Zimbabwe’s autocratic legitimation and the citizen struggle in safeguarding the constitution

Zimbabwe’s constitution is clear regarding citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms, as well as the need to create strong institutions to guard against corruption. However, 40 years after the attainment of independence, citizen efforts at safeguarding the constitution remain a challenge.

Today, Zimbabwe again finds itself at a tipping point amidst a deepening political and economic crisis.  However, this is not the first time the regime has been faced by a crisis of this nature. There have been several occasions since independence where the country has seemed to be on the brink of economic or political collapse. It is therefore useful to ask why, despite so many ‘near-tipping points’ over the past two decades, Zimbabwe has essentially not tipped over? What has sustained autocracy?

40 years after the attainment of independence, citizen efforts at safeguarding the constitution remain a challenge.

Robert Mugabe’s administration set the precedent of amending the constitution whenever it was considered an obstruction to the unbridled exercise of executive power.

Autocratic legitimation in Zimbabwe has been achieved from various angles. Firstly, the anti-colonialism liberation struggle narrative has been a major component of autocratic legitimation. This liberation war narrative, which usually fails to acknowledge instances of gross human rights violations carried out by liberation movements against their enemies, has largely been used to accord primacy to the military (Joint Operations Command) and the liberation struggle aristocrats. It has also been used to erode civilian authority, reducing citizens’ right to demand accountability to ‘a third party, suspect regime change agenda’. This liberation war pact is one of the factors that has disabled SADC, comprised of other states whose governing parties were formed as liberation movements, from taking decisive action against Zimbabwe in spite of a clear record of human rights abuses.

Today, Zimbabwe again finds itself at a tipping point amidst a deepening political and economic crisis.

Duskalkis and Gerschewski, whose work has focused on understanding autocratic rule, argue that ‘autocratic governments make claims about why they are entitled to rule. Some autocracies are more talkative than others, but all regimes say something about why they deserve power.’ This has been the case advanced by Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF party. Born of the liberation movement and in spite of post-independence malfeasance that has crippled the nation in delivering on sustainable development priorities, it still advances a right-to-rule agenda. It does this by monopolising the definition of what it means to be a patriot and how Zimbabwe’s sovereignty should be asserted.

Secondly, autocratic legitimation in Zimbabwe has been achieved through the direct undermining or failure to uphold the rule of law by government. However, it has also at times been achieved by simply eroding any substantive content of the law. As  academic Alex Magaisa writes, ‘even the worst dictatorships can claim to be compliant’, and rule of law must not be confused with democracy or good law. A legal system should also make substantive efforts to advance social justice and promote good governance.

This liberation war pact is one of the factors that has disabled SADC, comprised of other states whose governing parties were formed as liberation movements, from taking decisive action against Zimbabwe in spite of a clear record of human rights abuses.

The highly contested 2013 constitution was a citizen undertaking towards these substantive aspects of law that sought, among other issues, to curtail executive power. However, the November 2017 coup-ordained Emmerson Mnangagwa administration has only reversed the substantive gains intended by this constitution, and gone on to deepen autocratic control under the guise of Covid-19 regulation.

The autocratic hold of the Mnangagwa administration is not the result of a weak citizenry. The dangers of speaking out in Zimbabwe are well documented. The abductions, arrests and inhumane treatment of MDC Alliance MP Joanna Mamombe, Hopewell Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume among others all bear testimony to the dangers of speaking out. Nonetheless,  Zimbabwe’s citizens have engaged in valiant acts to safeguard their constitution throughout the country’s post-independence history.

Some autocracies are more talkative than others, but all regimes say something about why they deserve power.

In 2000,  citizens called for a repeal of the Lancaster House constitution, culminating in a  constitutional referendum. Thirteen years later, citizens participated in the COPAC facilitated constitution making process that led, in the year 2013, to the present constitution. The citizens’ ardent calls for the then President Mugabe’s ouster in November 2017 was reflective of this quest for a return to constitutionalism.

However, the political elite preyed upon this through Operation Restore Legacy, a coup that was deceptively packaged as an urgent need to restore political order and deliver on the long elusive economic stability.  Three years on, the November 2017 guard is engaged in a well calculated mission to entirely wipe out whatever remnants there may still be of citizen space for participation, and demanding leadership accountability.

Zimbabwe’s citizens have engaged in valiant acts to safeguard their constitution throughout the country’s post-independence history.

Thirdly, autocratic legitimation has been achieved through coercion and politicisation of the police and judiciary. The Presidential prerogative to appoint judges has enabled the appointment of partisan individuals who operate not in service to the citizens but to their appointing master. The recent outcry by judges against Justice Luke Malaba’s interference in their passing of judgements confirms this capture of the judiciary. Further to this, the latest development in the President’s reversal of the salary and benefits suspension conditions  on  Justice Ndewere’s case confirms that the judiciary has departed from its constitutional mandate. The Supreme court judgement that has served in the decimation of the leading opposition MDC Alliance party in ZANU-PF’s quest to create a de facto one-party state is another case in point.

Capturing the judiciary has also allowed for rampant corruption and created what North et al have termed a ‘limited access order’ where leaders “grant political elites privileged control over parts of the economy, each getting some share of the rents”. Political elites involved in recent scandals include the President’s own son Collins Mnangagwa and former Minister of Health Obadiah Moyo – both implicated in the Covidgate scandal, as well as Henrietta Rushwaya, recently arrested for attempting to smuggle 6kgs of gold to Dubai, to name a few.

