Cultural Appropriation Wars: a passing fad?

Cultural appropriation has become a contested topic recently. Many individuals and groups are outraged by borrowing or stealing cultural elements in the world of fashion, music or tourism. When was the last time you have noticed a trendy piece with ethnic print? Have you thought about cultural appropriation?

Oxford Dictionary defines this term as an ‘unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society’ and Cambridge Dictionary gives importance to a fact that it is the act of taking and using culture without showing respect and understanding.

Power and Culture

A dominant culture is an essential condition of cultural appropriation. Generally speaking, a dominant culture is widespread and powerful enough to impose its values, language and ways of behaving on subordinate cultures through economic and political power. This may be achieved by media, communication or political suppression (Marshall, Scott: 1994, 192). On contrary, subcultures stand out due to its own rarity and elements that distinguish them from the mainstream society. These members are typically stereotyped and labelled and can lead to discrimination or prejudice.

Cultural appropriation can be also interpreted as a by-product of imperialism, oppression, and capitalism. Culture is treated as a natural-source by those who become accustomed extracting everything valuable from colonized people and territories. From this point of view cultural appropriation is seen as profitable and directly endangers the existence of marginalized cultures (AIHFS, 2011: 4).

On one hand, someone could point out that there is a close relationship with a cultural exchange and it accounts for something natural in the current globalized world. It is inevitable to acquire certain values and customs if they are in accordance with our lifestyle. However, it must be differentiated when an appropriation or an exchange is being held. Cultural exchange refers to a reciprocal process when participants are open to discussion. Moreover, it requires some elements of mutual equality, understanding, and respect for each other (Uwujaren, 2013). On the other hand, when mentioning cultural appropriation, people belonging to a subculture are seen as victims since they are not usually allowed to benefit from using their culture.

Focusing on the fashion industry, it would be naive to assume that designers offer a part of the profit to a community in case they utilized or were inspired by subculture symbols. Likewise, if the given culture is used in a disrespectful manner, such as faith symbols transformed into accessories, it can oppress its members. It leads to a fact that appropriation cannot be held the other way around, more precisely not by a minority subculture. In this case, it is about cultural assimilation – a process by which the minority group acquires cultural characteristics of a dominant group in order to fit in. It does not have to be their choice, however, rather a way to avoid discrimination.

From a legal point of view, not surprisingly, ownership of cultural artefacts is an often reason for disputes among states. What is the legal situation in case of the appropriation? It is a serious problem especially for Indigenous people since they have faced destruction and disappearance of their culture. For instance, there has been a litigation of intellectual property in the Australian Court. As a result, fifteen Aboriginal artists were able to obtain a compensation from the t-shirt makers who reproduced without their permission. These cases are rather rare and therefore, it is essential to protect Aboriginal customs by law means (B. Ziff – P. Rao: 1997). On the global level, the United Nations adopted a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, as a significant tool in combating marginalization, and discrimination of Indigenous people. The Declaration deals with cultural heritage as well ‘Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage…‘ (UN, 2008). Nevertheless, it does not seem like that any kind of protection that has been introduced so far would have a significant impact on actions of those who appropriate cultural elements.

Inspiring or exploiting?

As it has been said, the issue of cultural appropriation can be found in many aspects of our life. First of all, from the definitions it is obvious that a perception of the issue is highly subjective. Indigenous people will always have an uncompromising posture. Secondly, each case should be assessed individually since generalization is not suitable here. Context always matters. For instance, in the world of fashion is somehow natural that designers are inspired by cultural symbols and elements. However, where is the line between inspiration and exploiting? To what extent is it acceptable and seen as an appreciation of the culture? There are dozens of cases when the fashion houses have been using inspiration from other local cultures and it caused a wave of resistance. It was often seen as insensitivity and a sign of disrespect, especially in case of symbols of faith. Nevertheless, there are cases such as wearing espadrilles, shoes originally from Spain and France, which hardly anyone considers as appropriation.

In contrast to espadrilles, a completely different case has attracted attention recently. When Dior presented the last pre-fall collection it was impossible not to notice that some pieces were almost identical with the tradition Romanian designs from the North East region Bihor. Several Romania groups got engaged in publicizing of this case and appealed to Dior to give credit and compensate the traditional dressmakers for using their designs. Romanian fashion magazine Beau Monde assisted to shoot a campaign video with the aim to promote Bihor culture in which one of a local women says: ‘Big brands offer no credit, and no money returns to poor communities, and traditions die.‘ A campaign Bihor Couture was launched to fight against cultural appropriation, especially due to similar cases in the fashion industry. Bihor Couture created a website where authentic items can be purchased, and money is returned back to the local communities. Last but not least, the magazine sent few representatives to the Paris Fashion Week 2018 to draw attention to the issue of and promote the Bihor community (Euronews, 2018). Dior has not provided any apologies or explanations yet.

Nor Victoria’s Secret is without a blemish on their reputation, on contrary, the company sits on the top of the list. Victoria’s Secret has been accused of cultural appropriation many times; while they claimed to have learned their lesson and promised to be more respectful towards Indigenous communities, they have incorporated other cultural elements on a regular basis. A strong public reaction received a model wearing a Native American feathered headdress on the catwalk. After the outrage, the model was removed from the broadcast (Nicholas, 2017). Other models including Asian and Chinese-inspired ornaments, especially a dragon wrapping the white model was perceived as ridicule and disrespect to the Chinese culture (Heller, 2017).

Many similar cases would be found – Gucci and Sikh’s turbans at the runway, Chanel and its $2,000 boomerang. Most brands gladly use a term ‘cultural exchange’ while talking about their collection. The only parts to benefit from this ‘exchange’ are fashion houses and not the local communities (Erascu, 2018).

However, Brazilian sportswear brand Osklen showed a better way how to respectfully use other culture designs. Osklen’s 2016 spring collection was inspired by Indigenous Brazilian people Asháninka who live in the Peruvian rainforest. In exchange for the permission to use traditional tattoos and fabrics, the Asháninka has been paid and used the money for the development of the community such as a new school (Varagur, 2017).

Has political correctness gone too far?

Regarding cultural appropriation, it was not meant to present it as a debauchery of the current society but rather to provide a reflection of the discourse. Has political correctness gone too far? Not only regarding fashion industry, but everyone should consider her or his action from comments on social media, business activities to the Halloween costumes. The risk of being accused of appropriation is high. We should bear in mind that personal responsibility, respect, and good manners will always lead us to a right approach to what is appropriate and what is rather an insult. Fashion houses should feel responsible due to its image and wide influence, and they should avoid similar outrages. Nevertheless, nobody wants to reach a point when eating Pad Thai will be considered as an act of stealing culture. It can be a passing fad as well and no one will pay attention to the issue in the future and it will become an inseparable and acceptable product of globalization.

