Could African mining operations mimic the effects of conflict?

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 2.00.58 PMIn recently relocating to central Africa, I have shifted my focus away from the impact of large-scale natural resource extraction, e.g. gas and oil, to small scale mining. This is no small industry, as it is estimated to employ 40 million people worldwide. It is well-known that artisanal and small-scale mining operations (ASMs) undergird long-standing conflicts. These mines both drive and sustain violence, giving insurgents a reason to seize power and geographic strongholds while also generating income to pay soldiers and buy weapons. The most well-known of these conflicts is that in nearby DRC.

Less studied is the lower-impact ASMs that operate in non-conflict zones. As an example, Tanzania hosts seven notable gold mines (which produce about 2% of the world output), but countless other smaller mines that produce copper, silver, diamonds, tanzanite, etc. In contrast to non-lootable resources that often require local government cooperation, Tanzanian mines are privately owned by foreign companies, which allows them to function outside the confines of the state. The Tanzanian government owns only a minor interest in a handful of private enterprises, e.g. Kiwira, Williamson Diamonds. Mining and quarrying constitute just 3% of the Tanzanian GDP, and this would be larger if the government were able to become a more significant actor in such ASMs.

Tanzania is interesting in that its natural resource history of control is inverted. Typically, extraction begins in a Wild West manner in developing countries, with governments seeking greater control as they recognize the financial boon, e.g. Nigeria’s oil. However, the Tanzanian government exercised strict control over the industry when mining first began to a notable degree in the 1970s. Through the 1980s, claims were opened up to individual investors. Then, the mining industry became even less centralized when more international corporations arrived and more minerals were exported internationally in the 1990s. These taxable international exports are key to the Tanzanian state being able to use that revenue for social service investment and possibly avoid some pitfalls of the resource curse.

My current interest in unregulated ASMs in non-conflict zones is centered on the non-measured effects these mines have on nearby communities. I would offer the (still not fully researched) hypothesis that ASMs could mimic the effects of civil conflict.  Both mines and localized conflict/violence:

  • create patterns of displacement that separate people from their typical forms of livelihood, family support systems, and bottom-up governance
  • stymie other economic sectors outside of mining, e.g. farming, and drive residents to new and often illegal forms of income generation
  • militarize areas with shored up security forces and a higher number of weapon to protect mines and fighting strongholds
  • cause environmental degradations as people seek out resources and land in a non-sustainable manner

If we consider the gender dynamics of this comparison, there are other similarities. Both mines and civil conflict:

  • create patterns of displacement that separate men from kinship networks of accountability for their behavior towards women and women from kinship networks that protect them from gender-based violence (GBV)
  • stymie other economic sectors outside of mining, e.g. farming, upon which women disproportionately rely (women do the majority of agricultural output in sub-Saharan Africa); ASMs could also drive women into dangerous sex-work
  • militarize areas, and we know that having lots of armed men in hypermasculine environments increases rates of GBV
  • cause environmental degradations that disproportionately affects women–who are the primary food and clean water providers to children

Both ASMs and civil unrest also contribute to (and can be a result of) autocracy and corruption that marginalizes women. They could hinder democracy that would be more inclusive of women voting and running for office.

Although it is a few years old, this interesting article found that Congolese women living close to ASMs are indeed to more likely to have suffered sexual violence, particularly if those ASMs host at least one armed actor.

does-artisanal-mining-increase-the-risk-of-sexualviolence

As demand for minerals, largely through the electronics industry, can only multiply the number of ASMs in operation, this line of inquiry is promising for security researchers of all regions.

Upcoming Talk in Lahore, Pakistan

For readers in Pakistan, I am an invited speaker at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) next week. The talk is sponsored by the Saida Waheed Gender Initiative (SWGI) at LUMS. The title of my presentation is, “No Wealth for Women: Natural Resources and Gender Inequality in Africa.” The first half of the talk with cover the basics of the “resource curse” and then the second half will offer details on my work, the intersection between the natural resources and the status of women in the developing world. I will explain the ways the paradox of plenty is particularly harmful to women, e.g. if oil wealth undermines healthy economies, and women are already disproportionately overrepresented in poverty rates, they suffer particular economic marginalization. A video will be uploaded after the presentation.

Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 11.07.47 AM

Rwanda Achieves Universal Healthcare

Rwanda continues to impress beyond measure.

screen shot 2019-01-17 at 1.05.47 pm

The Rwandan healthcare system now covers over 90% of the population, the highest coverage rate in Africa. The informal community-based health insurance (CBHI) scheme, known as Mutuelle de Santé, focuses mainly on maternal and child health. According to the East African, the scheme is one of the most successful on the continent and it is credited for the country’s lower maternal and infant mortality rates of over 70% since 2000.