Thirdly, autocratic legitimation has been achieved through coercion and politicisation of the police and judiciary.

In some of these cases, the police and the courts have ensured selective application of the law, preforming what has come to be termed a ‘catch and release’ approach of these elites while detaining the whistle blowers.

The decimation of these institutions to partisan entities leaves citizens with nowhere to seek redress in the context of violence and corruption with impunity. The violence, marked by arbitrary arrests, often accompanied by degrading inhuman treatment, abductions, forced disappearances’ and extra judicial killings, are all measures designed to curtail citizen agency. In the absence of a total repeal of the current system, there is not yet an end in sight. As Nick Cheeseman observes, ‘the more coercion they use, the less willing they are to step down and face possible prosecution for the abuses they committed in office.’

 

We’d love to hear from you! Join The Wicked Conversation by leaving your comments below, or send your letter to the editor to stephen@gga.org.

 

To get your copy of Extremisms: Volume 3, click on your preferred link below:

Loot: https://tinyurl.com/yyzvaxmu

Takealot: https://tinyurl.com/yxqdm7by

Amazon Kindle: https://tinyurl.com/y3zgz55f

Amazon Print edition: https://tinyurl.com/y3gw5xxo

 

Sikhululekile Mashingaidze currently serves as Senior Researcher in the Human Security and Climate Change (HSCC) project at Good Governance Africa. Being engaged as a part-time enumerator for Mass Public Opinion Institute’s diversity of research projects during her undergraduate years ushered her into and nurtured her passion for the governance field. She has worked with Habakkuk Trust, Centre for Conflict Resolution(CCR-Kenya), Mercy Corps Zimbabwe and Action Aid International Zimbabwe, respectively. This has, over the years, enriched her grassroots and national level governance projects’ implementation and management experience. Her academic research interests are in the field of genocide studies with a commitment to deepen her understanding of girls and women’s experiences, their agency in reconstituting everyday life and their inclusion in peace-building and transitional justice processes.

Early warning as a crisis management fundamental: Applicability to the managing of the Covid-19 pandemic funds in South Africa

The managing of any crisis tends to be defined by the extent to which suitable measures are available and implemented to address the potential impact of any such eventuality. Adjoined to the process is the degree of oversight being exercised to realise the anticipated outcomes. Furthermore, the appropriateness of the measures contemplated also depend on the nature of the actual disaster, the frequency of its occurrence, the response time to activate applicable measures, and resources to mitigate the consequences. The use of these approaches can be generalised to various incidents, with the most recent being the Covid-19 health pandemic.

The managing of any crisis tends to be defined by the extent to which suitable measures are available and implemented to address the potential impact of any such eventuality.

This article reflects on the South African government’s managing of key aspects of the Covid-19 health crisis, particularly the financial risks associated with millions earmarked for social relief and procurement of related goods and services. It is argued that despite clear early warning signals, a large portion of these funds were allegedly misappropriated due to ineffective controls and a lack of accountable managing of financial resources. This appraisal is important to improving early warning and better our understanding of how past governance experiences or trends in a crisis can inform the next one.

 

Some theoretical context

Early warning is articulated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as “the strategy adopted to reduce the impacts of disasters and which is based on visual observations, past experiences and cooperation to mitigate losses from upcoming hazards” and “the provision of timely and effective information, through identified institutions that allows individuals exposed to the hazard to take action to avoid or reduce their risks and prepare for effective response”. As past global financial crises and warnings of banking failures have demonstrated  early warning studies are also applicable to the finance disciplines.

With early warning located in a crisis pre-planning process, accompanied action steps entail the need to (1) identify the most significant risks leading to the crisis, (2) the most important scenarios for each crisis, as well as (3) the importance of selecting the appropriate measurement for each indicator. Of concern is that there are instances where early warning is ignored, even when the severity of a situation can, in all likelihood, be realised. For example, in the case of the 2011 Somali famine, the fear of potential food insecurity was registered months in advance, with the eventual outcome being disastrous.

As past global financial crises and warnings of banking failures have demonstrated,  early warning studies are also applicable to the finance disciplines.

The correlation between early warning and financial risks is enunciated in literature on public sector fraud management, as it informs that with such risks being a reality during any disaster, certain associated principles should be acknowledged, namely:

  • that there will always be fraud due to opportunism or lack of oversight systems to monitor and detect any such
  • that the detection of fraud is a governance achievement
  • that there is need for cooperation to combat fraud and corruption
  • that fraud and corruption incidents also evolve, and
  • that prevention is the most effective way to combat such risks (Cheeseman, 2020).

These principles are also underscored by the Basel Institute on Governance as it promotes the need for, among others, the establishment of enforcement controls that are underpinned by transparency and accountability as primary standards.

 

The South African Covid-19 crisis management case

Section 195 of the Constitution (108 of 1996) provides the primary governance framework for public administration as it obligates that:

  • a high standard of professional ethics [that] must be promoted and maintained
  • efficient, economic and effective use of resources must be promoted
  • public administration must be accountable

Closely related to the issue is the applicability of the Disaster Management Act. Section 7(2)(k) of the Act extends the provision of a governance framework to matters of financial assistance. Furthermore, section 17(1) outlines specific governance expectations, such as the inclusion of early warning systems, while under section 39(2), a disaster management plan is required to provide for appropriate prevention and mitigation strategies. The inference made is that the latter strategies include supply chain management matters since the procurement of essential goods and services is noted in the text. In considering the ensuing early warning indicators, the potential financial risks (i.e. the possibilities of fraud and corruption materialising) became self-evident.