Until then, any forms of a solution are not likely to be established. First, the question of ‘Who owns culture’ would have to be solved as well as ‘who would be asked for a permission?’ For instance, in the case of a small community such as Bihor, any kind of cooperation was possible; however, it will be hardly possible in the case of Aboriginal Australians. A complete avoidance of cultural inspiring as a subcultural protection is not a way to preserve them. They deserve attention to other aspects if we want to maintain a diversity of cultures. On the other hand, this public agitation can be a tool on how to encourage not only fashion designers to think in context and not to rely that taking inspiration from subcultures will be unnoticed. From the consumers’ point of view, we have always a right to decide what to support and express our disagreement.

 

Soňa Hoigerová

 American Indian Health and Family Service (2011): Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation? http://www.aihfs.org/pdf/8-1-16%20Cultural%20Appropriation.pdf, 15.9.2018.

Cambridge Dictionary https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/cultural-appropriation, 9.9.2018
Erascu, A. (2018): Cultural Appropriation: How Big Brands Inspire and Benefit from Traditional Handcrafted Items.https://analytica.questiagroup.com/cultural-appropriation/, 16.9.2018.

Euronews (2018): Romanian designers accuse Dior of ‘plagiarising’ traditional vest.
https://www.euronews.com/2018/07/05/romanian-designers-accuse-dior-of-plagiarising-traditional-vest, 10.9.2018.

Marshall, J. Scott (1994): A Dictionary of Sociology, Oxford University Press, pp. 192.

Heller, S. (2017): Every time Victoria’s Secret has been accused of cultural appropriation in its annual fashion show.https://www.thisisinsider.com/victorias-secret-fashion-show-accused-cultural-appropriation-2017-11, 15.9.2018.

Nicholas, G. (2017): Victoria’s Secret does it again: Cultural appropriation.https://theconversation.com/victorias-secret-does-it-again-cultural-appropriation-87987, 15.9.2018.

Oxford Dictionaryhttps://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/cultural_appropriation, 9.9.2018

The United Nations (2007): United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/declaration-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples.html, 10.9.2018.
Uwujaren, J. (2013): The Difference Between Cultural Exchange and Cultural Appropriation.https://everydayfeminism.com/2013/09/cultural-exchange-and-cultural-appropriation/, 15.9.2018.

Varagur, K. (2017): Is This the Right Way for Fashion to Do Cultural Appropriation?
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/fashion-cultural-appropriation_us_5632295ce4b00aa54a4ce639, 16.9.2018.

Ziff, B., Rao, P. (1997): Borrowed Power: Essays on Cultural Appropriation, Sydney Law Review, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick.
http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/SydLawRw/1997/30.html, 16.9.2018.

 

Famine and Gunpowder: Drivers of Rebellion in Sub-Saharan Africa

by Sonia Hoigerova

Poverty became one of the most discussed global issues and not surprisingly a mention about poverty reduction appears on regular basis in development programmes. Poverty is a multifaceted phenomenon which does not reflect only lack of material possession and inadequacy, however, also other issues regarding illiteracy, malnourishment, lack of health-care and education or a low life expectancy hand in hand with a high rate of mortality (Srinivasan, 2004: 5). The interest about the relationship between poverty and conflicts has grown since the beginning of the 1900’s due to the fact that post-Cold War era brought political changes that caused the shift in conflicts mainly to poor regions. Therefore, poverty is seen nowadays as a relevant link to conflicts.

Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the regions with visible consequences of the Cold War. Both East and West contributed to promoting conflicts after decolonization and supplied allied regimes with armaments. The scale of arms flows was enormous in order to retain affection. At the end of Cold War demobilization took place only partially and most of the equipment remained in the continent. The Powers lost interest and, without external support, African states were unable to provide the basic level of services for its citizens. Conflicts were spread around the continent, several states collapsed and became the sources of insecurity and threat for the whole region (DFID, 2001: 5-8).

Generally, the new era brought an increase of civil wars whereas wars among states were eliminated. Ethnic discrimination, rooted in colonial history, launched a series of genocides and ethnic-based conflicts characterized especially by massacres and atrocities committed on civilians (Enuka, 2012: 4). The so-called “new wars”, according to Kaldon (2013: 1-2), involve a blurring of distinction between war and crime. As the key features can be highlighted a role of various non-state actors who replaced traditional state armed forces, such as mercenaries, warlords or extremist groups. Financing is based on smuggling, kidnapping, pillage, trade with blood diamonds etc. Since battles are rare in new wars, the territory is captured by political means, through the control over civilians. Violence against them is a way of controlling and displacement is, therefore, a phenomenon that accompanies these conflicts. Last but not least, the goals are rather in name of identity than ideology or geo-politics.

Conventional wars were replaced by factional warfare. Conflicts in Africa hardly ever involve heavy weapons or new technology, on the contrary, the fact that small arms and light weapons (SALW) are easily available and low cost, allows to sustain conflict without any external support. Especially genocidal and ethnic fighting tends to be armed only with machetes and knives. Urban character cause that the number of civilian casualties has rapidly increased. It is stated that 90% of those dying are civilians. Extreme forms of violence, torture on women and children and mass raping are used as means of revenge and intimidation. What is more, indirect consequences such as famine, epidemic diseases or loss of infrastructure are burdens that negatively affect the post-conflict building of these areas. Some parts of Africa are constricted in conflict cycles due to the failures to consolidate peace or unwillingness of parties to settle disputes. Fragile peace is replaced by low-level crisis, escalates into open war and over again (DFID, 2001: 8-16).

These weapons have caused unspeakable death and suffering over the decades and remain a serious impediment to peace, security, stability, and development on the continent and globally.”

(Tarek A. Sharif, Head of the Defence and Security Division of African Union, 2016)

The availability of SALW is one of the major factors in fuelling and sustaining conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa, uncontrolled access encourages violence instead of negotiations. Since non-state actors do not have a legal authority to bear and purchase arms, the only way is through black market and trafficking. Armament is also circulated from previous wars, captured from state institutions or with help of corrupt officials. According to Oxfam research (2017: 1-13), there are several unauthorized producers of SALW across Africa who due to limited regulations contribute to proliferation. Besides low-cost, these arms are easy to maintain, transport or hide and therefore, their control is more than difficult. In 2001 the UN convened a conference on the illicit trade in SALW, with the aim to set necessary steps how to prevent proliferation. Even though a number of the UN Resolutions and programmes was adopted, and various international organizations committed themselves to participate, SALW still symbolize a crucial element of African instability (Pytlak, 2017: 6-11).

