“The African Union and unbridled militarization? Approaches to African security governance”
Conflict, Security and Development, accepted by managing editor Dylan Hendrickson
Linnéa Gelot and Adam Sandor - Overview article
Professor Rita Abrahamsen, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the Director of the Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS), University of Ottawa, Militarized Politics in Africa Through a Prism of Global Political Sociology
The article sets forth a global political sociological perspective to contemporary forms of militarized politics. Militarism is always historically constructed and context specific and must therefore be studied at the intersection of the global and the local. It argues that contemporary global militarism on the continent is promoted as much by development actors as by military establishments and is firmly embedded within discourses of development.
Professor Cyril Obi, Social Science Research Council (SSRC), “Gunning” for Security Governance in a Resource-Rich African State? Interrogating Militarization in a Democratic Nigeria
This article interrogates the growing militarization of security governance in a resource-rich democratic African state. In spite of subscribing to a democratic constitution and several regional mechanisms advancing democratic values, security governance in Nigeria has been marked by the increasing use of the Armed Forces to respond to security threats posed by armed militias in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Some reports accuse the Nigerian military and police of massive human right violations against civilians, including extra-judicial killings. This paper examines the factors, politics, and actors that drive the growing militarization of security governance. It also raises several questions: Which conceptual approaches best explain the current trend in such security governance? What have been the human and economic costs of militarized security governance? How can prevailing policy choices and actions be transformed in ways that re-democratize society and de-militarize security governance in an oil-rich Nigeria?
Dr. Amy Niang, University of Witwatersrand, Producing and Contesting Security in the Sahel
The idea that the Sahel, the Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Guinea have become ‘corridors of terrorism’ finds a concrete articulation in recent transnational security initiatives that seek to both mutualize the burden of border control and harmonize regional security policies, in particular anti-terrorist policies. The proliferation of ant-terrorist initiatives in Africa can be seen as pointing to two important trends. Firstly, the establishment of parallel regional and transnational initiatives sponsored by either regional bodies (MNJTF) or western countries (France and G5 Sahel; the USA and the Pan-Sahel initiative and its successor, the TSCTP). The upshot of the necessary reallocation of security forces already in place is to weaken their potential for success. The Joint Force-G5S for instance has been put together in haste and it risks disrupting, if not jeopardising the multilateral operations currently underway, namely MINUSMA. Secondly, in a context whereby the target of anti-terrorist policies are not entirely clear, a series of agreements with some of the former military/militarized groups at the expense of others is bound to have significant consequences for local security and political configurations. The article shows how increased militarised response to multifaceted instability has partly fueled violence in northern and central Mali since 2015. Beyond the specific case of Mali, which is at the heart of instability in the Sahel, I explore how the various security initiatives complement or hinder the action of organisations that are seeking to build long-term strategies at the level of the region.
Dr. Linnéa Gelot, Folke Bernadotte Academy and Gothenburg University, Demilitarization through due diligence and accountability for civilian harm
The article analyzes specific sets of security practices through a conceptual lens of militarism and practice theory. It explores emerging due diligence policies and the conceptions of accountability for civilian harm caused by African security operations among African policymakers and diplomats. I argue that militarist practices are performed as part of everyday and routine mission planning, capacity-building and lesson learned activities in the AU peace and security department and AU peace and security council. When civilian officials inadvertently normalize some forms of human rights abuses and strongly move to minimize, punish others through accountability frameworks, I argue that we may understand this as demilitarizing moves.
Dr. Adam Sandor, University of Quebec, Militarizing Peace or Expanding Transnational Security Clientelism? Armed Group Counter-terrorist practices in Mali
Practices to counter violent extremism in West Africa are transforming relations
amongst global/local, state/non-state, and formal/informal actors. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso in 2016-2017 (and informed by fieldwork from previous years), this paper examines how Sahelian actors are drawn into transnational relations of security clientelism, and how these new relationships impact understandings of the legitimacy of using violent coercion to secure peace. The paper argues that non-state actor armed groups from the Sahel are becoming increasingly incentivized by global actors and discourses to think and practice forms of coercion that are premised on the categorical binary of terrorist/nonterrorist.
While in practice such a binary is ephemeral, situational, and a function of international conventions distanced from the complex political-economies of security in the Sahel, transnational security clientelism is not militarizing security relations amongst Sahelian populations so much as sedimenting martial qualities long associated with the practical occupation of ‘living by the gun’ (Debos 2017) by reinforcing such categorical thinking. The paper examines two cases: the circumstances surrounding the murder of Cheikh ag Aoussa – a leading figure of the HCUA, and close associate of Iyad ag Ghali; and interactions between international actors and armed groups in Mali as the former seek to stay cases of violent extremism and to locate armed Islamist fighters by working through and with the latter. These cases demonstrate how appropriating and resisting attachment to such clientelist relationships come with significant risks of violence, and has the effect of breaking down the atmosphere of social trust between communities connected in spaces of intervention.
