Category Archives: Violence

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]

Forgotten and Not Forgiven: Angola’s Violent Past

[Image credit: Sambizanga, Luanda province, the hub of resistance to MPLA leader Agostinho Neto; it this district that saw the most froce of military and Cuban response to the coup]

In the Name of the People: Angola’s Forgotten Massacre, by Lara Pawson (IB Tauris, 2014)

Evein the namery country has its “skeletons in the closet”. Sometimes those skeletons are aired and form the substance of public or international discourse, and (rarely) some are transcended, but many are simply kept in hiding. According to Lara Pawson the 1977 coup/failed revolution is one such hidden event in Angola’s history.

The book’s protagonists’ offer multiple descriptions of this event necessarily conveying the contested nature of what happened on May 27th 1997, or as it is more commonly known, vinte e sete. Pawson, now a freelance journalist, earned her stripes as a BBC correspondent in Angola during the 1990s. But since then she has been following breadcrumbs of confusion and woe that have led her to vinte e sete. What is perhaps most “shocking” about the account is not the lack of historicization, but the swift and ruthless swinging of Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA) coercive, biopower in defense of its monopoly of “revolution”.

Pawson reconstructs vinte e sete with a parade of characters across a spectrum of events: the possibly guilty extolling their ignorance and regret at others’ actions, and the now widowed living with grief and suspicion still decades later, even leftist writers and journalists, once supportive of the MPLA are cast as hiding something. The latter apparently knowing too much to betray their ideological allegiance to the “successful” MPLA revolution.

Intriguingly, many protagonists cast these events in the light of postcolonial racial tension. Nito Alves, the disgraced deputy to the MPLA leader Agostinho Neto, drew to him an apparent mixture of Soviet sympathizers, disaffected lower ranks, and black, rural Angolans. Nito was thus accused of fomenting anti-white and anti-mestiço racism. Throughout one hears echoes of scholars like Mbembe and Mamdani who have underscored the challenge of moving past the colonial (racial/ethnic) divisions bred into the postcolonial state: it appears Angola is no different.

Those loyal to the dissatisfaction expressed by Nito and frustrated by the fraudulent puppet Neto (supposedly controlled by the ruling mestiço class and the Cubans. who had been flooding the country as professional and armed soldiers) stormed the capital’s radio station and took up other key positions in Luanda. Within 24 hours this “factionalist” coup, rebellion, or whatever, was crushed by MPLA troops, tanks, and most notably the stockpiled Cubans ready to combat counterinsurgency against the revolution. Pawson, unable to put a finger on the numbers of those arrests, tortured, disappeared, or simply executed, offers her protagonists’ claims that were in the thousands.

The real Nito Alves? This young man was arrested in connection with multiple involvements in protests against President Dos Santos and the forgetting of vinte e sete.
The real Nito Alves? This young man was arrested in connection with multiple involvements in protests against President Dos Santos and the forgetting of vinte e sete.

What remains now is a cast of characters affected in some way or another by a history of postcolonial counterinsurgency violence, in the name of socialism, most willing to live with the past, without conceptualizing it, or speaking of it. Speaking truth to power, perhaps, as the underlying modus operandi of this book, seems to be a frustrated mantra. Frustrated by the responding silence of oppression.

Post Script

I recently spoke with some friends from Angola, living here in Europe, and they expressed a similar acknowledgement of silence and suppression of this history. And perhaps, as most living in a diaspora, or those willingly away from home, as frustration about the janus-faced nature of Angola as a “good” African country that is defined by political power that is corrupt and far reaching. No one wants to speak about this, they claimed, and Pawson’s book is the only attempt, so far, that captures this feeling and history.

Further Reading:

Africa is a Country, ‘The Battle over the 27th of May in Angola’.

Pawson, ‘Nito Alves: the teenage incarnation of resistance in Angola,’ Guardian.