1 The New African Initiative
David Coetzee, Editor, SouthScan
2 The New African Initiative and Wars in Africa
Paulos Tesfagiorgis, Director, Justice Africa
3 Mobilizing Civil Society for the New African Initiative
Dr. Jacqueline Nkoyok, Executive Secretary, CONGAC, Cameroon
President, Board of Directors, Partnership Africa Canada
The New African Initiative
The New African Initiative is a comprehensive plan for the development of Africa - and in a short introduction I will not at all be able to look at the detail. Instead I will try to give you a critical perspective on the plan from a South African viewpoint (since that is my base), and then see it in an African perspective, and then in an international perspective. But first I will try to characterise the plan, and then talk about its reception in South Africa.
Though this is a very substantial development plan involving African and international players, I think we need to bring a critical approach to bear - following the advice of UNCTAD which in a report last month called for an end to rhetoric and a turn to realism when approaching African development issues.
The NAI in a South African perspective
The New African Initiative is a comprehensive, economically liberal, modernising scheme which fits with South Africa's own formal regional policy goals. The detail is being worked on by the UN Economic Commission for Africa, merging the Omega plan, from Francophone Africa, with MAP, the Millennium African Recovery Programme, from South Africa. Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal as well as South Africa have been involved in the merger talks. The point man is Prof. Wiseman Nkuhlu, President Thabo Mbeki's economics advisor, and the plan is widely seen as driven by Mbeki. Its key new feature is that it takes African ownership of the process of development. The donor countries have welcomed this, and that it acknowledges African governance problems.
How is it received in South Africa? The NAI initiative must come into the category of 'motherhood and apple pie' - it is seen as a good thing. But broadly in South African society there is little interest in the rest of Africa - and not a little xenophobia about African migrants or refugees. And within the African National Congress there has been some muted criticism about Thabo Mbeki's focus on international and African issues. However, as with the African Renaissance idea of Mbeki
, and the MAP plan, there has been support from the business community.
On the other hand there have been critical voices raised - by academics and think tanks and left labour - about all his programmes, and the NAI can be seen as a regional development of the ideas inherent in South Africa's own macro-economic Gear (Growth, Employment and Redistribution) plan - another liberal economic scheme. Criticism has been mounting because it has yielded no growth, no jobs, and a growing gap between rich and poor. It mirrors structural adjustment plans to the north and its perspectives are built into the NAI plan.
The NAI in an African perspective
The New African Initiative seems to rekindle all the optimism of the immediate post independence period in the '60s, when rapid development and modernisation was foreseen. Yet despite NAI's comprehensiveness and detail there seems to me an air of unreality about it. Is it a bubble suspended over African reality? I have these queries about the modernising perspective in the NAI.
First, on what data does it present its picture of Africa today? Much information comes from the UN or International Monetary Fund or World Bank, but many economists now acknowledge that between a third and two thirds of the economic activity of many African states, not just 'failing' states, remains un-enumerated - located in the 'informal' sector; in large-scale smuggling; in large-scale international crime; in undisclosed, illegal cash crops. Perhaps the most successful international African business today is the Nigerian drugs trade.
Second, the plan presents a strategy for the entire continent and seeks to encompass massive diversity - in economies and in the form of the states. There are viable states and non-states and failing states; there are significant social and economic entities which do not fit the NAI's benign,
modernising picture. Most significantly, South Africa's economy dwarfs the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Does the same development formula fit all? And how does South Africa fit into the NAI scheme?
Third - there is a confident assumption that democratisation, plural governance, is now proceeding from the wave of democratic actions which followed the end of the Cold War. Yet there are many countervailing signs.
Finally - to my view the plan seems to have a somewhat static view of the processes it promotes. Economic restructuring, capital accumulation and growth bring rapid social changes of a dynamic nature which can undermine weak institutions - and can themselves provoke conflict. (I think of the current crisis in Zimbabwe and the influence of a structural adjustment; of the increasing divide between rich and poor
, north and south; town and country in Mozambique.) Additionally, while the NAI presents a picture of an emerging middle class it has little take on an emerging working class, which has already shown itself to be a key force in change.
