University of Ghent
Research Group Study of the Third World

Research project as part of the research for the purpose of preparing a policy on development co-operation, financially supported by the Ministry of Co-operation in Development, Brussels, November 1995

"Everything revolves around conflict prevention. But the international community has little experience at that level. The current practice, however, is one of ignoring conflicts and their causes." JAN PRONK(1)

Introduction

The West is characterised by dynamism and moral reflexes to bring about good. Within the world’s political domain, the West holds positions of power as well as key economic positions. In practice, the combination of these two factors periodically lead to the former being used to maintain the latter. We need to be aware that this discord will continue to cast a shadow on what – at first sight at least – is undoubtedly a noble aim: to help bring peace and prosperity to the world.

The study of war in the classic sense is not an obvious choice as our subject of research, but events in this area in recent years have forced it upon us. We found ourselves being pushed into the areas of Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA), regional co-operation – SADC – and permanent development were pushed to the background – and we switched to stability and development and arrived at peace-keeping and peace-making. Interventions in Angola and Mozambique, presence in Somalia and Rwanda and the lack of any presence in Liberia and Sierra Leone have now brought us into the area of prevention. While that may seem perfectly logical, the fact cannot be denied that it is a regressive position which we did not choose ourselves. The title of the interim congress we organised in December 1994, ‘Early Warning: Prevention or Pretension?’, leads one to suspect, moreover, that belief in future ‘building’ has greatly subsided, too. It would seem that we are neither the first nor the only ones to experience changes in terms of our content. The sudden ‘success’ of conflict prevention (CP) and early warning systems (EWS) creates the risk of everyone becoming bogged down in trendy thinking. As the following will show, there are still many gaps to be filled in at both theoretical and practical levels. If expectations are pitched too high, they may well lead to the same disappointments. And as everyone knows, there is a pretty good chance that you will cause a ship to sink if you overload it.

Anyone embarking on a study of early warning (EW) and CP find themselves torn between two extremes: unfounded activism and detached scepticism. This may not sound very comforting within the framework of research for the purpose of preparing policy, a project which is geared more towards coming up with specific and feasible recommendations. For that reason, this is probably the best place to argue for principles which stop doubt degenerating into passivity. First of all there is the consideration criterion. EWS and CP have already been put into operation to such an extent that – in the light of the SSA’s gloomy prospects for the future – it cannot be left until the last theoretical discussion has been settled. The alternative cannot be ruled out that a country like Zaire could slide into a spiral of conflict. If that were to happen, we may find ourselves being dragged along by processes to which no one is able to offer a sensible alternative. Secondly there is the frugality criterion. The Maton report illustrates that as the situation in Zaire continues to deteriorate, it will become beyond the international community – both in terms of strength and will – to deploy remedial means. Finally there is the durability criterion. Reactive intervention presupposes that one is experiencing a factual situation. The shift from structural support to emergency aid illustrates this in a painful way. Prevention assumes that, within certain limits and under certain conditions, one accepts ‘building’, which in this case means not giving up the controllability of long-term development.

In the first section the conceptual framework is outlined, and complexity thinking and the formation of theories around conflict will be examined in greater detail. In the second section, Early Warning as an instrument is analysed more closely. First of all a status questionis of existing systems is given. Next, the main points of the analysis: data collection, networking, the formulating of indicators and conflict detection and anticipation will be looked at. Section three attempts, by means of a synthetic approach, to arrive at a way of putting it into operation. The study is then rounded off with an actual example, Zaire, and a conclusion which contains a number of recommendations. In view of the limited scope of the study, attention has been exclusively focussed on SSA, which is not to imply in any way that EW and CP are to be restricted to this continent.


"Oh, how quickly man blames the Gods: we have always done it, all evil comes from the Gods, yet they bring more misery upon themselves through their own misdeeds than by what fate has bestowed on them." THE ODYSSEY

Complexity and Conflict

I.1. COMPLEXITY AND PREVENTION

Prevention as a theoretical concept is concerned with predictability. All too often, advocates of good causes overlook this fact. Prevention as an action science is confronted with the problem of the building of a society and the practical feasibility of the strategy. When used as a political instrument, prevention should take account of the way power and interests are defended and of the ultimate question: the desirability of intervention within current world structures.

I.1.1. Desirability

Ever since colonisation and industrialisation took place, the world has grown into a functional unit. This is an irreversible process. That should not blind us, however, to the manner in which this has happened. Up until World War II the principle of colonisation was rarely up for discussion, and yet the next half a century saw the decolonisation of Asia, Africa and, most recently, Central Asia. On the one hand ‘flag independence’ did not mean the end of structural inequalities between what came to be known as North and South. On the other, as a result of the development of newly-industrialised countries, the distinction between ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ countries no longer coincides with a worldwide ‘colour-bar’. The post-war period was also characterised by the Cold War whose death knell was sounded when the Berlin Wall came down. The pipedream of a new world order based on the equality of all its partners was at once shattered. The world system continues to be based on inequality, power and force. And the question remains whether things can ever be any different. In the past, EW and CP were almost exclusively used for maintaining the status quo and protecting acquired interests. Moral considerations were rarely allowed to limit the methods employed. Not only were states forced into line, but their internal conflicts were ‘resolved’ with a view to their effects on global balance and security. It would show a high degree of naivety if one was to suppose that this was to vanish overnight at some point in the future.

EW and CP, as we understand them, need to be tested out against a higher norm: the strategy of long-term development (permanent poverty eradication, democratisation and human rights and ecological supporting capacity). In those cases where continuous and serious damage is being caused to the population or a part of it in one of these areas, conflicts are unavoidable. On this point it is the actors who are responsible for the situation that need to be put under pressure, not those who are the victims of it. This continues to be the case even when those whose rights are being violated are left with no alternative but to turn to the use of violence as a last resort to enforce a substantial improvement in their lot. In other words, EW and CP should primarily serve the needs of the population and not be used to stabilise a political regime or form of government. It is clear that it is a utopian idea to believe that such a force can be deployed in the short term. In practice it is a matter of conceiving middle-to-long-term options in such a way that they bring long-term development closer, or at the very least do not have a negative effect.

I.1.2. Theoretical possibilities

Coming to grips with the future by trying to predict it is, of course, not a new approach but probably as old as man himself. For centuries this was done in a pre-scientific way: you only need look in the bible to see this. With the breakthrough of the classical natural sciences it was hoped that as far as the human branch was concerned, through employing deterministic laws, chance could finally be driven back to something that could be blamed on our shrinking lack of knowledge. The wish appeared to be the father of the thought. It was not because our measuring instruments or methods of analysis were defective, but reality did not live up to our expectations. In any case, in the ‘exact’ sciences they had already been confronted with this

It falls beyond the scope of this study to argue exhaustively for complexity and chaos thinking(2). We hope that it will be sufficient here to refer to the following:

  • Every society is a complex system, i.e. open, dynamic and dissipative. By open it means that the system interacts with other systems. By dynamic it means that the multitude of interactions gives rise to a continuous tendency towards change and to instability. Understood by dissipative is the system’s need for new or extra energy to prevent it going off balance (the entropy phenomenon). In this, what was once regarded as being noise, i.e. accidental and disturbing, now moves into a position occupying the centre of reality and the explanation model.
  • In the same way that physics does not, of course, cast doubts upon mechanical laws in the appropriate fields, it is also absurd to deny that structures exist in social reality. Chaos and order do not exclude one another, it is just that problems remain in making a distinction between the two zones.(3) In systems with adequate preservation laws, the so-called KAM theorem applies: at the slightest disturbance of a system with adequate preservation laws, at most starting situations the disturbed system will follow a movement which differs little from the movements associated with the undisturbed system.(4) In social reality it is no different: a well-balanced system can absorb a great deal before it slides off into instability. The reverse is equally true: in situations where something is totally off balance, small causes can lead to unpredictable and unimaginably large consequences. In mathematical meteorology Edward Lorenz called this the ‘butterfly effect’. (Is it possible that the movements of a butterfly in Brazil can be the cause of a tornado in Texas?). In the social field, no matter how accurate the description models may be, the consequences of the death of Ntibantunganya are difficult to predict, while the death of the Belgian premier would cause only sadness. It all comes down to marking out the predictability horizons in more detail. In certain circumstances there is little chaos, while in others it is pointless to look for symmetry.
  • And finally, this. Predictability is not the same as deterministic causality; what it is is Popper’s ‘propensities’, the probabilities that under certain conditions certain consequences will occur.(5) Conversely, chaos does not necessarily lead to catastrophe. Within a complex system spontaneous self-reorganisation will occur as a result of the subsystems’ (uncontrollable) interaction, thereby creating – by means of synergy – something new.(6)

I.1.3. Practical feasibility and action science

When we introduced the concept ‘long-term development’ above, it implied the insertion of a moral criterion, even if the scientific foundations for it can be advanced. This is absent in physics, as a result of which the concept ‘predictability’, too, takes on another dimension. For example, it is not difficult to predict quite accurately what would happen if there was absolutely no intervention in an area threatened by famine. Neither is it hard to imagine what happens when the intervention takes the form of supplying one of the parties with sophisticated weapons, as was the case with the ‘Forces de l’Opposition’ in Burundi.

Secondly, in politics one can hardly count on what Edgar Morin calls ‘le principe spermatique’.(7) In order for pollenisation to be achieved, nature ‘invests’ thousands of grains of pollen and spermatozoids. Such an apparent waste can hardly be employed by the action sciences as an official guiding principle (in view of the fact that the ‘expected’ results will never be achieved with any certainty, this is no argument for inertia). More than that even, all purposely set-up experiments will run up against rightful (moral) resistance, even though in practice trial and error is all that is left in a crisis situation.

From complexity thinking itself, the chance of a successful intervention is restricted in two ways:

  • The more off-balance a system is, the more potential situations present themselves. However, as a result of scissor movements, the degree of predictability decreases. On the one hand, therefore, it is best to avert it as quickly as possible, although in practice the problem will only be felt to be such when it has taken on manifest proportions. (And in any case, he who cries wolf too often stops being listened to.)
  • The more tangible and limited the action, the more the building can be kept in control. This cannot be reconciled with the demands placed on long-term development, certainly not on a global level. More than that even, it is simply a question of whether planetary planning is at all possible or even desirable in all areas. Secondly, anyone confronted with an actual crisis situation, such as the one in Kismayo may, so to speak, stumble over an ordinary stone just through looking up at the sky.

Finally, one must take account of the fact that there are limits to the willingness and the capacity of the actors to intervene. For the sake of simplicity let us stay with the United Nations which ultimately can go little further than what a number of core members want. Both the member states and the organisation itself employ a kind of ‘no claims bonus’ system, whose logic does not correspond to the logic of the action sciences. Why was there intervention in Somalia but not in Afghanistan? Why was the apartheid system tackled in a more consistent manner than the caste system? If Chechnia is an internal matter, why wasn’t Haiti? Regardless of that, there is still the question of the physical delimitation of the intervention. For all the revelry during the United Nations’ 50th anniversary celebrations, Boutros-Ghali repeatedly hammered on the fact that members were not paying their overdue arrears and that it was driving the organisation towards financial disaster.

I.1.4. The fire service

From the above, it would appear to be intellectually groundless and self-destructive in practice to ascribe pretensions to EW and CP which are not attainable. This is not to say that the whole concept should simply be written off, as we would like to illustrate with the metaphor of the fire service. Every brigade knows that it is a pipedream to think that there will never be a fire. This, however, does not stop them appreciating the value of fire prevention and enforcing if need be. But if a fire alarm is raised, there is not a single fire service commander who would wait to answer it until the flames are lapping through the roof. Although it is their job to save every building and its inhabitants (and not necessarily the ‘owner’), they will sometimes have to restrict themselves to protecting the classic property next door. Yet no one in their right mind would argue, after three fires – even catastrophic ones – for giving up the principles of prevention and more-efficient fire-fighting.

