Good Developments

Thoughts on development aid, African politics and other stuff

Archive for the tag “conflict”

Voting for Disorder

by Katrin Eder

My M.A. Dissertation about the Ivorian Presidential Elections 2010. Enjoy!


The post-conflict election in Côte d’Ivoire in November 2010 was meant to conclude the country’s transition from war-to-peace, to mark the beginning of a new era of peace and promote democratisation. Instead, the election triggered a military stand-off between the two major presidential candidates and and plunged the country back into civil war. The case of Côte d’Ivoire is not an isolated one; the ambiguous effect of post- conflict elections is an issue of debate for scholars and practitioners since the 1990s. Whereas some post-conflict elections indeed consolidate peace in a post-conflict coun- try, others, like in Côte d’Ivoire, lead to the resurgence of violence and civil war.

This dissertation analyses the factors which allowed for the post-conflict election in Côte d’Ivoire in 2010 to ruin the country’s peace process. The analysis is based on the conceptual framework of Höglund et al., which brings together most of the major find- ings about post-conflict elections that have emerged in academic literature so far. The dissertation argues that a whole range of conflict-generating factors, including the con- tinuity of the major political actors, unfavourable institutional circumstances and the particularly high stakes of the election, were present. These factors influenced  and reinforced each other and ultimately created an unstable, high-explosive environment for the elections.

War Is Boring: Africa Round-Up (8)

by Peter Dörrie

In this installment of the Africa Round-Up, I cover recent developments in Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan. Be sure to check it out!

As fuel prices skyrocketed after a cut in subsidies, Lagos and other cities were hit by huge protests. At least one protester died after being shot by police, but in most cases the marches remained peaceful. The price of petrol more than doubled at the pump after the government phased out a $8-billion subsidy at the beginning of this year. Despite being one of the world’s largest crude oil producers for many years now, Nigeria still has to import refined petroleum products, as it only has very limited refining capacities inside the country.

Meanwhile, the north of the country saw some of the worst violence ever over Christmas, when the terror group Boko Haram bombed churches and attacked security forces, leavingscores of people dead. President Goodluck Jonathan reacted by declaring an indefinite state of emergency in the northern states, while several Christian groups threatened toretaliate against future attacks. Despite heavy-handed efforts of the security services over the last few years, Boko Haram has been able to constantly launch more sophisticated attacks. While a new security doctrine now came into effect, which “puts security of Nigerians first,” it can be doubted that the authorities will be able to reduce the threat posed by religious extremism if they do not tackle the underlying grievances of the mostly young men who sympathize and fight for Boko Haram.

Find the complete round-up here.

GOOD responds, does not make guns better

by Peter Dörrie

I recently published a critique of an article on GOOD, which touted the sale of ridiculously expensive jewellery to finance buy-up programs for guns in Central Africa (especially the DR Congo). Others seem to have a problem with “gun trafficking for good” as well, so GOOD obviously felt the need to respond. They did this yesterday, by giving the founders (Peter Thum and John Zapolski) of Fonderie 47, the company that is behind the project, a chance to address the issues raised by the commentators. I am still not convinced.

Thum and Zapolski start out by claiming that even if Fonderie 47 injects money into the weapons trade in Africa, people will find it hard to replace their guns, because new ones would cost at least $340 more on the international market than Fonderie 47 pays for the old African ones. They do not give any references as to where they got their numbers from, but it doesn’t really matter, because their argument is wrong anyway. It relies on the assumption that merchants selling guns in Eastern Congo have the same cost of procurement as, say, the government of Congo.

If you want to buy a new gun in Eastern Congo, you don’t ring up an international weapons dealer. You talk to the friend of your uncle, who is a (badly paid) officer in the national army. For this officer, the costs of selling government guns to you is of course not what the government originally paid for them. Instead, he has just to bribe a few fellow officers and officials and factor in a profit margin for himself. In a country, where the national income per capita (adjusted for purchasing power) is $320, the $230 Fonderie 47 seems to pay locals in return for their guns is going to buy them quite a few new ones.

The GOOD article then goes into details on how Fonderie 47 works to get the weapons. This bit is a bit confusing, but I take that Fonderie 47 at least partly destroys weapons that have already been collected (by the UN or the government) and which lie around waiting to be destroyed:

If the NGOs that governments hire to destroy these weapons don’t have the resources to do it, they wait around for the next group of people to come take them. Destroying them eliminates that possibility, making the reemergence of conflict more costly.