The NAI in an international perspective
This document has had broad international support. Last week at the Swedish-South African binational commission it was welcomed for its emphasis on governance, linked to development. The EU has given formal support. In the UK Tony Blair has said that Africa will be a priority for his government and has backed it. The G-8 summit next year in Canada will also have it on the agenda.
But the NAI comes in the midst of a severe global downturn. Commodity prices are falling sharply and demand in the industrial world is shrinking. So it may be that some of the international responses will remain as rhetoric.
Beyond that we are in a new world situation with a paradigm shift in US foreign policy, bringing in tow its allies behind the new 'Bush Doctrine'. It is a situation which presents dangers - and also opportunities for leverage.
The four yearly US defence review just published mentioned 'Africa' only once, and then in the context of failed or failing states which might harbour terrorists. In turn African leaders, especially those with Muslim populations, are cautious in their support of the US. Those who have shown they can deliver or co-operate in the US war against terrorism have benefited. (I think of Kenya and Tanzania after the bombings in 1998, and Sudan last month. I wonder whether, in a cynical view, radical Islamic groups might not become the new tender in a battle for aid?)
'Failing states' may now receive new attention from the West. The International Institute of Strategic Studies in London says there may be "broad based international social engineering" to revive them. Those elements in the NAI related to institution building, governance, conflict resolution may receive special attention. This may spill over into broader economic development.
Or - those governments which can demonstrate control, if not legitimacy, may be supported. Issues relating to human rights and democracy may be rejected along the way
, as well as wider development issues. I think of current concerns in the Zimbabwe opposition that the international focus has been removed from the government's repressive actions.
Ideas of a 'new colonisation' are already emerging - nominally to ensure weak states do not harbour terrorists. The idea may spread to subaltern states used to police regions. (This may be a role the US could seek for Ethiopia in Somalia.)
The manichean world of the Cold War may again be foisted on Africa, but this time with no competition on aid and development, which some used to their benefit.
And the 'African ownership' of the plan - based on the confident accession to the African and international scene of a democratic South Africa, with its industrial economy and large middle class - may become irrelevant.
Which of these alternatives the G8 countries go for may be in part up to you.
The New African Initiative and Wars in Africa
Director, Justice Africa
The strategy for achieving sustainable development in the 21st century for Africa, the New African Initiative (NAI) clearly stipulates as:
Peace, security, democracy and political governance, and the
Promotion of peace, democracy, human rights and sound economic management
Further elaborating, the document states that "African leaders have learnt from their own experiences that peace, security, democracy, good governance, human rights and sound economic management are conditions for sustainable development”. We can thus see peace and security as having immense importance for development in Africa. This recognition is obviously brought about by the persistence of wars in Africa. Why do wars persist in Africa?
A decade ago, as the Cold War ended and Apartheid capitulated, there were high hopes that Africa's wars would be rapidly resolved. For decades, external factors had provoked or stoked most of the armed conflicts across the region. It followed that the sudden unipolar geopolitical order brought a dazzling chance to bring these conflicts to an end. Ten years later, the outlook is less sanguine. While the pessimist view that wars will proliferate and the continent will descend into wholesale anarchy has not been borne out, there is no sign of wars becoming significantly less common.
War in Africa is undoubtedly the conduct of politics intermixed with other means. African states are notorious for their lack of autonomy from wider society; they are deeply embedded in networks of social, economic and political interest. The subunits of African countries, in particular regional or ethnic groups, often act autonomously and at the expense of the state, almost as if they were mini-states themselves. The variety and irregularity of much warfare in Africa reflects the varied and complex socio-political terrain upon which armies are mobilised and wars are fought, and the nature of political process and political ambition in many parts of the continent.