The risk of civil wars is much higher in low-income countries and consequently these conflicts are concentrated in relatively few developing countries. Besides the low economic level, those governments failed to establish effective institutions and release from primary commodities dependence. They are caught in the conflict trap. According to Collier, once a country experienced a conflict, is in danger of further one. The risk of returning to conflict within 5 years is around 44%. Besides that, conflicts retard development and bring economic costs. It is stated that countries during civil war grow around 2.2% more slowly than during peace. Moreover, governments increase military expenditures and reduce the supply of public goods, hand in hand with destroyed physical infrastructure, it prolongs the process of remedy. Military spending remains high even during the post-conflict period (Collier et al, 2003: 1-14, 83).

Spill-over effect on neighbouring countries is another reason why Sub-Saharan Africa is caught in the poverty-conflict trap. The negative effect has a form of instability, disruption to trade, decrease of foreign investments, arms flow or flow of refugees. Due to the fact, that many African countries experience conflicts, other countries can expect the spill-over effect from several neighbour countries at once (Murdoch, Sandler, 2001: 1-2).

Another reason why conflicts in developing countries are so frequent is a tendency of local people to actively participate. Especially young people are easily recruited by rebel groups, driven by hunger and lack of good prospects in future (WFP, 2004).

“If they do not even know where their next meal is coming from, they become easy targets for those who recruit for terrorist groups.”

(Moris J., Executive Director, UN World Food Programme, 2004)

Humphreys and J. M. Weinstein (2008, 436-450) examined in the context of Sierra Leone’s civil war (1991-2002), what distinguishes those who decided to join the rebel group from those who defend status quo in the country. Commonly, belonging to a certain social class, ethnic or political grievances as well as the frustration of individuals who cannot express their concerns through nonviolent channels, are the main motives. Particularly, those who are economically deprived, tend to join a rebellion. On the contrary, those with relatively better economic position tend to support the current system. Individuals think that participation could produce public goods, pull factors such as money paid to recruits motivate them too. From the social point of view, individuals are more likely to participate if the rebel group is defined by shared values and beliefs and secondly, feeling that being inside is safer than being outside of the group. Living conditions given by the collapsed state played a crucial role in the expansion of the rebel army in Sierra Leone. On the other hand, it is necessary to specify that the testimonies showed in this particular case that most of the recruits were abducted and forced to join the rebel group.

Secondly, the same proof is provided by findings from the study Journey To Extremism by the UN Development Programme (2017: 4-6). The study is based on interviews with former recruits from various extremist groups across Africa (Boko Haram, ISIL, Al-Shabaab, etc.). The experts found the correlation between childhood unhappiness and future tendency to participate in rebellion, especially due to a low level of education and low experience with civil engagement during their lives. Indeed, given data also proved that living in poverty accompanied by unemployment make the individual liable to participate. On the contrary, those who study or work are less likely to follow extremist groups.

As mentioned above, in the case of Sierra Leone, the participation in the civil war was not a voluntary decision by individuals. Different findings arose from the UNDP study. For instance, taking into account particular conflicts in Sudan, Niger or Cameroon, the majority of recruits responded to join extremist groups voluntarily (UNDP, 2017: 23).

To conclude, there is a relevant correlation between poverty and conflict potential given by various aspects in Sub-Saharan Africa. First of all, the remains of colonialism and the following consequences of the Cold War paved the way for instability in these fragile states. Despite the effort by the UN and other actors to reduce poverty, while there is undoubtedly a great achievement on the global level[1], the progress in this part of Africa has been limited (UNDP, 2016). Extremism does not arise in a vacuum, but it is driven by various factors, besides religious aspects, arising from the low economic level. Those people are more likeable to voluntary joint extremist or rebel groups and participate in civil wars. Not surprisingly, the link between poverty and conflicts became a focal point, followed by the discourse how to balance investments in development and security (Dalrymple, 2016: 4).

 

[1] The number of people living in extreme poverty has dropped by more than half between years 1900-2015, from 1.9 billion to 836 million.

 

References:

Collier, P., Elliott, V., Hegre, H., Reynal-Querol, M., Sambanis, N. (2003): Breaking the Conflict Trap, The WB Policy Report, pp. 1-14, 83.
https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/13938/567930PUB0brea10Box353739B01PUBLIC1.pdf, 4. 4. 2018.

Dalrymple, S. (2016): Investment in Peace and Security, Development Initiatives, pp. 4.
http://devinit.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Investments-in-peace-and-security.pdf, 14. 4. 2

Department for International Development DFIN (2001): The causes of conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa, pp. 5-16.
http://www.msu.ac.zw/elearning/material/1237744998conflictsubsaharanafrica.pdf, 4. 4. 2018.

Enuka, Ch. (2012): Post-Cold War Conflicts: Imperative for Armed Humanitarian Interventions, Global Journal of Human Social Science, Volume 12, Issue 9, Globa Journals Inc. (USA).
https://globaljournals.org/GJHSS_Volume12/3-Post-Cold-War-Conflicts-Imperative.pdf, 6. 4. 2018.

Humphrey, M., Weinstein, J. M. (2008): Who Fights? The Determinants of Participation in Civil Wars, American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 52, 436-450.
http://www.columbia.edu/~mh2245/papers1/who_fights.pdf, 7. 4. 2018.

Kaldon, M. (2013): In Defence of New Wars. Stability, International Journal of Security and Development, pp. 1-2.
https://www.stabilityjournal.org/articles/10.5334/sta.at/, 6. 4. 2018.

Murdoch, J., Sandler, T. (2001): Economic Growth, Civil Wars, and Spatial Spillovers.
http://siteresources.worldbank.org/DEC/Resources/spillovers.pdf, 8. 4. 2018.

Oxfam (2017): The Human Cost of Uncontrolled Arms in Africa.
https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/rr-human-cost-uncontrolled-arms-africa-080317-en.pdf, 5. 4. 2018.

Pytlak, A. (2017): SALW: Africa, Religions for Peace, African Council of Religious Leaders, pp. 6-11.
https://rfp.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Small-Arms-and-Light-Weapons-Africa-English.pdf, 5. 4. 2018.

A One-time thing in history: South African Nuclear rollback

by Luca Papini

Introduction

During the Cold War it was well known the role played by the two superpowers, both the US and the USSR, to establish a hegemonic influence in third countries and bring in as much part of the world as possible into one or the other alignment. What is less known however is how these countries, sided during the previous years, reacted to the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the USSR in 1993.

A special mention in the literature into this framework goes to South Africa; the end of the Cold War and the simultaneous disintegration of the internal apartheid regime brought the country to a historical decision never seen before in the international scenario: the unilateral and complete nuclear rollback.

