some former rebel movements are doing better than others. Some are successful as a political movement while others fail to make the transition from the armed movement to the political movement. He seeks to explain these variations.

The central argument is that if we want to understand how some former rebel movements are doing well, we must try to understand how some movements are trying and forcing themselves to build their legitimacy at the local, national and international levels. The construction of legitimizing it is central against Collier or Kaldor. For Schlichte, the notion of legitimacy must be put at the heart of the analysis. On the other hand, it is not obvious with a tension between the use of violence and the attempt to legitimize it. Violence has a legitimizing and delegating effect, casting a shadow on the populations to whom armed groups use violence. The challenge for rebel movements is to fight against this shadow, to come out of the shadows in order to have a certain legitimacy. One of the main elements in building this legitimacy is to rewrite the reasons that drive movements to surrender weapons. Explanatory narratives of war must be developed that make sense at all local, national and international levels to counter the war. It is only those who succeed in legitimizing these narratives who will finally have political success or may have political success after the end of the conflict.

In Rebel Rulers: Insurgent Governance and Civilian Life During War[13], Mampilly takes as its starting point the fact that even in the midst of a civil war, institutions of governance are formed, but not in the same way everywhere, not having the same lifespan everywhere. He tries to understand the reasons why there are governance institutions set up by the rebels and the empirical differences between rebellions. The main conclusions are that on the one hand, all rebellions face the same difficulties. If they want to try to gain some legitimacy beyond the power of nuisance, they must do something for the people for whom they are saying is happening. For Mampilly, it is necessary:

  • that the rebels can provide security to judge their role as rulers;
  • a dispute resolution justice system;
  • that like any institution, whether state, pre-state or rebel, it must set up services such as education, health and water supply systems.

How well they manage these challenges will affect their longevity as a rebel and political movement. One of the main conclusions is to say that there is a relationship, not mechanical, but historical and political, in the way rebellions take place in these societies through the structure of society. Fine ethnography makes it possible to understand these conflicts. The central question of building legitimacy through peace agreements and after independence is a question that practitioners have asked themselves little, unlike academics.

We move from a paradigm in which war is isolated and replaced by a much more "normal" social and political history, considering it as a "normal" social fact in the sense that war can in certain circumstances be a political project like any other. If we prevent ourselves from considering it as a political project like any other, we will prevent ourselves from finding solutions that can be sustainable. One of the challenges is to see the sociological continuums between war and peace. The depoliticization of the war had practical, concrete and historical consequences that were damaging to a number of countries. It is not only an academic discourse, but something that can have practical implications. The depoliticization of conflicts can have consequences that can be harmful in the stabilization of countries in which peace is being sought.

Peace-building from technocratic to political?[edit | edit source]

Emergence of peace-building: context[edit | edit source]

In parallel to the depoliticization of the conflict, there is the emergence of peace-building as an emerging international policy as a technique of making peace rather than as a political way of bringing about peace. The emergence of peace-building is the Cold War. In 1992, Fukuyama published The End of History.

« What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such [...] That is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government. »

— Francis Fukuyaman, The End of History, 1992

Establishing Peace-building[edit | edit source]

The notion of peace-building emerged in 1992 with Boutros Boutros Ghali, Secretary-General of the United Nations, who set up intervention programmes to try to pacify the whole world. In a context where the end of history is considered to have ended with the end of the confrontation of the great ideologies, peace-building appears as a set of technical tools supposed to allow the transition between war and peace.

The liberal peace-building model[edit | edit source]

This is the idea that we will be able to work on a certain number of values and tools since, if properly applied, they will enable a peaceful and long-term transition between war and peace. To achieve a lasting peace, peace negotiations must be as inclusive as possible, opening the negotiating table to all actors in the conflict to hear their demands and the conditions for making peace. We must set up elections, work on the separation of powers in a Weberian vision of the State, work on security sector reform to democratize them. All this is only possible if there is economic liberalisation.

It is a model of liberal democracy such as in Europe or the United States that is being applied in different countries to try to bring about an inclusive and lasting peace.

Limits of peace-building[edit | edit source]

  1. Inclusive peace negotiations and power sharing agreements: the peace agenda has shown its limits. Including everyone in peace negotiations has the unexpected effect that the opportunity for gains that can be made by taking up arms is greater. It was becoming more and more interesting for political mafia and possibly military movements to take up arms. One of the negative consequences is to legitimize a posteriori the use of war as a means of obtaining political benefits through the inclusion of these events at the negotiating table.
  2. Elections and peace-building: the other problem is that the elections, which are the main element of any transition through elections, are supposed to establish the political legitimacy of the authorities, whether at local or national level. In conflicts that have lasted for a very long time, at the local level, legitimacy is rarely understood in the same terms as it is understood in European-style democracy theory. In many cases, the holders of political legitimacy may be more former armed movements, religious movements, other forms of more traditional authorities. There are all kinds of types of public authorities that can be perceived as legitimate at the local level. Conducting elections does not ensure that we have respected authorities as legitimate as democratic theory would have it.

Criticisms of liberal peace-building[edit | edit source]

For Roland Paris, the problem with the theory of liberal peace-building is not to respect a transition by wanting to achieve results without asking fundamental questions, particularly legitimate regimes at the local level. The transformations that are brought about by peace-building are likely to exacerbate things and raise local tensions because it is a space of forced march towards a modernization or liberalization for which the societies in question are not ready.

Alex de Waal shows that when political liberalization is opened, giving concrete value to institutions of power that were not there before, it could strengthen clientelist or neopatrimonial competition that could have opposite effects in terms of stabilization.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The problem of peace-building as it has been applied to date is a primarily technocratic vision of societal change rather than a political vision. This is based on the very present idea that social changes can be the result of well thought-out social engineering. Reflection on peace-building and development in fragile or post-conflict states is influenced by the non-political or depoliticized vision of intervention in these contexts. If we refrain from understanding war as a social fact that is part of a particular history and context, we will refrain from understanding how to intervene in it.

« The default switch for most development [and peacebuilding] practitioners is to see local governance problems [in post- conflict contexts] as precisely technical matters, requiring injections of knowledge and money, and maybe some technical advice. »

— P. Uvin, Local Governance After War: Some Reflections On Donor Behavior In Burundi

Annexes[edit | edit source]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Page de Stephan Davidshofer sur Academia.edu
  2. Page personnelle de Stephan Davidshofer sur le site du Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  3. Compte Twitter de Stephan Davidshofer
  4. Page de Xavier Guillaume sur Academia.edu
  5. Page personnelle de Xavier Guillaume sur le site de l'Université de Édimbourg
  6. Page personnelle de Xavier Guillaume sur le site de Science Po Paris PSIA
  7. Page de Xavier Guillaume sur Academia.edu
  8. Page personnelle de Xavier Guillaume sur le site de l'Université de Groningen
  9. Kaplan, Robert D. The Coming Anarchy: How Scarcity, Crime, Overpopulation, Tribalism, and Disease Are Rapidly Destroying the Social Fabric of Our Planet. Boston, MA: Atlantic Monthly, 1994.
  10. Kaldor, Mary. New and Old Wars: Organised Violence in a Global Era. Cambridge: Polity, 2002.
  11. Kalyvas, Stathis N. "“New” and “Old” Civil Wars: A Valid Distinction?" World Politics 54.01 (2001): 99–118.
  12. Schlichte, Klaus. In the Shadow of Violence: The Politics of Armed Groups. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2009.
  13. Mampilly, Zachariah Cherian. Rebel Rulers: Insurgent Governance and Civilian Life during War. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 2011.