The ICC and Non-State Armed Group Adherence to International Humanitarian Law

Last week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted militia leader, Germain Katanga. Katanga was found guilty for his role in an attack in 2003 which resulted in the violent deaths of more than 200 people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Katanga’s conviction is a milestone for the ICC, as it is only the second conviction in the more than a decade of the court’s existence.

Katanga’s conviction brings about some sense of justice for the victims of the crimes against humanity that occurred in 2003. On the one hand, there is a great sense of importance given to a conviction of the international system’s court. On the other hand, the inherent delayed nature of the ICC does blight this sense of justice. It is important to remember that the survivors of these crimes have been living with the consequences and effects of these attacks since 2003. For example, the female survivors were raped and kept as sex slaves.

An ICC conviction does not fix all the issues that arose from these attacks, but it carries a significant symbolic meaning.

A greater question that comes to mind in light of these events. Will this conviction affect the future actions of non-state armed groups operating in sub-saharan Africa? Is this conviction enough to tame the actions of these actors? Will these armed groups adhere more closely to international humanitarian law (IHL) in the future?

There are many incentives for non-state armed groups to adhere to IHL. In a cost-benefit analysis, these groups consider public image, internal members’ morale, military strategy, etc. when planning out attacks and other actions. Detracting from these incentives to adhere to IHL are the nature of some conflicts (especially sectarian conflict), a sense of revenge, inability to control armed group members, and asymmetric conflicts (when the non-state armed group is fighting at the significantly more powerful State). However, this conviction brings up a new incentive: the fear of consequences.

In the world of non-state armed groups and their members, is the conviction of one leader (more than 10 years later) enough to carry weight in this decision-making? I think a lot of this depends on the sentencing of Katanga, which is still in process. Katanga was convicted for his leadership role in the events, meaning that this new potential incentive would affect the leaders of these armed groups. As mentioned before, even if leaders want to adhere to IHL, they may not be able to effectively enact this adherence. For example, some groups do not have the resources to pay their members, and as a result ‘pay’ their members through the subsequent looting and pillaging that result from attacks.

It will be interesting to see if this conviction has any effect on the nature of future conflicts.

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Justice in Congo: Still Out of Reach

Today, judges at the International Criminal Court found Germain Katanga guilty of war crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The case provides much food for thought about how justice can best be delivered for citizens in the DRC.

Katanga was found guilty of a number of charges, including as an accessory to one crime against humanity (murder) and four war crimes (murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging). He was acquitted of sexual slavery, rape and the use of child soldiers, highlighting the difficulty of securing justice for victims of sexual and gender based violence in today’s conflict zones, despite recent efforts to raise awareness of such crimes.

Yet, the case at the center of today’s ruling demonstrates the difficulty of efforts to secure justice in the DRC. The case related to the second Congolese civil war, which lasted from 1998 to 2003. Katanga was found guilty due to his involvement in crimes that occurred in 2002 in Ituri province. His prosecution was not related to the most recent conflict in the Kivus. Katanga’s prosecution proved to be a long drawn out affair.After being arrested in 2005, Katanga was transferred to the ICC in 2007. His court case lasted more than seven years, culminating in the verdict today.

The role of the ICC in holding Katanga to account is to be applauded. However, it is important to highlight that amidst the widespread coverage of the result today, it remains a very small step towards justice. Katanga is one of only five figures who have been charged by the ICC for crimes in the DRC, despite a vast range of serious crimes having been committed over the last 20 years.

Not only should the ICC commit itself to carrying out further prosecutions related to serious crimes committed in the DRC, but those responsible for violence over recent years should be held to account also. Of the six indicted by the ICC, four were leaders of armed groups in Ituri in the early 2000’s, and there remains a considerable gap in justice for those responsible for more recent crimes. Therefore, governments in Congo’s neighbors and the DRC government itself should commit to apprehending those responsible for serious crimes. Not only will this serve the needs of victims, but it will also contribute to the building of a sustainable peace process in Eastern Congo.