Closely related to the issue is the applicability of the Disaster Management Act. Section 7(2)(k) of the Act extends the provision of a governance framework to matters of financial assistance.

 

Public procurement as an identified high risk business activity

In addition to the outlined public sector fraud principles, the first “red flag” can be located in the 2019 assessment by the Eastern and Southern African Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG), as it cautions that corruption exists at all levels throughout the procurement value chain. It further states that the meddling in the tendering process was found to be prevalent among Politically Exposed Persons and procurement officials. For background purposes, the ESAAMLG was established through the incorporation and adoption of a Memorandum of Understanding by a Council of Ministers of Eastern and Southern African states in 2018. Its primary objective is to implement the 40 recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force on combating money laundering and terrorism financing activities. The groups’ assessment acknowledges that (a) the health sector is considered as the most prone to procurement fraud due to the specialised nature of items that are procured and the many steps involved in the dispensing of medical products, which can create opportunities for corrupt activities, and (b) that Politically Exposed Persons, public procurement officials, suppliers, agents of suppliers, and political party members are among the actors considered as perpetrators of procurement fraud. The assessment aligns with the fact that as a key economic activity, public procurement represents, for example, approximately 14% of Gross Domestic Product. In 2016, the South African government spent R500 billion (15-20% of Gross Domestic Product) on goods and services. By 2019/20 it reflected an estimated 15. 6% thereof.

…the health sector is considered as the most prone to procurement fraud due to the specialised nature of items that are procured and the many steps involved in the dispensing of medical products, which can create opportunities for corrupt activities.

The second and most direct warning is credited to a letter by Transparency International wherein, on 13 May 2020, it highlighted to Southern African countries that public procurement was identified as one of four priorities under the Covid-19 pandemic that should receive government attention. In its open letter, the entity recommended that “Governments monitor, deter, and take relevant action against individuals and companies involved in unfair trade practices, including price hiking of essential goods […]”. Supplementary to the latter warning is the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) on record as having stated that the multi-billion rand Covid-19 relief package is managed in an environment with many control weaknesses.

 

Risk control measures applied

The following timeline reflects some of the overarching governance measures announced after the relief budget was availed:

 

The eventual outcome

The managing of the health crisis can be regarded as suited for an evaluation in how the pandemic tested the robustness of the governance regime of public institutions. Subsequent revelations and events highlight that despite the outlined early warning signals, and control measures adopted, millions earmarked for social relief and for procurement of goods and services were allegedly misappropriated. Some of the initial outcomes resulted in a media statement on 27 July 2020, informing that the Presidential spokesperson was granted special leave. Flowing from this development was similar leave granted to, and followed by the ultimate dismissal of the Gauteng Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) for Health, Bandile Masuku. Extended criminal investigations directed at various other senior public servants, public officials and private businesses linked to the alleged wrongdoings were also initiated. . The AGSA was also tasked, under a Presidential directive, to conduct an extensive audit on the matter with the first report released, calling for:

[…] oversight structures to use this report to direct their oversight actions and call accounting officers and authorities, as well as executive authorities to account for the implementation of the Covid-19 initiatives and the management of the funds entrusted to them

The managing of the health crisis can be regarded as suited for an evaluation in how the pandemic tested the robustness of the governance regime of public institutions.

Insofar as the political fallout, along with increased public opinion for action in curtailing these wrongdoings, it is the belief that a scandal of this nature tends to amplify renewed calls for ethics as a governance standard in public administration. With overall oversight clearly compromised, the manner in which the pandemic was managed underscores the theoretical inference that any weak governance regime is characterised by a combination of actions (or decisions) that reflect as “illegal and unethical, illegal and ethical, or legal and unethical” due largely to either intent or structural governance deficiencies. Hence there is a need for a sustained and effective governance approach that exhibits strong work ethics and controls.

Conclusion

With sufficient warning indicators evident prior to the commencement of the financial disbursements, effective control and accountable managing of financial resources are central to the current fallout in how the crisis was managed. Therefore, the breaches of compliance standards must be a consideration in any review on expected governance expectations. If not, the questions as to how and why governance lapses occurred could be repeated. Also, how consequence management is applied as a deterrence in addressing governance deficiencies is an important consideration.

 

We’d love to hear from you! Join The Wicked Conversation by leaving your comments below, or send your letter to the editor to stephen@gga.org.

 

To get your copy of Extremisms: Volume 3, click on your preferred link below:

Loot: https://tinyurl.com/yyzvaxmu

Takealot: https://tinyurl.com/yxqdm7by

Amazon Kindle: https://tinyurl.com/y3zgz55f

Amazon Print edition: https://tinyurl.com/y3gw5xxo

 

Dr Lincoln Cave holds a Doctorate in Public Management and a Master’s in Security Studies. He is a diplomat and writes in his professional capacity as a Certified Ethics Officer. Dr Cave is also an Associate Member of the Institute of Commercial Forensic Practitioners (ICFP) and a Supporter of the Ethics Institute of South Africa.

Understanding the role of Power, Identity, Communication and Trust in preventing and countering violent extremism in Somalia

*The following article provides a summary of a chapter contributed to Extremisms in Africa Vol 3 co-authored by myself, Fatma Ahmed, and Jem Thomas entitled Using evidence-based research to directly improve P/CVE programming: A Case Study of a Social Network Analysis in Somalia.

