Monday, April 11, 2016

Somaliland: A Case for Partition

Partition as a Conflict Management Tool

As a conflict management technique, partition is often thought of as the either the last choice or no choice at all, and for good reason. The arguments surrounding the use of partition to solve ethnic conflict actually suggest that by physically separating two warring ethnic groups you will lessen the chance that genocide or ethnic cleansing will occur.  The reasoning for this argument lies in the idea that once the groups have been separated tensions will decrease due to the removal of the security threat that is presented when ethnically divided groups are intertwined. It is obvious that there are numerous problems with this concept, such as the logistical challenges of physically moving populations and the ethical implications behind separating ethnically mingled families. It is clear that partition is a hard sell. However, the case of Somaliland may provide the just the right circumstances to provide support for this conflict management technique.

Somaliland and Informal Partition

For those who haven’t recently brushed up on their Horn of Africa geography lessons, modern day Somalia is divided into two distinct geographical and political regions – Somalia in the south and Somaliland in the north. While Somaliland is not recognized as an independent state, it has been operating as such since, in relative peace and security, since it unilaterally succeeded from Somali after the toppling of the Somali government in 1991. While Somali descended into chaos, in short order (about 5 years) Somaliland settled into peace and now boasts a functioning government, the basis of an elementary taxation system, a reasonable level of internal security, and some rudimentary public services. Somaliland holds regular elections for three tiers of government, and has seen two peaceful presidential transitions, including one to the opposition. Numerous authors attribute this success to the lack of intervention that Somaliland experienced after 1991 as compared to Somalia. However, little attention has been paid the effects that Somaliland’s informal partition have played in helping foster this peace. By separating itself from the conflict occurring in the south, Somaliland continued to foster the sense of identity in opposition from southern Somali’s that deplores violence and gave itself the time and space that was required to establish a bottom-up approach to power sharing that in based in the tradition clan systems of pre-colonial Somalia. This is not to say that partition is solely responsible for the progress that has occurred in Somaliland, but rather that the separation that occurred was a key element that interacted with the other factors at play during the formative years of Somaliland. 

Policy Recommendations 

While, informal partition has served Somaliland well it is recommended that the international community give formal recognition as to cement the somewhat fragile democratization process that continues to unfold rather than continue to ignore it and potentially risk it’s collapse as party leaders continue to feel the frustration of being denied any formal international development assistance. And given this fragile situation in Somaliland and the teetering political transition occurring in Somalia, Canada should not support reunification of region as this could disturb the fine balance that has occurred within and between the two halves at the current moment.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

(Mis) Managing the Turkish-Kurdish Conflict

By Amanda Bergmann
For over a generation, the Turkish State and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) have been embroiled in a conflict over Kurdish rights/autonomy that has cost over 45,000 lives and produced upwards of 3-4 million internally displaced persons in the span of 32+ years. A variety of conflict management measures –from hard-handed military campaigns that have forced unilateral ceasefires, to bargains meant to appease greedy leaders—have been employed. However, transnational ethnic ties, porous borders, the presence of spoilers on both sides, and the lack of a credible third-party guarantors have all contributed to the failure of achieving long-lasting peace.

Following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – the father of Modern Turkey – sought to establish a purely secular state around the notion of ‘civic nationalism’. In addition to promoting a common Turkish cultural, history, and language in an attempt to consolidate a Turkish civic-national identity, Turkey sought to assimilate all others by introducing blanket bans on religious and ethnically-based political groups, and education of minority languages and histories. The Kurds –who perceive themselves as different based on ethnicity, language, and culture- faced mounting disenfranchisement within this increasingly exclusive system. While previously fragmented, Turkey’s assimilative practices consolidated minority Kurds into one oppositional force: the PKK, who sought to establish an independent and united socialist republic.

The PKK has previously launched two deadly insurgencies against the Turkish state: the first from 1984-1999, and the second from 2004-2012. These were largely possible thanks to the trans-ethnic support offered to the PKK by other Kurdish ethno-nationalist groups in the region, specifically those based in Iraq and Syria. Encouraged by these groups’ individual uprisings (known as the ‘Demonstration Effect’), and assisted tangibly in their establishment of safe havens (which allowed the PKK to recruit and train soldiers, and disseminate propaganda), the PKK has thus far been able to sustain over 23 years of conflict.

In contrast, these trans-border links have prompted the Turkish government to respond with increasing hostility. Afraid Kurdish successes in the region will lead to the establishment of an independent Kurdistani state that then threatens Turkey’s territorial sovereignty, the Turkish government has responded to these insurgencies with an incredible amount of force. While this worked during the first insurgency –where the capture of Öcalan and the exhaustion of the PKK eventually saw the PKK declare a unilateral ceasefire and undergo a restructuring process—their failure to fully secure the border have allowed the PKK to continually use these international safe havens to mount responses.

