Category Archives: Violence

The Violence-Development Nexus

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Introduction

Post the Second World War, there has been an increase in intra-state conflict, civil wars and other forms of violence. They have become much more common than international war, affecting close to one quarter of all countries in the world by the mid-1990s. Over this period these forms of violence not only became more recurrent; they have also appeared to last longer (Fearon and Laitin, 2003). Violence is not a completely new phenomenon in the areas of development practice and theory. Rogers (1989) highlighted that there has been a perceived relationship between violence and development since the nineteenth century. The issue of violence in development discourse especially in analysis of the global south has however begun to gain more attention since the 1990s. For example, Africa and Latin America have largely been tagged as the most violent and notorious continents (UNCHS, 1996). The Department for International Development acknowledged violence as a pivotal developmental hindrance especially with regards to issues of poverty reduction (White, 1998; Short, 1999). For some scholars, the rationale behind war  are such that are hinged on the opportunities and privileges afforded by chaotic situations to perpetrators  of violence such as those tied to the opportunities they afford, as exemplified by the “Blood Diamond” loots of Sierra Leone  and the profiteers from the DRC Congo war (Reno, 2000 and Mwanasali, 2001). Other scholars have approached the discourse from the perspective that argues that understanding the rationale behind violence cannot be understood exclusive of a proper understanding of economic development and vice versa (UNDP, 1994 and King and Murray, 2001). They situate their arguments within the context of the linkages of violence and development through “well-being”. This has given more drive to the proponents of the concept of human security[1].

Conceptual clarifications

In terms of conceptual clarifications, development has been conceptualised has a multidimensional phenomenon (Przeworski et al., 2000). Development is the process of improving the quality of all human lives and capabilities by raising people’s levels of living, self-esteem, and freedom. According to perhaps one of the most notable texts in development studies,  “Development must  be conceived as a multidimensional process that involves major changes in social structures, popular attitudes, and national institutions, as well as the acceleration of economic growth, the reduction of inequality, and the eradication of poverty , (Todaro and Smith, 2011). This therefore expounds the multiple angles associated with development, and possible links to development and the lack of it to violence. For example, poverty, a constituent dimension of development has been closely linked to Violence. A popular quote attributed to one of the famous novelist of African descent Buchi Emecheta expressed that “a hungry man is an angry one” and as such suggests a possible causative relationship between poverty and violence.

Similarly, the concept of Violence is multidimensional. Violence has been conceptualized in the contexts of Judicial, social and cultural, political and economic, that can stimulate the oppression of fellow human, as well as jettisons the opportunities of optimizing human realization and liberation. This is succinctly and aptly described as violence of the structures (Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois, 2004). The International community such as the OECD provided an alternative conceptualization for violence as the imposition and utilization of force and other means on fellow human for the sole objective of achieving a purpose (OECD, 2009).In the field of criminology Violence is perceived as individual or social actions that includes “destructive aggression and force use for the actualization of a pre-intended cause. Buvinic, Morrison and Shifter (1999) argued that this force use is not limited to just physical but can be psychological or any other form and the motive is to do harm. They concluded that the manifestations of violence therefore includes individual, domestic, organised and public. Violence therefore includes micro levels such as theft, homicide, domestic violence, kidnapping and macro levels such as genocide, war, ethnic clashes among others. Poveda, (2012) highlighted that these manifestations form some of the prevalent impediments to development and welfare of citizens in the developing world.

Theoretical Clarifications

With violence now taking a major position in the economic development discourse, it therefore becomes necessary to briefly analyse the complex theoretical nexus of both multidimensional phenomena, as well as explain the growing interest in this relationship. Until recently, the traditional knowledge on Violence and Economic development was such that presented a positive relationship. (i.e has countries urbanised and industrialised, violence and crime rates increased). Similarly it was perceived that the nature of violence manifested adjusts with development (Rogers, 1989). This position has however been highly challenged in recent periods. A major basis for this criticism has been due to the fact that it was solely based on the nineteenth century experiences of Western Europe, which contemporary historical studies have faulted (McDonald, 1982). A second basis for this criticism has been based on the bourgeoning in conclusive findings from the developing world, which has proven the traditional generalisation flawed (Rogers, 1989 and Poveda, 2012).  Although it however, remains necessary to state that quite a significant quantum of traditional knowledge on violence and economic development was ethnocentric, thereby leading to such generalisations, in consistency with the culture of poverty of Oscar Lewis and the Modernisation theory.  Contemporary studies are similarly not immune against this line of thought.  There is often tendencies to think of violence has a problem solely associated with the global south. However, empirics have shown that while the developed world tend to have more incidence of violence, compared to the developing world, the growth rate of violence in these developing countries is faster and often more violent that in the developed countries (Rogers, 1989; Zveki, 1990).