In this case it seems like Fonderie 47 is not buying the guns, but merely covers the costs of destroying them (providing labour and machines). That is actually a completely different approach from buying guns and a strategy that finds my approval. I ask myself, why Fonderie 47 does not simply ditch the whole gun running thing they have going on and concentrate their resources on projects of this (uncontroversial) type.

I am bit unsatisfied with the GOOD article on the whole, as it does not address any of the following questions: Is consumerism really a good way to tackle problems? Are the “leaders” who Fonderie 47 wants to reach with these exclusive pieces of jewellery really the right target group, or are they (and their money) not part of the problem? Are the guns really the source of conflict in Eastern Congo and not merely a symptom?

Don’t get me wrong, I am convinced that disarmament is an important part of peacebuilding. But doing disarmament right is probably one of the most complicated things you can do and it is certainly not “conflict prevention” (if arms are there and are used, you already have conflict). Fonderie 47 clearly does not appreciate these problems.

War Is Boring: Africa Round-Up (7)

by Peter Dörrie

This time, I cover recent conflict developments in the DR Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, the Sahel region and Somalia.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Monday saw the first presidential and parliamentary elections since 2006 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Stakes were high in the single-round elections, with eight presidential and 18,000 parliamentary candidates on the ballots. The run-up towards election day was tense, with frequent clashes between security forces and supporters of UDPS candidate Étienne Tshisekedi in urban centers. On the final campaign weekend alone, up to 10 people died in the capital of Kinshasa.


Read the rest here.

Congo: the real danger lies ahead

Scuffles broke out at various polling stations (photo: Azad Essa/Al Jazeera)

by Peter Dörrie

The easy part of the elections in the DR Congo is over. The voting day was chaotic, marred by violence and irregularities, as was the run-up to the elections. But only after the last ballot was cast, the really dangerous part of the elections began.

Even if there is little or none tampering with the vote counting process – which can be doubted – the loosing parties will cry foul. And most impartial observers will agree with them, that the campaign and election process was hardly a level playing field.

The government of president Kabila left little to chance. First the electoral law was changed to avoid a situation like in Ivory Coast, were the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo saw himself beaten by his challenger in a tense run-off round, that resulted in a resurgence of the civil war and ousted him from power. In the DR Congo, there is no run-off round any more, the winner of the simple majority in the first round takes it all.

There are also widespread allegations of ballot-box stuffing, phantom polling stations and of hundrets of thousands of fake names on voter lists, which were not presented in public in many places.

The opposition, especially the supporters of long-time opposition leader Étienne Tshisekedi, will take these points up with gusto. Tshisekedi, a 78 year old politician who confronted every Congolese regime starting with Mobutu, has already declared himself winner days before the election even started and seems to be bend on seeking the ultimate confrontation with the current regime. His supporters already have repeatedly clashed with security forces, especially in Kinshasa.

While this opposition has little in terms of military supplies and structures, they could turn most urban centres of the country into war zones. Make no mistake: the security forces have the capacity to regain control pretty quickly, except maybe in the areas (like the Kivus) were they are weak anyway. But the ensuing conflict would be very bloody and filled with atrocities.

Should this happen, there is little hope that the West would intervene. Both the US and the EU have reduced their commitment since the elections in 2006, when a German-French mission patrolled the streets of Kinshasa. There is a UN mission in the country – wit a relatively robust mandate to protect civilians – and it would do their best to stem the flow of violence, but MONUSCO is already unable to effectively police the vast east of the country, where in many places militias still rule the ground, or put an end to the continuing incursions of the LRA in the north-east. Should both the opposition and the government be willing to slug it out on the streets, there is little the UN could do about it.

The only way a violent turn of the events could be avoided, is if one of the actors involved takes the responsible decision to back down and try to resolve their issues by non-violent means. This could be either the opposition, who could take a cue from the Arab Spring and start a non-violent protest movement. While deaths and injuries are virtually guaranteed by taking this path as well (over 800 people died in Egypt since January), the potential of escalation would be heavily reduced.

Or the government (maybe under pressure from the UN and other international partners) acknowledges the concerns of the opposition and finds a way to include them into the political process.