Such prosecutions should provide a spur to the Congolese government to substantially increase efforts to secure justice domestically, both through tackling corruption embedded within the judiciary, and by exercising the political will to hold those accused of serious crimes to account, within Congo.

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Violent and Non-Violent Movements becoming Intertwined in Libya

Earlier this week, Libya experienced another huge protest against their transition into parliament government. Most of the ensuing conversation has evolved around the future prospects for democracy in the country and competing international security goals.

While thoughtful discussions could be extracted from these macro-like propositions, it would be wise to offer insight on one of the most important element of democratic transitions: social movement. The dominant school of thought is that full-fledged democracies or democracies in transition will recognize non-violent social movements in some type of capacity. Most often they will offer concessions to movements’, a platform to express their grievances and/or change their policies to adhere to the movements’ objectives.

Therefore, under this school of thought, the underlying assumption is that distinguishing between violent and non-violent movements, or credible and non-credible movements, is an easy identification. Movements that that take up arms, use threatening language or a threatened use of violence along with other identifiable violent characteristics are usually always deemed non-credible movements. However, in particular to the Libyan case, the distinction between Libyan violent and non-violent social movements is actually pretty thin since movements have largely exhibited both civil and non-civil features.

While most experts and lawmakers consider the majority of Libyan social movements deriving a violent undertone, new evidence suggests that Libyan community advancements have exhibited some non-violent characteristics as well.

First of all, even though the demonstrations had serious violent characteristics such as setting fire to government grounds and shooting a prominent lawmaker, some evidence suggests that the foremost resistance came from peaceful protesters. Two witnesses suggested “I saw people breaking into cars and looting stuff while other protesters were trying to prevent them from doing this, but it was really hard to stand against those thieves.” Hence, in reality, the protests essentially displayed certain non-violent features but were largely spoiled by armed violent rioters or bad apples.

Secondly, this week the Libyan government acknowledged protests which demanded the immediate dissolution of the parliament chamber. Therefore, abiding by the dominant democratic transition conjecture, lawmakers publicly responded with plans for a new system that might replace the legislature and government before the constitution is even established. Thus, by offering a change in their own policies and system, the Libyan government basically deemed the protests as possessing some kind of civil component to it.

Thus, while it may be too early to derive the direction of future protests, it wouldn’t be out of line to suggest that the distinction between civil and non-civil movements in Libya is growing thinner. Contrary to the dominant narrative, movements this week in Libya suggest that civil and non-civil components have become an intertwined structure playing off of each other cleverly. Furthermore, as the Libyan crisis continues, it would be interesting to note how the Libyan government defines a violent to a non-violent movement along with actions that accompany it.

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Government Salaries in Africa

On Wednesday this week fighting broke out in Army barracks in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.  This fighting, however, was somewhat different than other the other forms of violence that has recently engulfed the young country.  This battle was over pay, as the soldiers in the barracks claimed that they were fighting for their salaries.  This story actually highlights two major issues that have been problematic for many African states, as they seek to consolidate their power.

The first issue is that of ghost payrolls.  Earlier this year, Cameroon sought to eliminate payments for non-existent workers, which cost the state up to $12 million each month.  These ghost payrolls are just one indicator of government corruption that plagues nations worldwide, including in Africa.  This can happen in a number of ways, from individuals claiming false benefits from the state, boosting their own incomes while depleting state resources to the actual insertion of names onto government payrolls to receive the salary for the imagined worker.  This creates immense problems in seeking to consolidate democratic processes, as it enhances corruption and drains state coffers leaving states less able to help meet the basic needs of their citizens.

The second issue the South Sudan story raises is the reality that government salaries in Africa are often insufficient or too inconsistent for employees to live on.   Multiple studies have demonstrated that one of the common contributing factors to coups in a state are low pay for the military.  When security forces are not paid adequate salaries, they are often forced to seek funding from other sources, often turning to illicit means.  One clear example of this is in the DRC, as the country’s poorly paid and trained troops have frequently been noted for human rights abuses, including preying on local populations for resources.  This is also clearly problematic for consolidating states as it will increase alienation from the state apparatus and enhance internal violence and dissension.