Therefore, prime of the rationales for the renewed interest in this violence-development nexus is the increasing urbanization rate which is perceived to be potent for violence due to its resultant inequality and urban poverty (Vanderschueren, 1996). Similarly important is the acknowledgement of the fact that large numbers of democratizing post-conflict states are still apt for violence (Berdal and Keen, 1997). Perhaps the most dominant and compelling factor, is that violence in more recent times is perceived as capable of jeopardizing the economic development opportunities of a country (Ayres, 1998). He linked this through the channels through which violence discourages investment Production and as such stunts economic growth. Craig and Mayo, (1998) linked this to its connections with empowerment and sustainable empowerment.

Empirical Findings

Similar to the multidimensionality of the concepts of Violence and development, so is the relationship that exists between both of them.  A recent study by the OECD revealed that of the entire developing world, the “fragile states”[2] which are violence prone regions were the ones who lagged behind in achieving the millennium development goals (MDGs) (OECD, 2015). As at 2013 none of the fragile states had achieved any of the MDGS. The study however disclaimed that their might not yet any clear correlation between the MDG performance heterogeneity within these states. The Geneva declaration of 2010 stated that only  a meagre 10 percent of the fragile states had the potentials of achieving the development goal reducing their poverty and hunger levels by half  while slightly above 40 percent of the less fragile developing countries had achieved that objective as at 2010 (Geneva Declaration, 2010).  In an earlier study by the World Bank, “The cost of Violence”, it was argued that while fragile states account for about a third of the developing world, after controlling for China, India and Russia, they however account for more than half of global poverty and two thirds of infant deaths (World Bank, 2009).

Indeed the consequences and cost of violence on development are often grave. While armed violence can be profitable to individual violence profiteers such as arms dealers its implication for the general public growth and development tends to devastating. For example it was estimated that annual armed violence cost ranges USD 60 to 250 billion (Collier et.al, 2008: P22). This over a 27 year period therefore sums up to a whopping USD 123 billion. They argued further that, if violence costs are inversely measured as “peace absence”, there can be possibilities of having a higher impact. Although, economic and development costs of armed violence is not equal and the same for all countries, they however concluded that it accounts for significant portions of national economies. The Global Peace Index in estimating the economic development cost of violence, examined the assets lost and investment forgone and concluded that less violence had the potential global economic gain of up to the tune of USD 4.8 trillion which connotes a global growth rate of about 9 percent (Global Peace Index 2010, p. 38). Brauer, and Dunne, (2010) estimated the 10 years post Guatemala war violence to USD 2.4 billion which accounts for about 7.3 percent of year 2005 GDP. This therefore suggests that violence has a way it uses up scarce resources that could have been used for developmental projects that would have improved the living standard and conditions of citizens.

On the other hand studies such as Stewart (2002) have argued that the root cause of violence particularly in developing countries is the very lack of development. In analysing this relationship, Stewart highlighted Four Hypothesis. Firstly Group inequality Motivation hypothesis: This analysed the relationship through the manifestations of under-development such as religious, ethnical class or geographical divides leading to violence, citing Bosnia’s class inequality violence. Secondly Private motivation and greed hypothesis: This derives from the profiteers of violence such as arms dealers or uneducated and unemployed youths who get recruited as soldiers or rebels in violent situations citing cases of Collier and Hoeffler (2000) analysis on Sudan and Sierra Leone. Thirdly is the Social-Contract Failure hypothesis: This derives from the analogy that with fiscal inadequacies and economic hardships, Social contract between the people and the government is broken and results in violence. Moyo (2008) cited the structural violence in Zimbabwe as a product of this. Lastly is the Green War Hypothesis: This derives from the environmental degradation as a form of poverty perspective. Stewart argued that in this case, the evidence is rather contradictory, claiming that both environmental poverty and resource wealth can be linked with violence, citing a case of Rwanda and Niger-Delta Nigeria.

