The New York Times’ Jeffrey Gettleman has a thought-provoking piece in Foreign Policy. I don’t particularly buy his doomsday analysis (most of the Continent will definitely not head the Somalia way) but his characterization of the modern day African rebel movement is spot on. The typical rebel leader on the Continent is nothing but a roving bandit with huge amounts of ideology deficit.
I think Jeffrey is right to some extent; am not inclined to oppose his opinion out of blind African patriotism, having been around some of these conflict areas personally.
But he raises two points I have an issue with. One, about warlords carving out territories in resource-rich regions. The fact is, these diamonds, gold, coltan etc are sold to Europe’s big corporates. And this is not just in Africa. The largest culprits are the jewelry shops in Brussels, Vienna and Monaco. They are the ones providing ready markets for these resources and thus fueling the conflicts. Nobody ever adheres to the Kimberly Process rules.
The other thing i have a problem with is the way he liberally cites evidence gathered by some western NGOs about the situation onthe ground. A most glaring one is the figure of 5million fatalities in the Congo conflict. The recently released Human Security Report shows how the International Rescue Committee may have over blown the figures. See The Shrinking Costs of War (http://www.humansecurityreport.info/).
Finally, he talks of his visit to South Sudan late last year and how he saw what he calls militias. I was there too, and lived there for over 16months. These are not militias. These are tribal groups out to protect their animals from rustlers. It gets worse because almost everyone carries an AK47. The casualties are higher than you would see in Kenya where bows and arrows are the weapons of choice. Needless to say, the GOSS has been going about the disarmament process in a very biased way leaving the smaller tribes (like Mundari and Anyuak in Jonglei State) feeling unfairly targeted and left vulnerable to the bigger tribes like Nuer who are yet to be disarmed.
But he is right; today’s African rebel leader is a murderous nincompoop just out to get power for personal gain, nothing to do with ‘his’ people.