The analysis of the decision taken during the 1990s by the South African government to give up its nuclear arsenal and the causes that leaded to it are the starting point of this paper. It is crucial, in order to give a general and as complete as possible picture of the situation, to divide such reasons into two separate but interlinked dimensions, the first one being the international scenario and, the second one, the domestic South African situation. The analysis of the rollback cannot start but from the initial conditions for building up because in 1993 it was the end of such conditions which unequivocally determined the favourable moment for the first nuclear rollback.  International drivers of South African nuclearisation  

At the beginning of South African nuclear program, by the late 50s, the world scenario had rapidly changed since the end of the second World War. The Cold War had just started and the bilateral confrontation between the West and the Communist bloc had spread to various regional scenarios and South Africa was no exception. Into this framework the decision to go nuclear can be explained by the realists through the classic security dilemma approach.[i] Some scholars have pointed out the practical causes of the perceived communist threat: from one side there was the fast developing situation in Angola, where the Cuban forces, backed up by the USSR, started to fight for independence with the locals with the Operation Carlòta. Such situation leaded to the fear of a possible spreading of the revolutionary issue amongst South African black majority and, therefore, highly contributed to the decision to ‘go nuclear’ in order to deter any regime changing protest movement.[ii] However, this is just a part of the problems in the neighbourhood which convinced the government of Pretoria to build up. A more classical need to deter a ground-based foreign invasion by neighbouring country such as Namibia has been also brought up as one of concurrent international causes. It may be important to stress here that such threat wasn’t merely based on the proximity of the two countries but on the issues going on inside Namibia, where the South-West Africa National Union (SWAPO – A Marxist movement member of the Socialist International) had declared a guerrilla independent war against South Africa oppressive government.[iii]

To briefly recap, the development of South African’s weapons of mass destruction, according to this prospective, was driven mostly by border insecurity, strong mutual distrust of neighbouring countries and an increasing isolation from the international community due to the apartheid regime.[iv] The strength of these comprehensive assumptions has been recently backed up by the words of former South African President F.W. de Klerk, which, in a recently published interview with The Atlantic explained:

The main motivation [for building up] was the expansionist policies of the U.S.S.R. in southern Africa. They were supporting all the African liberation movements—they were supplying weapons and training—and it was part of their vision to gain direct or indirect control over most of the countries in southern Africa.”[v]

The red line of the perceived Soviet threat connecting the issues into the international scenario for South Africa is therefore now clearer but, however, it is not enough to completely explain the choices made by the liberal Pretoria’s government to build up the bomb. In order to assess the issue on a more comprehensive way the South African internal situation must be considered as well.

Domestic drivers of South African nuclearisation

The second debated cause for the South Africa’s nuclear project and, in particular, the first pilot program started in Vilabuena in 1974, is amenable to the sphere of the domestic politics. In his article “The Rise and Fall of the South African Bomb” edited in the journal International Security, Peter Liberman points out exactly this internal top-level leadership’s will as the most remarkable reason for understanding the decision taken by the government in the early 1970s. In particular he focused his attention on the main characters and the high spheres of Army and Government, founding out names and grades of the men informed and responsible of different parts of the project like: Army Brig, John Husyer – personal military adviser of the prime Minister Botha- and Hendrik Van der Bergh, the head of the civilian intelligence. He also points out that the AEB (The Atomic Energy Board) had a limited responsibility into the development of the decision: “the process”, said Liberman, “was driven from above rather than from below. This is particularly clear when Volsters have succeeded Botha in September 1978, and he unilaterally created an ‘high-level steering committee on nuclear weapons policy’.[vi]

Moreover Liberman claims that the internal structure of power is not only something that could have influenced, but the very reason of the whole process and, therefore, must be analyzed as a separate sphere of decision-making.

The turning point

The situation suddenly changed in 1988 when the international crisis which pushed the Pretoria’s government to go nuclear started to peter out. First a cease-fire was signed between South Africa, Cuba, and Angola in August 1988. Later on the withdrawal of South African troops from Angola led to a tripartite agreement between these nations was followed the withdrawal of 50,000 Cuban troops from Angola, and the subsequent independence of Namibia.[vii] With the end of the Cold War in 1989 the final step towards a more unipolar international situation occurred and, with it, the beginning of the dismantle of South African nuclear arsenal.

With the election of the new president of the republic Frederik Willem de Klerk came the turning point of South African nuclear policy. After he had immediately addressed the problem of the apartheid regime and, with it, part of the reason beneath the initial decision to build up, the issue of the existing nuclear capabilities was put as a top priority on the agenda. In a matter of just two years, the de Klerk government terminated as a whole the nuclear weapons program. All nuclear devices were dismantled and destroyed and, moreover, the nuclear materials in South Africa’s possession were returned to the Atomic Energy Corporation, where they were stored according to internationally accepted procedures. As a final step, the facilities were decontaminated and dedicated to non-nuclear commercial purposes.[viii]

In a matter of five years, from 1988 to 1992, the situation drastically changed, from a de facto nuclear weapons state South Africa has been able to reinvent itself as a leading country in the field of non-proliferation and disarmament. The access in 1991 at the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear state and the following IAEA inspections legitimated this position, giving to South Africa a prominent role in the following years into the process of disarmament both in the area and the world.

First, in May 1993 South Africa passed an internal law which refrained the country to ever access again technology related to military use of atomic energy.[ix] Already by 1996 South Africa promoted and signed the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba), was admitted to the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, and signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Conclusions. What now?

Since its nuclear rollback South Africa has always been presented as one of the most virtuous champions of denuclearisation and non-proliferation. Due to the internal richness of fundamental raw materials, South Africa is right now one of the biggest exporters of highly enriched uranium (HEU), even though an overwhelming majority of South Africa’s energy is still produced via coal, with only 5% generated by its two existing nuclear power reactors.[x]

Another fundamental aspect to consider in order to assess South African role in the nuclear field are the recent investment in research and development throughout nuclear energy and cross-cutting nuclear-related issues. In 2008 started with assistance from the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) a project – the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA)- to convert the SAFARI-1 research reactor in Pelindaba to utilize low enriched uranium (LEU) instead of HEU.[xi]

To conclude, over the past years South Africa has affirmed itself as probably the most peculiar case of nuclear power due to its decision to give up their mass destruction weapons capabilities at the beginning of the 90s. Its rollback still echoes today in the literature and newspapers as one of the most glorious moment in recent nuclear history. Even though the decision to give up its nuclear capabilities can be analyzed through different lens and perspectives, the repercussions of such a milestone in the field of non-proliferation made it through the years and landed again, quite recently, into the academic and public debate. It has been affirmed by certain scholars[xii] that South Africa should be the case to hold close in dealing with the North Korean crisis. According to such theories, the process of denuclearisation should take place in a similar way in North Korea as it did in South Africa. The problem of these interpretation is rooted into the causes for the rollback that have been analyzed in this paper. We cannot ignore such major differences of the historical moment in which the rollback took place. The timing of both the end of the Cold War and the rise to power of de Klerk – with the following redesign of the political and institutional asset – contributed in an undisputable way to South African decision to dismiss its nuclear arsenal and cannot be compared with the present international and internal situation of DPRK.

