Tag Archives: Counter-terrorism

Values Clarification:  Fixing Terror, Facing Ourselves. Dr. Robert Zuber

15 Feb

On February 10, under Lithuania’s leadership, the Security Council held an important discussion, “The Importance of the Rule of Law in Countering the Current Terrorist Threat,” pursuant to SC Resolution 1373. The event featured the presence of France’s Minister of Justice, HE Christiane Taubira and Deputy Secretary General Eliasson.

The event also highlighted some fundamental truths, one of which was in the form of a welcome reminder from Minister Taubira not to allow threats of terror to motivate us to ‘abandon our values’ and ‘restrict our freedoms.’

Of course, a review of our recent history suggests that this is easier said than done. It was DSG Eliasson who urged that we not accept the prospect of societies living in fear.  He surely understands the degree to which fear paralyzes thoughtful action; but also the degree to which it impedes the implementation of a sound, balanced security policy. Fear tends to remain riveted on its source – imagined or real – leaving little inclination to self-reflection. It tends to produce morality plays with good guys and evil doers, not comprehensive analyses of threats, causes and consequences.

For her part, Minister Taubira rightly reminded the audience that ‘decent institutions humiliate no one.’ However, especially in the current psychological climate, it would be a considerable, if inconvenient stretch to suggest that the institutions committed to addressing threats of terror in the world have themselves achieved this high benchmark.

While countering their values of ‘brutality,’ as the UK and others frequently ascribe to ISIS and Boko Haram, we need to do more than identify and address the ‘loneliness,’ ‘social isolation,’ and other factors that we seem to have concluded are the primary pathways to extremist ideology. Other, less comforting pathways are tethered to our own, long, collective history of inflicting humiliation and economic subjugation on one another, a history that we are thankfully doing much to address, but not yet in full measure.  We still make (and sell) too many weapons, pollute large swaths of our oceans and waterways, ignore the rights of the disabled and other marginalized persons, and persist in economic policies that, as Romania’s Amb. Miculescu, Chair of the recently concluded Commission on Social Development noted, are addicted to ‘growth models’ that compromise efforts to address poverty, climate health, inequality, discrimination and other persistent social ills.  Few of these global threats, if any, can be neatly packaged and then dropped off at the doors of the terrorists.

Nothing justifies the brutalities of Boko Haram and other groups.  Nothing.  We don’t have to change much in ourselves to fully acknowledge that reality.  We might, however, need to change a bit further in order to find a sustainable solution to the fear and carnage that such brutalities engender.

In the end, it might not be too much more complicated than adopting a somewhat sophisticated application of two the west’s most enduring value formulations—“doing unto others as we would have them do unto us,” and “to whom much is given, much is expected.” The focus here, of course, is on the doing, not on the branding.   It’s about specific commitments to build the kind of world that terror cannot easily undermine, a world in which there are more winners, less hypocrisy, less bitterness. During the Feb. 10 discussion, Malaysia suggested that terrorism, like climate change, affects us all.  We might add that much like climate change, the roots of terror are inclusive of many factors and agents, certainly more inclusive than a collection of bad guys with black hoods, sharp knives and stolen mortar canons.

On Feb. 12, the Security Council passed resolution 2199 that increases pressure needed to dry up terrorist sources of funds.  This is a welcome step, but as the Council itself recognizes, it is well short of that elusive, final resolution of the terror challenge. Indeed, DSG Eliasson reminded us that there likely is no “universal solution” to terror threats. He urged diplomats working on such threats to commit to practice both cooperation and attention to context. Indeed, Lithuania’s Amb. Murmokaité and colleagues recently embarked on what was hopefully a context-refreshing trip to Niger and Mali. Such visits can only help craft policies that effectively address both threats of terror and the vast and growing social voids left in their wake.

But part of honoring ‘context’ involves fidelity to the‘doing unto others’ values that we need to practice more than espouse, values that become harder for insurgents to ‘dismiss’ as their potency in the world becomes more apparent. Such values include refraining from activities that might well be deemed humiliating by others; upholding ‘rule of law’ standards ourselves that we insist on for the rest of the world; addressing inequalities across borders and not simply within our own; and rooting out the corruption and institutionalized self-interest that undermines trust in government, thereby needlessly blurring the lines separating legitimate authority and illegitimate insurgency.