In another article “Civil war is not a stupid thing” Cramer (2006) concluded that there are no clear pointers that violence necessarily impedes development. Luckahm (2017) succinctly put it that the development-violence nexus can either be synergetic or contradictory. He argued that development can either be as “Violence Prevention” or “Violence called”.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, this essay has attempted to investigate the relationship between violence and development. The study presents conceptual clarifications for both phenomena and how the narrative on their relationship has evolved. While, the broader scope studies focused more on economic cost of violence that could have been otherwise used for developmental activities, the Case study focused more on developmental dimensions. It is however worthy to note that the underlying dimensions of interest of development for this study, is such as can be linked to socio-economic and for violence was armed violence. This is however by no means exhaustive of the possible manifestations of dimensions of both concepts as already expressed in the conceptual clarifications. Going by the arguments highlighted in the study, the relationship between economic development and violence can be said to be multifaceted, causative and complementary all at once, where the lack of development causes violence and the exhibition of violence causes development “deficit” through the cost of violence or development “surplus” through the framework of “violence called development”.

Footnotes

[1] A term used to try to re-conceptualise what human well-being means (traditionally measured using exclusively economic criteria) in order to take account of the impacts of violence.

[2] Canada’s Country Indicators for Foreign Policy project (CIFP) definition of fragile states extends beyond service entitlements to include those states that ‘lack the functional authority to provide basic security within their borders, the institutional capacity to provide basic social needs for their populations, and/or the political legitimacy to effectively represent their citizens at home or abroad’ (CIFP 2006).

References

Brauer, J. and Dunne, J.P.,( 2010). On the Cost of Violence and the Benefit of Peace. Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy16(2).

Buvinic, M., Morrison, A. and Shifter, M. (1999). “Violence in LatinAmerica and the Caribbean: A Framework for Action.” Technical Study, Inter-American Development Bank, Washington DC.

Centre for International Cooperation and Security (CICS) (2005) The Impact of Armed Violence on Poverty and Development. Bradford: University of Bradford.

CIFP (2006) ‘Fragile states: Monitoring and assessmnet; the way forward’. Carleton, Ottawa. CIFP

Collier, P. and Hoeffler, A., (2000). Greed and grievance in civil war, World Bank policy research working paper 2355World Bank (http://www. worldbank. org/research/PDF).

Collier, P., Hoeffler, A. and Söderbom, M., (2008). Post-conflict risks. Journal of Peace Research45(4), pp.461-478.

Cramer,  C. 2006 Civil War is Not a Stupid Thing. Accounting for Violence in Developing Countries (London: Hurst,) deconstructs established accounts of civil war.

Fearon, J. and Laitin, D., (2003). Ethnicity, insurgency, and civil war. American political science review97(01), pp.75-90.

Geneva Declaration, (2010). More violence, less development: Examining the relationship between armed violence and MDG achievement. Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, Geneva.

King, G. and Murray, C., (2001). Rethinking human security. Political science quarterly116(4), pp.585-610.

Luckham, R., (2017). Whose violence, whose security? Can violence reduction and security work for poor, excluded and vulnerable people?. Peacebuilding, pp.1-19.

Moyo, O., (2008). Surviving structural violence in Zimbabwe: The case study of a family coping with Violence. Bulletin de l’APAD, pp.27-28.

Mwanasali, M., (2000). The view from below. Berdal & Malone (Eds.), pp.137-153.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), (2009). “Conflict and Fragility Armed Violence Reduction: Enabling Development.” www.oecd.org

OECD (2015), States of Fragility 2015: Meeting Post-2015 Ambitions, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Poveda, A., (2012). Empirical research on the relationship between violence and social development in Colombia. Ensayos Revista de Economia31(2), pp.37-56.

Przeworski, A., (2000). Democracy and development: Political institutions and well-being in the world, 1950-1990 3(1). Cambridge University Press.

Reno, W.  (2000). “Shadow States and the Political Economy of Civil Wars.” (Ch.3 of Berdal and Malone 2000)

Rogers, J. (1989) Theories of crime and development: an historical perspective.  Journal  of Development Studies 25, pp.314-28.

Scheper-Hughes, N. and Bourgois, P. eds.,(2004). Violence in war and peace (pp. 1-31). Oxford: Blackwell.