CBHI was originally voluntary and when contributions became compulsory, many saw it as paving the way to national coverage. Rwanda’s potential model for Africa is pivotal to development, as the WHO estimates that 100 million people are pushed into poverty and 150 million suffer financial catastrophe because of out-of-pocket expenditure on health services every year. Kenya is now using the CBHI model in pilot programs, while Tanzania and Uganda are openly considering it.

Benjamin Chemouni argues that Rwanda’s expansion of health insurance coverage is made possible by the concentration of power in the ruling coalition. He says the CBHI policy and its implementation are forged through both political interests and ideology. Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda are certainly different milieus than Rwanda, so time will tell how the CBHI programs would fare in other countries.

If any country could make this model a success, however, it’s Rwanda. I have written about Africa’s innovation leaps forward and Rwanda is at the fore. Pretty impressive from a country that has done so much rebuilding in just a few decades since massive conflict. We can’t help but root for Rwandans.

 

DR Congo – Election Fraud Exposed — Africa Research Online

screen shot 2019-01-17 at 12.21.48 pm

Whistleblowers in the government leak results confirming claims by the Catholic Church that the announced result was false. A cache of data leaked from the state’s electoral commission points to an overwhelming victory by opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu, reinforcing earlier calls by regional organisations for a recount. The leaked data starkly contradicts the official results announced […]

via DR Congo – Election Fraud Exposed — Africa Research Online

The U.S. has a new strategy towards African engagement

 

The White House announced a revised approach towards relations with Africa. Namely, it aims to counter China and Russia’s economic influence on the continent while moving away from humanitarian assistance and troop support. However, revoking humanitarian assistance seems counterintuitive since aid is exactly the comparative advantage the U.S. has over China and Russia. The U.S. is in no position to counter China’s economic investment on the continent, investments which now undergird major transportation, mining, oil, and construction projects. If countering rivals is the goal, it appears to me to be more important than ever to be a generous Big Brother.

Second, he says that increased accountability for donor funds is needed. I am inclined to agree. Indiscriminate donations to developing countries stymie local economic growth, prop up poor leaders, and create a troubling power dynamic between rich and poor nations. I have previously compared such international aid to oil wealth in the way that it adversely affects development. But, I am not sure it is accurate to depict all U.S. aid to Africa as  “indiscriminate,” as Bolton did in his statement. There are increasing checks and balances on American aid to Africa, as exemplified in Bush’s PEPFAR initiative for HIV/AIDS.

The announcement also warns that the U.S. will revoke support for UN Peacekeepers. This is troubling at a time when Africa is seeing an unprecedented rise in migration-related clashes, such as those stemming from climate change. (As an example, desertification of grazing lands has forced cattle owners into land clashes in Darfur, etc.) Admittedly, UN Peacekeepers have been less than successful in many, many African milieus, e.g. Rwanda, DRC. However, pulling support doesn’t improve those missions and citing their failures seems to be an excuse for simply pulling economic support for humanitarian initiatives out of economic self-interest.

Pulling support for Peacekeepers comes in the wake of Washington’s decision to cut troops across the continent by 10%, including half of those fighting terrorism in West Africa. This troubles those following the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Overall, we can think of this as a privatization of African relations—pulling humanitarian and military aid in favor of increasing business and trade.

On a final note, it would be odd for the White House to announce an “Asia” policy or a “Europe” policy, for there is clearly too much diversity within those regions to take pan-continental approaches. Yet, that is exactly what President Trump intends with Africa. An overgeneralization of the continent is bad for politics, and for the business relationships the President hopes to build as well.

First-Time Podcaster: “Just a Chat about Africa”

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 2.54.15 PM

Consider this podcast a quirky bucket list item completed for me. Another international relations scholar and I recorded a conversation we had about African history and politics, largely about history, and here it is. Discussion spans most of the continent south of the Sahara. It runs for an hour but we actually ran out of time before we could talk about gender and some other social issues, so perhaps another episode will be in the works. Fair warning that I have no podcasting or editing experience, so it really is just two friends chatting. I am a first-time user of this platform, so please let me know if the link below doesn’t work for you. Happy listening.

 

 

 

Also, you can find the podcast on Spotify, RadioPublic, and Breaker.

Four Cases of Conflict Over Resources: #3 Group Motivation in Liberia

This is the third of four case studies of African conflict.  There is no single driver of fighting, but the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1997) can be used an example to understand how groups become incentivized to violence. In Liberia, the sense of group deprivation of indigenous Liberians led them to seek resources from descendants of Americo-Liberians. The neighboring civil war in Sierra Leone can only be understood fully by learning a bit about Liberia, as Liberia (and the leadership of Charles Taylor) had a “spillover effect.” I wrote about Sierra Leone as an example of individual motivation in conflict, but these explanations are not mutually exclusive and one can find both group and private incentives in both civil wars.