These are large and complex matters that continue to challenge the policies and values of global governance.  It is unlikely that we can effectively ‘bomb’ our way out of our terror dilemma, nor should we deceive ourselves that the ‘problem’ of terrorist brutality is only about the behavior of evildoers in the lightly governed spaces on the margins of overly ‘shocked’ African and Middle Eastern states. It seems more likely that any short-sidedness regarding the motivations and objectives of terrorists – or of ourselves — will serve to prolong the agony of terrorized populations and reinforce the paralyzing fearfulness of media consumers.

Boko Haram: What is to be Done? – Professor Hussein Solomon

18 Jan

Editor’s Note:  Hussein Solomon, a longtime friend of GAPW, is a sensitive, nuanced, highly-respected commentator regarding many of the current mis-steps in African counter-terrorism policy, including an over-reliance on decontextualized military ‘solutions.’  This piece on the grave situation currently unfolding in Nigeria, Cameroon and neighboring states originally appeared as a policy paper of Research on Islam and Muslims in Africa

Even by Boko Haram’s own depraved standards, this month’s attacks by the Islamist group have gone beyond the pale. In one case, a woman in labour was shot dead. In another, a ten year-old girl was strapped with explosives and used as a human detonator in a crowded market[1]. Beyond the brutality of the terrorist atrocities committed is the sheer scale of the attack. In the case of the most recent attack on Baga, where 2,000 civilians were killed according to Amnesty International, heavily armed Boko Haram fighters arrived in trucks and motorcycles[2]. Following an initial attack with grenade launchers on the hapless citizens, survivors of the initial assault fled into the forest only to be gunned down by other Boko Haram fighters on motorcycles. The savagery of the assaults has even motivated the moribund African Union (AU) to act – calling for an AU force to intervene and defeat the insurgents[3].

I am convinced that Abubaker Shekau and his Boko Haram terrorists can be defeated. But what would a strategy of victory look like? First, is the issue of regional and international co-operation. Boko Haram is not only a Nigerian problem but a transnational one – consisting of fighters from as far away as Libya and Somalia[4]as well as having ties with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Somalia’s Al Shabaab (The Youth), the Movement for Unity and Oneness in West Africa and Mali’s Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith). Moreover, there is a discernible Boko Haram presence in Chad, Cameroon, Mali, and Niger. Currently each of these countries is trying to unilaterally take on Boko Haram. Whilst some successes have been achieved, for example, when Cameroon’s military killed 143 Boko Haram fighters after they attacked the Cameroonian military camp in Kolofata[5]; it is clear that neighbouring states need to think along the lines of joint military operations, sharing intelligence, coordinating border crossings, as well as starving Boko Haram of its financial resources emanating locally and abroad to conducts its terror campaign. The latter would necessarily entail greater help rendered to these states by the West as well as the UN’s Counter-Terrorism Committee.

Second, three caveats are important when discussing the employment of military force. In the first instance, the employment of force should not be at the expense of the political and developmental responses to counterterrorism. Rather the military should complement these other legs of a holistic counterterrorism strategy. In the second instance, where force is deployed it should take on board the African context. The focal point of African armies should be highly mobile 600 troop battalions as opposed to bigger brigades of 3,000 troops or a corps of 10,000 troops. This would allow for a more flexible force more in keeping with the counter-insurgency battle they have to wage. Finally, such a military force should take cognisance of the plethora of local militia groups which have sprung up amongst local communities in an effort to protect themselves from the ravages of Boko Haram. These could be useful force multipliers and working relationship could be established between the intervention force and these militia groups. Moreover, the intervention force could also provide training to these groups in the face of a common enemy.

Third, as any medical practitioner knows, prevention is better than cure. Whilst a military solution is needed in the short term, the underlying extremist ideology driving Boko Haram must also be addressed. Radicalisation among Nigeria’s Muslims is also growing[6] apace as a result of the internet and jihadi chat forums.[7] Boko Haram’s founder – Mohammed Yusuf – himself was a trained Salafist (a school of thought associated with jihad and the austere Saudi tradition of Islam known as Wahhabism).[8] Yusuf was also a great admirer of fourteenth century jihad ideologue, Ibn Taymiyyah.[9] Yet the government has done little to curb the spread of radical Islamism. This is surprising considering that the group seeks to convert Nigeria into a Muslim Wahhabist state[10] and the fact that it recruits from the Ibn Taymiyyah network of schools that Yusuf had set up.[11] This, in turn, also contributed to the difficulty that the state’s intelligence apparatus had in penetrating Boko Haram: recruitment seems to be taking place among disciples of a particular religious leader in a particular area.[12] These bonds of loyalty between disciple and religious leader are notoriously difficult to break.

