Underlying conflicts continue to unsettle Madagascar – An interview with Adrien M. Ratsimbaharison

After Madagascar was diplomatically isolated following a 2009 coup d’état, normalcy seemed to have been restored to the island with the installation in 2014 of the government of Hery Rajaonarimampianina, which was elected in 2013 with 54% of the vote. However, the underlying causes for political instability remain, including long-held rivalries between major political leaders. IOA discussed these issues with Adrien M. Ratsimbaharison, Professor of Political Science at Benedict College in the US, author of the ‘The Failure of the United Nations Development Programs for Africa’ and long-time commentator on his native Madgascar.

Destruction in Antananarivo following Madagascar’s 2009 coup. Photo courtesy fanalana_azy/Flickr
Destruction in Antananarivo following Madagascar’s 2009 coup. Photo courtesy fanalana_azy/Flickr

Professor Ratsimbaharison, has political stability returned to the island?

The short answer to this question is that political stability has not returned to the island, despite the signing of the Roadmap for Ending the Crisis document in September 2011, the holding of the presidential and legislative elections in 2013, and the inauguration of the new president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, in January 2014.

The long answer is that the Roadmap for Ending the Crisis signed by the major political parties in September 2011, which allowed the holding of the presidential and legislative elections in 2013, did not resolve the conflicts between the major political actors, particularly between former President Marc Ravalomanana and former Mayor Andry Rajoelina. In this sense, I totally agree with the assessment of the International Crisis Group (ICG) that the Roadmap and the ensuing elections were just a “cosmetic end to the crisis,” given the fact that the conflicts between these major political actors were deliberately swept under the rug through this agreement. What the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the international community tried to achieve through the Roadmap was just the establishment of a so-called “consensual transition,” and the holding of the presidential and legislative elections. That was what was celebrated as being the “return to a constitutional order” after the so-called ‘coup d’état’ in 2009. As a result, the conflicts and their underlying causes remain untouched. In fact, the same underlying causes are now starting to create new instability and most likely, a new crisis sooner or later. Read more

Environmental destruction and poor resource governance are provoking a second conflict in Nigeria – an interview with Udeme Akpan

Nigeria has been battling Islamic militants in its North-East since 2009, yet the government now also faces the prospect of a second internal conflict – for very different reasons. Militant groups in the Niger Delta have sabotaged pipelines and launched attacks on vital oil infrastructure in protest after a reigniting of long-standing grievances held by local communities. In an interview extracted from the July 2016 edition of IOA’s Africa Conflict Monitor (ACM), Udeme Akpan, a Nigeria-based IOA consultant and journalist and author with over 20 years of experience examining the dynamics of Nigeria’s energy sector, says that environmental devastation in the Niger Delta is “real and forms the basis of the conflict.”

Oil-sodden marshland in the Niger Delta. Photo courtesy Sosialistisk Ungdom (SU)/Flickr
Oil-sodden marshland in the Niger Delta. Photo courtesy Sosialistisk Ungdom (SU)/Flickr

Since early 2016, violence has flared up in the Niger Delta, the heartland of Nigeria’s oil production. The attacks have been conducted by a range of militia groups, foremost among them the Nigerian Delta Avengers. The group has declared that its goal is to bring Nigeria’s oil industry to a complete halt. Can you tell us more about these militant groups, and the reasons behind their attacks?

The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) is made up of militants who were formerly a part of insurgent movements in the early 2000s. These militants had in the past demonstrated their commitment to aggressively protecting the interests of the region, lashing out against foreign-owned oil facilities and government paramilitary groups. But the thinking in some quarters is that members of the NDA also have a personal interest in renewing conflict, as they, in one way or another, benefited from concessions made by the previous administration led by then President Goodluck Jonathan. Read more

Tool of warfare and African social crisis: the epidemic of gender-based violence — an interview with Catherine Akurut

So widespread is gender-based violence in African societies and so deleterious the effects on the many victims that the crime can be considered a public health issue. Catherine Akurut, an IOA consultant and conflict resolution practitioner based in Uganda, calls gender-based violence in Africa an “epidemic.”

A young girl at a camp for displaced persons in Rwanda’s Western Province.
A young girl at a camp for displaced persons in Rwanda’s Western Province. Photo courtesy Julien Harneis/Flickr

Gender-based violence is not restricted to conflict zones; and indeed some militaries use gender-based violence as a weapon of sorts, sanctioning and perhaps ordering soldiers to commit rape and other abuses to pacify or punish civilian populations. Could you elaborate further on the nature of gender-based violence in Africa’s conflict zones?

Gender-based violence in conflict areas takes on many forms including rape, trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced impregnation and is solely intended to torture and to cause physical, emotional and psychological harm. It is true that gender-based violence is not restricted to conflict zones. But, more often than not, conflicts provide the perfect conditions for such atrocities to occur. The nature of gender-based violence in Africa’s conflict zones is one that is characterised by women and girls comprising the majority of the victims. However, in recent years, it has come to light that boys and men too, can be the victims of gender-based violence. This has been exposed in the Central African Republic (CAR) where UN peacekeepers have been the victimisers. A means by which to address these atrocities continues to elude all stakeholders.

What are international organisations able to do to discourage gender-based violence in conflict zones and to prosecute perpetrators?

Prosecuting perpetrators of gender-based violence has proven to be problematic. Due to limited resources, cases related to gender-based violence take a long time to make their way to and through national and international court systems. International organisations cannot work alone to discourage gender-based violence. Read more

South Africa’s challenge: Achieving social cohesion and economic equality — an interview with Dr Israel Kodiaga

A legacy of racial segregation combined with poor governance has the Rainbow Nation headed for extremism

South Africa’s reputation for diversity and its high level of development compared to the rest of Africa obscure a nation falling into turmoil. Two decades removed from apartheid, a faltering economy and a leadership more concerned with self-enrichment than prudent policies has the country’s society divided once again. IOA discusses these issues with the head of IOA East Africa, Prof. Israel Kodiaga, who also serves as the director of Programmes, Research and Strategic Development at the African Centre for International Studies and is a key consultant for South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO).

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma
Corruption has flourished under South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma. Photo courtesy GovernmentZA/Flickr

Although South Africa clearly remains the most developed nation in Sub-Saharan Africa, the country’s economy is stagnating. What effect do economic issues have on social tension within a conflicted society?

There can be absolutely no gainsaying that with a robust economy and massive opportunities like the Republic of South Africa (RSA/SA) is blessed with, many of her problems are self-inflicted. You have a huge number of young people that are jobless, both by design and by misfortune or fate. Those who are jobless by design survive by exploiting welfare payments from the government – some 16 million South Africans now receive welfare benefits – to enable them to eschew work and become lazy. As long as you know you will get some money at the end of the day you can afford to sit in front of your house and idle around and get drawn into a life of criminality, often fueled by high levels of substance abuse.  Read more