Across the community of practitioners, policymakers, researchers and academics involved in Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE), laments are often heard of a paucity of deep research in the discipline. There are claims that projects are too often based upon a weak solid-evidence base, that researchers are too removed from practitioners (and vice versa), and that research is often unrelated to realities on the ground. Thus we decided, within the confines of an existing project in Somalia, to examine the benefits of deep primary research, and how such might go some way to tackling these issues.

Our case study analysed the utility of Social Network Analysis (SNA), a tool which maps relationships and flows between people, groups, organisations, and other connected information. The research and project design were conducted by Albany Associates, funded by the US Department of State. Albany partnered with civil society organisations (CSOs) in four Somali districts: Garowe, Mogadishu, Baidoa and Kismayo. These CSOs identified 175 research participants (aged between 18-35, both employed and unemployed), assessed the validity of the data, and helped with project implementation.

There are claims that projects are too often based upon a weak solid-evidence base, that researchers are too removed from practitioners (and vice versa), and that research is often unrelated to realities on the ground.

Somalia is a highly complex environment, within which historical, political and social dynamics have been exploited by violent extremist groups such as al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State. The research conducted was part of a wider project to prevent violent extremism within the country through strategic communications. The analysis of the findings found three main themes: Power and Identity, Communications and Trust.

 

Power and Identity

Through our research, we identified power and identity as important factors in the radicalisation process, borne of unemployment and insecurity. These latter factors were identified as the most common frustrations and concerns perceived by the participants.

In Somalia, youth unemployment is high, reported to be as high as 75% (exact statistics are difficult to ascertain). Unemployment is often intertwined with identity and a sense of self-worth; contributing to society can assist in avoiding a sense of marginalisation by a community. Al-Shabaab has used this to recruit new members, offering both wages and material goods which can give those youth who join status, power and an identity previously missing.  Equally, insecurity leads to a sense of powerlessness. The research found a majority of the participants in rural areas did not feel represented within their political system. In a context where they cannot rely on the government, al-Shabaab offer an enticing alternative, particularly among the youth: protection to recruited individuals and their families, and a sense of empowerment.

In Somalia, youth unemployment is high, reported to be as high as 75%.

Communications

Once these frustrations and concerns were understood, it was vital to understand how and where individuals communicate, consume and share information. In the context of strategic communication and P/CVE, we often speak of counter and alternative narratives. We understood that in our programme, the role of narratives is crucial, especially when an extremist group uses them to influence popular perceptions. Our SNA findings provided an understanding of the information ecology of our participants and wider audiences.

We understood that in our programme, the role of narratives is crucial, especially when an extremist group uses them to influence popular perceptions.

The SNA found that across the four regions, a majority of respondents have access to smart phones, and radio is commonly used. Further, there is a high reliance on friends and families, not only to voice concerns and frustrations to, but also to turn to for advice and information. From our analysis, it is clear Al-Shabaab exploits networks to recruit and radicalise vulnerable communities. These insights into communication channels allowed us to target our interventions, ensuring the alternative and counter narratives reached our audience through the appropriate means and mediums.

Trust

We found that, unsurprisingly, the strongest trust relationship is between friends and family members. Trust levels ascribed to religious leaders were not uniform across the regions, as was also the case, for trust in international media.  The SNA also demonstrated which sources for trusted advice were not related; individuals were not at all likely to seek advice from associations/groups. Not one respondent cited NGOs and Human Rights CSOs as sources of advice.

Trust is fundamental in any P/CVE project, enabling predictability, community and collaboration, and a prerequisite for social order.

Trust is fundamental in any P/CVE project, enabling predictability, community and collaboration, and a prerequisite for social order. By examining patterns of which influencers are connected (or not), it is possible to infer an underlying pattern of advice-seeking relationships, and hence a degree of trust, among the respondents. Outside family and friends, our research indicated highly complex trust networks, varying across the regions, worthy of further, deeper examination.  Notably, when it comes to trust, a ‘one-size-fits all’ approach appeared insufficient, with local sociocultural factors having considerable sway.  However, where possible, our programme activities used these localised trust networks to communicate through.

Impact on programming and conclusion

The SNA gave the programme designers a deep, contextually rich sense of the target audience within which P/CVE activities operate. No campaign would succeed without knowledge on where people receive information, or who is trusted to deliver those messages. Alternative or counter narratives would be unsuccessful if there was not an understanding of what leads individuals to be radicalised.

This knowledge led to demonstrable impact. Beneficiaries previously afraid to speak out about al-Shabaab dedicated themselves to it, Imams who initially refused to speak openly on the radio about violent extremism requested to do so by the end of the project. One partner organisation trained youth to become Peace Ambassadors; they received more applications than needed and are planning to run similar programmes in the future to meet the demands.

Beneficiaries previously afraid to speak out about al-Shabaab dedicated themselves to it, Imams who initially refused to speak openly on the radio about violent extremism requested to do so by the end of the project.

Social science research methodologies, such as a SNA, can provide significant advantages and insights in addressing “push” factors and informing alternative-narrative campaigns. Local expertise and knowledge are an absolutely critical part of that research process. As Albany has long championed, “make it theirs”  – empower local people to engage with and solve their own issues in their own contexts.  This equally applies to ground research. Without serious local insight, even if it takes time and resources, no project will succeed.

 

We’d love to hear from you! Join The Wicked Conversation by leaving your comments below, or send your letter to the editor to stephen@gga.org.

