Apocalypse of Unending African Wars

I spent the last few days reading a lot of material on U.S intervention in foreign wars, humanitarian intervention, and genocide in different parts of the world. Presently, I am researching the unending conflict in the Horn of Africa; these conflicts are mostly between Ethiopia–Eritrea and Somalia–Ethiopia. Off course, Sudan, Djibouti, and Kenya are regional players in these conflicts wittingly or otherwise, and the complex array of militias or rebel groups make things that much more complex. We have to spend some separate time on Sudan because we are witnessing genocide in progress in the Darfur region in Western Sudan, and the world is sitting and watching the systematic extermination of ethnic Sudanese by the Arab majority.

Now returning to our focus on Horn of Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia are in one of the most famine and conflict prone regions in the world. The question before us is this: do militarized conflicts cause famine or does famine and drought lead to militarized conflict? This question is not trivial and it is not necessarily a chicken and egg problem. There are definite causal chains that produce wars, famines, and large-scale social destabilization. For instance, Somalia has been in near continuous state of conflict since the late 1980s and Ethiopia has experienced famines and drought of Biblical proportions.

I am not even going to pose the question is there hope for these countries, but instead ask how do we break the continual cycle of conflict, destabilization, and famines. Second, what should be the role of international relief and various UN agencies, and what role should the UN member nations play in intervening in these types of complex humanitarian crisis?  Something we will ponder in the remaining few weeks of this semester.

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Genocide and Complex Humanitarian Emergency

The UN brokered peace deal, which would bring in 27,000 UN peacekeepers into the conflict-riven country of Sudan, especially to its western province of Darfur can’t come any sooner. Since the conflict began in the early part of this decade at a minimum 200,000 people have died and at least 2 million have been displaced and according Jan Egeland of the United Nations, a monumental humanitarian problem is growing that is affecting more than 4 million people in the middle of resource-rich North-Central Africa. 

Recently, African Union troops who were maintaining a very fragile peace came under fire and 10 African Union troops were killed by none other than Darfurian rebel forces. In a sustained attack the AU camp was completely overrun and the weapons cache was looted by the rebel forces. The AU troops are there to protect the Darfurian people (or the ethnic Fur group), but with the attacks the AU troops have vacated their base camp. This does not augur well for refugees and other unarmed civilians; they are likely to bear the brunt of the violence and catastrophic human rights violations. With the Darfurian rebel groups, the Sudanese military, the Sudanese government backed Janjaweed militia, and the African Union troops, the situation on the ground is extremely volatile.  Many states may now develop cold feet and fear sending their troops into harms way.

If this tells us anything, it tells us that humanitarian interventions are complex and costly. But, more importantly, it indicates that more than 50 years after independence, Sub-Saharan African states are struggling to construct a viable and functional nation-state that can offer a modicum of basic security that would allow the people to go about their daily business without being killed or maimed. If the UN is to successfully implement its ambitious Millennium Development Goals, it has to definitely start with the very basic, but extraordinarily complex task of building peace from the bottom up. In this case, the presence of UN troops is a short-term solution, in the long-run the African states have to figure out how to divide their wealth, compromise and live peacefully, instead of playing out their ethnic hatreds. However, this is easier said than done.