There’s nothing like a political crisis to get me blogging again. Following last week’s mass protests in Burkina Faso that resulted in the resignation and exile of Blaise Compaoré, who had ruled the country since 1987, I thought it would be cool to juxtapose the median ages African countries with the tenure in power of Compaoré and the seven other African leaders who have been in power longer than he was. The result is the graphic below:
For many of the youth in these countries, the sitting (or recently deposed) president is the only head of government they have ever lived under.
(Photos courtesy of Wikipedia & Africa graphic courtesy of Global Post)
Zimbabwe is one of the countries I don’t follow too closely, but it was hard to miss President Robert Mugabe’s 90th birthday celebration over the weekend. (His actual birthday was on Friday the 21st). I paid my respects by watching Nando’s “Last Dictator Standing” ad, which features a sad Mugabe reminiscing over the presumably fictionalized good times he had with now-deceased dictators. In the ad, Mugabe has a running golden water gun fight with Muammar al-Qadhafi, makes sand angels with Saddam Hussein, swings on a swingset with P.W. Botha, and relives the iconic “I’m Flying” scene from the movie Titanic on a tank with Idi Amin. You can watch the full ad here:
On a more serious note, as the ruling ZANU-PF prepares to elect new party leadership during its December 2014 congress, eyes are not only on Mugabe’s longevity, but also on his succession. Leading candidates to replace Mugabe are his current Vice President, Joyce Mujuru, and the Minister of Justice, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Simukai Tinhu has written a really helpful analysis of the succession dynamics at play: “Understanding the ZANU-PF succession: Mugabe’s choice likely to be decisive”.
On August 7th and 8th, International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) heads of state met to discuss the deployment of an international force to fight the M23 rebel movement that has been active in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu region since April of this year. While they did not end up reaching a consensus on an intervention force, I still thought I’d attempt to think through the kind of questions that would need to be answered to establish such a force.
- What would the mission be? Like the current discussions the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is having about a regional intervention force for Mali, it will be essential for regional stakeholders to articulate what their objectives are and what their concept of operations might be in order to attain said objectives. Will they be focusing on fighting M23, or will they also be addressing instability caused by the Raia Mutomboki? Would this force attempt to address the underlying causes of the ongoing conflict in North Kivu, which could be a long-term commitment that would surpass a purely military intervention? Would this force focus on protecting civilians while allowing the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC in French) to deal with rebel groups? Starting to answer these types of mission-oriented questions would be a prerequisite for obtaining African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) mandates, which could facilitate international support – which gets to my next question.
- Who would pay for this deployment?Troop-contributing countries (I’ll get to who they might be in a minute) would need to determine whether they can afford to pay the salaries of the units they would deploy, the use of (or acquisition of) contingent-owned equipment during the deployment, the transport of military assets to the eastern Congo, and the maintenance of these assets in the field. (I’m sure I forgot something, but you get the picture.) If troop-contributing countries cannot foot the bill, then the AU, UN, European Union (EU), United States would need to be willing and capable of providing financial assistance – either on a bilateral basis or on a multilateral basis – which gets to my next question.
- What framework would be used for an intervention force? The UN already has just under 20,000 military and police personnel as part of the UN Organization and Stabilization Mission in the DRC(MONUSCO), but it is possible that the UN (and the AU for that matter) are overtasked, both globally and in the DRC itself. Therefore, we might be looking at a sub-regional organization taking the lead akin to what ECOWAS is attempting to do in Mali. Unlike the situation in Mali, however, the DRC is not a member of a sub-regional organization that has a functional security component with a precedent for regional military intervention. The DRC is a member of both the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC in French) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and these sub-regional organizations are supposed to have regional brigades that would fall under the African Standby Force (ASF). However, I don’t know whether the SADC Standby Force Brigade (SADCBRIG) or its CEEAC equivalent, the Central African Multinational Force (FOMAC in French), would be willing and capable of leading an intervention force. Therefore, if there is no sub-regional organization that has an established military component is able to take the lead, then how would this intervention force be comprised?
- Who would the players be? Since we don’t know whether a sub-regional organization or a multilateral coalition of countries would intervene in the DRC, it’s difficult to ascertain which countries could be part of this notional force. But since the ICGLR is talking about such a force, we’ll start with their members: Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo, the DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan (not sure if South Sudan is a member), Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. If I were compiling an intervention dream team from these members, I would want Angola, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda on my team. Why these and not the others? Off the top of my head, these countries have reasonably professional militaries with proven warfighting capabilities, are active in AU and UN peacekeeping operations (with the exception of Angola), and have countries stable enough that deploying soldiers abroad would probably not inhibit their armed forces from addressing other national security threats. That said, many of these countries have baggage in the DRC as a result of their involvement in the 1998-2003 civil war (Angola, Rwanda, and Uganda), or more recently, alleged support for M23 (ahem…Rwanda). Also, would these countries even be interested in intervening? I would say Rwanda would because of the threat it perceives from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Angola’s participation would depend on the extent to which its security is affected by events on the opposite side of the Congo, as well as the extent to which the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA in Portuguese) feels more comfortable keeping the military at home in case there is instability surrounding this month’s elections or to contain additional protests by civil war veterans. And while I don’t think Kenya has baggage in the DRC, I doubt that instability in North Kivu is compelling enough to deploy the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) there when their focus is really on Somalia. Thus, the militaries that might be the most capable of fighting M23 in North Kivu may either fail to be perceived as a neutral force or their countries lack a compelling reason to get involved. As a result, an intervention force might have to look further afield to get troop contributors or make do with less capable forces.
So I guess the bottom line is that I don’t think an intervention force will come to fruition for the eastern Congo due to some of the issues I’ve raised above.
Over the weekend, Zimbabwe’s Standard Sunday newspaper published an interview with President Robert Mugabe’s former Home Affairs and Defence Minister Enos Nkala. Nkala, who had since fallen out with Mugabe, spoke with the Zimbabwean leader last week and stated “From what we discussed, Mugabe said he is tired and wants to retire but he cannot do so now because Zanu-PF will die… He (Mugabe) was yet to find a successor within Zanu-PF, who could lead the party and keep the country united.” According to Nkala, Mugabe claimed that “factionalism was eating away at the party and, if not handled properly, could explode into a civil war.” He also said that “It’s easy for people to say Mugabe must go…but most of them do not know that he is the glue that has been holding this country together.”
Regardless of whether or not Mugabe’s statements and Nkala’s assessments are true, this story raises a concern that I’ve heard reflected in conversations about other long-serving African leaders:
Are some African leaders who have been in power for several years the “glue” that holds their countries together? If so, what are the likely outcomes if/when they depart the political scene without a succession plan?
If you’re reading this, I’d really be interested in hearing what you think about which other African leaders might be in a similar situation and what might happen to their countries when they depart.