 

To get your copy of Extremisms: Volume 3, click on your preferred link below:

Loot: https://tinyurl.com/yyzvaxmu

Takealot: https://tinyurl.com/yxqdm7by

Amazon Kindle: https://tinyurl.com/y3zgz55f

Amazon Print edition: https://tinyurl.com/y3gw5xxo

 

LAURA NETTLETON is the senior monitoring and evaluation specialist at Albany Associates. She has conducted research in Somaliland, Kenya, Uganda, Tunisia and across the western Balkans. She comes from a communications background and holds a Master’s in Conflict, Security and Development from King’s College, London, as well as a Bachelor’s in Anthropology and Conflict Studies from Exeter University.

Fulani and Jihad in West Africa: a complex relationship

With Islamist extremism on the rise in several regions of West Africa, Fulani communities are purported to be front and center. In Mali, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso, Fulani groups have been accused of waging jihad, supporting terrorists, and committing genocide of Christians. Security forces attempting to root out terrorists have reportedly targeted Fulani communities based on their perceived support for jihadists.

Fulani are associated with modern Islamist movements in part because they are perceived to have strong historical ties to jihad. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, several prominent Fulani individuals and groups waged jihadist revolutions across West Africa, including in Guinea, Mali, and Nigeria. These revolutions shaped the region and continue to exert strong historical and cultural influence today.

In Mali, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso, Fulani groups have been accused of waging jihad, supporting terrorists, and committing genocide of Christians.

In the chapter I contributed to Extremisms in Africa Vol 3, I attempted to set the record straight regarding perceived links between Fulani and jihad in West Africa. By exploring case studies from both the 18th and 19th centuries and from modern day movements, it aimed to identify the role that Fulani individuals and groups have played and continue to play in jihadist movements in West Africa. Ultimately, I wanted to explore the strength of the foundation on which perceived equivalencies between Fulani and jihad are based.

Starting with a historical review, I discovered that Fulani individuals and groups were instrumental players in most of the successful jihadist movements in West Africa in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. With Fulani elites triggering the jihadist revolutions that brought about the Fuuta Djallon Imamate, the Sokoto Caliphate, and the Macina Empire, jihad in the region had become fully associated with the Fulani by the end of the 18th century.

However, a closer look revealed that jihadist leaders catered to an ethnically diverse group of supporters, and that narratives at this time were often based on a broader ideology rather than ethnic affiliation and loyalty. As a result, many of the fighters in these movements were not Fulani. Additionally, there are examples of jihadist leaders antagonizing and attacking Fulani communities that disagreed with them, and there are several incidents of Fulani communities and subclans refusing to participate in the jihads – for example, Mbororo groups.

Starting with a historical review, I discovered that Fulani individuals and groups were instrumental players in most of the successful jihadist movements in West Africa in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Moreover, modern jihadist movements in these regions differ from their historical counterparts in several important ways. Contemporary movements advocate for a strict and literal Salafi interpretation of Islam, while historic movements were waged under the more inclusive Sufi tradition practiced by the majority of Fulani Muslims. Twenty-first century jihadist leaders also demonstrate more ethnic diversity than their 18th and 19th century counterparts, with group leaders coming from Arab-Berber, Tuareg, and Kanuri ethnic groups in addition to Fulani. Contemporary jihadist campaigns also cater more to lower- and working-class individuals, while historic jihadist movements were predominantly waged by elite groups and clans.

Some analysis of modern jihadist movements in West Africa points to outsized Fulani participation. Fulani are reported to be disproportionately represented amongst some jihadist groups in the central Sahel, and there is evidence of both Islamic State and Al Qaeda affiliated armed groups specifically targeting Fulani communities to recruit fighters.

Yet other evidence challenges this picture. Analysts note that jihadist groups in West Africa today lack popular support, even in Fulani-majority areas, and that they represent only a “tiny fraction” of the population. Contemporary jihadist groups often cater to non-Fulani populations and have even attacked and preyed upon Fulani communities. In addition, there are several areas of the region where Fulani are a prominent minority that have not experienced jihadist movements or violent extremism. For example, Guinea, the country with the largest Fulani minority in West Africa, is not affected by jihadism and Fulani groups there are not and have not been particularly involved in violent conflicts.

There is evidence of both Islamic State and Al Qaeda affiliated armed groups specifically targeting Fulani communities to recruit fighters.

The aim of my chapter was to set the record straight regarding alleged links between Fulani and jihad, but as it turns out, the record is not straight at all. Allegations of robust links between Fulani groups and jihadist movements are difficult to substantiate due to the dynamic, complex nature of the regional context. The social, economic and geographic diversity within Fulani groups, the ethnic diversity among contemporary jihadist leaders in the region, and the predominantly socio-economic drivers of jihad in West Africa (both in the past and in the present) all complicate attempts to draw direct links between Fulani communities and modern jihadist movements. In this context, the value that highlighting such links can bring to efforts to fight terrorism in the region is extremely limited.

Conversely, the risk that such narratives will yield false equivalencies between Fulani communities and jihadist movements presents significant threats to efforts to combat the spread of Islamist extremism in West Africa. False equivalencies between Fulani and jihad, which are already common, have fueled and will continue to fuel actions against innocent civilians based on ethnic identity, which in turn breeds resentment and grievance on which jihadists can draw in their attempts to recruit new fighters for their causes. The deliberate ethnic targeting of Fulani by security and counterterrorism forces, which is taking place across the region, will breed resentment and grievance among Fulani communities, including among those who originally stood opposed to jihad.