Fourth, counterterrorism efforts are hobbled by the incapacity of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) to gather intelligence and undertake scientific investigations. According to Amnesty International, most police stations do not document their work. There is no database for fingerprints, no systematic forensic investigation methodology, only two forensic laboratory facilities, few trained forensic staff and insufficient budgets for investigations.[13] Under the circumstances police tend to rely on confessions, which form 60 per cent of all prosecutions.[14] However, it often appears that such confessions are extracted under torture. In the process the guilty often escape punishment while the innocent suffer. In terrorism cases, it means that despite the multitude of arrests of alleged Boko Haram members and sympathisers, it hardly impacts on the sect’s endurance and capacity to carry out fresh atrocities. In addition, corruption within the NPF is rampant,[15] further undermining counterterrorism initiatives.

Such corruption has also become endemic within the Nigerian armed forces, resulting in widespread demoralisation and at least two mutinies in 2014 by soldiers against their commanding officers. While Nigeria’s armed forces are allocated US$6 billion of the annual budget, this hardly benefits the ordinary Nigerian soldier whose monthly pay was suddenly halved to 20,000 Nigerian naira (approximately US$130) in July 2014.[16] Ordinary soldiers have to go into battle against Boko Haram rockets and mortar rounds, in ‘soft’ Hilux trucks, since the money for armoured personnel carriers inexplicably dried up. In addition, each soldier engaging in frontline duty is supposed to receive a 1,500 Nigerian naira daily allowance and food is to be provided. However, this allowance does not get to them and often, neither does the food. Under the circumstances, desertions are increasing.[17] Worse still, soldiers accuse their superiors of leaking their plans and movements to Boko Haram in exchange for payment. In May 2014, 12 soldiers were killed in an ambush in Borno state. Angered by what they perceived as plans leaked to Boko Haram, the remaining soldiers returned to base and turned their guns against their commanding officer.[18] This situation cannot be allowed to continue if one wants to seriously end Boko Haram terrorism.

Fifth, counterterrorism efforts are also proving counterproductive because of the brutality unleashed by the security forces – in the process, losing hearts and minds. The Joint Military Task Force (JTF) in Borno State, for instance, has resorted to unlawful killings, dragnet arrests and extortion and intimidation of the hapless residents of Borno. Far from intelligence-driven operations, the JTF simply cordoned off areas and carried out house to house searches, at times shooting young men in these homes.[19] Similar tactics were pursued by the JTF at homes searched in the Kaleri Ngomari Custain area in Maiduguri on 9 July 2011. Twenty-five people were shot dead by security services, women and children were beaten, homes were burnt and many more boys and men were reported missing.[20] Such excesses on the part of the security services can only contribute to the further alienation of citizens from the state and its security forces – something that Abuja can ill afford. This situation is compounded by the fact that the Nigerian soldiers and police patrolling in northern states are national, not local, and therefore are unlikely to share either ethnic or cultural backgrounds with the local population[21] who view themselves as being under siege in an occupation by `foreign forces’.

Sixth, counterterrorism efforts fail as they do not recognise the wider context – the potential assets that extremists groups have at their disposal. A case in point is the existence of armed gangs throughout northern Nigeria. These number in their thousands and include such gangs as the Almajirai, Yan Tauri, Yan Daba, Yan Banga, and Yan Dauka Amariya. These gangs provide a ready pool of recruits for extremists.[22] The authorities therefore need to neutralise these armed groups as part of the broader fight against Boko Haram.

Finally, counterterrorism efforts suffer as a result of the credibility gap between promise and performance, rhetoric and reality. While promising to curb or eradicate the scourge of terrorism, government actions do not seem to reflect this urgency. As Abimbola Adesoji has reflected, ‘… the government response to Islamic fundamentalism seems neither adequate nor enduring. The prompt trial of arrested culprits, bold and firm implementation of previous commission reports, and a more devoted handling of security reports and armed gangs, as well as better handling of known flash points and hot spots, would, in addition to serving as a deterrent, portray the government as a responsible and a responsive body.[23] Unfortunately none of this has occurred.

