Conflicts point to a fact that Africa is at war with itself

Wednesday November 20 2019

In Africa, we have chosen to turn ploughshares into swords for tired old men we elevate as kings like Don Henley said in his 1989 song, The End of the Innocence. This is contrary to the Bible in Isaiah 2:3-4 and plethora of other scriptures. Ronald Reagan speaking at the 42nd UN General Assembly emphasised that we should turn our swords into ploughshares because of our shared humanity. However, it seems as Africans, we are not listening. Mary Miche in The Vine and Fig Tree and Michael Jackson in Heal the World reminded us in song too.
In Africa’s youngest nation South Sudan, two politicians - Salva Kiir and Dr Riek Machar - who control the means of violence hold its future. Last week, the duo who lead the warring factions of SPLM and SPLMA-IO respectively, met President Museveni in Entebbe. The purpose of the meeting was to avert a relapse to violence because of the failure to meet the November 12 deadline for the formation of a Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity.
Since 2013, the political dispute between the two has overshadowed any other conflict in the region and crippled the country’s economy. Focus on militia groups that spring up almost on a daily basis in the country like the White Army and the issues in the broader Sudan in the Nuba Mountains region of South Kordofan and Blue Nile State conflicts referred to as Sudan’s third civil war, Abyei which equally claimed colossal sums of lives have been put off from international attention.
Away from South Sudan, the whole of Africa is a hot-bed of conflicts. From teargas canisters on the streets of Kampala to quell demonstrations, to resource-based warlordism in Africa’s sick man, the DR Congo, Somalia, religious-based conflict between Muslims and Christians in Central African Republic that has limited government presence to the capital Bangui, the collapse of a once robust economy in Libya, insurgency in the northern Muslim-majority Cabo Delgado Province of Mozambique, which has claimed more than 300,000 lives, and to the Gulf of Guinea where Boko Haram seeks to create a caliphate in north eastern Nigeria, point to a fact that Africa is at war with itself and spending heavily in munitions than investing on the quality of life of her citizens.
Adam Smith wrote many years ago that war is the work of men who understand nothing about the laws of political economy. Studies on the economic impact of wars in sub-Saharan Africa have revealed low GDP per capita income in countries experiencing war as opposed to countries with relative peace as well as destruction of physical and human capital. Africa accounts for two thirds of global conflict-related deaths.
Other costs include reduced revenue, investment, trade and productivity, increase of public debt to finance the war, the emergence of grand scale corruption by those who seek to profiteer from the continent’s war economy, pressure on public finance and shift of focus from capital to military spending. The wars also have spillover effects to host countries of refugees in terms of social, economic strains.
Thus the continent has been chronically at war to her own detriment and to the benefit of a few international corporations that control global military industry. If Agenda 2063 is to be realised, AU has to find a robust regional security strategy that offers durable solution to her conflicts. It is sad that some conflicts happen in Africa with AU being a bystander.
Today, other regional blocs like EAC, still lag behind Ecowas in having a standby force. This process should be reinforced by fast tracking African human rights courts envisaged in the Malabo Protocol. This may be that magic bullet to address conflict profiteering and reports like the AU High Level Panel by Thabo Mbeki so the same may not gather dust any more.

Mr Okidi is a lawyer and researcher focusing on conflict, security and development Nexus.