The aim of my chapter was to set the record straight regarding alleged links between Fulani and jihad, but as it turns out, the record is not straight at all.

The relationship between Fulani groups and jihadist movements in West Africa is, and has always been, extremely complex. Narratives implying a simple relationship are harmful, both to efforts to combat the spread of violent extremism, and to broader policies and programmes aimed at stabilising and developing the region. Scholars, policymakers and practitioners interested in reducing violence in the region should avoid ethnic narratives and focus instead on understanding and addressing the political and economic drivers of the phenomenon.

 

We’d love to hear from you! Join The Wicked Conversation by leaving your comments below, or send your letter to the editor to stephen@gga.org.

 

To get your copy of Extremisms: Volume 3, click on your preferred link below:

Loot: https://tinyurl.com/yyzvaxmu

Takealot: https://tinyurl.com/yxqdm7by

Amazon Kindle: https://tinyurl.com/y3zgz55f

Amazon Print edition: https://tinyurl.com/y3gw5xxo

MADELINE VELLTURO is a research analyst with Stimson’s Protecting Civilians in Conflict programme. Her portfolio includes United Nations peacekeeping and multilateral institutions, as well as African geopolitics, with a focus on the Sahel region and an emphasis on pastoralism and herder-farmer conflict. She received a Master’s of Public Administration from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, focusing on international security policy and conflict resolution. Madeline lived for several years in Accra, where she founded a series of creative writing workshops for at-risk urban youth. She has also lived and worked in Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire and Uganda with local non-profit organisations in the fields of peacebuilding, literacy, entrepreneurship and public health. Madeline holds a Bachelor’s from Bryn Mawr College.

Why interventions in African conflicts must be aware of hybrid political orders

The following article provides a brief summary of some of the key points covered by Bethany in her chapter contribution to Extremisms in Africa Vol 3 entitled: Hybridity and Fragmentation: Implications for Regional Security Policy in the Sahel and Beyond.

Many of Africa’s most significant challenges today are at their core political in nature, with policies developed in response centering on the incentives and priorities of the elite political class at the geopolitical, national and subnational level. The Sahel is a cruel microcosm of these dynamics.

Elite-driven necropolitics, practices that ultimately decrease human security and increase the prevalence of low and high level conflict, are prone to security sector abuses, politicisation and securitisation of ethnicity, weak peripheries and ”strong” centres, pluralistic security environments featuring statutory and non-statutory actors, and overall erosion of state legitimacy and capacity to handle complex cross-border emergencies.

As militancy and extremisms spread across the continent, we also see an over prioritisation of counter-terrorism (CT) activities, often at the expense of local community needs. CT missions developed at the geopolitical and national level are often misaligned with localised community challenges, creating wedges instead of seams. These efforts have largely failed to achieve decreases in violence and predation – by state and non-state actors alike.

As militancy and extremisms spread across the continent, we also see an over prioritisation of counter-terrorism (CT) activities, often at the expense of local community needs.

The resulting disillusionment and increases in armed community mobilisation creates fertile ground for militant opportunism, and heightens distrust between the state and the community. Though my chapter focuses on the dynamics of hybrid political and security governance in Sahelian West Africa, these umbrella dynamics are legible across the continent in strong and weak states, and serve as both precursor and covariates to manifestations of violent extremism.

All political orders contain elements of hybridity. It is the arrangement of power within these systems that impacts their function and long-term stability. Some define hybrid orders as states where the informal has been injected into the formal, to the detriment of government function. I argue instead that these orders are a spectrum of continuity, where formal and customary reinforce each other’s weaknesses.

Though these hybrid systems contribute to a facade of stability and statehood, they are in reality quite brittle. The constellation of elite bargains and concessions that lend to “function” in peace time, lend to disfunction as violent conflict escalates. Violent extremist organisations (VEOs) take advantage of hybridity and the grievances and weaknesses engendered within to recruit and entrap communities distant from positive state power and presence.

The resulting disillusionment and increases in armed community mobilisation creates fertile ground for militant opportunism, and heightens distrust between the state and the community.

This is particularly relevant from a centre-periphery context, where the outskirts and porous/under- and alternatively governed areas are more likely to have locally driven security and economic relationships with Non-State Armed Groups (NSAGs) and (potentially) VEO groups. Proximity does not entail support – these local relationships have little to nothing to do with the parochial, globalised agendas espoused by extremist organisations. For instance, local actors will exploit the chaos stirred up by the arrival of jihadists to settle old scores, and engage in the types of escalating intercommunal violence we see in central Mali.

Policy that does not take into consideration how trust, legitimacy, and continuity in governance (both formal and informal) condition the security environment, risk inflaming the vulnerabilities of these hybrid orders rather than taking advantage of potential sources of stability in this complicated, insecure context.

For example, in Niger, inclusion of traditional authorities in the formal government system created continuity between local communities and the state, with chieftains serving as the trusted interlocutor between customary and formal institutions. These traditional actors serve as the connective tissue, the middle space, the seam of governance. It is thus no surprise that the jihadists have targeted local chiefs for assassination and kidnapping, seeking to decouple the relationship between state actors and local communities. In their absence, the hybrid system collapses, pitting community and state priorities at odds.

In Niger, inclusion of traditional authorities in the formal government system created continuity between local communities and the state, with chieftains serving as the trusted interlocutor between customary and formal institutions.