This is a failure both at the political level and at the level of the security forces. Political mandarins have failed to adequately arm their security services or provide sufficient funds to engage in long-term intelligence operations to penetrate Islamist organisations in the country. Nigeria’s federal structure has unfortunately contributed to the poor coordination among the different security organisations. This is further exacerbated by, ‘…the inability of state governors as the chief security officers of their states to control the security forces, which are under the control of the federal government.[24]

There are however, failures on the part of the security services as well. The skill sets of those in the Nigerian intelligence community do not provide an adequate ‘fit’ to the challenges posed by sects like Boko Haram. Indeed most of those in the intelligence community seem to have a background in VIP protection – the protection of senior political officeholders – as opposed to intelligence proper.[25] A consequence of the lack of skill sets was evident in December 2011in the northern city of Kano, when security police were keeping the home of a suspected militant, Mohammed Aliyu, under surveillance. Arriving at his home, Aliyu immediately realised that his home was under surveillance and called members of his sect. Within minutes they drove up in three vehicles and fatally shot three undercover police officers.[26]

In addition, there is the on-going problem of nepotism within the security services – people being appointed on the basis of who they know as opposed to what they know. Agekameh[27] captured the sorry state of Nigerian security services by noting that, ‘Standards have fallen due to political partisanship. People now occupy sensitive positions in the security agencies not because of their ability to perform, but because they are either from one geographical location, simply wield some influence or know some people at the top who will nurture their career. The twin evil of godfatherism and favouritism has eaten deep into the entire gamut of the security agencies. Sycophancy rather than professionalism has been elevated as the most important criterion for career advancement.’

These failures help to explain why Nigerian security services were caught unprepared when Boko Haram made its vicious appearance on the scene. The fight against Boko Haram will therefore be a long one but it can be won with the requisite political will garnered to fix these problems and in the process protecting the innocent from the scourge of terrorism.

[1] Barbie Latza Nadeau, “Nigeria is Letting Boko Haram Get Away with Murder,” The Daily Beast, 13 January 2015. Internet:http://www.thedailybeat.com/articles/2015/01/13/nigeria-is-letting-boko-haram-get-away-with-murder.html. Date accessed: 15 January 2015.

[2] “Boko Haram may have killed up to 2,000 people in Nigeria: Amnesty International,” IBN Live. 15 January 2015. Internet: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/boko-haram-may-have-killed-up-to-2000-people-in-nigeria-amnesty-international/522297-2.html. Date accessed: 15 January 2015.

[3] “South Africa warned against fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria,” News 24, 15 January 2015. Internet: http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/SA-warned-against-fighting-Boko-Haram-in-Nigeria-20150114-2. Date accessed: 15 January 2015.

[4] Will McBain, “Nigeria plays down Baga bloodbath,” Mail and Guardian, 16-22 January 2015, p. 11.

[5] Krishnadev Calamur, “143 Boko Haram fighters Killed in Clashes with Cameroon’s Military,” NPR, 13 January 2015. Internet: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/01/13/376963249/143-boko-haram-fighters-killed-in-clashes-cameroons-military. Date accessed: 15 January 2015.

[6] Zalan Kira, ‘Assessing Terror Threats’ US News Digital Weekly, 3, 49, 9 December 2011, p. 10.

[7] Abimbola O Adesoji, ‘Between Maitatsane and Boko Haram: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Response of the Nigerian State’, Africa Today, 57, 4, 2010b, pp. 99-100.

[8] Toni Johnson, ‘Boko Haram,’ Council on Foreign Relations. 27 December 2011, <http://www.cfr.org/africa/boko-haram/p25739.&gt; (Accessed 21 January 2012), pp. 1-2.

[9] Ibid., p. 2.

[10] Ioannis Mantzikos, ‘The Absence of the State in Northern Nigeria: The Case of Boko Haram’, African Renaissance, 7, 1, 2010, p. 61.

[11] Ibid., p. 58.

[12]Abimbola O Adesoji, ‘Between Maitatsane and Boko Haram: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Response of the Nigerian State’, Africa Today, 57, 4, 2010b, p. 101.

[13] Amnesty International, Nigeria: Human Rights Agenda 2011-2015. London: Amnesty International, 2011, p. 8.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid., p. 9.

[16] Monica Mark, ‘Uphill battle for Nigeria’s ailing army’, Mail and Guardian, 30, 31, 1-7 August 2014, p. 19.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Amnesty International, Nigeria: Human Rights Agenda 2011-2015. London: Amnesty International, 2011, p. 30.

[20] Ibid.

[21] ‘Boko Haram: Nigeria’s growing new headache’, Strategic Comments, 17. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), November 2011, <http://www.iiss.org/publication/strategic-comments/past-issues/volume-17-2011/nov.&gt;, (Accessed 9 January 2012).

[22] Abimbola O Adesoji, ‘Between Maitatsane and Boko Haram: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Response of the Nigerian State’, Africa Today, 57, 4, 2010b, pp. 112-113.