Short, C. (1999). Security sector reform and the elimination of poverty. A speech held at the Centre for Defence Studies, King’s College London. March.

Stewart, F. (2002). Root causes of violent conflict in developing countries.  British Medical Journal324(7333), p.342-345

Stewart, F. (ed.) (2008) Horizontal Inequalities and Conflict: Understanding Group Violence in Multiethnic Societies. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Todaro, M. P. and Smith, S. C. (2012). Economic Development. (11th edition), Boston: Addison-Wesley.

White, H., (1998). British aid and the White Paper on International Development: dressing a wolf in sheep’s clothing in the emperor’s new clothes?. Journal of International Development10(2), pp.151-166.

World Bank (2009) The Costs of Violence. Washington D.C.: World Bank.

Authors

Laniran Temitope Joseph
Ph.D. Candidate Economics and Development Studies, University of Bradford
Research Associate John and Elnora Ferguson Centre for African Studies, Bradford, and Centre for Petroleum, Energy Economics and Law, Ibadan

and

Umar Baba Aliyu
Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official stance or position of any of the above named institutions.

Annual Peace Studies & International Development Conference: Resources, Conflict and Development in Africa

The annual Peace Studies & International Development conference for Africanist doctoral students and early post-doctoral career scholars and practitioners is scheduled to take place on the 11th May 2017 at the University of Bradford in United Kingdom.

The conference theme is: Resources, Conflict and Development in Africa.

Conference cluster themes include:

1) Natural Resources and Conflict

2) Transition from Resource Conflict to Peace and Peacebuilding

3) Natural Resources, Demographic Change and Development

4) Conflict, Security, Peace and Development Nexus

5) Regional Integration, Security and Development

6) Africa and the Rest of the World

To attend please register at : https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/resources-conflict-and-development-in-africa-tickets-33989318968

JEFCAS Seminar Series: “Eritrea- Repression and Resistance”

Venue: Pemberton Room 2.11

Date:  Wed 22nd March 2017

Time: 16:00 – 18:00

Speaker: Martin Plaut (Institute of Commonwealth Studies)

Martin Plaut

About Martin Plaut:

Martin Plaut is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of   Commonwealth Studies and author of “Understanding Eritrea” published by Hurst October 2016. The book explains how the country operates and why President Isaias Afwerki has retained in power. His main research interests and publication include Civil Rights, Colonies & Colonization, emigration & immigration, International Relations, Modern History, Political Institutions, Socialism, Communism, and Anarchism. Mr. Plaut research focus is Africa in general, South Africa and Horn of Africa in Particular.

PROMOTING PEACE EDUCATION IN SOMALIA UNIVERSITIES: EXPERIENCES AND INSIGHTS

Promoting Peace Education in Somalia Universities: Experiences and insights

Somalia has been a failed state and without a central government for many years. War has traumatised Somali society, and destroyed its national institutions, infrastructure, social foundations positive ethos, communal trust, community spirit, solidarity, sense of hope and prevented meaningful dialogue. Somalia’s youth have grown up in a country where violence is the norm. This, combined with poverty and the complex problems of a post-conflict society has resulted in a large number of disenfranchised youth who are vulnerable to recruitment by extremist and criminal groups. This project aims to inspire Somali youth and restore a sense of hope, confidence and trust through a process of positive dialogue, reconciliation, building healthy relationships and learning non-violent communication methods.

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About Dr Yusuf Sheikh Omar & Khadijo Osman: Yusuf Sheikh Omar holds PhD from La Trobe University. He is a writer, a poet, peace activist. He worked as a teacher at Victoria University, as a researcher at University of Melbourne and Victorian Transcultural Mental Health focusing on Khat Use in the Horn of African community in Victoria and on Emotional wellbeing of the Horn of African Muslim men. His research focuses on social integration of young Somalis living in the western countries. Dr Khadijo Mohamed Osman has a PhD from University College London, School of Pharmacy, UK.

http://www.hiiraan.com/op4/2016/aug/117033/our_journey_to_mogadishu_fear_and_hope.aspx

 

JEFCAS Seminar Series: Beyond Radicalisation

Venue: Pemberton Room 2.11

Date: Wed 25 January 2017

Time: 16:00 – 18:00

Speaker: Dr Paul Higate,

University of Bristol: Beyond Radicalisation: Gendered Assemblages and Migrations of Violence.

