Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Asymmetrical Conflict and Human Security: Reflections from Kenya

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Asymmetrical Conflict and Human Security: Reflections from Kenya

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The post-Cold War period has seen a shift from inter-state wars to intrastate armed conflict as the dominant form of military conflict in the international system. In the last decade, a dimension of intra-state conflict has gained increasing prominence. Where large-scale violence and insecurities have occurred, they are increasingly associated with insurgency groups and asymmetrical conflict such as in Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Mali and Somalia. The rise of extremist groups that are transnational and trans-continental in nature, such as Al Shabaab in East Africa, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Mouvement pour 'unicite et le jihad en Afrique de l'Ouest (MUJAO) have complicated the peace and conflict terrain. The proliferation of extremist insurgent groups has influenced both the discourse and application of conflict resolution frameworks, especially for states in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, that have borne the brunt of an increase in diverse groups that pledge sympathy and/or act in solidarity with the global network--Al Qaeda and today Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).

Conventional definitions of insurgency have subsequently changed in the last decade due to the financial, military and ideological support that extremist insurgent groups draw from both the populace and global networks. Some scholars describe these new insurgencies as new wars, shaped by the inability of the state to discharge its basic functions such as the maintenance of peace and security, to act as a neutral arbiter in competing public claims, provider of the public goods and amenities or become an engine of development (See Buncker 2005; Dartnell 2006 and Salehyan 2009). Social factors such as ethnicity, religion and identity politics, which become a basis for claims made against regimes, reflect a crisis in state and nation making. In identifying land or territory as a key resource or basis for making demands for independence, these movements reflect the failure of states in this region to create a consensus in belonging within the borders of nation-statehood. In effect, debates on security, conflict resolution and peacebuilding are being tested significantly due to this shift in the peace and security landscape.

As a result of the context above, two sets of conversations have converged and dominated normative approaches to peace and conflict. The first is the evolution of a peacebuilding agenda through An Agenda for Peace in 1992, which was an effort to develop a coordinated international approach to peace making and conflict resolution efforts (Boutros-Ghali 1992). The Boutros-Ghali led Agenda for Peace coincided with debates on human security, a concept, which is noted to be one of the most significant shifts in the way that security has been understood since the end of the Cold War. While the history of human security can be traced to the growing dissatisfaction with prevailing notions of development and security in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, it was only in the early 1990s that an explicitly human security perspective was articulated with some rigour. The 1994 United Nations Human Development Report highlighted the importance of the shift to the individual, noting that the real security threats were associated with poverty. However, the stabilisation approach to peacebuilding that gained currency post the September 2001 terror attacks in the United States (US) has complicated the place of the individual as an important fulcrum for security.

Stabilisation as a framework, particularly, in the post 9/11 environment has been characterised by an emphasis on ensuring stable secure states, expressed through well-policed borders. The aim is to manage the localisation and therefore the diffusion of terror networks into the Global North. Consequently, the coercive power of the state has become key, resulting in the conflation and rise of militarisation as peacebuilding (See Curtis & Dzinesa 2012). …

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