The targeted violence against traditional authorities reflects how aware violent actors are of the positive potential these leaders have as bridges between the community and the state. Customary authorities are critical to area access, to resource management, to conflict resolution. When non-state actors co-opt traditional leaders, they gain access to decision-making processes that further legitimise their position as a governance alternative to the state. As a result, communities bordering the conflict zone are forced to negotiate with these actors for their security. These forced negotiations create an aura of complicity that sets the stage for state security sector abuses of these communities out of suspicion that they are aiding the militants.

Similar dynamics took place in northeast Nigeria, as communities found themselves between Boko Haram and aggressive counterterrorism responses from state and non-state actors alike. The inability of pro-state forces to secure communities, and their subsequent targeting of the same erodes perceived legitimacy of the state. By attacking or co-opting the connective tissue of trust, legitimacy, and continuity of governance, militants have the potential to replace these functions with their own, isolating and endangering communities the state seeks to recapture.

In seeking to address the dynamics laid out above, focus should be on bottom up solutions. Unfortunately, the bottom is quite large, and governance and security resources are scarce. The role of external actors is a further complication, the coordination of which my colleague Stephen Buchanan-Clarke speaks to in his chapter on the escalation of extremist violence in Southern Africa in Extremisms in Africa Vol 3.

When non-state actors co-opt traditional leaders, they gain access to decision-making processes that further legitimise their position as a governance alternative to the state.

Policymakers need to prioritise securing communities for localised stabilisation to take root, reducing intercommunal violence and increasing intercommunal trust, and promoting efforts to realign state security policy towards meeting the security and governance needs of communities outside the capital, while at the same time achieving substantive counter-terrorism gains.

While the Sahel trajectory continues its worrisome spiral, prevention is still possible in the Littoral states. However, rather than solely focusing on preventing individual radicalisation and expanding counter-terrorism capacity, policymakers need to internalise the lessons from the Sahel.

Local matters

Despite years of emphasis on “top down and bottom up” policy responses, the social infrastructure needed to resist militant-driven insecurity is that which has been most neglected by both the state and international intervention – the hyperlocal and historical mechanisms for conflict resolution and inter-communal violence reduction.

Interventions in African conflicts must be hybridity aware, managing the inherent vulnerabilities of hybrid order, identifying fulcrum points in the trajectories of hybridity, and developing pluralistic and inclusive capacity to solve collective action problems – be they terrorism, illicit trafficking, or escalating conflicts over dwindling resources.

 

We’d love to hear from you! Join The Wicked Conversation by leaving your comments below, or send your letter to the editor to stephen@gga.org.

 

To get your copy of Extremisms: Volume 3, click on your preferred link below:

Loot: https://tinyurl.com/yyzvaxmu

Takealot: https://tinyurl.com/yxqdm7by

Amazon Kindle: https://tinyurl.com/y3zgz55f

Amazon Print edition: https://tinyurl.com/y3gw5xxo

BETHANY L. MCGANN serves as research and project manager for the RESOLVE Network, the research component of the Countering Violent Extremism team within the Center for Applied Conflict Transformation at the United States Institute of Peace. Her research focuses on issues of hybrid security governance and non-state actors in sub-Saharan Africa. She has led the design and implementation of multi-year desk and field studies funded by the United States Agency for International Development, which have focused on Sahelian sub-state hybrid armed actors, militias and local security assemblages. She contributed the Africa paper for the 2019 West Point Student Conference on US Affairs. Her most recent research was cited in New America’s 2019 Annual Terrorism Assessment. Bethany holds a Master’s in Security Policy Studies from George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, and a Bachelor’s in Government and International Affairs from Smith College. (The views in this publication are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the RESOLVE Network, its partners, the United States Institute of Peace, or any American government agency.)

Building Human Security in Times of Crisis

Traditional security thinking places the State as the primary entity which needs to be protected from external military threats. Territorial integrity is considered a fundamental value and any threats to it endanger national sovereignty. Security is seen as a zero-sum game, and the more a state invests in military capability, the more it guarantees its security.

As argued by Peoples and Williams (2015), this state-centric approach still largely determines how governments consider and practise security despite being wholly ill-suited to the modern challenges facing the well-being and survival of peoples and states today. These challenges are internal and transnational in nature, and include things such as disease epidemics, food scarcity, climate change and environmental degradation, disruptive 4IR technologies, mass illegal migration, and transnational crime.

As shown in Good Governance Africa’s (GGAs) Wicked Conversation blog series on the COVID-19 pandemic, in times of unique crisis and social unrest, as we are experiencing today, governments too often place their survival first, narrowing the security agenda, instead of widening it and building human security which centres the citizen.

This state-centric approach still largely determines how governments consider and practise security despite being wholly ill-suited to the modern challenges facing the well-being and survival of peoples and states today.

The same has been true in how states routinely react to the threat posed by violent extremism organisations (VEOs) and other non-state armed groups (NSAGs). Rather than appreciating that violent extremism is the product of deeper and more complex social and economic problems, as well as both international and transnational in nature, VEOs are treated as traditional security threats which can be defeated by overwhelming military force.

Over the last two decades, several major military interventions have sought to stem the spread of groups such as al Qaeda, the Islamic State (IS) and their affiliates, while an extensive web of conventions, laws, and institutions have proliferated to try and deny terrorist actors the ability to mobilize, finance, travel, communicate, and recruit. The estimated costs of the United States’ counterterrorism efforts alone since the al Qaeda-led attacks on 9/11 is around $6.4 trillion USD. While these interventions have had limited successes in certain contexts, overall they have failed to halt the spread of violent extremism and associated acts of terrorism either globally or in Africa primarily because they have sought to address the symptom and not the underlying problem.