In all of these cases, the international community carries a great responsibility. It is up to the UN, the EU, the US and last but certainly not least the African states to exert pressure on their various allies inside Congo to reduce the potential for conflict. Especially the position of other African governments gives some hope this time around, as many of them (like South Africa) have huge economic interests in the DR Congo, which could be put into jeopardy, if the country sinks into chaos again.

War is Boring: Africa Round-Up (6)

by Peter Dörrie

From my new Africa round-up over at

In a surprising move, Kenya reacted to repeated cases of kidnapping on its border with Somalia with a full-blown invasion. The operation started on October 15 and involves ground troops as well as air raids. Kenya said its actions are targeted at the Somali militia Al Shabab, who they see as responsible for the recent string of kidnappings of Westerners, which threatens Kenya’s tourism industry. Al Shabab has denied all involvement in the crimes.

Read the rest here.

War is Boring: Africa Round-Up (3)

Côte d’Ivoire / Liberia
More than one month after former president Laurent Gbagbo was ousted after a tense post-election standoff that involved U.N. and French forces, the situation has stabilized but is still far from peaceful. The Liberian government has found an arms cache believed to belong to Liberian mercenaries who fought for Gbagbo. Also, there are still thousands of Ivorian refugees in Liberia, which itself is recuperating from a civil war.

On a more positive note, the demobilization inside the Ivory Coast is slowly progressing, with thousands of combatants having handed over their weapons to the U.N. mission.

Democratic Republic of Congo
With more than 20 active rebel groups and militias in eastern DRC, the outcome of the U.N.-supported governmental program to integrate fighters into the national army has so far produced mixed outcomes. […]

Read the rest over at

War is Boring: Africa Round-Up

I am happy to announce that I will from now on contribute regularly to the excellent blog Apart from an excellent coverage of world security topics, they regularly publish conflict round-ups on all continents and I will take over responsibility for those on Africa. Here comes the first one:

Côte d’Ivoire
After the presidential elections in Ivory Coast ended in a stand-off between incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo who refuses to relinquish power and Alassanne Ouatarra, who is the internationally accepted winner, the situation now begins to deteriorate rapidly. Forces loyal to Gbagbo are said to have killed pro-Ouatarra protesters and both the government and the former rebels are rearming despite a U.N. weapons embargo. On Monday, reports emerged that Gbagbo had taken delivery of three attack helicopters from Belarus and a U.N. team was attacked when it tried to investigate the incident. Meanwhile, the ongoing mediation attempts by the African Union have not succeeded in bringing the two sides closer to a solution.

Democratic Republic of Congo
A group of up to 100 lightly armed men attacked the presidential palace and an army camp in the capital Kinshasa on Sunday. The motivation of the attack was not immediately clear, with speculations ranging from an attempted coup over an assassination attempt on president Kabila to the operation being orchestrated by the government as an excuse to crack down on the opposition in the run-up to this year’s presidential elections. […]

Read on here and check out the other stuff on the blog as well!

Ivory Coast on the brink of a new civil war?

The events in the Arab world seem to have pushed aside the political crisis
in Ivory Coast not only from the headlines but also from the priority lists
of the international community. The UN Security Council cancelled a
meeting concerning reports about illegal arms deliveries to the
this week, while the AU panel of five African Presidents just announced to
take another month’s time before
proposing a solution for the conflict.

This could prove fatal for the country, where renewed civil war becomes more
likely every day. According to a Human Rights Watch report
the former rebels Forces Nouvelles are re-mobilising, while incumbent
president Gbagbo’s forces are training youth militias and recruiting
Liberian mercenaries. Fightings are going on in Abidjan, Yamoussoukro and
the western region. For the first time since six years, the ceasefire
between the parties has been broken.

This seems to be the end of the peace process which began so promising with
the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement in 2007. The peace agreement was seen as
exemplary, initiated by the conflict parties themselves, addressing all
relevant issues from political power sharing to the demobilisation of the
rebels and the sensitive question of citizenship. Yet the implementation
process lacked political will. The political power-sharing was comfortable
for both sides, particularly for Laurent Gbagbo and the former rebel leader
Guillaume Soro. Neither side was interested in changing the status quo, both
having their share. The elections in November 2011 now changed the game.

Perhaps even more important, nothing has been done to mitigate the fracture
of the population, the animosities between north and south, ‘Ivorians’ and
‘immigrants’. Mistrust remains deeply rooted in the ivorian society, which
is more divided than ever. In this atmosphere, speeches of hatred like the
ones given by Gbagbo’s minister of youth, Blé Goudé, easily mobilise the
population against the other side. This is why the otherwise purely
political post-election stand-off is so dangerous and the situation is so
explosive. The population is ready to fight again.