 

References 

[i] Scott D. Sagan, Why Do States Build Nuclear Weapons. Three Models in Search for the Bomb. International Security 21:3, 2006.

[ii] Helen E. Purkitt, Stephen F. Burgess and Peter Liberman International Security Vol. 27, No. 1 (Summer, 2002), pp. 186-194

[iii] Christine Hatzky, Iberoamericana (2001) Nueva época, Year 5, No. 20 (December 2005), p. 159

[iv] U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Intelligence, “Prospects for Further Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” 2 October 1974, classified interagency intelligence memorandum, partially declassified and released, Digital National Security Archive, http://nsarchive.chadwyck.com; Verne Harris, Sello Hatang, and Peter Liberman, “Unveiling South Africa’s Nuclear Past,” Journal of Southern African Studies, 30 September 2004, p. 463.

[v] Uri Friedman, Why One President Gave Up His Country’s Nuke, SEP 9, 2017, The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/09/north-korea-south-africa/539265/ [last access: 03/04/2018]

[vi] Peter Liberman, “The Rise and Fall of the South African Bomb,” International Security 26, no. 2, Fall 2001.

[vii] David Albright, “Nuclear Rollback: Understanding South Africa’s Denuclearization Decision,” in Barry R. Schneider and William L. Downdy, eds., Pulling Back from the Nuclear Brink(London: Frank Cass, 1998). Already quoted in: James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Jump to South Africa’s Recent Developments and Current Status, September, 2015 http://www.nti.org/learn/countries/south-africa/nuclear/  [last access: 04/04/2018]

[viii] “South Africa’s Nuclear Weapons Program: Putting Down the Sword,” Nuclear Weapons Archive, 7 September 2001, http://nuclearweaponarchive.org.

[ix] Nuclear Energy Act 1993 (Act No. 131 of 1993). http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/text.jsp?file_id=130460 [last access 05/04/2018]

[x] World Nuclear Association, “Nuclear Power in South Africa,” Updated September 2014, world-nuclear.org

[xi] NNSA Announces Return of U.S.-Origin Highly Enriched Uranium Spent Fuel from South Africa,” Press Release, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), 17 August 2011, http://nnsa.energy.gov. Already quoted in: James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Jump to South Africa’s Recent Developments and Current Status, September, 2015 http://www.nti.org/learn/countries/south-africa/nuclear/  [last access: 04/04/2018]

 

[xii] Liang Tuang Nah, Applying the Lessons of South African Nuclear Disarmament to North Korea, North Korean Review, Fall 2014, https://www.questia.com/read/1P3-3687208821/applying-the-lessons-of-south-african-nuclear-disarmament [last access: 09/04/2018]

The Chinese Penetration in the African Continent: the Issue of Land-Grabbing

by Lucrezia Conti 

China has a population of more than 1,3 billion[1] and a density of 146 people per square kilometer[2]; it owns only 8% of global farmland, 6% of annual water reserves[3] and it is highly dependent on energy imports both of oil and natural gas. The urgency of finding solutions to agricultural and energy security is evident and it has been worsened by the 2008 financial crisis, with a suddenly increase of prices and domestic demand for agricultural commodities. These reasons have pushed China to search for new lands and opportunities in foreign resource-rich countries and Africa has been identified as the most profitable and convenient one. By the way, this relationship is not as recent as one may believe, in fact Sino-African relations can be first dated in the 1950s-1960s. This first Chinese approach was put in practice for political purposes, in order to find allies in Third World’s countries and to come out from its political isolation, supporting African national liberation movements and the emerging socialist governments.[4] In the 1970s economic agreements were stipulated and after a consecutive slowdown, in October 2000 China and Africa launched the first Forum for China-Africa Cooperation, carried out in Beijing.[5] The aim of this forum was to define common political objectives, development purposes and to strengthen trade relations and investments.[6]In this perspective, China eliminated 31 African countries’ debts, for a total amount of $1,3 billion and abolished import taxes of 190 items.[7] Thanks to these actions, China has become the second world commercial partner of African countries, increasing its commercial exchanges from $20 billion in 2003 up to more than $200 billion in 2014, with an annual growth rate of 16%.[8] The achievement of these results is also linked to a particular way through which China conducts its foreign investments policy: the so-called “Beijing consensus”, in contrast with the Western countries “Washington consensus”. The Beijing consensus is essentially based on a policy of non-interference in African countries internal affairs and on the promotion of the sovereign integrity of these states, while the Washington one, is based on the priorities of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and it imposes restrictions in terms of public spending, commitment on transparency and macro-economic policy making.[9] Moreover, China offers long-term investments that are really flexible and accommodating to African countries requests, without provisions and conditions. The only restriction imposed by China is the non-recognition of Taiwan.[10] It is easy to understand why African states prefer to marry the Chinese alternative.

Having a precise evaluation of Chinese investments in African lands is generally difficult. The Chinese government does not publish data of sector-based investments, it uses different terminology to classify them and the few published are not completely reliable. Furthermore, there are contradictions between investment flows and the amount of goods and services that contribute to the formation of capital stock[11], causing a lack of transparency that may create doubts on the way through which this policy is implemented and, consequently, on its honesty. These investments are commonly implemented as Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs), or Overseas Direct Investments (ODIs) according to the Chinese statistic denomination, and just in the African continent, over the period 1998-2012, they include about 2000 Chinese firms investing in 49 countries.[12] An important role in this field is covered by the China Development Bank[13] with its China-Africa Development Fund (CAD Fund) and the Export-Import Bank of China[14]. They promote trade and development projects, and support firms and contractors in Africa, through incentives such as tax breaks, credit, low-interest loans and customs preferences. Simultaneously, the Chinese government puts in practice a strong diplomatic effort, for example with periodic diplomatic official visits, in order to guarantee successful outcomes. Referring to the lacking available information, there are two main sectors that seem to receive priority: the energy sector and the infrastructure one. Conforming to an American analysis, the energy field, in particular oil extraction, has been the main beneficiary of investments, with more than 90% of total flows coming from state firms, with the objective of creating joint ventures with African energy companies and multinational corporations.[15] These investment flows are focused on a small number of companies and resource-rich countries such as Angola and Sudan, where at the same time the presence of USA and the European Union is completely absent.[16] On the other hand, the infrastructure sector represents another important field of investments, which shift from $500 million in 2001 up to $14 billion in 2011, used mostly to build powers plants, road networks, health facilities, potentially people-living towns and telecommunication services.[17] Infrastructures are crucial and important investment for China, because they permit to introduce Chinese companies and workers on African soil and to obtain those natural resources able to satisfy Chinese national food and energy requirements. However, China investments are addressed to a great number of “intention of investments”, as Land Matrix calls them; and in fact, according to its database, China invests also in agriculture, industry and tourism.[18]