In times of unique crisis and social unrest, as we are experiencing today, governments too often place their survival first.

Mozambique is a recent example. In response to a growing civil conflict in the country’s northern Cabo Delgado province over the last three years, the government attempted to overwhelm the militants with force, jailed journalists, closed civil society spaces, and made it difficult for humanitarian workers to access communities most in need of food and medical support. The effect has been an almost complete closure of space for citizens to air their grievances in a non-violent manner, increased poverty and fragility, and a consequent surge in recruitment and deepening of the insurgency.

In August 2020, GGA published the third instalment of Extremisms in Africa, an anthology collection of 44 chapters with contributions from a variety of leading experts in their respective fields on understanding and addressing violent extremism and other non-state armed groups on the continent.

What became clear to us is that VEOs are just one set of actors among many which collectively determine the life cycle of a given conflict. They usually emerge and/or spread in regions where they are able to exploit extant political, social, and economic grievances which have already frayed the social contract, and where poor or absent governance, corruption, and access to illicit arms and financial flows allow them to operate with relative ease.

They usually emerge and/or spread in regions where they are able to exploit extant political, social, and economic grievances which have already frayed the social contract, and where poor or absent governance, corruption, and access to illicit arms and financial flows allow them to operate with relative ease.

In this respect, a single-minded focus on traditional counter-terrorism strategies is not a sustainable solution to The security agenda needs to be widened to take into account the many sources of insecurity facing communities in Africa today and consider aspects such as rule of law, human rights, and economic access.

There is often a resistance by states to thinking about terrorism in these terms because it forces governments to consider their own failings and responsibility for creating the conditions under which violent extremism thrives. As Galtung (1996) and many others have argued, states can act as primary sources of structural violence by imposing restrictions on civilians which oppress their human, political, and social rights in order to safeguard the state system.

A shift from state- and military-centric notions of security to a greater emphasis on human security is contingent on good governance, and in particular, good civil-military relations. These factors are both under threat today in the context of declining democracy on the continent. The overthrow of deeply unpopular President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita by Malian soldiers in August seems to be part of a recent increase in coups which have at first been  met with popular public support but quickly slide into unstable military dictatorships.

States can act as primary sources of structural violence by imposing restrictions on civilians which oppress their human, political, and social rights in order to safeguard the state system.

For military regimes, conflict resolution carries little inherent value and conflicts within their region are often considered purely in terms of how they might advance or hurt their interests, or how they could promote or undermine those of their rivals. This is antithetical to the type of regional cooperation needed to address modern transnational security challenges, and is deeply undermining the ability of our regional bodies to advance peace and security.

Over the course of the next eight weeks, GGA will be publishing a weekly blog series using this “wicked problem” lens highlighting chapters from the Extremisms in Africa anthology which speak to the complexity of preventing and countering violent extremism and offer solutions at the nexus of development, humanitarian action, and security.

A “wicked problem” is defined by Williams and Van ‘t Hof (2014) as a problem which has “multiple stakeholders involved in complex and unpredictable interactions.” This systems thinking perspective should encourage the reader to not only focus on the actions and motivations of the individual stakeholder (in this case the violent extremist actor) but the root causes of vulnerability, the linkages between multiple stakeholders within a conflict system at the local, national, and regional level, and how these constituent elements comprise the whole of the system.

A “wicked problem” is defined by Williams and Van ‘t Hof (2014) as a problem which has “multiple stakeholders involved in complex and unpredictable interactions.”

Chapters featured will include:

– Hybridity and Fragmentation: Implications for Regional Security Policy in the Sahel and Beyond – Bethany L.  Mcgann

– The Global Health Threat to Human Security: How Pandemics May Set the Scene for Bioterrorism – Craig Moffat

– The Potential Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Human and National Security in Africa – Futhi Luthango

– Using Evidence-Based Research to Directly Improve P/CVE Programming: A Case Study of a Social Network Analysis in Somalia – Fatma Ahmed, Laura Nettleton & Jem Thomas

– The Libya Crisis and the Need for African Ownership of Peace and Security Processes on the Continent – Lebogang Seshoka

– Neocolonial/Colonial Extremes: Defining Direct Colonialism, Reaction and Resistance in Contemporary Ambazonia and Western Sahara- Matt Meyer

– Fulani and Jihad: The Argument Against Simplistic Narratives in West Africa – Madeline Vellturo

– The Escalation of Extremist Violence in Southern Africa and the Need for More Collaborative Security Responses – Stephen Buchanan-Clarke

 

We’d love to hear from you! Join The Wicked Conversation by leaving your comments below, or send your letter to the editor to stephen@gga.org.

 

To get your copy of Extremisms: Volume 3, click on your preferred link below:

Loot: https://tinyurl.com/yyzvaxmu

Takealot: https://tinyurl.com/yxqdm7by

Amazon Kindle: https://tinyurl.com/y3zgz55f

Amazon Print edition: https://tinyurl.com/y3gw5xxo

 

STEPHEN BUCHANAN-CLARKE is an independent analyst with several years’ experience working in conflict and post-conflict settings in Africa on national security and development issues. He currently serves as Head of Programme for Good Governance Africa’s Human Security & Climate Change Programme, and has been involved in the editing of all three volumes of the Extremisms in Africa series, as well as authoring several chapters.
error: Content is protected !!