Thursday, April 15, 2010

War and Peace-keeping

Si vispacem, para bellum is a well-worn Latin adage that translates as, "If you wish for peace, prepare for war." However to prepare for war, one must have an idea of the likely threats as well as which to prioritise. According to the Kenyan Ministry of Defence, the two-fold mission of the country’s armed forces, as defined by the Constitution, is “to deter aggression and should deterrence fail, defend the Republic; provide support to civil power in the maintenance of order.” But what does it mean to defend the Republic?

Kenya’s National Security Intelligence Services Act defines “a threat to national security” as espionage, sabotage, terrorism or subversion directed against the country’s interests; the destruction or overthrow of the constitutionally established system of the Government; violence promotinga constitutional, political, industrial, social or economic objective or change in Kenya; and “foreign-influenced activity” that is detrimental to the interests of Kenya.

Thus the military’s mandate does not preclude its intervening in internal matters to preserve and defend the state. In fact, the prospect of military intervention is domestic matters is not new in the region. Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda have been host to numerous coups d’etat by the military establishment, in most cases to the detriment of society as the military administrations proved to be much worse than the civilian regimes they deposed. In fact, two of the region’s leaders, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, came to power via military force and thereafter sought to legitimize their rule through elections.

More recently, addressing an East African security meeting in October 2009, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni called for the creation of an East-African defence force to counter threats both from within and outside the region. And during Kenya’s post-election conflagration in 2008, Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, drew the wrath of the Kibaki administration when he urged the Kenyan army into action saying that he did not oppose military intervention when “institutions have lost control”. Ironically, according to the Financial Times, President Kibaki had himself considered imposing a state of emergency but the army resisted, fearing a split in their own ranks.Instead the army preferred a low-key role, distributing food and opening up blocked roads, though on at least one occasion it did step in to separate fighting mobs. According to a paper by the Kenya Human Rights Commission Executive Director, Muthoni Wanyeki, Agenda Item One of the mediation processes contemplated the possibility of preventive military deploymentto immediately end the violence.

However, in its interventions, whether internally or facing an external foe the military falls under the same limitations as described by Jakkie Cilliers of the Institute for Defence Politics in the case of the South African Defence Force. “It is part of the executive arm of the Government. It therefore does not have autonomy of action, or unlimited scope in defining its own role in society at large, except in so far as such actions or roles support, and are within the guidelines of national policy and objectives.”

A paper by Carolyne Pumphrey for the US Department of Defence states that while the traditional view of national security is that it is concerned with the preservation of state sovereignty (most especially its monopoly of force) and the protection of national interests, these interests are not confined to countries’ borders. If one compares Kenya’s territory to its ecological footprint- the amount of resources the country needs to maintain itself- the latter is far larger than the former.Therefore a threat to the country’s ability to secure supplies from without its territory, such as that posed by Somali pirates to shipping destined for Mombasa is a threat to its national security.

While the military can be seen as an instrument available to a sovereign government to provide security for its citizens and defend the nation’s vital interests, in the 21st century it may be necessary to modify this traditional approach, for more and more in today’s world protecting a way of life has moved well beyond the use of military power. According to Col. Dan Smith and Rachel Stohl of the Center for Defense Information, “interlocking if not competing political, economic, social, and environmental interests are tying together as never before the fate of sovereign states. In turn the freedoms of citizens in an ever growing number of nations are becoming intertwined in such a way that individual security is becoming increasingly linked to the achievement of security at the international level through the reciprocal implementation of policies driven by national priorities.” To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, insecurity anywhere is a threat to security everywhere.

Therefore, a new paradigm of security has emerged which stands the Westphalian system, and its designation of the nation-state as the focal point of security, on its head. Referred to as “human security,” it decrees that the individual (or the collection of individuals known as the nation) is supreme, and not the institutions of governance. In this conception, the military’s purpose is not the protection of the state but rather the citizen. Within this paradigm, it is easy to understand the Kenya military’s queasiness about the proposed declaration of emergency during the post-election conflict. As one person, at the time described by the Financial Times, as being close to the senior command, put it, “The question the army has been asking is, is this a legally elected government? If not, and they deploy, are they supporting a ‘civilian coup?’”

However, this should not be taken to mean that the army always behaves itself when it comes to civilians. It has been accused of systematic murder, torture and scores of other human rights abuses in its interventions to quell insurgencies in Sabaot and in the country’s restive North Eastern Province. Similarly, Uganda’s military was accused of terrorized the very civilians it was supposedly rescuing from the clutches of the psychopathic LRA.

Such tactics, which breed resentment and anger, do little to further the military objective of pacification, as the US and its allies are discovering in Iraq and Afghanistan. More and more, the talk there has moved from the macho “winning,” with its visions of tidy victories and foes who know when they are beaten, to the softer “winning hearts and minds,” which recognizes that insurgencies are not defeated by capturing cities and bridges, but by embracing the people. It is a lesson the AU is yet to learn in Somalia, where it strives to secure a feckless government instead of the suffering populace. In Iraq, the troop surge, an emphasis on capturing and holding cities instead of withdrawing to the relative safety of green zones, as well as engaging with locals bore fruit. The AU should consider doing the same in Somalia.

This does not mean that insurgencies should not be fought militarily. According to Jane’s Information Group, the terror strikes on US and Israeli targets in Kenya in 1998 and 2002 highlight the fact that the country is at risk of attack by international terrorists. The country's geographical location bordering the conflict zones of Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan has also made it vulnerable to infiltration by neighbouring rebel groups for use as a rear base or transit country. Similarly, Rwanda is threatened by former genocidaires who are also causing chaos on the other side of the border in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The LRA continues to make Northern Uganda and parts of the DRC ungovernable. All these threats need to be met squarely and the countries should not shy away from military confrontation if such is called for.

But, whether it is confronting Al Shebbab on Kenya’s borders or the Interhamwe on Rwanda’s, the focus of policymakers should be to extend the fruits of peace to the populations that breed and host these elements. This might mean working with the more reasonable elements of these groups, or, in the extreme, direct military intervention. It would also require that the military starts to provide security and services to the beleaguered peoples on their side of the borders to prevent them falling under the spell of armed groups.

General Sir David Ramsbotham of the British Army notes that every military operation is, in itself, a man-made disaster because “the use of force is bound to result in damage, not just to life and limb but also to national infrastructures. Having inflicted or received that damage, the military are trained, equipped and accustomed to repairing it. Furthermore, they are accustomed to functioning under the Law of Armed Conflict, so conforming with the dictate of international law is not strange to them either.” Our troops, with the experience of policing war zones on other continents, should prove no less adept at doing it at home.

No comments: