A team of researchers commissioned by the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) has warned countries emerging from conflict and war situations of a possible lapse if the new trends of war dynamics are not urgently addressed. The research that covered countries of Uganda, D.R Congo, Kenya, Burundi, Eritrea, Sudan, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Rwanda and Somalia, observed that causes of war in these countries were taking a sharp drift from the struggle for political power to acquisition of land and exploitation of rich mineral resources.
The results of the research were presented during the COMESA meeting of experts held early September in Livingstone, Zambia. Participants at the meeting from Uganda included the Uganda Land Alliance, Uganda Joint Christian Council, and a representative from Gulu University.
The new trend code named "War economy" is said to involve illegal and illicit trade of valuable minerals that takes advantage of the poor legal and policy frameworks in the countries in question to grab from the masses what legally belongs to them. Such acts are mainly fired by issues of liberalization and deregulation, privatization and tax exemptions and incentives favoring foreign mining companies (investors) and large scale miners over the smaller and more localized. This situation is likely to provoke affected citizens into taking up arms in self defence, creating a vicious cycle of insecurity.
The researchers further noted that countries emerging from wars often suffer deficiencies in governance coupled with involvement of private sector in the management of public utilities. This is not helped by post-globalization factors, which allow warlords and profiteers so much latitude to make easy linkages to international financial and trade networks, concealing their operations from the watchful eye of civil society and other public utility watchdogs.
While making specific reference to Uganda, the researches observed, that years of violent conflict and war, a heavily armed populace, corrupt judiciary and police, and inefficient bureaucracy combined, amounted to a perverted culture that will undoubtedly groom renewed violence. "Production in Uganda is largely bent towards accumulation of wealth and enhancement of political power of the handful", the report on Uganda pointed out. Uganda's experience in plundering of minerals in D.R Congo by top brass in the army and businessmen as reported by the UN Panel of experts (2002) was quoted by the researchers as a possible reference for looming war economy as the country's mineral prospects continue to bud.
In the same meeting, the researchers applauded the efforts made so far by Rwanda, reiterating that salary reforms based on job classification, zero tolerance to corruption, an organized decentralization policy, and a re-organized and modernized army and police were key factors in guarding the country against proliferation of war. They urged all COMESA member countries to emulate these principles.
Among other recommendations included harmonization of domestic and international legislation on exploitation of resources, and extensive consultations with stakeholders including parliament, civil society and local populations before entering into major resource exploitation contracts.
The COMESA Expert in charge of Conflict Early Warning Ms. Mutunga on behalf of the Assistant Secretary General in charge of programs Mr. Stephen Karangizi pledged COMESA's commitment to addressing issues of peace and security among member countries. COMESA's conflict prevention mandate stems from Article 3 (d) of the COMESA Treaty "to cooperate in the promotion of peace, security and stability among member states in order to enhance economic development in the region."
Courtesy: Uganda Land Alliance Secretariat
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