Greedy Actors “hold goals that expand or contract based on calculations of cost and risk.” As greedy actors, both Öcalan (PKK) and Erdogan (Turkish Government) have contributed to the extended length of the conflict.

When founded, the PKK (and Öcalan) established itself as the sole representative of the Kurdish people in Turkey by promising autonomy. After the PKK’s defeat in 1999, Öcalan’s goals scaled back, insteading looking to secure Kurdish rights within the system. However, once Öcalan realized that incorporation into the system may undermine his political powers within a fragmented Kurdish group, Öcalan once again sought autonomy, reverted to violence, and initiated the second insurgency in 2004.

Meanwhile, Erdogan’s goals have also shifted based on cost-benefit analysis. The AKP has traditionally been pro-Kurdish in order to secure the Kurdish vote. Furthermore, when Turkey’s membership accession to the EU was initially accepted, the AKP pushed through a number of pro-Kurdish changes. However, a slowdown in EU membership accession and threats to the AKP’s (and by extension, Erdogan’s) power have seen Erdogan revert to violence. Recognizing that he may entrench power more easily by creating a sense of chaos over fulfilling his promises to the Kurds, Erdogan has opted for the former.

Following the first insurgency, one major reason why Turkey sought to open the political process to the Kurds was the credible commitment of the EU. Instead of wiping the Kurds out once and for all, EU Membership prompted their inclusion. The EU was instrumental in ensuring that Turkey enacted harmonization packages which expanded the rights of Kurds. For example, it was the EU’s oversight which saw Öcalan’s sentence reduced from death to life imprisonment.

However, the accession of Cyprus in 2004, coupled by a number of other geo-strategic considerations, have undercut the credibility of the EU as a guarantor. As such, there was a substantial slowdown in Turkey’s adherence to their requirements. Decisions were instead made with domestic cost-benefit analyses in mind, as opposed to EU conditionality. This allowed the Turks to renege on their commitments to the Kurds, creating conditions that incentivized the Kurds to rebel.

Turkey and the PKK have renewed violent clashes once again. Trans-border ties, greedy actors, and a lack of a credible third-party guarantor will likely once again contribute to continued violence. Initiatives which strengthen border security, socialize greedy actors into compliance, and hold actors accountable are all likely to help mitigate continued conflict. However, their feasibility is another question altogether.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Power-sharing in Burundi

No one likes to share, but some are worse at it than others.

The majority Hutus and minority Tutsis in Burundi have been in conflict for decades. The Tutsis, despite only consisting of 13 per cent of the population compared to the Hutus making up 86 per cent, had historically been in power. The Hutus, however, won the first-ever multi-ethnic, multi-party elections in 1993 with an overwhelming majority. Their new president, Melchior Ndadaye, was sworn in, but assassinated by Tutsis extremists just four months later.

This event was one in a long series of attempted coups, assassinations, and mass killings that had had Burundi at nearing its boiling point for years. It officially began what would be their 12-year civil war.

The international community, motivated by a humanitarian aim to stop the killing, and a political aim to curb the possibility of conflict further affecting the region, stepped in to help. The primary goal of the United Nations, the African Union, and many other countries, was to get the warring factions to come to a power-sharing agreement, but each attempt failed. Despite that Burundi is an ideal candidate for a power-sharing system, but the pillars of Consociational Theory did not apply during the war, and do not apply now.

In order for Consociational Theory, a form of power-sharing, to work, according to its creator Arend Lijphart, there must be grand coalition, segmental autonomy, minority representation or parity, and minority veto. A coalition was constitutionalized, but to segment the population and governance would cause a multitude of other issues. Minority representation and veto were discussed and, to a certain extent, implemented, but only at the level of official appointments, and not to the point of how it would trickle down to the population. For example, an agreed-upon power-sharing system was that the ratio of ministers must be 60 per cent Hutu and 40 per cent Tutsi, and 30 per cent must be women; Ministers of National Defense and National Police must both be ethnically different. However, it was never specified how this would benefit the population.

Both sides of the war lived in fear that if they lost power, the opposing side would kill them en masse, which, to be fair, was attempted on several occasions by both Hutus and Tutsis. There was no credible commitment on either side until Nelson Mandela took over the Arusha Peace Agreement talks in 1999. The support and enforcement of South Africa encouraged dialogue, but it still took a year for an agreement to be reached, and another five for it to be implemented.