Closer analysis makes it difficult to generalise about African wars. They cover the entire spectrum from solidly ‘conventional' (Ethiopia versus Eritrea) to mass mobilisation on ethnic lines (Hutu extremism in Rwanda) to forms of predatory insurrection in which it may be difficult to distinguish soldier from rebel (Sierra Leone), with many variants in between. The one thing that the continent seems to have in common is simply that wars are common.
It is that there have been wars in Africa in the 1990s because there were wars in Africa in the 1980s and 1970s. In earlier decades there were certain reasons for warfare, primarily anti-colonial liberation struggles and Cold War rivalries, along with some anomalies left over from the decolonisation period (Eritrea, Western Sahara
, ‘Greater Somalia' and arguably Southern Sudan). In general, it can be stated that, at root, the wars of the 1990s have erupted or continued because there were wars before or wars in neighbouring countries. Wars beget wars. The legacy of earlier wars includes ‘unfinished business' from incomplete or incompletely implemented peace deals, a recent tradition of the pursuit of political aims by military means, and the presence of military entrepreneurs with arms, followers and backers at their disposal. Also, wars tend to spill over borders, as neighbours become entangled with one another's conflicts. Add to this two other factors: the logic of war itself, which tends to escalate and prolong, and the weakness of many African states, which renders them vulnerable to conflict.
I. Why is there War in Africa?
Since the 1970s the number of wars in Africa has remained roughly constant. During the 1990s there have been more than a dozen new or protracted internal conflicts in Africa. The categorisation is fairly rough-and-ready: analysis of war is not an exact science, so simplifications are in order. This analysis points us to two important elements in African wars. In Africa, wars are generally persistent, and they are readily transmissible from one country to its neighbours. This obliges us to examine the genealogy of war, the logic of war whereby it continues and spreads, and is difficult to resolve, and the vulnerability of African countries to war. Finally, wars in Africa are closely linked to external factors
, from outside the African continent. The influence of foreign powers, notably the US and France, is important.
II. The Genealogy of War
Almost every war in Africa can trace its genealogy to a conflict in the 1960s or ‘70s, or even before (Southern Sudan has been intermittently at war since 1955). The major exception to this is Liberia and its own offspring, Sierra Leone. Every other major conflict in Africa today can only be understood by looking at its history. The wars of these earlier decades had numerous consequences. One is simply the amount of weaponry in Africa and the numbers of men trained in its use.
A second consequence reflected the tendency of African rulers and their adversaries to fall back on ethnic mobilisation in one form or another at some point. As a result, in most war-affected countries, ethnicity has become militarised, and ethnic divisions have become sharpened.
A third consequence is that wars impoverished the countries in which they were fought. Agricultural and pastoral sectors were the worst hit
These genealogical links are very strong. African war cannot be theorised without an appreciation of a range of military methods and the small but extremely influential groups of military men who have been trained in these techniques and further developed them.
III. The Logic of War
Wars tended to become prolonged and to escalate, far beyond the initial anticipations of the belligerents. What is unthinkable at the outset of a war becomes thinkable, do-able and even subjectively necessary as the war develops. Constraints on war fall away as war continues.
Internal war is commonly the struggle for state power. African states usually have a ‘winner takes all' structure in which the head of state has power over the political, social and economic life of the country. Whoever controls the symbols of sovereignty also has access to external resources. Authority over aid budgets, national currencies, commercial contracts, land law, etc, provides disproportionate power.
A second main engine of conflict is struggle for greater autonomy for an ethnic group or region, including claims for self-determination and even secession. Few African states have been successful at managing diversity within a unitary sovereign state.
It is common to note that the rationale for starting a war changes as the war continues. Initial war aims may be modest, but they tend to escalate rapidly. It is also commonplace to notice that as wars continue, the methods employed become more extreme. This is clearly the case for the use of material technology: commanders become more ready to use artillery against cities and landmines against civilians. One of the aspects of the logic of war that tends to prolongation is the element of uncertainty. During a war, accidents or misinterpretations of signals by the other side can lead to an escalation or prolongation or the rejection of a peace offer
It is important to note that political or religious extremism tends to develop during wars rather than previously existing and providing a reason for war. It appears therefore that most wars have started over issues other than ideology: the ideological elements have been introduced later. Once these elements have been introduced, it becomes much harder for wars to be resolved.