Liberia and the “Group Motivation” Hypothesis (Stewart, 2002): The first Liberian Civil War was rooted in the founding of the nation in 1822 as a colony for former slaves from the U.S. and the Caribbean. As a solution to the perceived incompatibility of the races in the West, around 5000 former slaves arrived, intermarried with local populations, and became dominant social figures within a few decades. Despite only constituting 5% of the Liberian population, Americo-Liberians (or Congaus) ruled Liberia as a dominant majority over the indigenous people until 1980. They were able to maintain power for so long through a combination of U.S. support, mastery of political strategy derived from their past as Americans, tight and self-benefitting social networks, and a degree of lighter skin privilege. The higher social status of Americo-Liberians instilled a sense of horizontal inequality with other groups in Liberian society.

In 1980, a non-commissioned military officer named Samuel Doe came to be the first indigenous head of state after staging a violent coup and killing President Tolbert. As a member of a small, rural ethnic group, Doe initially enjoyed widespread popular support from indigenous Liberians who had been marginalized by American-Liberians, but quickly turned violent and repressive. Political opponents were jailed and killed, some even having their bodies put on public display. Doe survived an attempted counter-coup and in response held fraudulent elections to justify his rule in 1985. The attempted coup only emboldened his targeting of the ethnic groups seen as the plotters of his overthrow.

Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 5.09.36 PM
Samuel Doe on the left.

A former member of Doe’s government ousted for embezzlement, Charles Taylor, assembled and trained a rebel force in neighboring Cote d’Ivoire to take over the Liberia in the late 1980s. Taylor’s National Patriotric Front of Liberia (NPFL) invaded Liberia on December 24, 1989, and soon received much support and volunteer fighters from the ethnic groups most violently targeted by Doe, the Gio, and the Mano peoples. Doe’s Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) quickly responded with scorched earth campaigns against these rural communities in the territories occupied by Taylor’s army, massacring and displacing hundreds of thousands. Many soldiers on both sides were children. In this milieu, ethnic Krahn, Doe’s ethnic group which was sympathetic to him, soon came to be pitted against those victimized by him, the Gio and the Mano.

The capital of Monrovia was the stage of a takeover in the summer of 1990 when the AFL tried to fight off both Taylor’s NPFL as well as soldiers of the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), founded when a NPFL fighter named Prince Johnson broke away from Taylor to start his own ethnically-based rebel group.

At this point in 1990, the conflict became a regional concern because of Liberia’s strong ethnic, linguistic, and political ties to neighboring countries. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), led by Nigeria, attempted to negotiate with the besieged Taylor to convince him to give up his position in Monrovia but he refused. In unclear circumstances, Samuel Doe was lured an ECOWAS headquarters building believing that it was a diplomatic call, and then Prince Johnson’s soldiers tortured and murdered him. This left the NPFL and the INPFL to battle over the country after initial ECOWAS peace talks with the rebel groups failed. Johnson soon fled to Nigeria and various other warlords emerged to try to control Monrovia.

From 1990-1991, ECOWAS, religious leaders, and other international actors attempted to get Taylor and Johnson to agree to peace talks in neutral West Africa countries but these efforts were unsuccessful. The Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) was established in during a peace conference in the Gambia in 1990, but enjoyed only limited control over Monrovia since Taylor refused to attend the conference and which rebel parties saw as illegitimate. In June 1991, Doe’s former supporters reemerged, in collaboration with former AFL fighters, in the form of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO). After training in neighboring Sierra Leone’s civil war (rebellion funded and supported by Taylor), ULIMO forces then took over Taylor’s diamonds and mining strongholds. After three years of committing extreme violence, the ULIMO fell apart by 1994.

From 1992-1996, Monrovia continued to host intense fighting among Taylor’s NPFL, Johnson’s INPFL, and ECOWAS troops attempting to quell the other two groups. In 1994, the United Nations established the UN Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) after a peace agreement among factions in Benin in order to monitor elections planned for March 1994, and also deployed its own troops to support ECOWAS. The security situation continued to only worsen in 1994 despite the Contonou and Akosombo peace agreements that rebels were party to. Almost 2 million Liberians were in need of humanitarian aid but aid workers, diplomats and other government officials were unable to function in the country. The UN reduced its troop numbers and fighting among rebels led by warlords Taylor, Alhaji Kromah, and Geroge Boley continued to flare.