I.2. THE ANATOMY OF CONFLICTS

I.2.1. Concept definition

In subject literature there are three different methods of approach which can basically be narrowed down to two: the objectivistic and the subjectivistic conflict models. According to the objectivistic approach, conflicts arise as a result of a contrast in interests.(8) These are not actor-connected but are embodied in the social structure. A social structure in which the chances of development are unequal for the various population groups, generates latent conflicts. As these occur in all dynamic systems, it will always be open to debate whether one can also objectively determine whether they lead to a storm or to a small shower. The subjectivistic approach(9) defines a conflict as the presence of two or more irreconcilable aims of the actors. A conflict itself comprises three components: contrasting aims, conflict attitudes and conflict behaviour. This approach is purely actor-oriented: conflicts only exist when the behaviour of the actors involved is hostile. The classic question of E.H. Carr remains: whether motives really are the most-suitable means to explain actions.

These models have clear implications for which strategy of CP is to be followed. Looking from the objectivistic approach, the strategy must be geared towards structural changes so that the causes of the contradiction are removed once and for all. According to the subjectivistic approach, efforts must be made to reconcile the conflicting aims which exist among the various actors. It is clear that the time element differs in each line of thought, and this would seriously encumber the practical options.

I.2.2. Types of conflicts

Conflicts manifest themselves in widely varying forms, depending on the causes, on the actors involved, on the dynamics, and on the outcomes. Although the study of conflicts has come a long way, a systematic typology has not yet been arrived at. An initial, rigid distinction was made in the nineteen-fifties between conflicts with internal dimensions and conflicts with external dimensions. It was only at a later stage that the connection between the two was elaborated. A subsequent distinction was made as a result of ‘a field-theoretical approach’ to conflicts. In this approach the fact is pointed to that conflicts are always a consequence of various levels of causes. By using this approach, one arrives at a functional distinction between psychological, social, political, economic and military conflicts. The most-recent development in this area approaches conflicts from a dynamic perspective: they form organic cycles in which successive stages can be distinguished.(10) In view of the multi-dimensional character of conflicts, the approaches above were never regarded as mutually exclusive.

The types of conflicts which manifest themselves today (see DIAGRAM 1) do not seem to be of the same type as those on which the above approaches rely.(11) These conflicts are the ‘active reflection’ of more deeply-seated social fault lines and cannot simply be fitted in to the internal/external dichotomy. Moreover, they are the result of a combination of background conditions and escalation dynamics for which there are various levels. Finally, it is very difficult to indicate where the starting point and finishing point is. In Africa, especially, the fading away of the state is a new phenomenon. This is connected with both external factors (such as the loss of an ally or structural adaptation programmes) and internal developments (the growing rift with the nation), and is bound up with local factors (Mobutism, for example) and general tendencies (the ‘wind of democratisation’) and it has had a long and specific past history and ‘unexpected accelerators’,… There is certainly a tendency to simply fall back on empiricism and casuistry.

One may ask the question of whether a conflict is new and, if so, how are we to look at it. Much of what is now under the spotlight used to be pushed out of the observation field. Problems concerning ‘good-governance’, institutional violation of human rights or ethnic tensions can hardly be called new phenomena. Even if they have actually increased in scope, there is no denying that interest in them has increased because we have adjusted our focus. In other words, if we are prepared to look at ‘new’ conflicts from another viewpoint, then a critical approach must also be present to this new viewpoint. If prevention strategies are to have any chance of success, not only is a better understanding of the uniqueness of individual conflicts necessary, but there needs to be a deepening of the search for recurrent pattern-forming.

I.2.3. Anatomy and prevention

Conflicts move through various stages which in a simple model can be broken down into three main, often difficult-to-separate stages as follows: the pre-escalation stage, the open conflict stage and the outcomes. In the following, we shall attempt to define internal conflict as a process. Three elements are important here: (i) the formation, or structural conditions, (ii) the dynamic dimensions which come into being during the course of the conflict, and (iii) the possible outcomes. In the course of identifying the various stages, some attention will go to possible means which may be used for CP. The question of whether or not it is necessary or desirable to act preventively is left aside in this definition.

I.2.3.1. The formation

Lying at the root of conflicts are a number of factors which, through their linkages are responsible for the transformation from non-conflict to conflict situations. According to Azar, these conditions can be reduced down to the following clusters: the composition of the society, the policies and the role of the state, human needs and international contacts. These variables are all related to one another.

These factors are necessary yet insufficient in themselves as a condition for the existence of conflicts: although they are the breeding ground for the existence of frustrations and tensions, they do not explain why conflicts actually erupt. It is only when actors respond as a result of these frustrations that a dynamic is created which may lead to an escalation and open conflict.

I.2.3.2. The stages of conflict

How does the theoretically-typical conflict run its course? As has been stated, during the course of its existence three main stages can be distinguished: pre-escalation, open conflict and outcomes. Within these stages themselves there are various phases.

  • pre-escalation stage. The pre-escalation stage progresses (i) from an initial conflict through (ii) realisation, (iii) manifest conflict and (iv) polarisation. Antagonistic contrasts form the breeding ground for a number of irreconcilable aims of the various actors. When the actors become aware of these contrasts and feelings of frustration manifest themselves, conflict follows. A crisis situation forms: tensions become acute and self-intensifying. Depending on how the government acts, this crisis can easily be averted, as at this stage there are many possible preventative measures. These may vary from hard repression to (less likely) meeting the grievances of the agitating actors. At this stage prevention primarily means keeping the situation of conflicting aims under control in order to prevent a further escalation of violence.(12) When the government involved denies the existence of the crisis or remains indecisive, the situation worsens. At the same time it must also be remembered that repression may also produce this effect. Acting severely eventually provokes a reaction from the oppressed actor(13), and in certain cases is controlled by the potential rejection or sanctions from abroad. An increasing number of incidents are flaring up due to the fact that the actors are displaying a increasing willingness to take action. It is generally accepted in subject literature that for each incident the 20-death mark forms the threshold between what can be regarded as a latent and a manifest conflict. These incidents are clear signals that without intervention an escalation in conflict is unavoidable. When a conflict remains ‘unresolved’, the polarisation becomes even greater and an open-conflict situation ensues.
  • open conflict. At that point the conflict escalates, in extent and means employed into an all-out confrontation between the various actors. During the pre-military stage there is occasional, isolated and short-lived physical violence. At the military stage, organised, lasting violence covers large stretches of the territory. In the final stage there is a face-to-face showdown in order to establish a different political and/or social structure throughout all or parts of the territory on a permanent basis.(14) At that point the conflict is of such an extent that its existence cannot be objectively denied by anybody. The number of remaining curative means are already greatly reduced by this stage. As long as total escalation has not yet taken place, there is still a chance for diplomatic initiatives to be taken. After that, all that can be hoped for is that the worst-case scenario can be avoided. Any favourable long-term prospects are put at risk, owing to the extremely uncertain short-term course of events. At this point, when the confrontation turns into open warfare, CP is, of course, out of the question. Any intervention from that point on is geared towards enforcing a freeze in the conflict or containment (BOX 1).
  • outcomes. The control of the conflict as described above is in most cases superficial and geared towards buying time. When these remedies fail to do away with the social fault lines which lie at the root of the conflict, the conflict continues to smoulder and may flare up again at any given moment. In this respect this sort of conflict does not come to an end (BOX 2).

As we touched upon above, a period of chaos does not necessarily lead to an all-out, lasting catastrophe. There are also examples where all parties ultimately become exhausted and see compromise as the only means to ensure their survival (BOX 3). Uganda may serve as an example since, after Amin’s regime, the war with Tanzania and the civil war against Obote, the parties saw peace as the least-bad solution. As far as Mozambique and Angola are concerned, exhaustion has also played a major role. There is, finally, one other possibility: that one of the parties in a country wipes the other off the map.

Conclusion

Within the scope of the subject of this study, it must be concluded from the above that the sort of conflict with which the international community is increasingly confronted can no longer be brought to an end using the conventional means of conflict resolution. This is due to the fact that these means have little or no effect on the underlying dynamics of the conflict. The question we would like to ask is what possibilities are offered by a prevention strategy. In the meantime, DIAGRAM 3 shows the connection between the possible means of prevention and the course the conflict follows. From this it can be deduced that the only chance conflict prevention has of succeeding is in the opening stage of the conflict. This implies that it can be predicted at an early stage and that it is possible for intervention to take place in time.

"If, at a given moment, an intelligent brain was to know all the forces that nature makes live and know all the relative positions of the things they consist of, and if such an intelligent brain was big enough to subject this information to analysis, then this brain would be able to summarise the movement of the largest bodies and the smallest atoms in the universe in one single formula: for such a brain nothing would be uncertain, and it would be able to see the future as well as the past. PIERRE SIMON DE LAPLACE

Early warning as an instrument

II.1. THE STATE OF AFFAIRS

Although EW systems are not new, they have mainly been developed for natural disasters such as earthquakes, drought and floods, and the effects of these disasters on people. As early as the 1880s the British introduced nutrition codes in India, a system of information for the purpose of being able to predict food shortages in time. During the 1920s these codes were also applied in Sudan. The African famines of the 1970s and 80s finally fuelled an interest for EW systems in the area of nutritional security strategies. At the same time, changes are taking place in this area: famine is now no longer blamed on natural causes. In the same period, EW systems were created for predicting climatological changes, drought, famine and the ensuing flow of refugees.

But there are other areas where EW systems have been used for an even longer time. For example, there are military intelligence systems which during the Cold War, were designed to trace hostile nuclear attacks in time, on the basis of satellite information. In any event, they were able to prevent a nuclear conflict. It would seem, however, that the strategy of multilateral deterrence and the trouble-free use of structural violence are not the most suitable basis for a policy of peace and stability in the ‘post-block’ period.

More recently, there has been a growing interest in EW systems which are designed to detect and signal conflicts for the purpose of making possible the use of preventive action instead of reactive action. The need for CP primarily existed among research institutes who generally accepted that professional knowledge needed to be expanded in order to be able to avert conflicts (and they also began setting up EW systems). Today this interest has extended as far as those responsible for shaping policy, and the importance of EW is being increasingly recognised (BOX 4). This development is no coincidence. Five reasons can be pointed to for this:

  1. Increasing communicative opportunities and the growing and more-sophisticated means of gathering, processing and analysing information has ensured that systems exist today which are able to offer detailed information about actual conflicts and which can extrapolate from it further changes and trends. The increasing capacity to gather and analyse accurate information on the sources of conflict gives the international community, policy makers and NGOs increasing chances of acting in a conflict-preventive manner.
  2. Secondly, there are the effects of the end of the Cold War which brought about new perceptions on international security. Now it is not only the nuclear threat or inter-state conflicts which threaten world security, but mainly the increasing number of internal conflicts. Because of this, there has been a growing tendency to assign an increasingly active role in conflict management to international organisations – in particular the United Nations.
  3. A third reason is that the state’s power monopoly over its territory and its inhabitants is open to debate. The rising number of internal conflicts has ensured that internationally-recognised juridical principles such as sovereignty and non-interference have come under review, and intervention on humanitarian grounds is now something which can be talked about. At least, that is, for countries in the South.
  4. Experience has taught us that what begins as a national problem can very quickly become a regional matter. Neighbouring countries are not only confronted with flows of refugees, but are actively dragged into the conflict.
  5. The rising costs of conflicts and the very limited success of peace-keeping and peace-enforcing operations have led to a growing realisation, internationally, that prevention is better than cure, and that looking at it from the cost-control point of view, more action of a preventive nature should be taken.