Economics is another factor. The relationship between resources and warfare is complex and has its own dynamics. One of the aims of wars is to control resources. Some wars started in part as business ventures, and in many cases military entrepreneurs have made partnerships with their commercial counterparts to help in financing their war efforts, as well as enabling them to grow wealthy themselves
Border conflicts in Africa have a dangerous potential for escalation. There is a temptation for one or either side to engage in the internal destabilisation of the other, which is rendered easier because of cross-border ethnic commonalities, the likelihood that there is already some violent dissent in the other country, and the weakness of most African states.
IV. Why do Wars Spread?
Let us try to examine how wars spread from one country to its neighbours. Wars are contagious. They do not respect borders. Several reasons are apparent.
First, porous borders make it relatively easy to smuggle arms and people from one country to another
Second, in extreme cases, insurgent forces will take refuge in neighbouring countries. Refugee camps are ideal places for military mobilisation
Third, states may be unable to control armed factions on their territories. In some cases
, a state's capacity to police faraway regions is inadequate and an insurgent force from a neighbouring state may set up camp there with total impunity.
A fourth variant is that military entrepreneurs may see advantages in taking the war to a neighbouring state. This may be to control resources, set up a safe haven, put a friendly government in power, or simply to destabilise a potentially hostile power.
Finally, the logic of retaliation and escalation works across borders. If one state is hosting or sponsoring an insurgent in the territory of another, the latter is likely to respond in kind. The deadly logic of escalation sets in.
V. Why do Wars Recur?
If a country has been at war before it is likely to succumb to war again. The most important reason is that no peace settlement will satisfy all. There is always ‘unfinished business' after a settlement. Some dissatisfied elements on one side or the other will believe that a better deal could have been achieved with a slightly longer struggle or a different strategy, or they will believe that the deal has been ‘sold out' by ambitious or corrupt leaders. Such dissatisfied elements are potentially dangerous military entrepreneurs.
The dangers are exacerbated by several factors. First, there is likely to be war in a next door country, and hence a potential sponsor for any armed dissident, or at least a safe refuge. Second, the regional-political fragmentation that accompanies internal war brings certain advantages to regional or ethnic blocs and their leaders. Third, guns are usually readily available in any post-conflict society, and where they are not, people still have the networks by which they can acquire them. Lastly, the most common reason for a recurrence of war is failed disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants. The reasons for these failures may include politically inept handling of absorption or discharge, lack of economic opportunities, non-payment of salaries or other frustrations, removal of commanders from political office, or a violent government crackdown in response to a protest by frustrated demobbees. It only takes one mutiny, badly handed
, for a war to recur. A post-war society is therefore ideal terrain for an ambitious military entrepreneur.
Post War Transitions
The management of post-conflict transitions is one of the most complex challenges for contemporary Africa. It is complicated by the fact that most post-conflict countries are expected to undertake several transitions at the same time, including some or all of the following:
from war to peace,
from authoritarianism to democracy,
from subjugation to self-determination,
from command economies to free markets, and
from relief to development.
Some transitions have been successful, but most have been fraught with problems, and some have collapsed back into war and even genocide. The multiple stresses would have required a combination of extremely skilful national political leadership combined with a sympathetic but forceful international support to avoid the transition collapsing. The stresses can prove to be too much for the country's political system. The basic lesson from these experiences is the necessity careful linking and sequencing of elements of transitions.
Liberation army to political party and/or constitutional government
Many countries in Africa are ruled by former liberation movements. A liberation army is commonly run like a one-party state. The armed forces and political movement are under centralised control, which rules through a de facto state of emergency in the area it controls. I.e. army, party and government functions are not separate. At the level of the highest leadership, the roles are fused together. Individuals within the struggle may move between military, political and civil or administrative posts.