[23]Abimbola O Adesoji, ‘Between Maitatsane and Boko Haram: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Response of the Nigerian State’, Africa Today, 57, 4, 2010b, p. 100.

[24] Ibid., p. 114.

[25] Ibid., p. 114.

[26]David Smith, ‘Boko Haram suspects held after Nigerian shootout’, The Guardian, 19 December 2011, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/19/boko-haram-suspects-nigeria-shootout?newsfeed=true&gt; (Accessed 28 January 2012), p. 1.

[27] Omede  J Apeh, ‘Nigeria: Analysing the Security Challenges of the Goodluck Jonathan Administration’ Canadian Social Science, 7, 5, 2011, p. 94.

The Sahel Crisis: Politics, Prevention and Lessons Learned

10 Jul

Editor’s Note:  The following is the first blog post from Vanessa Mosoti, a talented junior associate from Kenya who has joined us for the summer from Princeton University, where she will finish her undergraduate studies beginning in September. In this post, Vanessa reflects on several UN events, including Security Council briefings, where issues involving states of the Sahel have been addressed.  Vanessa’s recommendations for moving beyond the current impasses and embracing a prevention-oriented framework are wise and worthy of adoption by UN officials with responsibility for Sahel response. 

The eruption of the crisis in Mali, a foreseeable denouement of a decades-long protracted conflict in Northern Mali coupled with a series of internal governance problems, should not have come as a surprise. Despite early warning signs, there is a marked lack of preventive diplomacy in the narrative of the Malian crisis. The international community had specific and identifiable opportunities in which to limit the eruption of conflict, but the statecraft was flawed, inadequate, or absent. Perhaps there is no amount of preventive measures that could have completely preempted the eruption of the crisis in Mali, but there certainly exists a litany of missed opportunities in which timely interventions at several key junctures might have significantly reduced, defused, and contained the violence.

UN dialogue surrounding the Malian crisis focuses understandably on the symbiotic relationship between security and development. And while the recovery of security and the realization of developmental goals must remain a top priority, issues relating to government legitimacy and accountability alongside the creation of a viable economy must also be addressed with similar vigor. As stressed in U.N. event “Countering Violent Extremism and Promoting Community Engagement in West Africa and the Sahel: Strengthening Multilateral Engagement” co-hosted by the governments of Burkina Faso and Denmark on the margins of the June 2014 review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, state fragility remains one of the biggest challenges to sustainable peace in the region. Any coherent response to the crisis must prioritize the building of a coordinated state from the bottom up—with national checks and balances, as well as participation from all citizens. Indeed, seeking a comprehensive response by all relevant actors underscores the challenge that the crisis in Mali is inherently political in nature. Of course, divergent views on the political roadmap to be adopted have had an impact on the crisis response, but continued Tuareg exclusion, as well as the exclusion of other marginalized groups (particularly in the North, where people remain bereft of critical security and social services), in the Malian political system virtually guarantees the continuation of the conflict and/or outbreak of future conflict.

A thorough solution requires that the Malian state address the fragmentation of Malian national identity. They are not alone, however. Issues relating to national identity pose challenges with which no African state is unfamiliar. The global spread of the nation-state is arguably the most significant institutional transformation of the modern era. The world today is a conglomeration of diverse nation-state driven societies. The rise of the modern nation-state, one can argue, precipitated the current world order and, subsequently and perhaps more importantly, modern formulations and understandings of concepts relating to identity—national, or otherwise.

A nation-state can be defined as a form of political organization under which a relatively homogenous people inhabit a sovereign state. Societies create national identities that separate people, suggesting fundamental differences between members of different nations. The formation of states and the ability of states to deploy their powers in a variety of social, economic and security contexts create these concepts of national identity. It is from the construction of a state that a nation is created, and not the other way around.  However, this requires important economic and political processes as a condition for the establishment of this combined nation-state—as it is, imaginably, difficult to create a homogenous community to replace the multiple communities of various faiths, peoples, and languages characteristic of preceding empires/kingdoms/colonies/chieftaincies. The nation-state attempts to form a singular identity from these multiple identities; therefore, national integration, the purpose of state power, requires a strong state—defined especially by military power—and the formulation of an image of a shared past based on some common experience and/or of a projected common destiny. African nation-states, however, are the legacy of Europe’s cavalier partition of Africa and their disregard for the complexities of African social, political, and geographic autonomous orchestration. National integration and the perception of this image of a shared past, reflective of the ability of a state to construct a singular identity and project power and legitimacy to all regions of said state, are especially difficult in the African setting—and the Republic of Mali is no exception. Thus, the eruption of conflict, when viewed in context, is utterly unsurprising.

