There is a tendency, even among scholars, to view civil wars as involving two actors—the “government” and “rebels.” This presumption likely arises because historical civil wars that have received the most attention—such as the American and Chinese civil wars—were generally fought between two recognized, organized combatants. Yet, many civil wars (both historical and modern) involve more than two actors. Take the current civil war in Syria. The Syrian government battles a series of rebel groups that generate a large number of acronyms—ISIS, SLA, SIF, and so on—and that frequently fight amongst themselves. These groups often seek to form coalitions to coordinate their opposition, but the coalitions are unstable and have difficulty controlling their constituent parts. The Syrian conflict also has a large level of external involvement, with the government receiving direct military support from Iran and Hezbollah plus a large number of additional external states and non-state actors seeking to turn the course of the war. The Syrian opposition’s fragmentation is extreme, but the multiparty nature of the conflict is by no means unique. In fact, many of the wars that have received the most international attention in recent decades—such as in Afghanistan, Columbia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, the Palestinian conflict in Israel, the Darfuri war in Sudan, and Somalia—have involved several rebel groups and significant external involvement.
Ensuring soldiers have legal access to financial resources is crucial for the state to fulfil its primary mission: retain the monopoly of violence. As seen in the Democratic Republic of Congo, difficulties providing soldiers with adequate resources may result in deteriorating discipline, corruption, defection, and human rights abuses. Rwanda after the genocide faced the difficult task of paying its soldiers. The post-1994 situation made this challenge inescapable. The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took power in a ruined country. The economy was entirely destroyed, and fleeing officials of the previous regime had emptied state coffers. The resources to pay soldiers were virtually non-existent. In addition, following the RPF victory, many families returned from exile to Rwanda. Consequently, soldiers of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA, the armed wing of the RPF) were not just guerrilla fighters anymore: they became fathers, husbands, or brothers again. This new financial burden on soldiers’ shoulders created a form of indiscipline largely unknown until then in the RPA’s ranks. In addition, the meagre salaries were made in cash, transported by intermediaries from the Ministry of Defence to soldiers, which multiplied the opportunities for embezzlement and the creation of ‘ghost soldiers’. Worse, the opportunities for soldiers to borrow money were extremely limited at the time. Many had no property in Rwanda and consequently no collateral to offer to the few banks still functioning.
The year 2002 marked the initiation of discussions concerning the suitability of invoking Article 1C(5) of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees to deal with the protracted Rwandan refugee caseload. This Article permits a declaration by countries and UNHCR that ‘the circumstances in connexion with which he [the refugee] has been recognised as a refugee have ceased to exist’, and therefore ‘he can no longer…continue to refuse to avail himself of the protection of the country of his nationality.’ In short, the ‘ceased circumstances’ Cessation Clause constitutes an international validation of positive change in post-conflict governance and the meaningful re-establishment of the citizen-state bond, as well as providing a legal normative framework for the repatriation of former refugees. It is easy to see why the GoR so earnestly pushed for the invocation of the Cessation Clause throughout the Noughties. Internal and external legitimacy was waning under the weight of mounting evidence that domestic politics was partisan and exclusionary at best, authoritarian and murderous at worst. The regime wanted to repatriate potential opponents back to within the state’s jurisdiction. Achieving international consensus over the suitability of refugees returning to Rwanda was thus a potential way to refute accusations concerning human rights abuses within the country, and to exercise more control over possible critics. Controversially, the High Commissioner for Refugees announced support for the cancellation of status for all Rwandan refugees by the end of 2011. After seven years of lobbying and contestation, this therefore constituted a major victory for the RPF.