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About Dr Paul Higate: Dr Higate is a reader in Gender and Security School for Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol. His research focuses on the gendered culture of the military and militarised masculinities in the substantive contexts of: the transition of military personnel to civilian life, United Nations peacekeeping and most recently private security contractors. Dr Higate has an interest in developing innovative and inter-disciplinary informed ways in which to theorise security, drawing on human geography, critical geopolitics, sociology and cultural studies.

JEFCAS Seminar Series: Radicalisation and Violence in Africa

Venue: Pemberton Room 2.11

Date: Wed 11 January  2017

Time: 16:00 – 18:00

Speaker: Professor Charles Abiodun Alao.

Professor Charles Abiodun Alao, King’s College London: Radicalisation and Violence in Africa.

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About Professor Abiodun Alao: Abiodun Alao is Professor of African Studies at King’s College London. His areas of Research interests include: Emerging Powers and Global Leadership; the Politics of Natural Resources Management; Religious Radicalisation and Political Violence; Politics, Security and International Relations in Africa.

His authored books include Mugabe and the Politics of Security in Zimbabwe, (McGill-Queens University Press, 2012); Natural Resources and Conflict in Africa: The Tragedy of Endowment, (Rochester University Press, 2007); The Burden of Collective Goodwill: The International Involvement in the Liberian Civil War, (Ashgate Publishers, 1996); and Brothers at War: Dissidence and Rebellion in Southern Africa, (British Academic Press, 1994). He Co-authored Peacekeepers, Politicians and Warlords: The Liberian Peace Process, (United Nations University Press, 1999); and Co-editor of Africa after the Cold War: The Changing Perspective on Security, (African World Press, 1998); Nigeria and the United States: Twists and Turns over 50 Years, (African Peace Support Publishers, 2011); and China and Africa – Building Peace and Security Cooperation (Forthcoming Palgrave – Macmillan, 2016).

Apart from extensive publications on African security issues, Prof Alao has undertaken numerous assignments for international organisations, including the United Nations, African Union, European Union, World Bank, ECOWAS and for individual countries.

Annual Peace Studies & International Development Conference: Resources, Conflict and Development in Africa

The annual Peace Studies & International Development conference for Africanist doctoral students and early post-doctoral career scholars and practitioners is scheduled to take place on the 11th May 2017 at the University of Bradford in United Kingdom.

The conference theme is: Resources, Conflict and Development in Africa.

Conference cluster themes include:

1) Natural Resources and Conflict

2) Transition from Resource Conflict to Peace and Peacebuilding

3) Natural Resources, Demographic Change and Development

4) Conflict, Security, Peace and Development Nexus

5) Regional Integration, Security and Development

6) Africa and the Rest of the World
The conference is open to doctoral students and early career scholars, researchers and practitioners. Potential participants and paper presenters are required to submit an Abstract of 200 – 300 words on or before 15th November 2016 to:              africanistpgrc2017-group@uni.bradford.ac.uk
All shortlisted participants will be required to submit the first draft of their papers at least two months before the conference. The conference is expected to result in a co-edited book (Lead Editor: Professor Kenneth Omeje, Senior Research Fellow, John & Elnora Ferguson Centre of African Studies, University of Bradford). Kindly note that all short-listed participants will be responsible for the full-cost of their participation, including visa, travels, accommodation and subsistence.

For full details on the conference: conference-call-oct-2016-revised-version-1

Una Hakika: The Phone Line of Prevention in Kenya

Christine Mutisya is a project coordinator for the Una Hakika project. She has an MSc in development and project planning from Bradford University. She is engaged in managing misinformation for the Sentinel Project, involving herself in peacebuilding activities and project management.

Adrian Gregorich is the community manager at the Sentinel Project. His academic background is in human rights, holding an MSc in human rights from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and an honours BA in political science and human rights from Carleton University in Ottawa. Adrian has worked with a number of NGOs around Africa as well as in Canada. His research and campaigning interests lie in mine action, violence prevention, poverty reduction, and global primary health care. He works as a freelance writer and resides in Ottawa, Canada. He can be reached via Twitter: @AdGregorich

Misinformation is a major problem in societies around the world, especially now that the rise of social media enables the spreading of rumours to happen much faster than was possible in the pre-digital era. Kenya’s Tana Delta region provides a good example not only of how misinformation can spread, but also how information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be used to monitor and contain its harmful effects.