The outcome of a transition to peace should be the separation of these roles and institutions. But a former rebel movement that has enjoyed an effective unified political-military command will see many reasons against dismantling this.
Introduction of pluralism
If it is a victorious transition, those newly in power will be under little pressure to separate institutions and disperse powers. Those holding power usually try to accumulate more power, not give it away.
A liberation front may lack the personnel, skills and organisation to function effectively as a civilian political party. It may fear that its most talented political cadres will defect to form their independent parties, or that rival civilian parties that have not made the sacrifices of armed struggle will snatch their constituencies away.
Democracy is usually taken to mean a pluralistic and multiparty system. A transition to pluralism will be facilitated by:
Peace. In fact, no democracy can survive if a war is continuing.
A tradition of civilian government, civil society, free expression, etc.
Prosperity: an expanding public and private sector, and real economic options to be put to a popular vote.
Other elements include freedom of expression, an independent judiciary, and the existence of trade unions, professional associations, etc. But political parties are the making or unmaking of democracy. One of the main challenges in a transition to democracy in Africa, especially in the aftermath of conflict, will be creating the right conditions for truly civilian and democratic political parties.
The over-centralisation of political and economic power is a contributory cause to many conflicts. Aspiring leaders, whether the heads of political parties or military forces, all have their eye on the number one position, because of the near-absolute power of patronage and dispensing resources that goes with it. There is nothing to be gained from being number two in a coalition, let alone in opposition. This makes compromise over the top job inherently difficult: solutions are to be found by power alone.
The structure of economic assistance during a post-conflict transition can either exacerbate or ameliorate this phenomenon. If aid is channelled through a central government
, then the political contenders will have more to gain or lose from the outcome of their struggle, and the conflict may be sharpened or prolonged. But if there are mechanisms for the regional distribution of aid resources, and the devolution of decision making power over aid for reconstruction, then political competition at the centre can be lessened.
What is to be done?
Understanding the background, causes, implications, dynamism, of wars and conflicts is very important towards conflict prevention and resolution, promotion of peace and security and for the support of development activities.
Africans are declaring, reaffirming, their commitment to the ideals enshrined in the NAI. They admit that "African leaders have learnt from their own experiences…[and]… are making a pledge to work, both individually and collectively, to promote these in their countries, regions and the continent. These principles are peace, democracy, human rights and sound economic management”.
What Role for Canada?
There is a challenge put before Canadian society by African leaders and their people and there is an opportunity to engage them and their institutions in promoting peace, democracy, human rights, prosperity and sound economic management. This needs commitment and informed involvement on the part of Canada.
The Canadian government has undertaken to put Africa on the Agenda for the next G-8 meeting next year. Africans have put their trust in Canada to do what it has promised to do. All Canadians should encourage, support and put a pressure, if necessary, on their government so that Canada can play a facilitating and positive role in promoting understanding and support for the NAI.
In the New African Initiative, civil society figures prominently in the criteria for good governance. But so far there has been relatively little civil society involvement in the process of drawing up the New African Initiative or designing the peer review process envisaged in the document. This is an opportunity for the sponsors of the conference to closely work with and help African civil society to play an important role in the further development and implementation of the NAI.
It is my hope that you will face the challenge with commitment, courage and long-term perspective.
Mobilizing Civil Society for the New African Initiative
Dr. Jacqueline Nkoyok
Executive Secretary, CONGAC, Cameroon
President, Board of Directors, Partnership Africa Canada
Civil society's role and importance today are acknowledged worldwide. Most African leaders have made this new reality part of their agenda; witness the African Charter for Popular Participation, adopted in Arusha in 1990. In addition, the treaty establishing the African Economic Community stipulates in article 90 that the Economic Community
, in the context of mobilizing the human and material resources of Africa, shall establish relations of cooperation with African non-governmental organizations, with a view to encouraging the involvement of the African peoples in the process of economic integration and mobilizing their technical, material and financial support. In response to this call for action, several African countries set up legal structures for interventions by NGOs and civil society in general. Others, for a variety of reasons, have not done so yet.