The result of this development has been an increasing demand for the development of EW systems in more and more areas. It is mainly within international organisations, and more specifically within the United Nations and its specialist organisations, that these systems are being expanded at an increasing rate.

The main initiative towards this was taken by Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Secretary-General of the United Nations. In his ‘Agenda for Peace’ of 1992 he underlined the necessity of preventive action: "there is a need, however, to strengthen arrangements in such a manner that information from these sources can be synthesized with political indicators to assess whether a threat to peace exists and to analyze what action might be taken by the United Nations to alleviate it." In other words, EW systems must be developed and tuned in to one another to make it possible for the Security Council to act at an earlier stage and more efficiently. Because, as he goes on to say: "prevention, achieved by employing inter-alia early warning, is ‘evidently better’ than having to undertake major efforts to resolve crises after they have broken out."(16)

Although the need for CP is generally recognised, we still must state that the concept ‘EWS’ is under threat of being undermined even before it has been able to demonstrate its usefulness. Every self-respecting (international) organisation considers CP very important, without really appreciating what exactly is contained in such a system. Or, as the chairman of the International Peace Academy, Olara Otunnu, states: "We all agreed about the importance of preventive action, even though we know very little in practice about this particular peace activity."(17) The major obstacles to this can be summarised as follows:

  • there is a general shortage of theoretical knowledge and practical experience;
  • the link between giving the signal and the response to it is missing;
  • the opportunities for acting preventively are limited by a number of external factors.

a) lack of knowledge

One of the first prerequisites for a working EW system is the availability of information. Although according to a number of authors there is sufficient relevant information available it is only to a very limited extent, and at this moment in time it is neither gathered or centralised in a systematic way. Due to this, much information remains either under-used or not used at all, and there is a reliance on information which has been gathered on an ad-hoc basis. When it comes to the processing and translation of this information, with the aim of being able to predict internal conflicts at an early stage, there is a lack of the necessary knowledge. Mechanisms needed for identifying burgeoning conflicts precisely and accurately are often lacking. Existing academic studies and indicators which have been developed are almost exclusively concerned with internal national conflicts. In addition to that, there is a lack of knowledge on exactly how the possible prevention mechanisms work. And when it comes down to choosing which means are best employed in which situations, it is still often a case of groping around in the dark.

b) the link between the warning and the response

While in itself the gathering and analysing of EW information is a technical matter, the use of the information is determined by institutional and political factors. Often it seems that the link between the warning and the response is missing. In a number of cases it could be said that there is an unwillingness on the part of those responsible for formulating policy, or a crisis-driven response: an existing conflict is of much greater value than a potential conflict that might never erupt. And even if the will does exist, policy-makers often appear to be so preoccupied with existing crises that there is little room left for CP. Among other obstacles are inflexible bureaucracies and situations where there is too-great a distance between the ‘territory’ and the place of response.

c) external factors

Until now, EW systems have not provided an answer to the limitations bound up with each case of preventive action. Examples of these limitations are national sovereignty and the principle of non-interference, feelings of national pride and differences in response among the involved parties. The genocide in Rwanda illustrates this in a painful manner. Countries like France witnessed – at least passively – the military training of militias. Both Belgium and the UNO knew that weapons were being stored and distributed in the country. There were sufficient indications that it did not concern defense committees against the FPR, but that an offensive against Tutsi civilians and moderated Hutus was being prepared. In other words, all warning elements were present, though preventive action was considered to be inopportune.

II.2. THE CONCEPT ‘EARLY WARNING’

This report attempts to examine to what extent operational EW systems are able to identify areas of tension in sufficient time that preventive action remains possible and efficient. The central question in this is: "whether (in whatever way possible) a tension-meter can be developed from which it is possible to gauge the span of time over which states and the world community must sound the alarm and begin a process of early warning".(18) Two important reasons dictate the need for such a tension-meter. The earlier the signal is given, the more the feasible choices and means of finding remedies are left. The number of options decreases as a situation descends into violence. In such circumstances, predicting becomes more difficult and it becomes harder to assess the effect of an intervention based upon that prediction.

We must warn in advance, however, against excessive optimism. Without casting doubt upon the value of EW systems, they do have inherent limitations. EW systems can neither detect all potential conflicts nor help resolve them. Furthermore, they are not able to combat the actual causes of potential or escalating conflicts. The purpose of EW lies elsewhere: to contribute to finding conflict remedies in such a way that they are ‘fought-out’ in a non-violent manner. In this respect, EW must be seen as one element of a wider strategy whose guiding principle is long-term development.A first prerequisite for sounding the alarm that a potential conflict is developing in time is a clear description of the situation. This description forms the basis for making prognoses. It is here that we run into our first obstacle. Conflicts take place within societies, in other words, complex and open systems. A feature of such systems is that they cannot be described exactly, and so, neither can their development. An additional problem is that (potential) conflicts point to serious imbalances within their system. Under such circumstances, the system is sensitive to factors which have no effect in a balanced situation and this makes prediction even more difficult. When the bifurcation zone is reached, it becomes totally impossible. Predicting social processes is, however, not just a scientific challenge, but a necessity within EW systems, because without it all chance of anticipation is lost.

II.3. CLOSER EXAMINATION OF THE INSTRUMENT

In real terms an EW system consists of three links: information gathering, processing and analysis (detection), translation and signalling (prognosis). The purpose of gathering information is to create a pool of data in which the information is grouped according to a pre-determined set of indicators. These indicators must give a clear description of the country or region to which the EW system applies, but more than that, they must be developed in such a way that they are a gauge of imbalances and social tensions within a society or region. At a second stage trends are deduced based on how these indicators have been completed. The processing and analysis of this information must reveal the critical factors (detection). These are the factors which point to possible socio-political tensions and they are followed with an increased degree of attention. When they reach a certain stage, EW will send out signals which point to a possible escalation of the situation (prognosis). It is this signal which initiates any anticipatory action which may need to be taken.

In the following, we shall examine which information is to be gathered and how; which indicators must be employed for this; how the information is then to be analysed and, finally, when and how the signal must be given.

II.3.1. Information gathering

The gathering of information is a necessary but in itself inadequate precondition for making EW work. In order to be usable, efforts must be made to gather information which possess the following characteristics in as broad a basis as possible:

  • clarity: the information must not be ambiguous and it should be reliable.
  • accuracy: the information must not only be clear, but it should also paint a true picture of existing events and phenomena. Furthermore it must emanate from credible and reliable sources.
  • meaningful: the information must contribute to a better understanding of the situation.
  • recent: in order to be able to anticipate situations, information needs to be as up-to-date as possible. If very recent information cannot be gathered, it will be necessary to seek indications of any trends or changes which may be taking place on the basis of previously gathered information.
  • adequacy: information must be complete, because if it is not, any anticipation of a situation will run into problems.
  • validity: recent and accurate information is in itself of little value if it is not sufficiently concerned with exactly what is being measured.(19)

The information which is gathered is in the main ‘overt information’, i.e. information which is public and which can be consulted by anyone. There are several ways of coming by this information. The major sources are, according to Smith, national information, open sources, international organisations and a grey zone.(20) Countries have their own data systems and associated intelligence services which can supply a huge potential of information, not only about their own country but also about neighbouring countries in that region. Open sources are those which are accessible to anyone and in terms of content cover an increasingly wide area, for example books, magazines, data banks belonging to organisations and universities. International organisations are active in very diverse areas and oversee an enormous potential of political, socio-economic, cultural and ecological information. The grey zone includes informal contacts on the ground. Although this source is the most inaccessible it, too, supplies very valuable information.(21)

The gathering of information runs up against a number of obstacles, the most important of which is the accessibility of the source. This decreases as a conflict escalates. As a result of this, the amount of available information also decreases. The information which in such cases can still be gathered is selective, both in terms of subject and region involved. At an advanced stage of the conflict the greatest obstacle, however, is deliberate and strategic disinformation (BOX 5).

II.3.2. Information network

The gathering of what information is ultimately available occurs through an information network which contains and links together all the information sources (‘fact-finding units’). The aim of such a network is to gather the data which is obtained from a wide spectrum of information suppliers in a lasting (i.e. regularly repeated), speedy and standardised manner. Among the possible sources of information are research institutes, government services, UN agencies, independent data banks, media sources, NGOs, ‘fact-finding missions’ and local networks,…

These information suppliers may differ greatly from each other in terms of structure, content and the way the information is gathered. For that reason the information should be centralised by a co-ordination centre which checks the usability of the data and synthesises it for further analysis. This centralisation may be carried out by universities, independent research institutes, the specialised agencies of international organisations and certain government departments.

Many authors point to the fact that today there are problems not so much in the gathering of information as in the flow of it. The information is often at hand, yet it is rarely used economically, which can be explained by the structural limitations owing to divergent information interchanges. On top of that, organisations adopt a reluctant attitude to seeing their so-called integrity being pushed to one side. On this point, Hans Thoolen adds that "… today’s information overkill is almost as problematic as the previous paucity. In order to make use of the more generous availability of information, we will have to develop reliable indicators on the one hand, and learn to master the universe of available information on the other."(23) The gathering and storage of data must take place in a systematic way and data banks should be operationally linked to one another. Here, indicators must act as filters to select and group the crude information and to prevent overkill.

I1.3.3. Indicators

In view of the specific purpose of EW and CP, it is necessary to develop very explicit indicators which reveal both the background conditions against which conflicts come about and the escalation dynamics of conflicts.(24) Furthermore, by permitting regular updating these indicators must trace potential conflicts at a very early stage. This is where the consideration criterion applies, as there is no hard and fast rule to definitively indicate whether a conflict will actually develop. EW will always remain a question of evaluation and interpretation. The more a system becomes unbalanced, the more difficult any prediction becomes.

There is, at present, an almost total absence of such indicator systems. Although many quantitative and qualitative indicators have already been developed, they are mainly targeted towards inter-state conflicts. When it comes to the development of indicators which permit internal national conflicts to be traced at an early stage, there is still a long way to go.

A first operational set of indicators which attempts to detect internal conflicts in time was developed in 1994 by the UNDP. This EW starts with the assumption that a precise quantifying is impossible and tries to measure the extent to which ‘human safety’ is jeopardised on the grounds of the following indicators:

  • nutritional insecurity, measured by the daily calory intake as a percentage of the actual requirement, by the index of food production per head and trends shown by the ratio of food imports.
  • job and income insecurity, reflected by a high and long-term level of unemployment; by a sudden drop in real national income or in real wages; by extremely high inflation figures and by sharp inequalities in incomes between the rich and the poor.
  • violations of human rights, reflected by the number of political prisoners, disappearances, infringement on press freedom and other violations.
  • ethnic and religious tensions, measured by the percentage of the population that is involved in such conflicts and the number of victims.
  • inequality, reflected by the differences between the Human Development Index of the various population groups.
  • military expenditure, measured by the relationship between military expenditure and total expenditure on education and health.

When countries score negatively in a number of these indicators, it indicates that the alarm level has been reached and, according to the UNDP, special vigilance is required. At the present time this would be the case in countries such as Afghanistan, Haiti, Mozambique, Sudan, Zaire and a number of the states which make up the CIS.(25)

Although at first sight this set of indicators appears to be a very operational instrument, when it comes to EW it has very little to offer. The limited choice of (abstract) indicators produces far-too-general information which is not sufficiently up-to-date. Its major drawback is that it takes little or no account of conflict dynamics, but even as far as background indicators are concerned, it paints a very incomplete picture.

