Military Integration of Armed Groups as a Conflict Resolution Approach in Africa: Good Strategy or Bad Compromise?
Kamais, Cosmas Ekwom
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This paper examines the integration of armed groups into security sector of a country, especially the military, as an approach to peace building. It takes an overview of such approaches in South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR). The paper argues that while such an approach is good for peace’s sake, it usually fails to attain peace in the long term due to its rushed conceptualization and implementation, lack of sufficient resource support, lack of political will, vested interests by the armed groups and external actor, among other reasons. Furthermore, the paper notes that integration leads to disaffection among the rank and file of the national military; since some of the rebel elements become their seniors without proper qualifications. The battle animosities and suspicion tend to persist even after the integration. All these are factors that are likely to lead to breakdown of a peace agreement; and eventual resumption of conflict with formation of splinter factions of the integrated rebels, as is the case with National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) elements in DRC who mutinied and formed M23 movement. In advancing the argument of failures in military integration as a conflict resolution strategy, the paper glances back at the Montevideo convention on the roles and obligations of states. It points out an interesting line of thought that states engage with states and not non-states. Thus, engaging with armed groups runs the risks of recognition and legitimization of armed groups and may lead to more demands. Such engagements also risk sending the wrong message that “violence pays” and this can lead to formation of more armed groups to agitate for their interests. However, the paper recognizes that if post conflict integration of armed groups into security structures of a country is done properly and with sufficient support, it is likely to lead to long term peace as is the case in post-genocide Rwanda. This is especially in times of conflict where alleviation of human suffering is primary. The paper concludes with the call to re-evaluate the approaches of integration of armed groups into the security structure in a wholistic manner as part of the security sector reforms (SSR). And since every country’s situation is different in terms of conflict history and culture, a fit-all template is not feasible and thus integration approaches need to take these diversities into consideration.