Despite the Chinese penetration seems to be received by African countries in a favorable and convenient perspective, at the international level it has produced, particularly in US and Europe, a large debate regarding the way of its implementation and the possible consequences for the African continent. It is possible to detect three different interpretations of this Sino-African framework. The first interpretation describes China as a great partner for African countries, it sees Chinese investments as long-term ones and believes in its commitment.[19] Thanks to China, African markets are stimulated and, at the same time, African countries are helped in searching new ways of developing, using also Chinese infrastructures and technologies.[20] This interpretation presents the issue as a win-win situation, where both Africa and China can obtain benefits from their cooperation. The second one instead, believes that investments are only short-term ones and that the Chinese mere objective is to exploit, as fast as it can, African natural and energy resources. The situation in this case, presents a predominant role of China, which could be able to overpower both Western countries and the emerging African ones.[21] The third and last interpretation is the most pessimistic. In fact, it describes the Chinese presence in Africa as a new form of colonization, focused on the gradual control of the African political elites and on the introduction of a new development system going to the detriment of that proposed by Western countries.[22] This assertion appears controversial. On one hand, if we look at the Chinese Constitution, we find that it takes position against colonialism, seen as a threat to stability, but on the other hand, its asymmetrical relations with Africa, its lack of transparency, its investment target and its promotion of emigration policies, gives appeal to this perception.[23] From the social point of view, fears are linked to the possible destabilization of these countries, as said in the previous paragraph. If it is true that the Chinese government looks like the most appropriate to deal with African ones,  because of their usually equivalences in terms of political system, the unlimited availability of China to finance anyone who recognizes the “One-China policy”, could create internal struggles for power, further damaging the already unstable political contexts.

 

 

References:

[1] Source Indexmundi, online: http://www.indexmundi.com/china/population.html.

[2] Source World Bank, online: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.POP.DNST.

[3] P. Kersting, op.ult.cit.

[4] A. Gallia, “Ruolo della Cina in Africa, tra interessi economico-politici, sfruttamento delle risorse naturali e conflitti sociali”, Conferenza di Studi Africanistici, 30 Settembre-2 Ottobre 2010, Napoli.

[5] Ibidem.

[6] A. Richiello, “Perché alla Cina interessa l’Africa”, Rivista Limes Online, 27 Febbraio 2015, online: www.limesonline.com/perche-alla-cina-interessa-lafrica-1/76224.

[7] A. Gallia, op-ult.cit.

[8] A. Richiello, op.ult.cit.

[9] A. Gallia, op.ult.cit.

[10] Ibidem.

[11] A. Richiello, op.utl.cit.

[12] D. Dollar, H. Tang, W. Chen, “China’s direct investment in Africa: Reality versus myth”, Brookings, 3 September 2015, online: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2015/09/03/chinas-direct-investment-in-africa-reality-versus-myth/.

[13] More information on China Development Bank website, online: http://english.eximbank.gov.cn/en/.

[14] More information on Export-Import Bank of China website, online: http://english.eximbank.gov.cn/en/.

[15] A. Richiello, op.ult.cit.

[16] D. Cellamare and N. Baheli, “La penetrazione cinese in Africa”, Istituto di Studi Politici “San Pio V”, Roma.

[17] A. Richiello, op.ult.cit.

[18] Source Land Matrix, online: www.landmatrix.org/en/get-the-detail/by-investor-country/.

[19] A. Gallia, op.ult.cit.

[20] D. Cellamare and N. Bahel, op.ult.cit.

[21] A. Gallia, op.ult.cit.

[22] Ibidem.

[23] Ibidem.

Guinea: trovato un colpevole per il massacro allo stadio di Conakry

È stato arrestato lo scorso fine settimana Aboubacar Sidiki Diakitè, detto Toumba, colui che il 28 settembre del 2009 ideò e mise in pratica la mattanza degli oppositori di Moussa Dadis Camara, riuniti per manifestare nello stadio di Conakry, in Guinea.

La mattina del 28 settembre del 2009, giorno dell’anniversario del referendum con il quale la Guinea nel 1958 si dichiarò indipendente dalla Francia, decine di migliaia di persone marciarono verso lo stadio nello stesso spirito di quel giorno, rispondendo alla chiamata dell’opposizione. Gli oppositori volevano esprimere il loro dissenso per la probabile candidatura di Moussa Dadis Camara, il capo della giunta, alle elezioni presidenziali. I simpatizzanti dell’opposizione furono bloccati dalle forze dell’ordine, al che i manifestanti, in collera, incendiarono un commissariato nel quartiere di Bellevue ed un altro davanti allo stadio. La folla iniziò ad invadere lo stadio nel corso della mattinata. Stranamente, regnava un’atmosfera di festa, i manifestanti ballavano, cantavano e pregavano.

A mezzogiorno vennero lanciati dei lacrimogeni da dietro il palco. Dei militari entrarono nello stadio e iniziarono a reprimere la folla all’arma bianca. I soldati baionettavano a casaccio, picchiando selvaggiamente gli oppositori e ferendone alcuni gravemente. Nella confusione furono commesse violenze sessuali e, nella ressa, la gente si calpestava a vicenda; qualcuno cercando di scappare rimase impigliato nei cavi dell’elettricità e morì folgorato. Gli uomini in uniforme intanto rubavano di tutto: denaro, gioielli, telefonini e scarpe. I leader politici che si trovavano lì in quel momento vennero aggrediti. Quelli che furono graziati furono condotti prima in un ospedale, nel quale fu loro impedito di entrare, e poi in un secondo.

Nel frattempo allo stadio i cadaveri venivano caricati su dei camion militari per essere trasportati nelle caserme o negli obitori degli ospedali. Parte dei corpi vennero poi spostati nuovamente per essere seppelliti in delle fosse comuni. A partire dal tardo pomeriggio i soldati dispersero con violenza la folla dei parenti delle vittime che premevano per entrare nello stadio a controllare che non ci fossero tracce dei loro cari scomparsi.

Alla fine della giornata si contarono 157 morti e migliaia di feriti. Per ricostruire i fatti la corte di Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso, dove Dadis Camara è fuggito in esilio, ha ascoltato circa quattrocento testimoni vittime delle violenze di quel giorno allo stadio di Conakry.