These problems are clearly overlapping, and both must ultimately be confronted by African states if they hope to fully consolidate to democracy.  Part of a functioning state is the ability to have adequate pay structures leading to a less corrupt governmental system. Not only will this improve government effectiveness, but it should also lead to a reduction in violence as security forces no longer need to find alternative ways to make ends meet. What is less clear, however, is how African states will confront these issues.  Facing debt and limited funds already, it is unclear exactly how these problems could be solved.

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A New Democracy for Madagascar?

In March of 2009, Marc Ravalomanana, the elected president of Madagascar, was ousted from his presidential position and forced into exile by an opposition party led by Andry Rajoelina. Protests of Ravalomanana’s presidency began early in his second term after his actions became increasing authoritarian and these protests increased in ferocity in December of 2008 after the government closed Viva TV for airing an opposition interview. As the leader of these protests, Rajoelina declared in February that he would be taking over the country as the head of the new transitional government. On March 15th,  after Rajoelina gained the support of most of the military, Ravalomanana “voluntarily” resigned his position as president. This coup d’etat was widely criticized by the international community and resulted in Madagascar being denied international aid and being banned from organizations like the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). After the creation of a new constitution in 2010, elections were delayed for over three years and only finally took place in January of 2014. 33 candidates were narrowed down to two candidates in the run off vote: Henry Rajaonarimampinaina (a cabinet member from the Rajoelina transitional government) and Jean Louis Robinson (a member of former President Ravalomanana’s cabinet). Rajaonarimampinaina won the run off with 53.40% of the vote.

The election of President Rajaonarimampinaina ushered in the Fourth Republic of Madagascar and the apparent reemergence of democracy for the Malagasy people. While it may seem to be an auspicious event, I have to wonder if it will last. The AU and the SADC seem to think it will. Both organizations have lifted Madagascar’s suspension and are encouraging full participation after the country’s transition back to a legitimate government. There have been positive signs that democracy will prosper, but there are also several conditions that will make democratic consolidation difficult.

On the positive side, although elections were delayed, they were peaceful and apparently fair. The elections were overseen by the Special Electoral Court (CES), the Independent National Election Commission and international observers. All parties deemed the election fair and recognized the results. There was no election violence as the losing candidate, Robinson, urged his supporters to voice their grievances democratically. Another positive sign from these elections is that governmental institutions took a stand and checked the power of the transitional executive. In 2013, Transitional President Rajoelina had declared his intention to run for president (after publically claiming he would not earlier in the year) but the CES declared that because of his agreement in the transitional government his candidature was invalid and he stepped down.

Now to the negatives. Voter turnout for the presidential election was barely above 50% of registered voters. Much of this was due to failing infrastructure and poverty, which prevented people from reaching polling locations. With such a limited voter turnout, it is hard to say that the election of Rajaonarimampinaina was the “choice of the people,” as the new president claimed. Really it was the choice of maybe a quarter of the people. Political participation needs to be encouraged for the democracy to thrive. Another factor that could have a potentially negative impact on democracy is that Rajaonarimampinaina was a cabinet member of Rajoelina and retains close ties to the former leader. In addition, the majority of MPs are from Rajoelina’s party, making it likely he will be elected Prime Minister, and Rajoelina has declared that he intends to run for president again in a future election. Hello Russian politics, welcome to Madagascar.

In addition to political problems, Madagascar has been plagued with increasingly high levels of starvation, unemployment, poverty, corruption, and crime since the coup d’etat. These issues could easily destabilize the new democracy if they are not handled effectively.

Will the Fourth Republic last? If Rajaonarimampinaina can stand firm on his promise of ”changing the course” of Madagascar, I think it could. International aid and investment have resumed since the elections, which should help combat issues like starvation and unemployment. Hopefully increased political participation will follow. Even if those indicators do not show substantial improvement, democracies have developed in similar economic and social situations. In my opinion, controlling the influence of Rajoelina will be the deciding factor in whether Madagascar becomes a functional democracy or a democratic shell.