The Humanitarian Early Warning System (HEWS) which has been developed very recently by the Department for Humanitary Affairs (DHA)(26) of the United Nations provides a much better instrument. The HEWS is proving to be the most well-developed and manageable EW system so far. It attempts to gather and analyse a wide spectrum of information with the aim of ‘identifying potential crises with humanitarian implications… to facilitate DHA’s role in preventive humanitarian assistance and diplomacy’.(27)

The comprehensive list of indicators which are operated by the HEWS tries to give as wide a description of a country or region as possible. The indicators themselves are subdivided into the following categories:

  • population: changes and differences between the various sections of the population;
  • general economic indicators, such as changes in the GNP, government expenditure, energy production and employment statistics;
  • a review of trade;
  • the financial position;
  • the situation regarding food and agriculture;
  • social indicators, including measures taken against poverty and labour market factors;
  • a review of health and nutrition;
  • the environment and natural resources;
  • a review of the number, origin and current resting place of refugees;
  • human rights;
  • the position of the government;
  • the presence of conflicts or the potential for conflicts (in an internal, external or regional context).
  • the presence of the military and weapons;
  • general background information: historic, geographical, cultural and so on.

The completion of these indicators produces two types of data. The statistical information contains any quantifiable information over a period of 10 to 25 years – depending on the indicator and its availability – which is arrived at by the completion of the following categories of indicators: population, economy, trade, finances, food supply and agriculture, social indicators, health, environment and refugees and displaced persons. The textual information contains the non-quantifiable data which is the result of the completion of the categories of indicators: the state of the government, the presence of conflicts or potential conflicts and the presence of weapons and the military. While the statistical data allow comparisons to be made over a longer period and to trace any trends there may be, the combination of both types of data makes it possible to reveal the critical factors for each country.

The great advantage of the HEWS indicators is that they bear in mind background conditions as well as the escalation dynamics of potential conflicts. Furthermore they are very specific and chosen in such a way that, as well as being able to make trend analyses, they can spot sudden changes.

II.3.4. Detection

The information grouped and standardised by the indicators provides the basis for further analysis. The purpose of this analysis is twofold: one is to trace potential sources of conflict and make a prognosis of how they may develop and the other is to identify the factors which lie at their root.

Conflicts are the consequence of historical factors which build up over a long period, and of sudden dynamic accelerating factors. For that reason, trend analysis needs to be combined with punctual analysis. Trend analysis is based on statistical data for a particular country or region which has been gathered over a long period. By using regression analysis, trends are detected from this historical information and then carried through into the future. In so doing, a limited degree of looking ahead occurs. The drawback of this method is that prognoses can only be made of trends which are already in existence and for which no break is predicted. In spite of this, trend-analysis is of great importance within the scope of what the EW sets out to do. That is because it allows those historical variables to be recorded which in theoretical subject literature are labelled important independent factors in determining the entire area.(28) This ‘collective memory’ (the long-term variables) is very specific for each of the countries or regions which are being examined. Information can take on major differences in meaning depending on the historical precedents. The profile of a country reveals a large number of independent variables which makes it possible to examine long-term effects on the build-up of (potential) conflicts. In order to be able to measure the correct impact of these independent variables, a cross-national examination is necessary. In this way it is for the purposes of this study to theoretically distinguish those critical factors which have a particular effect and which, with a view to CP, need to be followed with special attention.

Relying on prognoses which are based on the quantification of events and trends, however, is full of pitfalls. Such prognoses, for instance, do not take any account of new formation or other contexts. For that reason a trend analysis needs to be combined with a punctual analysis. Understood to mean punctual analysis is an attempt to explain dependent variables (i.e. dynamic accelerating factors) by using independent variables (i.e. the background conditions), without taking the time dimension into account. The aim of this analysis is to examine what possible connections exist between dynamic factors which suddenly arise and historical variables, and what impact this connection has on the on-going course of events. This is essential for both a better understanding of the conflicts as they form, and for formulating a prevention strategy.

The combination of trend analysis and punctual analysis for spotting potential conflicts in time is still hardly ever applied. The reason for this being that the development of such analysis runs up against major obstacles. Mathematically, this method is much more complex than the simple regression model, for example. This is because it tries to trace possible sequences of events as well as establish their extent. The main problem continues to be the quantification of the variables and the fixing of thresholds. How much weight should be given, for example, to an increase in political prisoners from ten to a hundred? And what is the relationship between these one-hundred prisoners and a high infant mortality figure? Is press censorship considered to be of the same importance as catastrophic damage to the environment? A possible solution for this is offered by the so-called discriminating analysis, a multi-variant statistical method which is applied when the extremities of a spectrum (a particular indicator, for example) can clearly be defined, but the situations (or the specific scores of countries and regions) between these extremes cannot. By fixing the extremes (or scores) for each variable, the relative score for each country or region can be established.(29) If this score crosses a certain previously-determined threshold, a warning signal is sent out. These signals point to a worsening and a possible escalation of the situation.

In conclusion, it must be stated that this method remains a very subjective activity. The quantifying of qualitative variables and the fixing of weighting levels and thresholds continues to be problematical. In the end, even the best analysis models can only make prognoses in terms of probabilities. In spite of this, taking account of its limitations, such analysis should be carried on, because if it is not it would be impossible to make any signals and therefore to take any anticipatory action in time.

II.4. ANTICIPATION

In the previous section we stated that an EW system is made up of three links: information gathering, detection and prognosis. Strictly speaking, the mandate of EW ends when a potential conflict is signalled. Given the strategy of long-term development, it falls within its brief that the initiative must also be taken for anticipatory action. EW must not lead to conflicts being simply pushed aside or put on ice, or having their causes moved out of the field of vision. Anticipation means that in a potential conflict situation an intervention is made in such a way that there is a change from the initial position towards a desired situation (read long-term development), or that an undesired situation is avoided. This presupposes that the situation at the beginning can be clearly described, that the proper means are at hand and that the effects of the intervention can be easily predicted. None of these three conditions can be fulfilled at the present time. Even if we were able to exhaustively analyse the situation and can enumerate and arrange the intervention to the same degree, the outcome of the intervention would still not be entirely predictable. This is quite simply the essence of an open, dynamic and dissipative system, and the result of moral restrictions which impose limits on the intervention. In section I we stated that the more a system is out of balance, the more difficult any description of it becomes. Anticipatory action becomes more and more uncertain even in such a situation and as a conflict continues to develop, its scientific basis grows increasingly weak.(30) Although a very extensive subject literature exists on the subject of conflict resolution, beyond it there is a lack of knowledge about how it exactly works. Ideas on which action should be taken when an alarm is sounded are extremely vague. Anyone getting involved in action must quite simply abandon his scientific integrity.

Is this the excuse for an attitude of complete immobilisation? Of course not. All anticipatory action, however, must take account of these restrictions. By definition anticipation contains two elements. The first element is that a response is made to the signal which indicates that a conflict situation is building up, and the second element is that there is an effort to retrace steps back to the causes of the conflict. This implies that structurally intervention takes the form of well-directed action aimed at the centre of power. There must be some doubt as to the feasibility of this strategy, as change in the prevailing economic, political and social context is a long and slow process.

CP must not be a mere palliative. What we are talking about now is the taking of preventive measures to stop the internal working of a country being eroded away or prevent groups within the country being completely marginalised or exploited. The shrivelling up of state functions leads in many cases to the regime falling back on violence, and this forces the marginalised sections of society to turn to violence as the only means of expression. What are urgently called for are, as it were, preservative measures which must stop not only the state and regime but also the society itself being pushed beyond the point where any mediation strategy would be of use. It is only when these conditions are fulfilled that thoughts can be turned towards real conflict-resolving measures. This means that in practice CP will have to consist of a combination of conflict management in the short term and conflict resolution in the longer term.

A prevention strategy like this is dependent on two elements: the willingness to take action and the possibilities of taking action. The willingness to take action is determined by the willingness of external actors to act in a preventive manner and of internal actors to allow certain forms of intervention, and it only increases as a conflict escalates and violence begins to get the upper hand. The possibilities for taking action, however, display the opposite tendency. The earlier the alarm is sounded, the more alternatives remain open and the more means can be employed.

When the conflict moves on to a stage of all-out violence, intervention is then determined by means which one has not chosen oneself, it cannot be predicted what the outcome will be and the response will rarely come up to expectations.(31) Experience has taught us, however, that the willingness to act only takes a serious form when a crisis becomes acute. This has led Kumar Rupesinghe to conclude that the international community responds, almost by definition, 10 years too late in situations of conflict development.(32) By that time, the possibilities for taking preventive action have been virtually exhausted, and they end up coming down to a choice between not intervening and tackling the symptoms by using force. (BOX 6). The former strategy runs up against humanitarian and moral objections and the poor results of the latter are sufficiently well-known.

II.5. SUMMARY: EFFORTS TO OPERATIONALISE EW

In summary, we can conclude from the above that an EW system for the detection of potential conflicts must be founded upon an operational set of indicators which contain both the background conditions and the escalation dynamics of conflicts. In the following, we will describe what we think such indication systems may look like. Each of the selected indicators contains a number of quantifiable variables. In choosing these variables we took into account the manageability and the orientation of the variables, rather than their comprehensiveness. The information which is standardised by the indicators ultimately forms the basis for further analysis. This analysis must lead to the making of prognoses and the determining of (possible) synergy between background conditions and escalation dynamics.

II.5.1. Background conditions

II.5.1.1. Degree of structural tension and social inequality

The greater the social inequality and the more structural it is, the higher is the potential for conflict. These background conditions can be determined by the completion of the following variables: (i) the distribution of incomes and land among the various sections of society (measured according to this GINI co-efficient), (ii) inequality in social development (for example, access to the job market and education), and (iii) social inequality between the various regions and between town and countryside (measured by the UNDP Human Development Index for the various regions and population groups).

II.5.1.2. Size, composition and distribution of the population

When different ethnic, religious or linguistic sections of the population live in the same area, the chance of a confrontation is always present. Segregation in this respect does not always work in a pacifying way. When points of contention spread along ethnic, religious or linguistic lines, mobilisation and polarisation is made easier along these lines and the chances of conflict are increased. Territorial identity is in this respect part of the social identity.(36) In many cases overpopulation also leads to conflict. The variables are (i) the distribution of population according to ethnic group, religion and language as a percentage of the population, (ii) the distribution across the territory, (iii) the presence and extent of tensions, (iv) and the relative capacity for mobilisation and (v) the internal migration from the countryside to towns.

II.5.1.3. Degree of economic development and changes in it

A lack of economic development or sudden economic changes may lead to increasing tensions. These tensions can partly be absorbed by the existence of an active informal sector. The variables are: (i) the national Human Development Index and (ii) the changes in inflation, real national incomes, the balance of payments, foreign debt and the GNP.

II.5.1.4. Changes in nutritional security

This indicator, which is employed by the UNDP and HEWS, can be measured using the following variables: (i) food production per head, (ii) access to food (measured by the daily intake of calories as a percentage of the actual need), (iii) changes in the price of food and (iv) tendencies in the ratio of food imports.

II.5.1.5. Condition of the environment

A territory’s ecological supportive capacity may also have an impact on the potentiality of conflict. This is the case when room to make use of the environmental is not sufficient to satisfy basic needs. This tension can be measured by the following variables: (i) total amount of available energy, metals, minerals, wood, water and other natural resources per head of population and (ii) the scale of pollution and ecological degradation.