As the situation deteriorates every day, the only hope is that the
international community finally stops to hesitate and takes action. If
nothing is done, the country will sooner or later fall back into civil war

Strategic Minerals and Conflict in the Eastern DRC

Like any other student, I write regular assignments for my classes. I spent considerable time doing this and I am (mostly) quite satisfied with the stuff I produce. So it nagged me for a long time, that nobody except me, the lecturer and my parents will read all this and (more importantly) no one else will give me feedback on it. So with this post, I will start publishing abstracts of my assignments to the public (except of those I am ashamed of).

The situation in eastern Congo is without doubt one of humanities greatest tragedies. There is an ongoing civil war (although the government does not call it that) and thousands of people die every year as a result. During the last years, many advocacy groups and even the lawmakers in Washington increasingly blamed so-called “conflict minerals” for the outbreak and persistence of violence in that region.

The argument behind this usually goes as follows: strategic resources (like coltan, gold, oil and copper), increase the risk of conflict outbreak, because they give people a reason to fight for. Their existence creates greed and grievances and in cases like the DRC make it so profitable to wage war, that the conflict will revolve around access to those resources and the profits generated by them. The only solution in the eyes of anti-conflict-mineral campaigners: stop the warring factions from profiting from those resources. That will end the conflict, as it will leave those groups without a reason to fight for and without means to do so.

Now, this reasoning of course ignores a lot of the issues which led to the outbreak of violence in eastern DRC. The region has a complex history and the current violence may have roots reaching back to the time when the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi where still Belgian colonies. The colonial administration made several decisions regarding the classification of ethnic groups, the preferred treatment of some of these groups and their affiliation to the different nation states (which were created by the colonial masters as well), all of which still shape events today. Another event, the importance of which can not be understated, is the Rwandan genocide. As the Tutsi-led RPF ended the genocide by defeating the Hutu-dominated regime in Kigali, many Hutus and the retreating Rwandan Army (as well as the genocidal militias) sought refuge in the DRC (the called Zaire). The genocidaires quickly infiltrated the refugee camps and used it as a recruiting ground and base for attacks against the new Rwandan government. This government in turn actively supported (some say even started) the rebellion against the Mobutu regime in Kinshasa.

There are of course thousands of other issues at stake here, not the least of them questions of land rights and of course the rich mineral deposits of the DRC, but to say that resources were responsible for the outbreak of the Congo Wars is simply wrong.

The second part of the argument – that the conflict parties finance themselves through profits from the mineral trade – is a bit closer to the mark. It is true that some of the armed groups in eastern DRC rely quite heavily on mineral rents. And especially in recent months the Congolese Army – today regarded as one of the greatest sources of insecurity – has incited a lot of violence by trying to secure mineral deposits for personal gains. But it has also to be recognized that mineral extraction and trade are only one of the possible finance mechanism for armed conflict in the region. Armed groups levy taxes on property and agricultural produce. They collect money at border posts and exploit the regional trade with charcoal and marijuana. They even collect money for securing cattle farms. So stopping the trade with minerals would in the best case only pressure the armed groups to search for ways to exploit other businesses more efficiently.

In the worst case, it would actually make the situation for normal Congolese people harder. The economy of eastern DRC is tightly integrated with the mineral trade. This trade provides the hard currency needed to import fuel and other goods through the ports of East Africa. Any serious attempt to shut out armed groups from the mineral trade will bear the danger of shutting this trade down completely. This would have catastrophic consequences for those, such a policy was designed to help.

On a wider scope this example shows that conflicts in Africa (or anywhere in the world) can not be reduced on some simple reason. Violent conflict always has its roots in a complicated mixture of grievances, power and outside intervention and trying to oversimplify this for the sake of efficient advocacy can do more harm than good.

To resolve the crisis in eastern Congo, another approach would be needed: solving the security nightmare the normal population faces should be the top priority. To this end, the national government as well as the international community (which has a large and armed presence here) needs to face the fact that the “national army” is little more that thugs in uniform. The individual units do not get paid by the government and keep their allegiance to commanders from their days as rebels. They have received little training and receive no incentives to see the local population as little more than means for making money. In that, they are little better than the “official” rebels which hide in the forests.

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