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Security Council Calls for Intervention in the Central African Republic

The increasing levels of violence in the Central African Republic, coupled with the destruction of vital state institutions, has led the United Nations to act with uncharacteristic speed and agreement.  ( The Security Council, with France seemingly leading the charge, announced today that it will soon be proposing a “large and robust” force of peacekeepers to be sent to the C.A.R. to protect citizens from violence, which includes reports of ethnic cleansing.  The proposed peacekeeping forces, which would be sent to C.A.R. “immediately” would number around 12,000 and would be made up of soldiers and police officers.  In addition to peacekeeping forces, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has recommending the deployment of civilian specialists who would be responsible for repairing and rebuilding the many civic institutions that have been destroyed in the crisis. 

In a press release today the Security Council emphasized the need for a “multidimensional approach” to deal with both the humanitarian crises in the country as well as the significant security concerns for both the country’s citizens and neighboring states.  They stated that while French and MISCA forces, which are currently in the country, have saved lives but are simply not a large enough force to provide the level of security needed countrywide.  Additionally, on the humanitarian front, they note that current efforts are hugely underfunded.  Of the $551 million appeal made for humanitarian efforts only 16 percent has been made available.  This humanitarian assistance is desperately needed, as Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, has stated to provide for the 650,000 people currently internally displaced and living in “appalling conditions”. ( )

Is it too little, too late?  A “speedy” response from an organization like the UN could still take months.    If they are successful in bringing some moderate level of stability to the country, and end the worst of the violence that brought the crisis to international attention, will international support for the absolutely necessary post-conflict aid dry up?  There is no lack of examples of the international community taking action to bring an end to conflict, but then not providing the support after the crisis has died down to prevent it from occurring again. 


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Is Tunisia a Successful Emerging Democracy?

Scholar Larry Diamond in a talk at the University of Denver stated that the world is entering a phase of ‘Democratic Recession’ and that out of the 49 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa 18 are classified as electoral democracies. He credits this to the early 1990’s democratic backsliding that occurred in places like Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Mali and Tanzania. He indicated that this set the precedence for a weak formation of electoral democracy and the diminished existence of a liberal democracy in the continent. However, Diamond surprisingly noted that the transition to democracy in Tunisia should lauded as a successful emerging democracy today.  Does this analysis seem premature? Does Tunisia really hold the institutional capacity to become a liberal democracy in the near future?

Analyzing Tunisia

Pre- Arab Spring Tunisia possessed low levels of political and electoral rights. President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s autocratic regime limited civil society participation and created a lack of transparency or accountability within the state. Economic indicator signaled that the country was performing well based on classics economic measures (such as GDP per capita). However, further analysis of the individual’s well-being demonstrated that there was limited access to employment made worse by increasing levels of youth unemployment. There was a lack of satisfaction with basic infrastructure and access to institutional structures (like schooling and health facilities). This paradox between the rising national growth rate and diminishing Tunisian standard of living was what created the environment for Mohamed Bouaziz’s revolutionary protest and the eventual ‘spark’ of the Arab Spring.

For the past three years, Tunisia experienced crippling internal conflicts due to terrorism, corruption and lack of overall rule of law. And it wasn’t until January 25, 2014 that the newly elected Tunisian National Constituent Assembly approved the country’s first democratic constitution after 23 years of Ben Ali’s autocratic rule. This type of governance shift sends positive signals to the neighboring countries of Egypt and Libya. Beyond the regional impact this shift to democratic consolidation sends positive signals to the rest of the world. For the time being, Tunisia serves as a success story in the post-Arab Spring world.

Returning to Larry Diamond’s initial analysis about the lack of liberal democracy in Africa. If there are no true liberal democracies in Africa, then does Tunisia posses the necessary elements to become one? Or are there pre-disposed conditions within African states that limit the possibility of one existing? And why does Tunisia serve as the beacon of hope for democracy as opposed to Ghana or Senegal? 

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