Continued mass killings and the emergence of spoilers and veto players made an agreement next to impossible. The emphasis of the international community on stemming the killing by imposing sanctions could have helped, because the lack of trust on all sides of the bargaining table significantly delayed an agreement, and increased reticence to fully commit.

The implementation of a peace and power-sharing agreement gave Burundi 10 years of relative peace, but fighting has started up again over politics and who should have the presidency.

By: Spencer Van Dyk

Partial Success: The United Nations Organization in the Congo

The Congo Crisis of 1960 to 1964 was a period of armed conflict and political turmoil that followed the decolonization of modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo. There were a number of contributing factors to the eruption of civil war in the Congo; dissatisfaction with the redistribution of power after decolonization, the disruptive influence of external powers and the presence of unprecedented political opportunity for change.

Minimal efforts had been made by Belgian authorities to prepare the government for a transition to democratic, multi-ethnic rule, and the resulting collapse of the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and President Kasa-Vubu eventually paved the way for the dictator Joseph Mobutu’s rise to power.

Within weeks of the country’s acquisition of independence on June 30th, 1960, the country was subject to a military mutiny, an incursion by Belgian paratroopers and two secessionist movements, in South Kasai and in Katanga. The central government made appeals to the United Nations for assistance with the expulsion of foreign military groups and the repression of the secessionist movements that undermined the legitimacy of the state.

The United Nations responded swiftly with the passing of a number of Security Council resolutions that granted the Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold the authority to head ONUC: the United Nations Mission to the Republic of the Congo. The initial mandate was to coordinate the withdrawal of Belgian forces, to assist the central government in the maintenance of peace and order and to offer technical assistance wherever possible. The mandate evolved to include the maintenance of the Congo’s territorial integrity and political independence, alongside the prevention of civil war and the expulsion of foreign military elements operating in the region.

Hammarskjold’s diplomatic efforts were replaced with direct military advances by his successor U Thant. The shift became an unexpectedly complex and costly endeavor for the United Nations peacekeeping force, which had expanded to almost 20,000 men. UN forces escalated operations, apprehending and arresting foreign military elements, engaging in firefights with Tshombe’s forces and seizing strategic roadblocks and positions. Peacekeepers ultimately overran Katanga’s capital, Elizabethville and coerced secessionist leader Moise Tshombe to sign a declaration disavowing Katangese independence.  

The evaluation done for this analysis was accomplished through the application of three criteria from the wider literature on peacekeeping success. The mission was assessed based on its ability to accomplish basic operational goals, to alleviate the suffering of the host population and to generate a lasting peace.

Based upon ONUC’s performance on the assessed criteria, the verdict is that the mission could be assessed as a partial success.

ONUC successfully met objectives set out for the eradication of the Katanga secession, and expelled foreign military forces from the country quickly and effectively. Their efforts were followed by a lasting peace, (wherein peace can be described as the absence of war) in which the government in place was strong enough to put down flare-ups in pro-Lumumbist groups in the east for three decades.

But the United Nations mission to the Congo failed to reduce human suffering in the country, exacerbating battle deaths and civilian casualties. ONUC failed to affect positive change upon the intensity and frequency of armed clashes, nor did it succeed in limiting ceasefire violations. The intervention had no significant impact upon the resettlement of refugees or internally displaced persons.

The choice to engage the United Nations in a peacekeeping effort, in itself, is not problematic. Peacekeeping has been proven in reducing the likelihood of conflict resurgence, conflict contagion and in the reduction of battlefield deaths between hostile parties. With that in mind, we can consider the options that may have been available to United Nations peacekeepers, in their effort to fulfill their mandate in the Congo.

Countering ONUC’s shortcomings in the alleviation of suffering could be accomplished through the application of modern peacebuilding tactics. The establishment of robust, comprehensive institutions for the protection and resettlement of refugees would be a strong place to start any kind of initiative for the protection of a vulnerable population.

United Nations peacekeeping missions should work cooperatively with the central government to generate growth and development. This can be accomplished through the construction of physical infrastructure, the provision of economic and political expertise on reforms and stability, and the presence of observational missions to reflect and respond to progress as it moves forward.

Finally, the question of impartiality remains incredibly problematic. The presence of clear bias in engagements with secessionist movements in Katanga and South Kasai could’ve undermined the credibility of ceasefire agreements and peace negotiations facilitated by UN forces. Though the use of force against rebels by the United Nations ultimately led to the resolution of the secession in Katanga, this bias toward the central government could have harmed the appearance of the United Nations as a credible third-party enforcer. 