II.5.1.6. Legitimacy of the regime

The acceptance of the regime and the political institutions by large sections of society has a stabilising effect. This acceptance depends to a large extent on the regime’s ability to meet the requirements expressed(37) and to act in a regulatory, distributive and responsive manner. When these institutions are openly questioned by sections of the elite and by the society, there is the threat that a struggle for the control of these institutions themselves will ensue. Some of the variables are (i) the stability of the government (measured using the number, the frequency and the type of changes in government), (ii) the degree of participation and (iii) the number and nature of demonstrations.

II.5.1.7. Repression and violations of human rights

Violations of human rights are an important indicator of the existence of a potential conflict. A limited choice of variables measures (i) changes in the number of political prisoners, (ii) the reaction to demonstrations, (iii) the degree of press freedom, (iv) the scale and function of troops in a policing role and (v) the status of minorities and indigenous peoples.

II.5.1.8. Military expenditure

This indicator is determined by the completion of the following variables: (i) the absolute size of the army and the size of the army in relation to the total population, (ii) changes in military expenditure (as a percentage of the total budget and in relation to expenditure on education and health), (iii) the scale and origin of arms imports and (iv) the presence of non-official armed groups, their aims and the scale of their weapons and activities

II.5.1.9. External factors

Within the scope of what EW sets out to achieve, a good understanding of the international context in which a region or country is active is of great importance. This context may influence potential conflicts both positively and negatively. International or regional mechanisms and actors may exercise a major influence on the development of the internal situation in the country in question. On the other hand, events in neighbouring countries may spread or negatively influence existing tendencies. Important variables are: (i) the economic and political position of the country at an international and regional level, (ii) the degree of regional integration, (iii) relations with neighbouring countries, (iv) armed conflicts and the nature of conflict in the region, (v) the existence and size of regional refugee flows which are taking place in the country and (vi) the activities of indigenous groups who are in neighbouring countries

II.5.1.10. Historical precedents

The history of conflict of the country is an important indicator of existing fault lines. Previous conflicts are a good predictor of possible new conflicts. The following variables are important in this: (i) the nature of previous conflicts, (ii) the scale of previous conflicts and (iii) outcomes and solutions.

II.5.2. Escalation dynamics

In addition to the background conditions, escalation dynamics also need to be looked at. The previous indicators attempted to chart the structural, static side of the system. Here, they set out from a long-term perspective. Revealing the escalation dynamics, on the other hand, occurs from a much shorter-term perspective and is oriented towards the actors. An upshot of this is that escalation dynamics are much more difficult to quantify, and this has implications for later analysis.

Escalation dynamics can be defined as political and socio-psychological dynamics which manifest themselves at the moment a conflict escalates and which have a negative effect on the behaviour of the actors involved. This affects the way in which the actors strive for their goals and the means they are prepared to use to achieve them. In other words, it is these dynamics which are responsible for the further escalation and the dimensions of the conflict.

The following distinctions can be made according to the actors involved: actions and strategies of the opposition actors, actions and strategies of the regime and built-in conflict mechanisms. As far as the actions of opposition actors are concerned, among the variables which can be pointed to as being important are: the actor’s organisation and mobilisation, the existence of effective leadership, the strategies and tactics of this leadership. These variables are in themselves dependent on the reactions of the regime. If, at an initial stage, this regime tries to respond to the dissension by meeting the needs and demands expressed, an escalation can be prevented(38) In practice this ‘accommodation strategy’ rarely occurs. As we have stated elsewhere, the regime often responds in terms of repression or suppression. After all, built-in conflict mechanisms point to historical experiences, such as how the conflict ran in its course in the past and the nature of the communication between the various combatant actors. These variables also have an influence on the conduct of the actors, especially when they were involved in previous eruptions of conflict.(39)

A second distinction can be made according to the nature of the dynamics. Väyrynen makes a distinction between conflict accelerators, ‘signal reports’ and factors which stir up the conflict. Conflict accelerators are events which "rapidly increase the level of salience of the most volatile of the general conditions"(40). Examples of this include propaganda, disinformation, rumours and symbolic violence. They may result in actors feeling threatened, insecure or unfairly treated and losing their trust in existing institutions. Resulting from this, the parties are inclined to resort to taking unilateral hostility action and using force which has the effect of escalating the conflict.

‘Signal reports’ are declarations by the involved actors warning that there is a threat of violent conflict, civil war or disintegration of the state may be reached. These messages may be an element of a ‘rhetorical war’, but they are often important signals that a conflict threatens to flare up. That is because they reflect how the actors themselves are experiencing the given situation.

Factors which stimulate the conflict, finally, refers to all the actions or decisions which have a negative influence on the stability of a given situation or on the possible ‘peaceful settlement’ of disputes, without directly intending to have these effects. They move the actors, however, to resort to violent means and to take unilateral steps.

"La riche idée de Mobutu a été de donner aux gens du Zaire ce qu’ils n’ont jamais eu et ce dont ils avaient besoin depuis longtemps: un roi africain. Le roi exprime toute la dignité de son pays. Posséder un roi, c’est partager la dignité du roi. La responsabilité de l’individu – qui peut être une source de désespoir, au sein de l’abjecte misère africaine – s’en trouve atténuée. Tout ce qu’on demande aux gens, c’est l’obéissance et l’obéissance est facile (…). La royauté de Mobutu est devenue à elle même sa propre fin. On démantèle l’Etat moderne dont on a hérité, mais il n’est pas trop important que l’Etat fonctionne (…). La paix de Mobutu et cette royauté qu’il a instaurée sont de grands accomplissements. Mais la royauté est sterile. Dans le culte du roi s’enlisent déjà les premiers progrès intellectuels d’un peuple qui émergeait à peine. Les confusions d’idées qui se font, au nom de l’authenticité, et qui donnent pour l’heure une telle illusion de puissance, renferment ce monde en lui-même et laissent prévoir un avenir de désespoir accru."(41) V.S.

The Zairean crisis as a test case

We will probably not be accused of sticking our necks out by beginning the case-study of Zaire with the thought that it is probably not a typical SSA country. While part of the old guard was swept away under pressure from the people and another section drew the same conclusion – albeit not happily – from the election results, it seems as though little has changed in Zaire in spite of these changes. Is this one of the aspects of the frequently cited ‘Miracle Zaïrois’? In this (far from comprehensive) sketch, we will attempt to analyse the trends and the accelerators and to outline EW strategy.

III.1. BACKGROUND CONDITIONS

III.1.1. Structural tensions and social inequality

According to the UNDP, the annual income per head of population fell in the 1980s by an average of 1.3% per year. Around 70% of the population now live under the poverty threshold. The inequality in incomes and consumption in Zaire is of more of a regional nature than a social one. The Gini co-efficient for Zaire shows a fairly egalitarian distribution of wealth, or rather of poverty, due to the fact that the majority of the population is active either in agriculture or in the informal sector of the economy. The provinces of Equator, Haute-Zaire (as a result of its poor communications) and Kivu (due to its overpopulation) are very poor, while the area around Kinshasa is relatively rich. This does not simply reflect the ‘natural’ resources, as Shaba – potentially the richest province – is impoverished, yet Kasai – thanks to its diamond mines and agricultural surpluses is doing better.

III.1.2. Size, composition and distribution of the population

Both in terms of language and ethnically, Zaire has a widely differentiated population, with important ethnic groupings being split across national borders. Around 80% of the population, which is estimated at 40 million and with an annual growth of 3.1%, lives on the land. The population density is relatively low. It is only in Kivu that there can be said to be any population pressure.

III.1.3. Degree of economic development and changes in it(42)

The Human Development Index was 0.341 in 1992. This puts Zaire in 140th position in the world, while in a league table of GNP per head, it occupies 160th spot. The GNP per inhabitant fell in real terms compared to 1960 and was only 150 dollars in 1990. Since 1980 the economy has seen a negative growth of 2.5% per year, as a result of which it is at the bottom of a table of its African neighbours. Even though exports are becoming increasingly restricted to copper, cobalt and diamonds, there has been a huge drop in mining. The mining company, Gécamines, for years the showpiece of the Zairean state and source of wealth for the elite, has collapsed completely. Copper production fell from 507,000 tons in 1985 to 47,500 tons in 1993 and has come to a complete standstill since. Only diamond and cobalt production continue (representing 62% and 18.6% of exports at the beginning of 1995, respectively), but most of it is carried out illegally (60% according to an estimate by Prof. J. Maton). The ceasing of production by Gécamines has caused the gross domestic product (GDP) to fall by half, and for the state this has signified a huge loss of tax revenue.

III.1.4. Changes in nutritional security

Nutritional security is falling in Zaire. Due to the official trading channels of food distribution grinding to a halt, the urban population has become totally reliant on the black market and on (ethnic) bonds of solidarity. The consequences for public health have been dramatic. The staple food is still manioc. Many Zaireans’ wages, however, are not sufficient to provide their families with this food. Although there was an increase in coffee production in 1994, Zairean agriculture – due to the lack of transport and the absence of a market – has become primarily subsistence in form. Agricultural production is for personal consumption and there is no surplus: in Kivu, where there are surpluses, it is exported.

III.1.5. Condition of the environment

As far as emissions and environmental degradation is concerned, no clear information is available. Reserves are extremely large. In terms of wood consumption, Zaire comes 20th in the world.

III.1.6. Legitimacy of the regime

The political history of the independent Zaire can be summarised as follows with the aid of Jean-Claude Willame. The period between 1960 and 1974 is characterised as a period of growth without development. The years 1974 to 1978 are the years in which the state finances were plundered for non-beneficial purposes, that is to say, the period in which patrimonialism fully developed. The 1980s were characterised by the further expansion of this patrimonialism, referred to by Willame as the thorough and accelerated cannibalisation of the state by a political elite.(43) In 1967, within the framework of the advancement of the nation and the development of the country, the unity party, the ‘Mouvement Présidentielle de la République (MPR) was founded. Constitutional amendments institutionalised President Mobutu’s personalisation of the exercising of power and the supremacy of the unity party over the state. The party incarnated the nation, the organs of state were transformed into party organs. Mobutu’s position of power was held in place partly by continuous rotation within the heavily-centralised administration. By the end of the 1980s, the second republic was in terminal decline. The state apparatus had degenerated into a nepotistic radar network of patronage systems, the power hegemony and the ruling class relied entirely on having control over the economy and the means of force. In view of the static nature of the Zairean regime, it has been unable to meet the growing dissent among large sections of the population. The regime has declined to a point at which it is merely a narrow and continually-changing group loyal to Mobutu.

III.1.7. Repression and violations of human rights

Violence is an inherent component of Zairean society and in recent years has taken three forms: looting by unpaid soldiers, blind terror by the security forces and ethnic violence. On a number of occasions, cities have been shaken by looting orchestrated from the power centres themselves, resulting in much material destruction and many deaths. The security services, the army and the Division Spéciale Présidentielle (DSP), act without any hierarchical control. The DSP does this as part of its job as the president’s private militia, but in the absence of any control of it, it has been translated into the daily abuse of power against ordinary citizens. Countless violations of human rights, including summary executions, disappearances, torture, illegal imprisonment and politically-inspired persecution on a regional and ethnic basis by the security services continue to take place in Zaire. The army – which is hardly paid or controlled – is the most guilty of violating human rights, but so are the DSP, the well-paid elite troops under Mobutu’s personal control. Africa Watch also complain about the undescribable suffering found in Zairean prisons, in which prisoners are completely abandoned to their fate.

III.1.8. Military expenditure

This is another indicator for which no up-to-date information is available. Earlier figures, however, give one to suppose that there has not been a spectacular growth in military expenditure. Military staff are paid on a very irregular basis or with uncovered banknotes. Yet caution needs to be exercised in this conclusion. It is still very difficult to trace the quantity and type of weapons that are in the country, one of the reasons for which is the almost open frontier with Angola.

