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Volume 24 Number 1
31 March 2015

Securing peace and security in Africa requires a range of ongoing interventions and commitments, from legislative and policy frameworks to capacity building, from continental architectures to domestic institutions, from high-level conversations and debates to mediation in specific incidents to ‘boots on the ground’. This issue of the African Security Review engages with a few of these interventions, examining their importance, efficacy and impact.

From the legislative perspective, Shannon Bosch looks at the complexities of safeguarding different constituencies of the population during conflict in terms of international human rights law. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross’s Interpretive Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities, all civilians (including child soldiers) lose their immunity from direct targeting ‘for so long as’ their actions amount to direct participation in hostilities. All civilians can, however, access the revolving door of protection and return to their civilian activities – complete with full immunity from direct targeting – provided the nature of their direct participation was spontaneous and disorganised. Once it can be ascertained that their participation in hostilities amounts to continuous combative functions, they relinquish their access to the revolving door of protection, and can be targeted at all times until they abandon their formal or functional membership of the belligerent group. Bosch’s article analyses how the revolving-door phenomenon and the notion of continuous combative functions apply in instances where civilian child soldiers are participating directly in hostilities.

When it comes to ‘boots on the ground’, African states are strongly encouraged by the international community to play a more central peacekeeping role during crises and conflicts on the continent. Nikolas Emmanuel looks at the role that the United States (US) plays in providing assistance and training for African peacekeepers on the continent. The author goes beyond the current literature by focusing on the international factors behind African participation in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations in Africa, specifically examining how US military aid and foreign troop training from 2002 to 2012 has had an impact on African deployments into UN peacekeeping missions in Africa. As can be expected, Emmanuel demonstrates that such third party help appears to be an important motivating factor for encouraging African troop deployment into crises on the continent.

A phenomenon that requires a range of multilateral interventions is that of trans-border ethnic identities and relations. Emmanuel Onah’s paper looks at this phenomenon and its impact on national integration and citizenship in the countries of West and Central Africa. The author notes that trans-border ethnic solidarity presents the relevant African states with two possibilities: either the benefits accruing from regional integration and cooperation by those states containing fragments of the trans-border ethnic groups; or the debilitating conflicts within and between these states over questions of citizenship, responsibility and legitimacy. Onah argues that individual states, as well as the international system, are often incapable of containing or managing the phenomenon of trans-border ethnic solidarity and usually respond in hostile ways, ultimately manifesting in conflict.

From the domestic perspective, a state’s security apparatus is an important mechanism for establishing and maintaining national security. In the case of Botswana, one of Africa’s most well-established and admired democracies, Tshepo Gwatiwa questions whether the threats to national security that justified the creation of a Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) were real or, in fact, imagined. The author argues that, despite the politicisation of DISS, Botswana’s domestic security threats have shifted from the conceptual to the ‘real’, while the external threats to its national security have always warranted the creation of a civilian intelligence agency. However, because the Directorate has been accused since its inception of various human rights violations, Gwatiwa argues that the debate going forward should be steered towards how DISS can be managed, reformed and held accountable in the future.

Adewumi Israel Badiora believes only a multi-faceted intervention will contain the crisis of kidnapping that has been on going in Nigeria for many years. He finds that kidnapping in the country has increased significantly in recent years – triggered by resource control disputes directed both at oil expatriate workers and at prominent citizens, politicians and members of their families – and poses serious implications for domestic security, foreign investment, national foreign exchange earnings, and revenue generation for the country.

Tlohang Letsie examines the role played by Christianity in both enabling and diffusing political conflict in Lesotho. He argues that Christian churches have played a shifting but significant role in the conflict that has characterised Lesotho’s politics since 1970. The two largest Christian denominations, the Roman Catholic Church and the Lesotho Evangelical Church, each associated with rival political parties, have acted as a source or intensifier of political conflict while attempting to work together, amid much mistrust, within the Christian Council of Lesotho. These tensions have subsided over time, due to the formation of new political parties as well as a change in the leadership of the two churches. Following these developments, Christian churches have in fact become the most reliable mediator of political conflict in Lesotho.

The issue concludes with Shirley de Villiers giving an overview of the main human security issues that challenged the continent in 2014 and looking forward to what lies ahead in 2015.

Romi Sigsworth (Editor)

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