Ripeness and Longevity in El Salvador: How Peace was Possible and Why it Lasted.

The Salvadoran Civil War, fought from 1979-1992, was one of the most devastating conflicts in the recent history of the Americas. The war, which killed between 70-80,000 people, was fought
between the Marxist FMLN and the Salvadoran government. The primary origins of the war were deep economic inequality and severe state repression.  Despite the devastating effects of the war it was resolved through a negotiated settlement. Today we see that, despite its problems, El Salvador is a functioning democracy in which the FMLN is a major party. Thus, El Salvador is perhaps one of the most successful examples of a civil being resolved through negotiation. This naturally raises two questions why was a negotiated peace possible and why did it successfully create a lasting peace?

There were a number of attempts to negotiate peace in El Salvador throughout the course of the war. However peace efforts had to contend with an often hostile international climate. This hostility stemmed primarily from the United States and its focus on preventing the loss of El Salvador to communism. The Contadora peace process is emblematic of the importance of an amenable international context. Just as it was nearing completion the deal was torpedoed by the United States.

A favorable international climate was, however, only one aspect necessary for successful negotiations. In 1987, whilst the US was somewhat cowed in the wake of Iran-Contra ,the Esquipulas Peace Accords were signed by the Central American leaders. These accords, like Contadora, were aimed at establishing broad principles for settling conflicts across the region. While Esquipulas did eventually serve as the framework for peace in El Salvador, serious negotiations would not get underway for another three years. The reason for this delay was that the conflict had not achieved what Zartman termed ripeness. For much of the war both sides felt they could win militarily. Thus a mutually hurting stalemate was not present. Second, both sides saw the others demands as unacceptable and thus felt negotiation was not a viable way out.

In 1889 the FMLN launched its largest offensive of the war. It was eventually repelled but the offensive demonstrated to both sides that neither could achieve outright victory. In addition, the Cold War began to wind down and congressional opponents in the US grew stronger and moved to limit aid to El Salvador. It was in the wake of these events that a ripe moment as well as a favorable international scene converged and serious negotiations and eventually peace became possible.

In many ways the peace treaty actually left many of the underlying issues at stake during the war unresolved. Instead it sought to create a working democracy in which future disputes could be settled peacefully. Today El Salvador is  a functioning democracy and the peace has held. What factors allowed the peace deal to sustain such longevity?

El Salvador’s political system was actually well designed for post war reconstruction. Its legislature is elected by proportional representation and its presidents are prohibited from serving more than one five year term consecutively. However, El Salvador had a long history of military intervention in the political process. Thus, to build a sustainable democracy, politics had to be demilitarized. This was accomplished through several steps. For example, the size of the military was reduced, a new civilian police force, that included former FMLN combatants, was established to replace the military as keeper of internal security, and human rights abusers were removed from their posts.

The transition to democracy was overseen by ONUSAL which was one of the most comprehensive peacekeeping forces up to that point. ONUSAL went well beyond a traditional observer mission and undertook what the Secretary General termed peacebuilding. In doing so, ONUSAL took on a wide variety of responsibilities relating to the peace process. At times it was effectively a co-governing body. ONUSAL oversaw the demobilization of belligerents, helped establish new institutions, promoted human rights, and oversaw elections. Alongside ONUSAL other UN bodies like UNESCO or the Salvadoran Truth Commission helped promote values of tolerance and reconciliation. The efforts of ONUSAL and other UN agencies helped to overcome many of the growing pains of a re-emerging democracy and begin the process of national healing.

We can take a number of key lessons from El Salvador. First, timing matters to peace negotiations. It was only when a ripe moment and favorable international conditions converged that a successful negotiation was possible. Second, third party support can inhibit efforts aimed at negotiation by direct interference or the prevention of the development of ripeness. Breaking support links may be necessary before a peace can be reached. Finally, broad efforts aimed at enhancing democratic institutions, as well as promoting tolerance, reconciliation, and human rights can help heal old wounds and enhance the legitimacy of the new democratic system. 

Further Reading

Dianna Villiers Negroponte Seeking Peace in El Salvador : The Struggle to Reconstruct a Nation at the end of the Cold War (New York: Palgrave McMillian 2011)

Tommie Sue Montgomery Revolution in El Salvador: From Civil Strife to Civil Peace (Boulder: Westview Press 1995) 

Hugh Byrne El Salvador’s Civil War: A Study of Revolution (Boulder Lynne Reiner Publishers. 1996) 

Alvaro De Soto  “Ending Violent Conflcit in El Salvador“ in Herding Cats: Multiparty negotiations in a complex world Washington: US Institute of Peace press, 1999)