May 26, 2014

The Global Rise of Secessionism, The Spread of Alternatively Governed Spaces, And The Unravelling of Libya

"The historical use of southern Libya as a safe haven for rebels from Chad, Niger and Sudan has increased the likelihood of regional instability. It remains to be seen how these countries will be affected by the increased violence in southern Libya. Notwithstanding, there is already evidence of instability in the Sahel region, fuelled by the Libyan crisis." - Jide Martyns Okeke, from a 2012 article called, "Why NATO Intervention in Libya is not a Victory for Responsibility to Protect."

An excerpt from, "Crimea and the State of Secessionism" by Even Kuross, Fair Observer, May 22, 2014:
But what is happening in the Crimea, beyond bald-faced Russian bellicosity, is also emblematic of a broader shift toward the empowerment of local identities and subsequent drives for independence. Following decolonization in Asia and Africa and, later, the end of the Cold War, a bevy of secessionist movements emerged around the globe, from Kurdistan to Kosovo. Many groups that self-identified as distinct from a larger sociopolitical identity or a central government began to demand independence on the basis of self-determination, underpinned by shared injustice, history or unique cultural, religious, ethnic and linguistic factors.

A people’s will to self-govern, or tribalism in another age, has existed as long as people have taken upon themselves to organize, but until recently independence was simply not viable for most separatist groups. With the dramatic decline in bilateral conflict in the post-Cold War era and the expansion of democracy, many social groups that had before been too small to defend themselves if independent, have renewed calls for self-governance. This was done with the knowledge that their sovereignty is protected, in theory, by international law and the great powers who wish to uphold such laws and the borders which are treated as sacrosanct.
Therein lies the paradox: the demand for self-rule whilst recognizing that, if achieved, sovereignty will quickly be surrendered to supranational or global institutions via globalization and free trade. But culture, religion and history do matter and, as such, sub-nationalization is finally achievable in an age where threats are fewer (externally as well as internally) and these distinct identities are able to flourish, even as economic ties become stronger than ever.

Scotland, which will be voting on independence from the United Kingdom this September, wishes to still keep a common currency while binding itself to its former partner through the EU. Likewise, if Parti Québécois had gained a majority in the National Assembly of Québec, the province’s premier, Pauline Marois, would have liked to call for an independence referendum.

Calls for secession can be heard in Flanders, Catalan and northern Italy (Padania), as nationalists in these rich communities wish to sever ties with their mother states, whom they are tired of subsidizing, and break out on their own. Similar sentiments are found throughout Europe: in the Basque Country, Bavaria, Silesia, Corsica, Veneto, Sardinia and even Greenland.
An excerpt from, "Are 'Ungoverned Spaces' a Threat?" by Stewart M. Patrick, Council on Foreign Relations, January 11, 2010:
More fundamentally, the very notion of an "ungoverned" "safe haven" is arguably a contradiction--at least when it comes to physical sanctuaries. Truly anarchic environments can pose insuperable obstacles to terrorists. Consider Somalia in the 1990s. Osama bin Laden had presumed that lawless country would provide an ideal operating base. But when al-Qaeda operatives arrived in Somalia, they were ignorant of the local culture, politics, and economics, and they underestimated the costs of operating in a non-functioning state. Al-Qaeda's "Africa Corps" found itself at the mercy of bandits and vulnerable to extortion by warlords, and the country's near-total lack of physical infrastructure presented logistical nightmares. If the terrorist group has more recently gained a stronger foothold, this reflects the rise of the powerful Al-Shabaab movement as a political sponsor and ally, as well as the continued radicalization of Somali society in the intervening years.

This suggests a third limitation to the ungoverned spaces concept. The emergence of a true haven requires more than the absence of a state. It requires the support of local power-wielders and the sympathy, or at least acquiescence, of the local population. Most so-called "ungoverned" spaces are in fact alternatively governed, typically by entrenched tribal laws and customs regarding the use of violence, mediation of conflict, and dispensation of justice.  Such regions may be "sovereignty free," but they are rarely Hobbesian.

Terrorists can take advantage of these alternative political orders, brokering agreements with local leaders and entering into tactical alliances with illicit groups--from drug traffickers to insurgents to smugglers--to access secure locations, transport, and communications. The most durable (and dangerous) alliances have been grounded in even deeper ethnic, linguistic, cultural, or political affinities. In Pakistan's tribal belt, the state may have failed, but traditional Pashtun systems of tribal self-government (which have existed longer than most nation-states) has enabled al-Qaeda to flourish, thanks to religious, ideological, and even familial ties to tribal authorities.