III.1.9. External factors

For geopolitical reasons, Zaire has always been a preferential ally (cf. the Angolan Civil War, for example). For that reason, various forms of development co-operation took on a number of state functions.

III.1.10. Historical precedents

The first large-scale conflict took place three years after independence: this after independence had been achieved in extremely turbulent circumstances. During the period between 1963 and 1965, a bloody conflict was fought out which claimed the lives of a million Zaireans and resulted in Mobutu assuming power. In 1977 the FNLC, which was made up of Katangese in exile, invaded Shaba. This attack was repulsed in a bloody manner with the help of Moroccan troops and French support. A year later the ‘Katangese gendarmes’ made a second attempt. Thanks to intervention by Belgian and French troops – with American support – the regime was once again able to stay in power.

With the aid of these indicators, it is possible to conclude the following:

  • there is a sneaking devaluation of the state;
  • there is a progressive disintegration of the society;
  • periods of open warfare (in the early 1960s) and military confrontation (Shaba I and II), alternate with periods of relatively open calm.

There is a proverb which says ‘the pitcher goes so often to the well that it eventually breaks’. While that much might be clear, when it comes to Zaire it is precisely because it has been so often ‘predicted’ that the regime was on its last legs that it has become slightly embarrassing, if not hilarious. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that in recent years a new political constellation has come into being.

III.2. Escalation dynamics

We have chosen to use 1990 as the base year. For one thing, that was when the wind of democratisation from the North was fanned. It was also the year that Mobutu himself realised, after his tour of the country, that changes would be necessary if he wanted to remain in power. The multi-party system – which in terms of how it was intended to be used was probably no more than decoration -appeared to have brought about a different social framework around the power struggle. In spite of the fact that the ‘Mouvance’ continued to occupy the formal territory, a new situation had been created. We show below a number of accelerators which further intensified the destabilisation of the regime, and probably of the nation. Attention, however, also needs to be paid to the reactive defence reflexes which work in the short term in a consolidatory way for the regime, without bringing a solution any closer. As will become apparent, certain processes produce contradictory effects

III.2.1. Accelerators

III.2.1.1. Macro-economic situation (formal)

Premier Kengo Wa Dondo’s ultra-orthodox monetary and fiscal policy has had favourable effects in areas such as inflation, the state budget and the exchange rate. Due to the absence of any social guidance, the financial burden is shifted onto the population which turns its back on the state even more.(44)

11.2.1.2. Informal sector

Due to the increasing importance of the informal sector, the gulf between nation and state and between actors and policy widens. One part of the informal sector, which can be classified as the criminal sector (smuggling, drugs), has links with the regime and intensifies the population’s feelings of there being a loss of standards.

III.2.1.3. Ethnicising of politics

The clashes between Lunda and Luba and the problems in Kivu intensify the physical force factor as a regulator of tensions between social subgroups.

III.2.1.4. Disintegration of the nation

The regime is a rump regime only in control of certain sectors or geographical entities. In the interior the presence of Kin is often virtually zero.

III.2.1.5. Intensified manifest regime violence

The violent put down of peaceful demonstrations in 1992 and the cases of looting in 1993 make the chances of a mediated solution slimmer.

III.2.1.6. Growing tension with neighbouring countries

The Habyarimina regime, militarily backed by Mobutu, is in decline and the situation around Goma and the refugee camps are intensifying the local problems.

III.2.1.7. The impotence of the political class

The current camp changes and endless institutional wrangling damage the credibility of the political class – both Mouvance and the opposition – even more.

III.2.2. Stabilising effects

III.2.2.1. Macro-economic situation (formal)

Government action is putting an end to ‘vendredism’, i.e. it forces the population to rely entirely on itself and to shelve any hopes that the government will organise any improvement in their lot.

III.2.2.2. Informal sector

Having to manage for oneself encourages the regime’s policy of permitting underhand activities. ‘Article 15′ replaces the government safety net, and the lack of standards feed the sense that everyone can get a piece of the pie.

III.2.2.3. Ethnicising politics

Ethnic differences are deliberately played upon by the centre and further reduce the chances of a national opposition.

III.2.2.4. Disintegration of the nation

The impossibility of physical and technological means of communication stand in the way of a national resistance movement.

III.2.2.5. Intensified manifest violence

The suppression of the demonstrations has put a brake on mobilisation and the looting had a ‘redistributing’ effect in the towns.

III.2.2.6. Growing tensions with neighbouring countries

Mobutu strengthens his position as a regional stabiliser and the expulsion of refugees forces the international community into consultations.

III.2.2.7. Impotence of the political class

The population turns away from ‘haute politique’ and confines itself to the popularisation of the ‘politique du ventre’.

Along with this, of course, comes the reaction from abroad, and in particular the West, which has at the very least sent out ambiguous signals. Internationally, the Zairean state and its representatives are still recognised at all conferences and as diplomatic representatives (albeit scaled down considerably as in the role of Kimbulu). For a while it seemed that the Troika (USA, France and Belgium) would not give the president another chance, without actively supporting his deposing. For various reasons this attitude has softened. Owing to defaulting on payments, the World Bank and the IMF had closed the door on Kinshasa, but if an operation like De Beers should go ahead fresh talks may be held. We have reached a situation in which the best that can be hoped for is the avoidance of a ‘worst-case scenario’.

In summary, it comes down to something like the following:

  • specific information on large parts of the country is unavailable (see BOX 5);
  • the aims of the opposition – irrespective of personnel changes at the top – are contradictory and confused;
  • the strength of the ‘Mouvance’ and its relationship with Mobutu is unclear;
  • the population is slowly being pushed over the threshold of survival, and no one knows what its reaction might be.

Although it will probably sound odd, what we have here is a situation of ‘institutionalised chaos’ in which any anticipatory action is just about impossible because there is no way of assessing what the effects, side-effects or counter-effects might be. On top of that, it is a situation which may at any moment experience the so-called butterfly’s wings effect. For instance, if the president died suddenly, just about anything might be possible. In short, it is an example where EW would make very little sense: it is not ‘early’ and nobody is sure any longer what the first warning should be about.

Si vis pacem, para pacem

Conclusion

It appears from the above that EW and CP are less utopian than has been represented by some and that substantial steps have already been taken to put it into further operation. What is lacking at first sight is the political will of the international community which would be translated into the application of means and manpower. It is true that a search for additional means in the current circumstances is a hopeless task, especially now that the UN is coming under fire for its inefficient financial control and because member states are facing internal budgetary problems. The question here is whether it is sufficient to reallocate flows of finance. If one adds up the costs of ‘Restore Hope’ and UNOSOM, and multiplies them by the efforts of the NGO world and deducts the losses for Somalia, then the funds required for CP take on an entirely different perspective. They certainly do if one projects them against the background of the results obtained.

As we stated in the introduction, it is difficult to contend that the UN and specific organs such as the Security Council are neutral bodies. A security council which takes a position on the point of positive neutralism with respect to permanent peace is not be expected in the near future. This has not prevented steps already being taken towards the delegation of decision-making to regional organisations. In the area of CP there is the OAU’s positive tendency of making renewed efforts towards taking a firmer grip on the stability of SSA. Despite all the scepticism that is rightly felt about the power of the OAU, one should not simply turn a deaf ear to the signals coming from the Cairo summit in March 1995.

It must be clear by now that CP in general and EW in particular has no chance of succeeding if it is not firmly set within the broader strategy of long-term development. It is for this reason that we wish to see our recommendations fit into an overall policy, even if it is not always possible to achieve all its goals and that between the individual aspects there will be temporary or local incompatibility. The distinction between the macro, meso and micro levels refers as much to a distinction in space and time as it does to policy responsibility.

1. MACRO-LEVEL

(1) Fit development co-operation in within a development policy

CP requires a decompartment of the policy when it comes to the overall requirements of long-term development (long-term poverty eradication, democratisation and human rights and ecological supportive capacity) and the consideration which goes into the prevention of real conflicts.

(2) SSA must be able to make its own unique contribution as an active partner in the world’s economic and political processes.

Belgium must be insistent to the EU that the Union’s market accessibility is increased, that there is no sign of a negative overspill in internal European policy towards SSA, and that production capacity and the diversification of it is supported.

2. MESO-LEVEL

(3) Place the emphasis on a nutritional security strategy

Development efforts must fall within the scope of a more targeted and integrated approach which permits the development policy’s weaknesses in the area of nutritional security to be detected.(45)

(4) Recognise the universality and indivisibility of human rights

The HRDER test of development efforts applies as the first step.(46)

(5) Integrate the ecological dimension

Development efforts must be subject to reporting on environmental effects.

3. MICRO-LEVEL

3.1. Micro-level CP

(6) Control the arms trade

There should be a change in policy from a reactive banning of arms supplies to combatant parties into a preventive policy.

(7) Direct project aid to the civilian society

The large-scale top-down approach in the past has rarely reduced social tensions to any substantial degree because there have been no trickle-down effects.

(8) Redirect support away from countries which block long-term development

Regime support of a government which provokes violent conflicts is at odds with any prevention policy.

(9) Employ conditionality positively

Provide institutional aid to those states who are working towards the eradication of poverty, democratisation and human rights and the protection of the ecological supportive capacity.

3.2. Micro-level EW:

(10) Actively support the existing HEWS

HEWS is the best-operational and largest-scale EW system. Support should initially be directed towards the information link.

(11) Gather goal-oriented information

The GCDC sections, embassies and national and local NGOs can be deployed as permanent informants.

(12) Actively participate in international networks

Data collection will only be possible if states in the North tone down their sovereignty concerning information.

(13) Institutionalise the connection between EW and CP

The flow of information to the centres where decision-making on preventive action is carried out should be undertaken in a more formalised and more efficient way.

(14) Use a road-book

The way conflicts develop in stages requires greater transparency and more automisation in the relationship between EW and CP.

(15) Couple EW with field diplomacy

At an initial stage, the supporting of those local forces who are striving for a solution is both achievable and appropriate.

(16) Strengthen the base of social support

Both Somalia and Rwanda, where there was no genesis for conflict, strengthened the belief in the inevitability of armed conflict and undermined public opinion’s support for future preventive actions.

In view of the growing interdependence at a world level, it is no longer possible for a country to entrench itself in the self-satisfaction of isolationism. Conflict prevention will never be possible in all areas and conflict resolution is a process that only bears fruit in the long term, but constructive conflict management can be expanded out into a feasible strategy.

Experience has demonstrated that this strategy is optimised whenever potential conflicts are signalled at their earliest stages. To this end, an EW system is an indispensable instrument which must be further refined as a result of practical experience. It is a first, but indispensable operational link for a fundamental resolving of problems, and for finding a real stability which can ultimately provide a platform for more permanent development.

That is not to say, of course, that the concept of national sovereignty is to be narrowed down. But for the purging of the spirit it is advisable to bear the following in mind. Isn’t the manipulation of the price of raw materials a form of intervention? Haven’t SAPs fundamentally influenced the social connecting tissues on occasions? Don’t the fluctuations in petrol prices and the dollar have repercussions on family budgets? Or must it be concluded from this that when the deterministic market laws are played out, sovereignty is a side-issue, but when the sovereignty of a state is limited for the benefit of its population the international legal system is put into a tight spot?

DIAGRAMS


DIAGRAM 1 WHICH CONFLICTS ARE MANIFESTING THEMSELVES TODAY?