Travelling to the UK? On the Pain, Separation and Dehumanisation of Student Families from ‘High-Risk’ Countries
The violence and despair of the militarised and exclusionary immigration policies of ‘Fortress Europe’ have been well documented. Institutionalised racism combines with an openly hostile bureaucracy of ‘paper walls’. In the UK Home Office, officials are encouraged through a perk system that awards shopping vouchers to officials who decline the highest number of asylum applicants per month. In Fortress Europe: Dispatches from a Gated Continent, Matthew Carr (2012: 120) describes the immigration-media nexus in the UK as a ‘mutually reinforcing consensus between governments, the media and the public that invariably depicts immigration as an endless crisis [and undocumented migrants as] dangerous and dehumanised invaders massing outside the nation’s borders’
East Africa is the global oil and gas industry’s hottest frontier. Barely a month goes by, it seems, without a major discovery in Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, or the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. This new African windfall is hardly without precedent. Several west and central African states — most notably Angola and Nigeria — have already experienced petroleum booms of their own. Over the last decade, they benefited from a spectacular jump in oil prices, which rose from $22 per barrel in 2003 to $147 per barrel in 2008 and remained high, for the most part, until recently. The spoils were enormous: from 2002 to 2012, Angola’s GDP jumped from $11 billion to $114 billion and Nigeria’s went from $59 billion to $243 billion. The opportunity afforded by this extraordinary decade was unprecedented and is unlikely to recur. Sadly, however, decision-makers have mostly squandered it. If the new east African producers are not to repeat the mistakes of the established ones, then, they should heed the lessons of Africa’s last oil boom.
Since the partitioning of the Sudan, Algeria is the largest African country and a primary regional power in the Mediterranean region. Therefore, the condition of this North African pivot-state is essential for Europe: Algiers is the 3rd largest energy supplier to the EU, while its population of 38 million inhabitants, its anti-terrorism security expertise and the size of its armed forces (130,000 men) make their security capabilities necessary to the stability of the Sahel zone. Moreover, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of 208 million dollars in 2013, Algeria remains the largest regional economy. Algiers was the least affected by the wave of the Arab Spring despite negative societal indicators. This situation contrasts with that of Tunisia or Egypt, notably due to politics of large redistribution of riches gained from oil revenues, but also due to the people’s fear of a return to a decade of stagnation. Nevertheless, the relative calm in this country during the last three years should not lead one to believe that the upcoming presidential election is not without high stakes. In fact, the trajectory of this powerful regional presence is uncertain for at least two reasons. First, the country’s socio-economic dynamic is worrisome. Second, the security dynamic is deteriorating given that Jihadist groups have found new resources. Thus, in the context of a tense regional framework, the Algerian situation is more important today than ever before.
In Egypt, it is clear that constructive results are not going to materialise anytime soon. Increasing state violence, arrests and intimidation have no clear logic beyond an attempt by the security apparatus to regain power and tighten control over the economy. It is an outworn order that risks collapsing. While the regime does have a serious security issue on its hands, namely the Sinai-based terrorism that has now spread to Cairo, the regime is increasingly blurring the lines between terrorism and anyone who opposes the official line. Labelling the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation, outlawing anti-regime protests, cracking down on NGOs and the clampdown against anti-regime activists and journalists are indications that the security state is disintegrating. The regime is carrying out violent measures against Islamists and youth – two major groups that cannot afford to be alienated – signalling the regime’s struggles to control a significant segment of the population via peaceful means.
A few days ago, I discussed on Radio France International the collapse of the cease-fire and resumption of open war between the beleaguered South Sudanese government of President Salva Kiir and the rebel forces led by former Vice-President Riek Machar. The violence in South Sudan has since December 2013 claimed the lives of more than 10000 people- a death toll that is rapidly rising as diplomatic efforts have failed to broker a short-term cessation of hostilities, let alone a longer term political solution. The massive intervention of the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) with thousands of infantrists, tanks and helicopter gunships has, for the time being, saved President Salva Kiir and the Southern Sudanese capital Juba but risks triggering a wider regional crisis that could see Sudanese and Eritrean involvement and would bring back echoes of the devastating regional wars and proxy conflicts of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s during which millions of people perished.