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Podcast Episode 17
Host: Hello, my name is Claire Heffron, and welcome to this week's episode of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy podcast on the latest issues, advancing peace, security, and international cooperation. The current state of the peace and security landscape in Sub Saharan Africa is a complex task with many nations enduring conflict and violence. As conditions improve, the nature of security threats is changing. We discussed this issue with Dr Olayinka Ajala, a lecturer in politics at the University of York in the UK. And the humanitarian policy and conflict research manual on international law provides an up to date account of existing international law applicable to the conduct of air and missile warfare. We spoke to Professor Heintschel von Heinegg, Chair of Public Law at the Europa-Universität Viadrina.
Host: Regional security challenges in Sub Saharan Africa are changing. New regional and international responses to strengthening the security of African citizens is required. Earlier we spoke to Dr Olayinka Ajala, who shared with us his insights on the challenges of international security in the region. Firstly, what are the security challenges facing Sub Saharan Africa?
Dr Olayinka Ajala: There are several security challenges. I normally group them under two categories. You have intra-state conflicts in Sudan, South South Sudan, in Mali, in the Central African Republic. There are other issues, like harm to banditry or more recently, climate change has actually contributed to insecurity in the region. We have issues of changes in precipitation, which then change the dynamics of farming and fishing around the region, and when you consider the fact that most of the people from this region, more than 60% of them actually derived their livelihood from agriculture, any alteration of vagaries of the climate could impact on their sources of livelihood. And when people's livelihoods are being impacted negatively, they could react violently or join groups that could actually promise them alternative livelihoods. And that is why you would see that many armed groups are never short of recruits in this region because there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of unemployed youths who basically are not thinking about buying a house or buying a car, they are thinking about where the next meal would come from. And if this group of people are not adequately sorted out by the states. They could actually be enticed by these organisations to fight for them or join their ranks. So we've seen an increase in terrorism in places like Nigeria, Cameroon, the Sahel, Sahara is a big one for terrorism. Trafficking is a big problem. Huge drug trafficking hub in East Africa and then xenophobia is another problem in southern Africa. The so-called Black on Black attack, whereby many people from South Africa feel that other Africans are taking away their jobs taking away their sources of livelihoods and then demanding that they should leave the country and they've been attacking them since that time. Another key issue, which emerged in the last five years, is the pastoral conflict. It's in about 13 African countries at the moment whereby farmers, sedentary farmers, loggerheads with pastoralist clashes in 13 African countries, and this has resulted in a whole lot of issues on his own. It's actually accounted for more death than terrorism in the last two years. So it's a big problem facing Sub Saharan Africa.
Host: What does regional security governance look like?
Dr Olayinka Ajala: At the moment, regional security governance is in three or four different categories. So the local governance of security, we have the national, we have the regional and international, so when we'll talk about the local as an alternative to security, because in many countries in Sub Saharan Africa, the state is either unwilling or unable to protect its people. And then the people are taking the laws in their hands on the local stage. So we've seen an increase in vigilantism. So lots of vigilante groups are emerging at the local level, in order to protect lives and properties. And this is a key issue because some of these vigilante groups are loosely affiliated to the state. Some of them are engaged in extrajudicial killings, some of them take the laws in their hands. So although it's a form of governance of security at the local level, it also creates dynamics of problem at that level. So that's the first one. The second one is the regional initiative. So there is the G5 Sahel, which is a group created to end or fight banditry, terrorism and insecurity in the Sahel. There is the multinational joint task force against Boko Haram. This composed of five countries Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin Republic, focused specifically on the issue of Boko Haram in these countries and around the Lake Chad axis. Then we have the international security governance, which mainly consists of bilateral agreements between individual international states and specific states in Africa. Some countries have links to their colonial past. So like Mali, Francophone countries have specific security arrangements with France. The same with Anglophone countries which have some arrangements with Britain, sometimes for training and keeping the forces. Well all of these create another dimension or more harm to the governance of security and at the international level. And then the other one, which is becoming more important now is the role of private security companies. It's becoming a big issue now in terms of adding another layer to governance of security, because it's neither national nor international. So it's, it's kind of somewhere floating there. But there is a big stake, especially when you look at the role of China. China now has the biggest private security infrastructure in Africa. The last couple of years. So it also creates the challenge of sovereigns in terms of to what extent are African or Sub Saharan African countries actually able to govern security when you have multiple agents or agencies involved?