On the basis of the origins of conflicts, the following types of distinctions can be made; about which it needs to be stated that in practice conflicts are made up of a combination of these types:

  • legitimacy conflicts: conflicts arising due to a regime’s lack of legitimacy, which leads, for example, to an absence in political participation and a problematic distribution of wealth and welfare. When participation in power is not possible through the system itself, it may be felt that the only option is to attempt a coup or to challenge the regime with violence. Often wars between regimes result from this.
  • transition conflicts: characteristic of a change in the system, which can be initiated by the power centre itself or enforced by opposition forces or movements, are intensified struggles between rival actors with differing interests, and in which the power to force your own views of rule and policy on the other actors is at stake. When the transitional process does not produce the outcome which was hoped for, there will still be a chance that further conflict will follow.
  • identity conflicts: conflicts which are a consequence of searching for one’s own identity, protecting one’s own safety or the lack of access to political power and economic sources. At their root are ethnic, religious, tribal and linguistic differences. What are termed ethnic conflicts are often conflicts between various elites who see a legitimacy for their battle for power in ethnic or nationalistic factors and can use it to mobilise the population
  • development conflicts: conflicts as a consequence of the growing gulf between the rich and poor, or as a result of widespread impoverishment of deprived groups and sectors of society and regions.

[JHA Editor's Note - there is no diagram 2.]


DIAGRAM 3 PREVENTION PLANNING IN STAGES: CLASSIC APPROACH

Diagram 3

Source: X, Beyond Emergency Assistance… Early Warning, Conflict Prevention and Decision-Making, p. 19b.

A diagram like this takes no account of the conclusion that the more a system is out of balance, the more potential situations may present themselves, while at the same time, because of the scissor movement the degree of predictability decreases. DIAGRAM 4 attempts to give a graphic reflection of our approach.


DIAGRAM 4 PREVENTION PLANNING IN STAGES: ALTERNATIVE APPROACH

Diagram 4

(1) malaise (2) crisis (3) manifest conflict see printed text (4) open conflict (5) military escalation (6) war

The time scale was divided into 3 phases

ph 1 – the upper and lower borders between which the probabilities are situated, are well-defined,

  • the number of potential sequences is limited,
  • there is a substantial probability that P1 leads to P1′

ph 2 – the upper and lower borders between which the probabilities are situated, become wider and more difficult to define,

  • the number of potential sequences increases,
  • Bifurcation occurs : there is a limited, respectively no possibility to tell wether P2 will lead to P2′ or P2”

ph 3 – the upper and lower borders fade away and become vague,

  • the number of sequences can no longer be determined,
  • P3 can lead to P3′ to P3n

In the final phase the result can either be permanent conflict or conflict resolution (sustainable peace or destruction). The appropriate location of an EWS is ideally situated in Ph1, but in practice it will find itself close to or beyond the border of Ph2. In Ph3 one can no longer speak of ‘early’ warning.

The question raised by all of this is what role EW systems can play within this strategy. These systems occupy centre stage in the further course of this report. Firstly, EW is approached as a concept within a broader (prevention) strategy. In the second section the value of EWS as an instrument is examined.


[JHA Editor's Note: There are no Diagrams 5&6]


DIAGRAM 7: INDICATION SYSTEM

I. structural tensions and social inequality
(i) distribution of income and land among sections of the society
(ii) inequality in social development
(iii) social inequalities between the various regions and between town and countryside

II. size, composition and distribution of the population
(i) population per ethnic group, religion and language as a percentage of the population
(ii) distribution across the territory
(iii) presence and extent of tension
(iv) relative capacity for mobilisation
(v) internal migration from the countryside to towns

III. degree of economic development and changes in it
(i) the national Human Development Index
(ii) changes in inflation
(iii) changes in real national incomes
(iv) changes in the balance of payments
(v) changes in foreign debt in relation to GNP

IV. changes in nutritional security
(i) food production per head
(ii) access to food
(iii) changes in food prices
(iv) tendencies in the ratio of food imports

V. condition of the environment
(i) total amount of available energy, metals, minerals, wood, water and other natural resources per head of population
(ii) scale of pollution and ecological degradation

VI. legitimacy of the regime
(i) stability of the government (number, frequency, and type of changes of government)
(ii) degree of participation
(iii) number and nature of demonstrations

VII. repression and violations of human rights
(i) changes in the number of political prisoners
(ii) reaction to demonstrations
(iii) degree of press freedom
(iv) scale and function of troops in a policing role
(v) status of minorities and indigenous populations

VIII. military expenditure
(i) absolute and relative size of the army
(ii) changes in military expenditure
(iii) scale and origin of arms imports
(iv) presence of non-official armed groups, their aims and the scale of their weapons and activities

IX. external factors
(i) economic and political position at an international and regional level
(ii) degree of regional integration
(iii) relations with neighbouring countries
(iv) armed conflicts and the nature of conflicts in the region
(v) existence and size of regional refugee flows which are taking place in the country
(vi) activities of indigenous groups who are in neighbouring countries

X. historical precedents
(i) the nature of previous conflicts
(ii) the scale of previous conflicts
(iii) outcomes and solutions


DIAGRAM 8: REVIEW OF THE ZAIREAN TRANSITION PROCESS

1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995
Summary multiparty system, blood bath, Lumumbashi,

mutiny in Kinshasa

SNC, mutinies, looting Blood bath in Kinshasa, ethnic tensions in Katanga and Kivu Mutiny and looting in Kinshasa Indigenous Kasaians and Maniéma driven out of Katanga; merger of HCR with PT
January Perestroika reaches Zaire Nguza forcibly closes SNC Mutiny and bloody looting (1000 dead) Mobutu sets date for elections at December 1994
February Presidential tour around the 11 provinces Mulumba Kuloji prime minister Blood bath in Kinshasa Mobutu dismisses Tshisekedi: refusal by HCR. HCR surrounded by military for three days.
March founding of the United Front of the Opposition Blood bath in Kinshasa Opening of political conclave of Kinshasa. Birindwa new premier. Political accord
April Mobutu announces three-party system, opposition do not agree people’s revolt and blood bath at Mbuyi Mayi SNC is reopened Two governments and two parliaments. Mobutu proclaims Constitutional Law
May Blood bath on the campus at Lumumbashi; Lunda becomes premier Talks between opposition and Mobutu at Gbadolite
June Violent demonstrations by students. Universities closed down for next two years. Kengo elected by HCR as Kengo Monsengwo removed as chairman of HCR-PT
July Law on three-party system; opposition refuses Founding of the Holy Alliance of the Opposition, Mobutu nominates Tshisekedi as premier UDPS meeting at stadium brutally put down. Extension of transition period, post-ponement of elections
August Opening of the SNC Tshisekedi chosen by SNC as premier. Violence increases on campus at University of Kinshasa
September Mobutu decrees four-party system, opposition refuses Mutiny and looting in Kinshasa. SNC silent. Tshisekedi remains premier Ethnic tensions in Katanga and Kivu Fraudulent import of 30 tons of Zairean money
October Mobutu decrees all-out multi-party system Tshisekedi fired. Mutiny and looting in the provinces. Monetary reforms by Birindwa; refusal by Kasai Fraudulent import of 14 tons of Zairean money
November General demand for establishing the NSC Nguza-Karl-I-Bond designated as premier. SNC is reopened. Political consultations at Kinshasa; OAU, UN and Troika as observers Bas-Zaire banishes foreigners
December People’s revolt in Kinshasa Monsengwo becomes chairman of the SNC Mobutu issues 5 million Zairean francs worth of banknotes. Tshisekedi demonetises notes. SNC becomes HCR. Monsengwo chairman. World Bank leaves Zaire

SOURCE: NZUZI, L., Zaïre: quatre années de "transition", bilan provisoire, In: CEAN, L’Afrique politique, le meilleur, le pire et l’incertain, 1995

Boxes referred to in the text

BOX 1 – Sudan, is there no alternative?

Nimule is one of the few towns still under the control of Riak Machar’s SPLA. In theory the SPLA is fighting for the autonomy of South Sudan. The split between the SPLA-Mainstream (Garang) and the SPLA-United (Machar) and the continued fractional struggles have caused the political programme to virtually disappear, and this has benefited local warlords. These warlords are as likely to turn against the local population as they are against the (changing) enemy. In North Uganda the so-called ‘Lord Resistance Army’, chiefly Achole, are fighting against Museveni’s rule. They receive support from Khartoum to prevent the SPLA passage across the Sudanese-Ugandan border. It is probable that Zaire provides logistical assistance, because of Kagame in Rwanda. The international community’s attempts to promote a permanent peace is a utopian idea, given the actual circumstances (besides, different northern countries have different interests). The fall-back strategy of providing emergency aid is as good as impossible: Khartoum refuses to allow any air links and the SPLM (the civilian wing of the SPLA) turn away all the means of reaching their objectives. The setting up of security zones has not even come under consideration. There is frustration among aid workers on the ground and a growing unwillingness at the decision-making centres to maintain ‘Operation Lifeline’ at its current levels. The next famine is showing signs of being on its way.


BOX 2 – Liberia, from justifiable war to warlordism.

The Liberian Civil War has dragged the country down to a point of ‘complete degeneration’. The state has completely disappeared, society has been blown to pieces, the nation has become totally fragmented, the population has been put to flight and the economy has been ruined. And yet this conflict was originally a social struggle. Since the creation of the Liberian Republic in 1847, society has been divided. Americo-Liberians imposed a system on the indigenous population which was based upon the exclusion of 90% of the population. In the late 1970s a broad social movement came into being to contest this system, strengthened by the painful economic situation. This process was thwarted by the intervention of a section of the army. The new (military) regime differed from the old one only in the identity of those controlling the political and economic state machinery; "Same taxi, different driver". The invasion by Charles Taylor which triggered the Liberian Civil War in late 1989, was primarily a struggle against the monopolistic position of the Krahn by rebels who were discriminated against on the grounds of their ethnic origins. Today, as a result of continuous process of splintering, this struggle has degenerated into a struggle between the fractions for the monopoly itself. Although the self-destructive attempts by the embattled military dictator to maintain his position of power did indeed lead to his overthrow, it only turned out to be by groups who were too badly-organised to offer any alternative.


BOX 3 – Ethiopia-Eritrea: Managing for themselves

In 1974 the centuries-old Solomitic dynasty came to an end. The DERG inherited a country torn apart by civil war, without any effective state structures, with a semi-feudal economy and famines. The new regime, supported by the Soviet Union, failed to put the country on the path of stability and development. While it can be said to have given the kiss of death to the old form of society, it failed in the areas of nation building, economic take-off and poverty eradication.

The Menghistu regime fought a war with Somalia for the Ogaden, organised the red terror against political parties who had originally been partners, intensified regional and ethnic differences and wasted much energy on fighting Eritrea’s separation. The country descended further into a situation of all-out war. The loss of the foreign overlord shortened the agony. In May 1991 the current government took over power in Addis Abeba, and in May 1993 Eritrea was officially declared independent. The reconstruction of both countries will require great efforts, but a region which once threatened to subside into total chaos seems to have found a new lease of life. In the Federal Constitution of 1994, the Ethiopian government have theoretically built in the possibility of absorbing (ethnic-cultural) conflicts preventively and through consultation. There were no ‘peace-keeping’ or ‘peace-enforcing’ operations by the outside world in Ethiopia.


BOX 4 – The OAU Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution(15)

An example of regional prevention mechanisms is the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution which was set up during the 29th sitting of the General Assembly of the OAU which was held in June 1993 in Cairo. The main purpose of this initiative is to make timely intervention possible if conflicts threaten in Africa. In such cases the mechanism can take peace-making and peace-building initiatives, with the aim of promoting and speeding up conflict resolution. It comprises a Central Body which is made up of OAU members who are on the Bureau of the Council of State Heads and operates at the level of heads of state and of the accredited ministers and ambassadors.