Che ruolo ha avuto veramente il tenente Diakitè nelle violenze di quel giorno? Una cosa è sicura: a differenza del suo vecchio capo, lui era fisicamente presente allo stadio in quei frangenti, non l’ha mai negato. Però afferma che il suo compito era di proteggere i leader di opposizione dal degenerare delle violenze, non di commetterne di peggiori. Le associazioni dei parenti delle vittime e gli attivisti per i diritti umani si augurano che venga concessa l’estradizione cosicché possa essere processato nel suo paese e si scopra tutta la verità sui molti che non sono stati ancora ritrovati.

Carlo Scuderi

I fantasmi di Giwa

L’atavico dubbio su quali mezzi siano accettabili pur di raggiungere l’obiettivo si ripropone con il suo inevitabile corredo di cinismo ed oscenità quando l’obiettivo in questione è la liberazione di una parte di territorio nazionale da una potente setta di tagliagole foraggiata da una ricca rete multinazionale del terrore, e per farlo si ricorre all’annichilimento, lo stillicidio e la vessazione dei propri compatrioti (proprio quelli che si dovrebbe proteggere) con determinazione e brutalità non inferiori a quelle del nemico.

Mi viene in mente quella scena di Apocalipse now in cui il colonnello Kurts prova a descrivere l’orrore e racconta di quando ha visto le braccia tagliate dai vietcong ai bambini che aveva vaccinato poco prima. Già, è la caratteristica delle guerre civili: sono fratricide. Non che la cosa sarebbe stata meno riprovevole se le vittime fossero state straniere, è grave piuttosto che siano indifesi, e che siano tanti. Ma cerchiamo di capire a cosa mi riferisco.

Di recente Amnesty International ha pubblicato un rapporto in cui emergono le condizioni precarie in cui versa un campo di prigionia gestito dai militari nigeriani nel quale sono rinchiusi dei sospettati membri di Boko Haram.

Fin qui niente di strano. Non desterebbe neanche scalpore se in un paese povero e lontano, dei presunti terroristi soffrissero qualcosa che in parte nell’immaginario comune è associato alle normali condizioni di vita dei paesi del terzo mondo, e in parte erano proprio i terroristi a perpetrare odiosamente nei confronti delle loro vittime.

La guerra dell’esercito nigeriano contro Boko Haram va avanti da ormai sei anni. In una prima fase i terroristi avevano avuto gioco facile nel nord del paese grazie ad equipaggiamenti sofisticati e finanziamenti dall’estero che avevano ridotto in fuga le forze governative, più numerose ma mal pagate, peggio addestrate e del tutto impreparate al conflitto. Dopo la conquista di ogni cittadina veniva imposta la legge islamica, e chi si opponeva veniva ridotto in schiavitù. Spesso gli ostaggi catturati venivano utilizzati per compiere attacchi suicidi. Secondo Laurent Duvillier, portavoce regionale dell’UNICEF, un quinto di questi erano bambini, tre su quattro femmine. Dal 2014 Boko Haram ha rapito più di duemila donne e bambine per farne cuoche, schiave del sesso, combattenti e attentatrici suicide.1 Creò un certo scalpore il rapimento di 279 studentesse a Chibok nello stato del Borno il 14 Aprile del 2014, tanto da spingere l’opinione pubblica mondiale ad una mobilitazione per il loro rilascio, ma nessuna è mai ritornata a casa. Oggi a chi andasse a Chibok si presenterebbe la surreale scena di un paese senza donne, come chissà quanti nei dintorni. Da quando Muhammadu Buhari è stato eletto presidente, due anni fa, la Nigeria, supportata da Gran Bretagna e Stati Uniti, che stanno impegnando consiglieri militari e risorse nell’ammodernamento degli armamenti e nell’addestramento delle forze di sicurezza, è passata al contrattacco. Il comandante dell’ USAFRICOM David Rodriguez ha dichiarato davanti alla Commissione Difesa del Senato americano che “Boko Haram non possiede un territorio significativo nel nord della Nigeria”.2 Negli stati di Adamawa, Yobo e Borno (quelli del nord musulmano) gli scontri hanno creato danni disastrosi, quando finalmente si potrà passare alla fase di ricostruzione lo stato dovrà investire centinaia di milioni di dollari per risarcire le vittime e ricreare infrastrutture. Peccato che lo stato federale abbia un debito complessivo di 63,7 miliardi di dollari3 e non sia in grado di finanziare una così grande opera di ricostruzione. Per rendere l’idea dell’austerità del momento, almeno diciotto dei trentasei stati della Nigeria non pagano gli stipendi ai dipendenti civili da diciotto mesi. È di questi giorni la polemica tra il presidente Buhari e il primo ministro britannico David Cameron, che si è lasciato sfuggire un commento sui proventi della diffusa corruzione in Nigeria reinvestiti nel Regno Unito, al quale Buhari ha risposto senza smentire “mi auguro che riusciate a provarlo. Così potete tenervi i colpevoli e ritornarci il maltolto”.4

Ovviamente l’asprezza del conflitto è pagata dalla popolazione civile, fatta oggetto di brutalità da parte di entrambe le parti combattenti, dal momento che ognuno può essere un nemico. La guerra ha causato 2,3 milioni di sfollati. La crisi umanitaria ricade soprattutto sui bambini che non hanno parenti prossimi che se ne curino. Inoltre, alcuni di questi sono stati ormai marchiati come complici di Boko Haram perché, forzati durante il periodo di prigionia, ne hanno subito gli abusi.

Dopo l’avanzata dei governativi, un villaggio in mano a Boko Haram è stato sbrigativamente svuotato deportando gli abitanti sospettati di collaborazionismo nella prigione militare di Giwa. Trattasi di famiglie intere con donne e bambini. Dal 2009 sono stati arrestate più di ventimila persone di cui settemila sotto i quindici anni. Le pessime condizioni igieniche, il sovraffollamento, la fame e la disidratazione hanno causato 149 decessi accertati, di cui dodici di bambini tra i cinque mesi e i quindici anni.5

Tuttora, dei milleduecento reclusi nel campo di Giwa, almeno centoventi sono bambini.

Dal 2011 ad ora, riporta Amnesty, più di settemila ragazzini sono morti per fucilazione, tortura, soffocamento o fame sotto la custodia dei militari nigeriani. Invece di aprire un’inchiesta nei confronti degli alti ufficiali in carica al momento dei fatti, lo stato maggiore, nella persona del generale Chris Olukolade 6, ha respinto al mittente le accuse sostenendo che il caso fosse una montatura, un complotto per screditare le forze armate nigeriane, sebbene si veda chiaramente, in un video disponibile su youtube, un soldato nigeriano che uccide un ragazzino in un’esecuzione sommaria.7 Durante il suo discorso di insediamento il presidente Buhari aveva promesso di rivedere le regole di ingaggio per evitare violazioni dei diritti umani.

