Friday, 8 March 2013

Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Sierra Leone: Tired of war | The Economist

Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Sierra Leone: Tired of war | The Economist

"What has changed to make Africa less violent? Three factors have played a part. First, after the end of the cold war two decades ago, America and Russia stopped propping up violent dictators simply to keep them out of each other’s clutches. At first this brought more conflict as strongmen like Congo’s Mobutu Sese Seko, an American protégé, fought for their lives, some with weapons from privatised Soviet armouries supplied by Viktor Bout, a Russian arms smuggler. But in the longer run lack of superpower support has deprived armies as well as rebels of the means to keep going.
Second, Western attitudes have changed. Europeans in particular no longer turn a blind eye to gross human-rights violations in Africa. The creation of the ICC in 2002 marked a shift toward liberal interventionism, both the legal and the armed kind. Norwegian officials played a key role in negotiating peace in Sudan. British troops shut down Sierra Leone’s war. Peacekeeping evolved into conflict prevention. The UN got better at intervening and at cleaning up afterwards. Disarmament campaigns, like the one in Sierra Leone, proved useful. A combined UN and African Union mission in Somalia started in 2007 made more progress than an American expeditionary force in 1993.

Third, some of Africa’s wars burned themselves out. Most are conducted within countries, since ethnic rivalry has been the most common cause of conflict. Civil wars usually end when one or both sides become exhausted, often after many years. Radicalised during the 1960s, even the hardiest rebels were tired by the turn of the century. When Jonas Savimbi, an Angolan guerrilla leader, was killed in 2002 after fighting for almost three decades, his men gave up. Political wounds have not necessarily healed but they are covered in scar tissue. Fighters as well as citizens grudgingly accept the status quo because they are sick of war; some of the time that is good enough..."
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