Dr. Marta Iniguez de Heredia, Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals (IBEI), Militarism, Authority and Resistance in Somalia and the DRC: Exploring the Patterns in Power Relations between Africa and World Politics
The last couple of decades have seen an upsurge of military interventions in Africa addressing issues threatening the global security agenda. They aim at strengtheningstates’ government and security apparatus in order to make African states more self reliable at securing and asserting authority themselves. Though these goals may sound novel, they signal historical patterns in the architecture of order and power in world politics. These longer patterns are seen in three aspects these interventions have: their militarised or violent approach; their aim at transforming, reforming or bypassing the political authority in place; and the engendering of resistance. They show that practices of power and order-maintenance continue to rely on violence and on the fostering of particular institutions of authority, where the state is paramount. This has generated resistance from the top and from the bottom, even if some African governments have used these interventions to consolidate power and access funds and military training. Yet, in so far these practices are resisted, they also have the potential to foster violence and disorder. The article explores this argument by drawing on Mahmood Mamdani. It explores contemporary forms of military intervention in the cases of Somalia and the DRC, with a focus on the different forms of resistance.
Dr. Felix Kumah Abiwu, Department of Pan-African Studies, Kent State University, Militarism and the Securitization of Africa’s Development: An Issue of Human Rights?
The growing militarization of Africa through counterterrorism activities and the prevailing practice of securitizing development assistance by Western countries engaged in the “global war on terror”has attracted important scholarly attention/inquiry. Many critiques of security-oriented development work infer that there are major human rights implications connected to the how the security-development nexus plays out in practice on the ground in distinct African contexts. Human rights abuses by some African governments and military actors, committed under the pretext of fighting terrorism, indicates that such concerns are well-founded. The article asks how human rights discourses embedded in the hegemonic consensus of the security-development nexus develop contradictions for how security and democracy are understood by African security and development actors. While recognizing the fact, as some scholars have suggested, that African governments have supported and continue to benefit from a militarized development agenda, it is important to highlight how securitized development practices regarding human rights sometimes provide justifications for human rights abuses by African actors who are incentivized or provided motivations to do so in the fight against terrorism. The article examines how these contradictions play out in Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia, where western support for counterterrorism activities continue to grow and expand.
Professor Stig Jarle Hansen, University of Life Sciences (NMBU), Empowerment, Militarization, CVE and Deradicalization: cases of Kenya and Somalia
The Kenyan intervention in Somalia in 2011 was a watershed in CVE/Deradicalization work in Somalia. First it heralded a territorial expansion of the forces of the African Union in Somalia, and their allies, enabling the creation of programs targeting the recruitment to Shabaab, in several cities vacated by the Shabaab, secondly it created terror in Kenya, putting CVE work higher up on the agenda. The ‘Horn of Africa CVE boom’ included non-governmental organizations, the United Nations, as well as surprisingly weak state involvement on behalf of Kenya and Somalia. At times, it empowered the opposition towards the citing government, and it empowered actors not usually included in security debates. The effects are more nuanced than an outright ‘militarization’ thesis in the sense that although it sets focus on security related developments, has empowered actors operating in other fields, and in many cases avoids the military. Indeed, the type of actors often involves civil society organizations, clan groupings, states, as well as international organizations. While CVE and deradicalisation programs bring these actors into a field related to security, they also provide an alternative to the military actors. The article thus finds that the militarization thesis needs to be nuanced in the case of deradicalization and CVE work in East Africa.
Gino Vlavonou, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa, Political elites and direct combat in the CAR: Militarization and the sidelining of political solutions
Militarism is always constructed at the interface of global and local worlds. In the context of the political and security crisis in the CAR, both regional and sub-regional organisations have assumed a larger role in maintaining peace and security, often by advancing a militarized approach to resolving a dynamic political situation. Similarly, local actors have appropriated their own militarized approach, and have received much support from the country’s political elites. The article advances that militarism is one possible way to understand why the FACA (Forces Armées Centrafricaine) have received significant support, both from the population and local elites, despite being historically considered and ineffective and undisciplined army, frequently accused of human rights violations, rape, protection rackets, and the like. After their battles between Seleka rebels and Anti-Balaka vigilante groups, the FACA enjoyed a renewed backing from CAR’s political elites, who have lobbied international organizations for a removal of UN arms embargos on the country to let the FACA combat rebel groups through military means. Hence, the article probes how contemporary militarism is manifested locally in CAR, and shows how direct combat in war is pushed by local elites, thereby sidelining other possible political concessions and solutions to reconcile a very divided political space marred by a violent politics of origin.