Taylor agreed to disarmament and demobilization in 1995, yet heavy fighting broke out again the following year only for Taylor to then agree to peace again in the Abuja Accord. Taylor agreed to elections for July 1997, in which his National Patriotic Party swept the polls under widespread intimidation and fraud. Most reported that they voted for him only as a means to end the bloodshed. While President, Taylor supported rebel factions in neighboring countries as a means of securing access to lootable natural resources, e.g. diamond, clamped down on dissidents, engaged in immense corruption and self-profit, and was later found guilty of war crimes by the International Criminal Court in 2012.

The End of the War: By the end of the First Liberian Civil War in 1996, the country was completely destroyed. All economic infrastructure developed since the country was founded had deteriorated, a million Liberians were refugees in neighboring countries, and 200,000 Liberians had been killed. In response to these conditions, former ULIMO soldiers founded Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) to oust Taylor and gain control of his diamond mines in northern Liberia, which led to the Second Liberian Civil War in 1999.

Eritrean refugees are a humanitarian emergency

Screen Shot 2018-02-21 at 3.16.30 PM

Eritrea is regularly ranked as the most repressive countries in Africa. There is essentially no internet and absolutely no free press, and Freedom House ranks it as the 3rd “least free” country in the world. There are no elections, no legislature, and no non-profit organizations. Uniquely, obligatory military conscription, starting in the last year of high school, can last for decades. The harsh conditions during service coupled with brutal punishments for evading it constitute nationalized slavery. Poverty is grinding and, aside from remittances, immune to international bolstering now that sanctions have been put in place against the government for human rights abuses.

Eritreans flee their country at rates unmatched by any other country not actively experiencing war (e.g. Syria)—making it an “emptying nation“. Over 5000 Eritreans flee each month to then make up the 7th largest migrant population in Europe, despite the small country only having a population of 6 million.

Their trek is one of the deadliest in the world. A quarter million Eritreans occupy crowded refugee camps across the border in Sudan and Ethiopia, from which Eritrea gained independence in a civil war in 1991. They travel by foot north across the Sahara. They then constitute the majority of migrants to arrive in Italy.

But, they don’t stay.  Only 1 in 100 Eritreans in Italy applies for asylum there, most continuing on to Switzerland or Germany. There are obvious reasons for this: Italy takes a harsher stance on immigrants, has less developed infrastructure for immigrants, and works with a smaller budget.

However, there are also reasons to expect them to stay once they get there. They arrive in Italy mentally and physically exhausted, and with very little money with which to proceed onward. (This might be why arrivees in Italy are now being flown to other parts of Europe.) Also, one might expect a historical link to play a role in where Eritreans settle, as Italy occupied (but did not colonize) what is now Eritrea to create Italian East Africa before WWII. Refugees and members of the diaspora often seek out developed countries with which they have a historical connection. We see this with the Nigerian population in the UK and Algerians in France. Eritreans are not doing this. Perhaps the connection with Italy was too weak and is too far past, or perhaps they understand that other European countries are better able to meet the needs of African refugees.

Consider that Germany is concerned enough with refugee well-being that it now hosts a gender/sexuality-sensitive refugee center to help protect those with minority LGBTQ status. Too often, especially when migrants are housed with others of their same nationalities, discrimination and harassment that occurred in their home countries can also be reproduced in welcome centers and government housing. As I found in my ethnographic research on transgender Pakistani migrants, violence based on gender expression was reproduced by other Pakistanis awaiting asylum applications along with them. Gender stereotypes and differentiated roles between men and women also take root because changing a person’s location doesn’t necessarily change their ideology and culture.

Italy also cannot offer Eritreans the housing options of other European countries. Albeit with the benefit of finances impossible elsewhere, Luxembourg has managed to place many refugees with host families to support them (and after Syrians, Eritreans constitute the most asylum cases there). Italy also has a more encumbered immigration system in which cases languish longer than in the rest of Western Europe.

The good news is that immigrants now have easier access to employment in Italy, which they want. Most Eritrean immigrants are teenage boys escaping conscription who are eager to work and build a life. Previously asylum applicants had to wait six months to hold a job, and now its just 60 days.  Boredom is a mental health issue for many who await an asylum application, and the Italian government hopes that putting them to work will also help Italians to be more accepting of their presence in the country.

To try to stem the tide of Eritrean migrants, the EU and the UN have invested in a job creation program based on building industrial parks that would make 100,000 new jobs. This would change the opportunity cost for Eritreans seeking to make the dangerous land crossing across north Africa followed by the equally perilous boat ride across the Mediterranean. Ostensibly, these jobs would likely go to men, and there has been no discussion of how to improve economic security for Eritrean women. It is debatable if industrial parks can off-set widespread human rights abuses and plaguing poverty, but it is worth trying.