At the Counter-Terrorism event, speakers also emphasized the need for a national infrastructure for peace—citing Ghana’s National Peace Council as one example. Multilateral engagement is key to sustainable regional peace. The purported goals of various interventions in Mali include at least some aspects of humanitarian aid, peacekeeping, and nation building. The intervening bodies seek to mitigate the conflict, alleviate some of the pressures of desertification, and create some semblance of a functional and peaceful governmental structure with high prospects of longevity. The establishment of security, obviously, also remains a priority. As I attended various U.N. meetings dealing with violent extremism, counter-terrorism, and specifically the Sahel crisis, it occurred to me that there are a series of lessons the international community can gather from these endeavors (implemented with varying degrees of success) that can inform future policies concerning intervention in conflict situations similar to that of Mali (i.e.: in the Wider Sahel):

1. Malians must possess ownership of their own peace processes. Ownership refers to Malians determining objectives, scheduling, and negotiation procedures. International actors, while critical, should play peripheral roles (as facilitators) to local and regional actors during negotiations.

2. There needs to be a thorough understanding of political and cultural norms by all parties involved. There is also a need to understand the range of local and regional actors involved in the crisis. There was, in negotiations and interventions in Mali, a lack of understanding of the nature of the conflict, the diversity of the actors, and the nature of the cultural processes behind individual and collective actions and decision-making.

3. Complete representation in mediation—of the wider Malian community and all parties involved in the conflict, civil society, military, etc.—matters in the success of negotiations. There needs to be a general, nation-wide consensus if there is to exist any hope of easy facilitation and long-term implementation of any denouements.

4. Mediators should develop strategies to better deal with spoilers—intrinsic spoilers (those who don’t want peace as it is not in their self-interest) as well as situational spoilers (those who don’t agree with specific provisions/arrangements but are generally seeking peace).

5. There should be provisions for political space for opposition in which groups can express their unhappiness without being shut out, termed rejectionist, or otherwise excluded from the entire process.

6. Regional bodies should provide adequate support to state institutions in crisis. Long-term commitment to provide resources and support after an agreement has been reached and a framework is implemented may be key to stabilization. This help should come in the form of new/repaired infrastructure as well as civic and civil society building measures, but not necessarily in the form of arms transfers or other incentives to state violence. It is nearly impossible to impose a victor’s peace in Mali, and providing the means for a monopoly on the use of violence to a fragile state increases the probability of the rise of rejectionists and spoilers.  Good societal structures and institutions can uphold the peace, legitimize the government, and establish an effective system of governance that serves as a model for the rest of the region.

7. Responsibility for carrying out any agreed upon terms of negotiations should fall onto local institutions as well as the government. The international community should assist these local actors especially (in ways delineated above) for as long as possible/necessary.

8. All potential solutions to the conflict should be derived from public opinion or they will not hold in the long-term. Negotiators/mediators/facilitators should make sure that the opinions of the public are well represented and prioritized in all peace discussions

As the Malian crisis is but one in a wider regional crisis, the biggest ‘lesson-learned’ is that preventive diplomacy is key. “Actions and inactions of international actors have a major impact on whether domestic actors make a conflict or cooperation calculus”[X]. Early action can lead to early cooperation. Trying to contain a conflict after it has already erupted is much more expensive (in terms of time, money, resources, and lives lost) than trying to prevent the conflict from erupting in the first place. Signals of impending conflict, as was the case in Mali, can be very clear. Policy should be geared towards the execution of preventive diplomacy at this time, before the situation is too difficult to contain. However, it is imperative that efforts of preventive diplomacy do not actually create additional incentives for violence, or exacerbate tensions in already fragile periods. The U.N. tends to act as a response agency instead of a prevention or containment agency—that is, the U.N. reacts to spills, instead of working to prevent the spills from happening in the first place. The world expects more than a glorified cleanup agency. More could have been done early on, so more should have been done.

[X] Hamilton, L. H., George, A. L., Goodby, J. E., Holl, J. E., Hurlburt, H. F., Jones, B., … & Zartman, I. W. (1999). Opportunities Missed, Opportunities Seized: Preventive Diplomacy in the PostDCold War World. B. W. Jentleson (Ed.). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Vanessa Mosoti, GAPW Junior Associate