With regard to international matters, events are pressing. Africa is in the throes of a serious economic crisis, with most programmes developed on a non-sustainable, emergency basis (humanitarian aid, HIV/AIDS, post-conflict programmes, etc.). In addition, the deterioration of socio-economic conditions is forcing governments to abandon key social sectors (education, health, employment, etc.). Economies collapse, conflicts multiply, crime increases, population shifts grow more massive, emigration to rich countries is increasingly sought after
, poverty and marginalization take hold.
The United Nations estimates that some 300 million people are hungry in Africa today and that the number could double in the next 10 years if nothing is done. What is worse, the African Development Bank's report on development in Africa reveals that, in the long term, growth needs to increase by at least 4% annually to ensure food security for Africa's one billion inhabitants by 2020. To achieve this, Africa will need assistance at an increased, exceptional level for at least 15 years if it is to effect the reforms needed for development. Yet on a bitter note, development aid appears to be on the downswing, with even foreign investment being absorbed mainly by countries with mining and mineral resources. These privileged countries become areas of tension, as Partnership Africa Canada's research on the diamond trade demonstrates (Angola, Congo, Sierra Leone, and elsewhere).
Concerning debt, although Africa already paid back twice the amount of its external debt between 1980 and 1996, Sub-Saharan Africa is three times more indebted than it was 18 years ago. In 1996, debt totalled some $323 billion (Kofi Annan speech to TICAD II), while in 1980 it amounted to $84.3 billion. In the meantime, Africa is spending at least four times the amount it spends on health and education to service its debt. Countries are borrowing to make debt payments, and even aid from northern countries is being used to reimburse international financial institutions, including resources earmarked for improving living conditions.
Faced with this bleak outlook for the continent, the New African Initiative is a cry to save Africa. It shows how much we are counting on the government of Canada and other G8 members to put this issue on the agenda for their next meeting in June 2002. We acknowledge, of course, the importance of support from the North
, but overall, the impact of development aid on Africa over the past four decades has been negative for the reasons just outlined.
In advancing the New African Initiative, we want to reverse this trend. The will to do so is evident on the part of African governments and civil society organizations, which are providing support on several levels. Northern partners also share the commitment, which is why we are here in Ottawa to join forces in finding more sustainable solutions to developing and rebuilding our nations. To do so, we must assuredly create a common vision of African development, share it with Africa's partners, and agree on the mechanisms and steps to take.
For some, expanding free trade seems to be the best approach; this involves structural adjustment plans, which in striving for macro-economic balance have led to reduced public expenditures in most African countries and an obligation to open markets. For the time being, however, this approach has resulted mainly in economic failure, with gains by multinationals and the expatriate banking sector leading to weak or non-existent internal development planning.
We are experiencing a consequent erosion of state sovereignty, a weakening of state capacity to carry out essential functions, forcing governments to abandon the social sector and resulting in unemployment, famine, conflict, insecurity
, corruption, and massive population shifts.
African civil society recommends an alternative to this approach. Given that the causes of rising poverty stem as much from internal as from international factors, the idea is to build strong alliances between civil society in Africa and in the North to make the case for attacking the structural causes of poverty in Africa. Through Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), the NGO-EU Liaison Committee, the Asian NGO Coalition, and the working groups established by African civil society in collaboration with African institutions (ECA, ADB, OAU, etc.), civil society is finding avenues for its contribution to reconstruction efforts in Africa.
Through these alliances and task forces, we have, for example:
We have laid the foundation for a means of monitoring participation that includes most African civil society experts who are committed to rebuilding the continent. This work has been fruitful on several counts:
In addition, organizations in the field are already demonstrating the capacity to deliver basic services quickly to those most in need.
All these measures will serve as a foundation to the New African Initiative.