Misinformation was one of the factors that led to violence in the Tana Delta during 2012 and 2013, a time when Kenya was warming up to the general election scheduled for March 2013. At such times, politics and land injustices become especially salient and these also factored into the clashes which killed nearly 170 people while displacing tens of thousands. The aftermath included increased hatred and mistrust between the two most affected ethnic communities, the Orma and the Pokomo. Even after the election period ended, misinformation still spread throughout the Tana Delta, thus continuing tensions in the region.

A Sentinel Project team visited the Tana Delta in early 2013 and recognized this problem of rumours, which led to the creation of Una Hakika (Swahili for “Are you sure?”), a mobile phone-based information system used to map and counter misinformation in the Tana Delta. One of Una Hakika’s long-term goals is to enable people to ask themselves are you sure before taking action on any information. Rapid action on false rumours before verification led to some of the violence in 2012-2013.

The focus of the training was accurate reporting of information through the Una Hakika text messaging service.
The focus of the training was accurate reporting of information through the Una Hakika text messaging service.

Before setting up the system, the Una Hakika team conducted a baseline survey throughout the Tana Delta during January-February 2014 in order to understand the spread of information in the region, what technologies people use to share that information, and to generally understand the potential users of Una Hakika in order to better design the system. One key finding from the survey was that 87.3% of the 249 respondents believed rumours contributed to violence in the region, while 61.1% of respondents had heard information they believed to be untrue within the previous 12 months. Out of those 61.1% only 50.6% took further action to verify if the information was true.

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Newly trained ambassadors are using the technology available to them to report potentially dangerous rumours, and help build peace in their communities.

Una Hakika works as a free mobile phone-based reporting system with a short code through which individual citizens report incidents or potential misinformation, after which they receive verification of its accuracy. This works via a three-stage process. In the first stage, users send information to the system, through SMS, phone calls, the Una Hakika website, or by speaking to a trained community ambassador. who serve as a bridge between people and technology.

The second stage of the process prioritizes and verifies received messages by drawing upon a variety of information sources which may be able to provide the facts of the situation relating to a given rumour. These sources include the community ambassadors, local authorities (police and administration), other NGOs operating in the area, and the media (social media and mainstream media).

Third, once the Una Hakika team has verified reports of a rumour they are then able to provide feedback to the community about the authenticity of the information. This response is targeted to ensure that the rumour management process does not inadvertently spread rumours. Rumour verifications are still only sent to subscribers in the villages from which those rumours were reported, since there is a risk of people who have not heard a given rumour focusing on the wrong parts of a counter message and disregarding the statement that the rumour is false.

Two years down the line, Una Hakika has seen tremendous results. People’s mindsets have changed in the sense that now when a resident in the Tana Delta hears a rumour their first reactions is increasingly likely to verify its validity before passing it on or taking any action. The number of survey respondents who would look into the accuracy of information the were not convinced was true has risen from from 50.6% to 57.4%. Previously, information tended to be taken at face value, and some people would take drastic action upon hearing threatening rumours.

Summary of the Sentinel Project's work shared with residents of the Kipao village.
Summary of the Sentinel Project’s work shared with residents of the Kipao village.

Government officials also see the importance of Una Hakika as they are now able to synchronize efforts with the system, thus ensuring that they do not waste time or resources reacting to false information. Another advantage of the Una Hakika model is that residents who fear being interrogated by police can report to the Una Hakika team, which will then turn it over to the authorities. This increased level of trust has resulted in some instances when the Una Hakika team received information about serious incidents (including massacres) even before the police did.

Trust is difficult to build, but this process has been a major factor in the success of Una Hakika’s community engagement. At the beginning of the project the community was wary of their aim, which is understandable due to the violence they had experienced. In order to gain trust the Una Hakika staff had to rely on existing trusted networks such as the local administration, religious leaders, and community elders.

Community engagement goes hand-in-hand with trust. While Una Hakika uses technology to fight misinformation, the human element cannot be ignored. The cultures of the Tana Delta value face-to-face meetings, and the priority given to conduct such meetings has played an integral role in Una Hakika’s success. However, this is not easy since one must ensure impartiality and inclusivity when dealing with an ethnically diverse community such as those in the Tana Delta.