Host: Is anything misunderstood about the region?
Dr Olayinka Ajala: Personally, I think the issue is that there is a lack of understanding of some of the dynamics of this conflict or insecurity. So, I would describe insecurity as a wicked problem, which has several layers, difficult to define, difficult to understand, and then requires a multilateral, multifaceted kind of approach to solve. So, it's very important to understand the underlying issues because when you look at the ways these conflicts have been addressed or this insecurity generally are addressed, there is always a tendency to address the short term implications without addressing the underlying issues of insecurity, livelihoods, sustainability, hunger and poverty, unemployment, the things that actually drive insecurity are not still being addressed. So it's easy for international actors or even nation states to employ a military approach. But it's never worked, as we've seen, in many instances, except if the underlying root causes are being identified, it's still gonna continue to be a problem. So I think misunderstandings stems from the lack of the basic understanding of these key issues that have resulted in insecurity on its own.
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Host: Earlier we spoke to Professor Heintschel von Heinegg, and he reflects on current legal issues for legal advisors and operators engaged in air operations.
Host: Firstly, what is this HRPC manual all about?
Professor Heintschel von Heinegg: I think a very honest restatement of the law applicable to air and missile operations during armed conflict because there is no specific treaty that deals with these aspects. And there is another private draft which dates back to 1923 and you can imagine that in light of the technology that has developed, of course, and certainly since 1923, there was a desperate need to compile it in one document and to provide it to those who are working in the field,
Host: Who's involved in putting it together?
Professor Heintschel von Heinegg: The group was very diverse. And one way you could call it result or insight was that at the end of the day, the entire group even though they came from different backgrounds, were able to agree on all the rules that you find in the manual. So you have representatives from the ICRC, you have government representatives, you have academics, and this is quite extraordinary to have such a big group be able to agree on the wording of a specific rule. And there's not only one rule, as you of course know, there are many rules in the manual, and they all are based on a unanimous consensus of those experts.
Host: And what about emerging legal issues?
Professor Heintschel von Heinegg: I think that we are very often obsessed by the novelty of technologies, believing that a new technology needs new rules. But as rightly stated by the International Court of Justice in its advisory opinion on the nuclear weapons case, also, the experts agreed that the novelty of the technology doesn't change anything and does not necessarily require new rules. But what we did in particular in the commentary to address these issues when it comes to the application of a given route to a given technology, like for example, automatic weapons or hypersonic weapons, and so on.
Host: What advice do you give?
Professor Heintschel von Heinegg: First of all, I would advise those legal advisors, all those all of those who are interested in the topic, actually to read the entire manual plus the commentary, because just reading the manual would not be sufficient for a simple fact. As you know, with law you can have different interpretations. And for the legal advisors, it is very important to know the commentary because in the commentary you will see the different positions taken within the group of experts. Why is that important? It's important because at the end of the day, the legal adviser will have to reconcile his legal advice or legal advice with the respective government position regarding the applicable law. So in that regard, the commentary of the manual also offers options to governments and government officials, in particular legal advisors to have an arguable position with regard to the applicable law in a given situation.
Host: What about air operations?
Professor Heintschel von Heinegg: Operators have a keen interest actually in the applicable law, they want to be certain that what they are doing is in compliance with the law of armed conflict. So they would also be taking a keen interest in anything that is related to their operations, including the law.
Host: That's what we have now for today's episode. Thank you to Dr Olayinka Ajala for joining us, along with Professor Heintschel von Heinegg. Listen to us again next week to hear all the latest insights on international peace and security. Bye for now.