This need for support from local power brokers and inhabitants explains why so few of the world's many poorly governed states--even in the Muslim world--have emerged as major sanctuaries for al-Qaeda. The Sahel is a case in point. For years, observers warned that Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad were gravely at risk. And yet the extreme ideology of al-Qaeda has failed to resonate (WashPost) with the region's population, most of whom practice a relatively moderate brand of Sufi Islam. Despite weak institutions, vast un-policed territories, and porous frontiers, the region has failed to emerge (NYT) as "the next Afghanistan."
 An excerpt from, "Why NATO Intervention in Libya is not a Victory for Responsibility to Protect" by Jide Martyns Okeke, Institute For Security Studies, April 10, 2012:
The emerging negative consequences of the NATO-led intervention in Libya have further strengthened the resistance against Western (humanitarian) intervention in Africa. There are three main strands in which these negative consequences are discernible, namely at the internal, regional and global levels.  Internally, there is a growing escalation of tribal tensions within Libya that were expressed by sceptics on the eve of, and during the NATO-led intervention. The former Gaddafi regime ruled Libya for over four decades through the deliberate absence of state institutions. The vacuum left in the wake of Gaddafi’s death is beginning to create an expansion of alternatively governed spaces fuelled by a ‘liberated’ state with no monopoly or control over the use of force. For example, in southern Libya, in towns such as Kufra and Sebha, there have been tribal clashes between the Toubou, perceived as being pro-Gaddafi tribesmen, and local brigades loyal to the National Transitional Council (NTC). Recent clashes have recorded an estimated 147 deaths and more than 300 injuries. This development has raised fears of protracted conflicts in southern Libya and a possibility of semi-autonomy in the eastern region of Benghazi. Human rights organisations have also expressed concerns about the absence of respect for rule of law, particularly in the treatment and prosecution of pro-Gaddafi supporters by the NTC. 

Closely connected to the crisis within post-intervention Libya is the emergence of regional security threats. The historical use of southern Libya as a safe haven for rebels from Chad, Niger and Sudan has increased the likelihood of regional instability. It remains to be seen how these countries will be affected by the increased violence in southern Libya. Notwithstanding, there is already evidence of instability in the Sahel region, fuelled by the Libyan crisis. The relative military success by the Tuareg rebels in Northern Mali and the consequent military coup by the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and the State (Comité Nationale pour le Redressement de la Democracy de l’Etat) is best understood against the backdrop of intense militarisation of the region caused by pro-Gaddafi supporters fleeing Libya with massive military arsenals. 

Finally, the implication of the NATO-led intervention for global governance can be seen from various perspectives. First, there is already regression and strong opposition from states (especially China and Russia) for more ‘humanitarian’ intervention elsewhere. A notable example was the use of the UNSC veto by China and Russia, intended to protect Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad regime from actions championed by Britain, France and the United States. Second, the question of double standards in decisions regarding intervention has re-surfaced. Apart from the Libyan crisis, there are/were similar uprisings in some Arab states such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, where there is less appetite for a Western-led military operations.
An excerpt from, "Uncertainty in Libya" by Vijay Prashad, The Hindu, May 26, 2014:
The U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Deborah Jones, was out of the country when this bout of the fighting began. Ambassador Jones wrote on Twitter that compromise is required “but no room for terrorism.” Such a standard suits Gen. Hifter, as it does the Egyptian presidential aspirant, former Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi. Last week, al-Sisi told Reuters that Libya poses “a security threat” to Egypt. The “fight against terrorism,” he said, would need to include Libya. Gen. Hifter’s “Operation Dignity” campaign, a retired Egyptian military officer told me, is exactly what al-Sisi had in mind. These are dangerous sentiments. Algeria’s Ambassador to Libya, Abdelhamid Bouzaher, told a Libyan politician that his country would not sit by idly if there would be an Egyptian intervention into the country. Threats against the Algerian Ambassador seemed serious enough for that country’s Special Forces to enter Libya on May 15 and evacuate Bouzaher and his staff. Fifty thousand Algerian troops are now on the border with Libya. In the name of counter-terrorism, North Africa enters its tensest period in years

Gen. Hifter came to Benghazi during the 2011 uprising with a tainted history — he had been a senior military leader in Muammar Gadhafi’s Chad war who had broken with Gadhafi to become an opposition leader based in Vienna, Virginia. U.S. officials had hoped that Hifter would return to Libya in 2011 and take command of the military aspect of the revolution. He was unable to control the town-based militias, who, after the fall of Gadhafi, became the centripetal instruments of Libyan confusion. Sidelining Parliament, the militias used their weapons to shut down oil wells and ports to blackmail a government overwhelmingly reliant upon oil money. Hifter echoed the Egyptian military script, announcing that he would govern through the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of Libya, the name lifted from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of Egypt.