Despite many challenges, the Una Hakika project has made a substantial contribution to the peacebuilding process in the Tana Delta through the development, testing, and refinement of tools and techniques for countering misinformation that has the potential to lead to violence. The Una Hakika model also demonstrates great potential for being applied in other regions of Kenya, as well as other violence-prone areas around the world.

Further Reading:

The Sentinel Project: Kenya Project 

Una Haikia Rumor reporting site

The Rise of African Islamists

[Image credit: European Commission_Boko Haram Displaced in Yola_June 2015]

Zaf Shah is currently in his final year of International Relations and Security Studies at the University of Bradford. He has previously advised local government on the PVE (preventing violent extremism) agenda, and has also provided training to the West Yorkshire Police on community Cohesion and Racial Awareness. His appointment as a Muslim affairs specialist allowed development and better understanding of Muslim affairs from a local community perspective. Zaf has also worked in Pakistan at a local Madrassah which gave him a valuable insight into the world of violent extremism

Over the last fifty years or so Africa’s wars have been well documented, but ironically these weren’t always wars where violent religious groups were vying for control of the region or its resources. Throughout the last fifteen years, conflict theorists and academics alike have focussed their efforts on the conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.  Indeed, the tide has turned and there is now a different kind of threat.

Whilst the United States and its allies had concentrated its military might in the Middle East fighting a supposed ‘war on terror’, Islamist groups such as Al Shabbab, Boko Haram and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb regrouped and took advantage of the chaotic conflict patterns in Africa. Warfare is returning to Africa through intra state religious conflicts, pitting the aforementioned violent Islamists against state powers in geographical regions of West and Central Africa in particular, along with of course the Horn and Somalia. It serves to briefly mention the difference between Islam and religionised politics of Islamism, which strives to employ religious symbols for political aims. Islamism originates from by and large a political interpretation of Islam. Therefore it is fair to say that Islamism is about political order and not faith.

Indeed, Western Analysts are now beginning to view this as a new frontier on the so-called ‘war on terror’. What couldn’t be ignored was the appearance of several African fighters in the ranks of combatants in Iraq and the success of Islamist forces firstly, gaining overall control of Somalia and secondly, engaging in a proxy war against the US and her allies. Affected African states no longer have a monopoly on power, and arguably are struggling to control the threat of terror groups from operating with relative impunity, with very few prosecutions or at least the legal framework to do the same. This of course means that state structures are weak and lack meaningful leadership to challenge this new threat.

A case in point being Nigeria, who has yet to dismantle North

Illegal migrants caught at the coast of Souq al Jum'aa region in Tripoli, Libya, March 2015. Total of 97 migrants from Senegal, Mali, Cameroon, Nigeria and Liberia [Image credit: Mail & Guaridan, from Mustafa Bag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]
“Illegal” migrants caught at the coast of Souq al Jum’aa region in Tripoli, Libya, March 2015. Total of 97 migrants from Senegal, Mali, Cameroon, Nigeria and Liberia [Image credit: Mail & Guaridan, from Mustafa Bag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]
Eastern Nigeria, based Boko Haram, who have been responsible for the killing of thousands of civilians and kidnappings since its inception fourteen years ago. Boko Haram and a dozen or so other terrorist groups have pledged their allegiance to Isil (Daesh) who have taken over swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria. With little or no control of terrorist groups and their ability to coordinate and attack civilians, means like the  2013 shopping mall attack in Kenya that African based Islamist terror can strike in any part of Africa at any given moment.  Bangui, the Central African Republic city has probably seen the most brutal effect of sectarian conflict playing out on the streets of this once harmonious region, where Muslims and Christians lived side by side. A report released by the International Rescue Committee said that more than 6,000 people have been killed since the conflict began and more than 2.7 million people are in need of emergency assistance (WNG2015). The locals blame the hatred for one another on Islamist terror groups operating in the region.

With conflicts between Muslims and Christians playing out in a number of African countries, it is no wonder that much of Europe is now faced with a migrant crisis on its borders.

References:

World News Group (2015) Daily Dispatches. Central African Republic still rife with conflict a year after ceasefire [Online] Asheville. Available from: http://www.worldmag.com/2015/08/ [Accessed August 10 2015]