The dan­ger of sup­ple­ment­ing aid to Africa with weapons

Con­ti­nent is awash with firearms which ex­ac­er­bate civil strife

African Independent - - OUTLOOK - EARL CON­TEH-MORGAN

The big shift to­wards se­cu­rity started in 2002 when the United States Africa Com­mand (Africom) was formed.

This was fol­lowed by a se­cu­rity part­ner­ship be­ing agreed be­tween the African Union and the EU. And then there are sub-re­gional se­cu­rity forces like Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity of West African States Mon­i­tor­ing Group and the Sa­hel G5 states’ counter-ter­ror­ism force.

As a re­sult of the grow­ing threat from ter­ror groups, a num­ber of coun­tries, with the help of ma­jor pow­ers, have boosted their mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties. These in­clude Mali, Nige­ria and Cote d’Ivoire, to name a few.

Merkel’s state­ment was made in the con­text of many African coun­tries ex­pe­ri­enc­ing eco­nomic growth while, at the same time, bat­tling mil­i­tant and ter­ror­ist groups.

The view seems to be that by help­ing Africa con­tain in­sta­bil­ity, growth rates will be en­hanced and Europe re­lieved of mass mi­gra­tions.

In­creased se­cu­ri­ti­sa­tion – the em­pha­sis on a mil­i­tar­ily strong state at the ex­pense of ba­sic hu­man needs and a strong civil so­ci­ety – started af­ter the 1998 al-Qaeda at­tacks on the US em­bassies in Kenya and Tan­za­nia.

These led to the cre­ation of Africom, which in­cluded putting ac­tive Amer­i­can troops on the con­ti­nent. Dji­bouti serves as a for­ward base for Africom. It also in­cluded a com­mit­ment from the US to train and ad­vise African coun­tries that re­quest it. Cur­rent key ben­e­fi­cia­ries of US mil­i­tary as­sis­tance are Dji­bouti, Ethiopia, Uganda, Chad, Cameroon and Mau­ri­ta­nia.

In ad­di­tion, French troops have be­come more ac­tive in Africa. In Mali they are help­ing the gov­ern­ment con­tain ji­hadist or­gan­i­sa­tions in the north of the coun­try.

There are also re­gional in­ter­na­tional ef­forts, such as the se­cu­rity part­ner­ship be­tween the EU, the AU, and the UN mis­sion es­tab­lished to con­tain ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the Sa­hel re­gion. Known as the G5 Sa­hel force, it in­cludes troop con­tri­bu­tions from Burk­ina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mau­ri­ta­nia and Niger.

France and the US are also ac­tive in the Sa­hel re­gion, pro­vid­ing train­ing and equip­ment to the mil­i­taries of Chad, Burk­ina Faso, Mali, Niger and Mau­ri­ta­nia, and en­gag­ing in joint ex­er­cises with the G5 forces.

Merkel’s pro­posal is aimed at tak­ing these en­gage­ments even fur­ther. What’s she’s put on the ta­ble is a com­pact with Africa and the G20 which in­cludes weapons trans­fer as de­vel­op­ment aid.

Merkel’s sug­ges­tion would mean more weapons on a con­ti­nent that is al­ready awash with small arms and light weapons.

It can’t be de­nied that Africa as a se­cure con­ti­nent would ben­e­fit Europe. But weapons as de­vel­op­ment aid sounds like a con­tra­dic­tion.

Do weapon trans­fers in fact con­trib­ute to de­vel­op­ment?

There are stud­ies that show the ac­qui­si­tion of weapons by de­vel­op­ing coun­tries doesn’t con­trib­ute to de­vel­op­ment.

I be­lieve more weapons on the con­ti­nent would have the op­po­site ef­fect.

The African con­ti­nent al­ready has a great deal of weapons which ex­ac­er­bate civil strife.

Ev­i­dence points to the fact that weapons trans­fers are re­spon­si­ble for con­flicts in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, South Su­dan, the Cen­tral African Repub­lic and So­ma­lia, among oth­ers.

More weapons and an in­creased mil­i­tary pres­ence for in­cum­bent African regimes could have neg­a­tive con­se­quences.

First, it could lead to even more vi­o­la­tions of the rule of law as in­cum­bent regimes be­come mil­i­tar­ily stronger.

Sec­ond, it would im­prove the chances of regimes sur­viv­ing longer. They would have the where­withal to vi­o­late hu­man rights even more, as well as sup­press op­po­si­tion voices.

And, fi­nally, weapons could be di­verted to rebel groups through po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion or for per­sonal self­ish ob­jec­tives.

In con­clu­sion, the G20 com­pact with Africa is en­cour­ag­ing. But when it comes to the trans­fer of more weapons, donors and in­vestors should make sure this is done un­der strict rules and reg­u­la­tions.

Con­di­tions for re­ceiv­ing aid should also be based on strict ad­her­ence to the rule of law, and in par­tic­u­lar demo­cratic pro­cesses.

In the end, the big­gest em­pha­sis should be on pri­vate in­vest­ments – as set out in the com­pact – which will gen­er­ate mil­lions of jobs for the unem­ployed. – The Con­ver­sa­tion

Big­gest em­pha­sis should be on new in­vest­ments to cre­ate mil­lions of jobs for unem­ployed

Earl Con­teh-Morgan is pro­fes­sor of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies at the Univer­sity of South Florida

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