Statement - Armed conflicts in Africa: What are the solutions?

Original: French

As the 21st century begins, Africa is the continent most subject to instability, conflicts and wars. These armed conflicts, in addition to their direct impact on people’s lives and their moral and physical environment, are a serious drain on the scarce resources of the States concerned and are thus prejudicial to the continent’s chances of development. In the current context, the damage caused by these conflicts is worsened by the negative effects of globalisation and its all-encompassing logic which imposes the rationale of the market everywhere and indiscriminately. However, although this economic globalisation does not really favour the implementation of planned economic measures to strengthen peace, peace in Africa remains a possible, necessary, and indeed urgent goal.

I. The different types of armed conflict on the African continent

The various armed conflicts raging on the African continent are so numerous and their contexts so varied that it is difficult to draw up an accurate list of the different types. Nonetheless there are obvious common characteristics which allow us to divide them into broad groups and thus suggest solutions based on similar approaches. All these conflicts, however, have a common basis: the democratic deficit. It is always the shortfall in democracy which is, in general, the first cause of all these conflicts.

1. One of the most common types of conflict is linked to the overall context of democratic transition, as experienced in certain countries. Here the conflict is linked to the difficulties experienced by the various political forces in reaching agreement on the conditions and methods for accessing power, and exercising that power in a new context where power is henceforth subject to the rule of law. Within this broad category are such countries as Algeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo (Brazzaville), the Central African Republic, Guinea, Togo and Chad.

2. Some States are subject to conflicts linked to problems of identity, aggravated by the fact that, in these countries too, power is henceforth subject to democracy, but significant tribal and ethnic factors distort other issues at stake and totally block the way forward. These conflicts have the potential to lead to deaths on a massive scale, possibly ending in genocide, as happened in Rwanda in 1994. In this category are countries like Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia and Sudan.

3. Other conflicts are the result of struggles mainly around access to mineral wealth and the control of the traffic in that wealth. A strict correspondence thus clearly exists in Africa between the location of certain armed conflicts and the location of easily extracted minerals of high value, especially gold and diamonds. On the other hand, armed conflicts which have not been able to feed on such mineral wealth have become blurred in spite of their far-reaching aims. Such is the case, in particular, of the Tuareg rebellions in Mali or Niger. In this category are the conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.

4. Regional conflicts resulting from a situation of geo-political realignment against a background of generalised insecurity caused by numerous problems:

  • democratic transition which has not been well accepted
  • a profitable traffic in mineral wealth
  • ethnic and tribal problems
  • manœuvering by the major powers

These are the conflicts raging in the Great Lakes region, involving the forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Burundi, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Congo, the Central African Republic and affecting many other countries (Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia etc) through the flow of refugees.

5. The several-decades-old conflict in Western Sahara between Morocco and the Polisario Front, which flows from European colonialism in this part of the African continent. The SI stated its position in the Council meeting in Maputo in November 2000.

II. Peaceful solutions

1. At the heart of almost all these conflicts is the question of democracy and modern methods of wielding power.

No solution is possible without the implementation of clear measures, especially the real establishment of the rule of law, guaranteeing:

  • respect for human rights
  • freedom of opinion and expression
  • the principle of access to power by means of a popular vote carried out in conditions of transparency and fairness.
  • alternation of power
  • respect for the political and cultural rights of minorities.

These solutions are not to be confused with the imitations of democracy which existing regimes tend to favour as mere facades. The problem of democracy is a crucial one; it can only be solved by real democratic change.

In those countries subject to conflicts of this nature, the international community must take every possible step to support democracy and contribute to the true establishment of the rule of law through a consensus process accepted by all the significant forces involved. The most dangerous thing would be to believe that because of particular conditions it was necessary, for once, to make do with half-hearted measures, even in the short term.

2. The management of tribal and ethnic conflicts is certainly rendered all the more delicate by the inevitable huge contradictions involved. Here, as elsewhere, the true establishment of the rule of law and of real democracy is an absolute necessity. However, special measures must be employed, rigorously and effectively, on a transitional basis and for a fixed period of time, in order to ensure the security of minority groups; the rights of such groups, which have often been the victims of massive attempts to wipe them out, must be guaranteed.

The inertia and chaos prevailing in Somalia is proof that the international community is not sufficiently conscious of its full moral role and that its behaviour is often influenced by particular interest groups.

Whatever the circumstances, it is those African countries ravaged by ethnic conflicts whose situation is the most fragile and which stand most in need of a different kind of intervention, quite other than that which has been offered so far.

3. As far as regional conflicts are concerned, peace will not really be on the agenda until the different States have found their own solutions to their internal problems, which are above all problems of democracy. Indeed, tensions between different States often serve as a very useful way out for governments who find that declaring war blurs the situations they need to face up to.

That said, the international community, here no less than elsewhere, still has a definite role to play. With regard to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Lusaka Accords offer a basis for agreement which deserves to be supported. It is therefore absolutely necessary for the current regime in Kinshasa to embark on a process of democratisation which allows all the political, moral and social forces to participate fully. The international community must involve itself in defining and implementing collective measures to guarantee the security of certain States, such as Rwanda.

Regarding West Africa, the work of ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) must be supported despite the arguments against this, for example the comfort this will give to the illegitimate government of Guinea. It would be risky here to make too much distinction between regimes which are really much of a muchness.

Rigorous measures could long since have been taken internationally to combat the traffic in minerals which underpins all these conflicts. Here too the international community has often been in the wrong and needs to adopt a new approach.

II. Initiatives for Peace

The SI asks that greater efforts be made for:

  • Preventative measures (education in democracy and institutional support for democratic processes)
  • Management (for the facilitation of dialogue among those who are at odds)
  • Conflict resolution (financing of the putting into practice of agreed solutions).

The SI will seek to persuade the international community (through its governments) to take a greater interest in the conflicts which threaten Africa and to help the continent in a more substantial way to resolve them.

  • The SI will initiate the calling of a seminar of independent experts with knowledge of these conflicts who will diagnose the types and causes of all the conflicts. This diagnosis will be accompanied by prescribed solutions with the twin objective of uprooting the evils which gave rise to confrontations and eliminating their effects to avoid any risk of further trouble.
  • The SI will establish a ‘bank’ of facilitators able to bring those involved in the conflicts to dialogue, to push for solutions seen to be the most apt and help them to adopt such solutions.
  • The SI decides to involve itself in the resolutions of African conflicts by sending missions to those involved in disputes.