Per quanto possa sembrare inaudito, l’opinione pubblica nigeriana si sta abituando a questo tipo di notizie. Il sentire comune è che queste misure siano necessarie nonostante siano palesemente ingiuste, che la guerra è così e che per avere la vittoria definitiva bisogna essere disposti a dimostrarsi decisi, persino mettendo in quarantena intere popolazioni sulla base del sospetto, lasciandole al loro inesorabile destino in tempo di carestia.

Carlo Scuderi

1 Beyond Chibok – UNICEF Aprile 2016 http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/files/Beyond_Chibok.pdf

3 Fredrick Nwabufo su The Cable – Maggio 2016

4 Clive Myrie su BBC – 11 Maggio 2016 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-36270894

5 “If you see it, you will cry”, Life and death in Giwa barracks – Amnesty International 2016 http://mb.cision.com/Public/13179/2005970/a7b36e15b192bee3.pdf

7 Stars on their shoulders, blood on their hands – Amnesty International 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poL1GBpKBY8

Nuovo ruolo per la Costa d’Avorio nella strategia francese in Africa Occidentale

Pochi giorni fa ad Abidjan il ministro della difesa francese Jean-Yves Le Drian ha annunciato un rafforzamento del contingente di stanza in Costa d’Avorio. Questo vuole essere un segnale tangibile dell’impegno che la Francia intende perseguire nell’area dell’Africa occidentale, tradizionalmente legata all’ex madrepatria. La Costa d’Avorio ha sempre avuto rapporti privilegiati con la Francia, che ne fece il fulcro della successiva presenza economica nella regione. Basti pensare che tra gli anni sessanta e la fine degli anni settanta, quando negli altri paesi africani gli europei venivano espropriati dei loro beni e rimpatriati, la comunità francese passò da diecimila a cinquantamila membri. Grazie alla clausola che prevede la possibilità di intervento armato francese dietro esplicita richiesta dei governi legittimi, la Costa d’Avorio ha goduto di una certa stabilità sotto la protezione francese e, almeno finché non si è dovuta dissanguare in lotte fratricide, ha vissuto una crescita del 10% annuo. Dalla morte di Félix Houphouët-Boigny nel 1993, già parlamentare e ministro francese (il primo africano in un governo europeo), primo presidente e padre della patria, principale artefice della duratura partnership franco-ivoriana, la situazione è precipitata. Tra colpi di stato e la guerra civile, le truppe francesi sono state continuativamente operative sul territorio dal 2002, prima con la forza di interposizione Licorne, poi con la missione ONU Unicorn (2011) e dal 2014 nell’ambito dell’operazione Barkhane. Dopo lo smantellamento del sistema coloniale, la Francia ha conservato una rete di importanti basi militari a Dakar (Senegal), Libreville (Gabon) e Bamako (Mali) ed ha stretto accordi con le ex-colonie belga di Burundi, Ruanda e Congo. A lungo la base più importante è stata Gibuti, strategica per esercitare influenza anche in Medio Oriente, dal 2001 condivisa con gli americani. Con la creazione delle Forze Francesi in Costa d’Avorio (FFCI) a gennaio, la Francia sembra aver spostato il suo baricentro verso la parte occidentale del continente. Le forze presenti non si occupano solo della sicurezza, ma anche dell’addestramento delle forze nazionali, con cui conducono esercitazioni. Ogni anno in Costa d’Avorio vengono formati seicento soldati con l’addestramento dei consiglieri francesi. La vittoriosa guerra in Mali nel 2013, che ha impiegato quattromila uomini, ha sancito un ritorno attivo alla politica del kepi blanc cioè all’utilizzo dei militari per “pacificare” à la francese. Subito dopo, nell’agosto 2014, infatti, è stata avviata l’operazione Burkhane, con tremila unità in Ciad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso e Mauritania per una riorganizzazione delle forze francesi in funzione di contro-terrorismo. La scelta di N’Djamena come quartier generale è stata criticata in quanto la città è ad est rispetto all’epicentro di Al-Qaeda nel Maghreb, che opera nelle zone settentrionali di Mali e Niger e nel sud dell’Algeria. Il Ciad, però, è l’unico Paese stabile nel Sahel, ha una buona infrastruttura militare, è vicino alla Libia ed è già intervenuto con successo in supporto alla Francia in Mali.

Per la Francia questo si integra nella prospettiva di Françafrique, osteggiata da Sarkozy che la considerava troppo costosa ed inutile, ma rispolverata da Hollande che la utilizza come base per intervenire militarmente a sostegno del Mali e per combattere il terrorismo di matrice islamica nell’area. Con la proposta del primo ministro italiano Renzi di intervenire maggiormente in Africa attraverso investimenti finanziati con Eurobond al fine di creare condizioni economiche sociali favorevoli all’arginamento dei flussi migratori verso l’Europa e che inibiscano nello stesso tempo l’attecchire di formazioni terroristiche, la Francia potrebbe avere un’ulteriore spinta per consolidarsi laddove ha già un’esperienza pregressa. L’Africa occidentale è stata per tutto il dopo guerra come un territorio di caccia esclusivo o perlomeno privilegiato per le imprese francesi.

La presenza militare è attualmente l’unica occidentale di consistenza tale da poter determinare il futuro dei governi locali e quindi di avere un certo sostegno per poter operare sul loro territorio senza essere tacciati di neocolonialismo.

Bisogna occupare le caselle vuote, non lasciare zone con governi così deboli da non riuscire a controllare e osteggiare il nascere di sentimenti eversivi e pericolosi per l’Europa. Dunque una sostituzione su mandato. Però le operazioni militari fini a se stesse non possono curare il problema ed hanno ragion d’essere solo se dietro c’è un piano politico di lungo respiro con un adeguato supporto economico.

Sembra che alla Francia si chieda di contribuire con i muscoli purché gli altri ci mettano le tasche. Ad Hollande va bene, dato che in questo modo può distrarre un’opinione pubblica interna sempre meno propensa ad appoggiare avventure militari, soprattutto in un frangente in cui si accumulano gli scandali per il traffico di armi ed abusi sessuali perpetrati da soldati francesi in Repubblica Centroafricana.

Il Sahel va messo in sicurezza per il futuro del mediterraneo e quindi dell’Europa, ma ovviamente bisogna scontrarsi con la realtà dei fatti e la durezza delle azioni che questo comporterà. Il governo in uscita ha perso popolarità negli ultimi tempi per via degli attentati subiti da concittadini in patria e all’estero. La situazione si è radicalizzata anche a casa e i bombardamenti sono solo la punta di un iceberg che può essere smussato solo con un intervento congiunto con altre potenze e mirato ad un obiettivo che sia ricostruire saldamente qualcosa con i piedi a terra, evitando così di porre le basi per una nuova Libia.

Carlo Scuderi