Friday, July 26, 2013

Conflicts are about control of resources

According to defence analyst Helmoed Romer Heitman,  speaking at the Land Forces Africa 2013 conference in Pretoria  most African states are poor, they cannot afford effective security forces and because of this, poverty remains and there is little investment. This then results in violence and further poverty. Until that cycle is broken, there is no prospect of bringing an end to insurgency, warlords, banditry, piracy, illegal logging and mining, smuggling and other issues, Heitman said. Economic and rural development and effective security are needed to break the cycle.

Heitman was not overly optimistic about the future peace and stability of Africa, and predicted that there will be more conventional wars in Africa. There are still more than 26 border disputes to be settled and some secessionist struggles, Heitman cautioned, citing the ongoing dispute between Sudan and South Sudan as an example.

Central Africa is a particular conflict hotspot, as guerrillas from Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi are still active in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This, and other disputes, are being driven by conflict over natural resources.

External powers contribute significantly to insecurity in Africa, Heitman said. “Countries have interests, not friends… African governments must give serious thought to which major powers actually would like to see Africa stable and prosperous and which might prefer it the way it is.”

He said the competition between foreign powers impacted on Africa in that the pursuit of influence, resources, markets and farmland meant foreign powers will support governments, insurgents, terrorists and bandits when that will further their interests. “Foreign powers will support some of those irregulars…Their interests will not always coincide with ours,” the analyst said. “As a continent we are dirt poor. No-one cares about us except as a source of raw materials.”

“There will be insecurity, instability and conflict in Africa over the next two decades or more,” Heitman cautioned. “Irregular and paramilitary forces will be increasingly well armed, equipped, trained and led.” International terrorism will not spare Africa and criminal organisations will become more like guerrillas.

Major General Luvuyo Nabanda, Chief Director: Force Preparation, said Economic and population growth and natural resources are a recipe for conflict and African countries need to review their readiness capabilities.


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