This mechanism is the result of efforts within the OAU to give a new impetus to the process of conflict control. Prior to that, the OAU charter made CP possible through the Commission for Mediation, Reconciliation and Arbitration, although in practice this commission has never been called into action. At the time, conflict prevention and resolution remained limited within the OAU to ad-hoc initiatives. With this new mechanism, the OAU wish to underline the importance of CP. Although the cost-saving element of CP is recognised, the major obstacle to its operation continues to be the raising of necessary funds.


BOX 5 – Zaire: Crisis and Information Gathering

Due to the erosion of the state and the poor to non-existent relations with international organisations, statistical information on Zaire is extremely sparse, full of gaps or simply unavailable. This was one of the major difficulties the so-called Maton Commission ran into when it was drawing up its final report. It has meant that macro-economic data which is included in annual reports of such organisations as the World Bank is no longer available. Essential information such as the extent of the money supply, the number of civil servants, revenue from taxation have to be laboriously constructed and with wide margins of error. Export statistics or calculations of the export value of the most important product, rough diamonds, are extremely difficult to compile due to the structural corruption and the black market. The further one gets from the urban centres the less the information there is to be gathered and the more the population figures and food production has to be estimated. As a result of this, the calculation of, for instance, the number of calories per head (a criterion used in measuring nutritional security) becomes a perilous undertaking and leads to the danger of over-quantification.(22) In addition to this, the classic economy is chiefly equipped to throw light on the formal economy. Because of this there is a danger that in the area of investigation the informal sector – about the most dynamic sector – is marginalised. Even when it is possible to calculate inflation trends, for example, the question arises of what the effects are for the (growing) non-monetary sector.


BOX 6 – Rwanda: no response to the warnings.

At the core of Rwanda’s history is the relationship between the Hutu and the Tutsi. It developed from a pre-colonial patron-client relationship into an ethnic/socio-economic fault line during the colonial period. Following the introduction of universal suffrage in 1961, the Tutsi were forced into a minority position and it resulted in the first bloody confrontation, the death of tens of thousands Tutsi and the exodus of several hundreds of thousands of them to neighbouring countries. A deliberate and sustained policy of national reconciliation was never pursued. The trend was intensified in a negative sense by three escalation dynamics:

  • economic-social: as the cake grew smaller, the groups of elites laid claim to larger slices of it;
  • political: the MNRD came to be dominated by fractions, Hutu chauvinism and nepotism;
  • ecological: in view of the economic structure (agriculture/livestock), resources were overstretched by population growth.

The invasion of the RPF in 1990/91 worked as an accelerator and brought the country to war, and the violence of the Interhamwe militias became manifest. An investigation commission set up by human rights organisations "not only detailed the growing scale of the killings (in January 1993) but identified the mechanisms"(33). In February 1993 the special envoy of the UNHCR declared: "a blood bath is imminent unless the Arusha Accords are applied"(34) The UN Special Reporter on Human Rights stated in April 1993 that: "a time-bomb with potentially tragic consequences"(35) was ticking away. Signals were sent out from NGOs, too, indicating that the situation was about to explode. The warnings, which in this case can hardly be termed EW, however, did not lead to an effective response by the international community. Arusha came too late and was never really accepted by the parties involved. UNAMIR was too weak. The murder of President Habyarimana was the ultimate provocation for the blood bath: the world looked on.


List of abbreviations

CIS Commonwealth of Independent States

CP Conflict Prevention

DHA Department of Humanitarian Affairs

DSP Division Spéciale Présidentielle

EU European Union

EW Early Warning

EWS Early Warning System

FIUC Flemish Inter-University Council

FNLC Front National pour le Libération du Congo

GCDC General Council for Development Cooperation

GNP Gross National Product

HCR High Council of the Republic

HEWS Humanitarian Early Warning System

HRDER Human Rights and Democratisation Effects Reporting

IMF International Monetary Fund

IPA International Peace Academy

MRND Mouvement Révolutionaire National pour le Développement

MPR Mouvement Présidentielle de la République

NGO Non-Governmental Organisation

NIC Newly Industrialised Country

OAU Organisation for African Unity

RPF Rwandese Patriotic Front

SADC Southern African Development Conference

SAP Structural Adaptation Programme

SNC Sovereign National Conference

SPHR Special Reporter on Human Rights

SPLA Sudanese People’s Liberation Army

SPLM Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement

SSA Sub-Sahara Africa

VN United Nations

UNAMIR United Nations Mission to Rwanda

UNDP United Nations Development Programme

UNHCR United Nations High Commission on Refugees

UNOSOM United Nations Operation in Somalia

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Notes

1. This research is financially supported by the Ministry of Co-operation in Development. Contact adrress: ABOS, Brederodestraat 6, B-1000 Brussels.

Jan Pronk during the National Commission congress on information and consciousness-raising about Development Co-operation which was held on 28th February 1994 and had Development and Conflict as its theme.

2. See GLEICH, J., Chaos. Making a New Science, 1988 and NICOLIS, G and PRIGOGINE, I., Exploring Complexity. An Introduction, 1989.

3. SHERMER, M. Exorcising Laplace’s Demon: Chaos and Antichaos, History and Metahistory, in: History and Theory. Studies in the Philosophy of History, vol. 34, no. 1, 1995; pp. 59-83.

4. Kolmogorov-Arnold Moser

5. POPPER, K.R., A World of Propensities, 1990.

6. VAN DYKUM, C. and DE TOMBE, D., Gamma chaos. Onzekerheid en orde in de menswetenschappen, 1992.

7. MORIN, E., Science avec conscience, 1981, pp. 375 et seq.

8. One of the most prominent representatives of this approach is Ralf Dahrendorf according to whom conflicts arise as a result of the presence of mastery relationships between various groups within a particular social system.

See: DAHRENDORF, R., Toward a Theory of Social Conflict. In: Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol. 2, no. 2, 1957, pp. 170-183. And REYCHLER, L. and VERTONGEN, N., Vredesonderzoek en conflictdynamiek. Deel I, p. 107.

9. See among others: GALTUNG, J., Violence, Peace and Peace Research. In: Journal of Peace Research, vol. 6, no. 3, 1969, pp. 167-191.

10. AZAR, E.E., The Management of Protracted Social Conflict. Theory and Cases, 1990, pp. 5-6.

11. There is some debate on the nature of these ‘new’ conflicts. According to some, a real shift can be observed. As a result of the huge problems which areas such as large parts of Africa are having to face and the existing social fault lines, social conflicts have come into being which have escaped the control of the elites. Others are of the opinion that these conflicts are still the result of the same dynamics as before, and that they are provoked by sections of the elite who have insufficient access to the political and economic sources of power. Yet another group state that these conflicts present themselves in the form of conflicts between sections of the elites, although as regards content and ‘in actual fact’ they are of a social origin. See also: X, Beyond Emergency Assistance… Early Warning, Conflict Prevention and Decision-Making, CIDA/ACDI, june 1995, p. 21.

12. INTERNATIONAL ALERT, Advancing Preventative Diplomacy. A Programma Proposal, 1994, p. 4.

13. AZAR, E.E., op cit., p. 14.

14. At this stage there is a possibility that the aims change completely or that the number of actors increases. What began as a struggle for regional economic autonomy may become radicalised into irredentism. What started as a movement for political self-rule may degenerate into ‘warlordism’.

15. Sources: JOHNSTONE, I. AND NKIWANE, T., The Organization of African Unity and Conflict Management in Africa, 1994, pp. 4-5; SALIM, S.A., Africa in Crisis, in Ethioscope, vol. 1, no. 3. June 1995, pp. 9-10.

16. BOUTROS-GHALI, B., An Agenda for Peace, 1992, p. 8.

17. OTUNNU. O.A., Peacekeeping: From the Crossroads to the Future, 1995, p. 6.

18. DE LANGE, H., On the causes of political violence and war, particularly in the Third World, In: NCO Congress Paper ‘Development and Conflict’, 1994, P. 19.

19. WALKER, P., Famine Early Warning Systems, 1989.

20. SMITH, H., Intelligence and UN Peacekeeping, In: Survival, vol. 36, no. 3, 1994.

21. For a more extensive review of these sources of information: see DOOM, R. et al, De nieuwe conditionaliteit: democratisering, goed bestuur, respect voor de mensenrechten en ontwikkelingssamenwerking, subthema: Early Warning System, G.C.D.C., FIUC, 1994, pp. 12-13.

22. DOGAN, M. AND KAZANCIGIL, A. (eds), Comparing Nations. Concepts, Strategies, Substance, 1994, p. 37

23. THOOLEN, H., Information Aspects, In: RUPESINGHE, K. and KURODA, M. (eds), Early Warning and Conflict Resolution, 1992.

24. LEATHERMAN, J. and VAYRYNEN, R., Structure, Culture and Territory: Three Sets of Early Warning Indicators, 1995, p. 73.

25. UNDP, Human Development Report 1994, p. 38.

26. The Department for Humanitary Affairs was set up in 1992 as the successor to the Office for Research and the Collection of Information (OCRI) which had been established in 1987 with the aim of permanently providing the Secretary-General with up-to-date, reliable data on potential conflicts.

27. MIZUNO, J., Humanitarian Early Warning System, Progress and Prospects, 1995, p. 1.

28. JONGMAN, A.J. and SCHMID, A.P., Monitoring Human Rights. Manual for Assessing Country Performance, 1994, p. 20.

29. See JONGMAN A.J., and SCHMID, A.P., op cit., p. 17

30. DOOM, R., Knipperlichtsystemen en conflictbeheersing. Preventie of pretentie?, In: ANNO, De tijd in teksten en tekens, 1994, p. 95.

31. DOOM, R., op cit, p. 103.

32. Kumar Rupesinghe, in: NCO, Als de vulkaan begint te rommelen. Gedachten over ontwikkeling en conflict, 1994, p. 21.

33. GAFFNEY, P.D., Rwanda: A Crisis of Humanitarian Security, In: Report, no. 7, 1994, p. 3.

34. GAFFNEY, P.D., op cit., p. 3.

35. GAFFNEY, P.D., op cit., p. 3.

36. LEATHERMAN, J. and VÄYRYNEN. R., Structure, Culture and Territory: Three Sets of Early Warning Indicators, 1995, p. 6.

37. These requirements cover various levels, such as those concerned with the allocation and distribution of goods and services, those concerned with participation in the political system, those concerned with regulating human behaviour and, finally, those concerned with communication and information.

38. AZAR, The Management of Protracted Social Conflict. Theory and Cases, 1990, p.14.

39. AZAR, E.E., op cit., p. 15.

40. Tomlinson, quoted in LEATHERMAN, J. and VÄYRYNEN, R., Structure, Culture and Territory: Three Sets of Early Warning Indicators, 1995, p. 62.

41. NAIPAUL, V.S., Un nouveau roi pour le Congo, In: Le Débat, no. 8, January 1981.

42. MATON, J., Zaïre 1994. analyse des chiffres mensuels et trimestriels. Ghent 1995.

43. WILLAME, J-C., Gouvernance et pouvoir. Essai sur trois trajectoires africaines. Madagascar, Somalie, Zaïre, ASDOC. no. 7-8, Paris, Brussels, 1994.

44. MATON, J., Zaïre: premier semestre 1995, Ghent, October 1995.

45. CHRISTIANSEN, L. and TOLLENS, E. Voedselzekerheid: Van concept tot actie. Een staus quaestionis. 1995, p. 121.

46. DE FEYTER, K.E.A., Ontwikkelinggsamenwerking als instrument ter bevordering van mensenrechten en democratisering, 1995, pp. 87, et seq.

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