PANEL 7: ETHNIC CONFLICTS, STATEBUILDING AND VIOLENCE

Lecture Theatre 4, 13:00- 14:30
Chair: Ross Mackie

 

Intra-Party Politics and Conflict: The Case of Ghana
Ernest Mensah Akuamoah, PhD candidate, Australian National University
Dr. Hassan Wahab, University of Ghana 

Africa has become a natural case study for conflicts because of its prevalence on the continent. However, studies on democratization and conflicts have largely focused on civil wars, national level elections and quite recently sub-national and local elections. Little attention has been given to internal processes of political parties despite the fact that they exhibit various forms of violence. Previous studies have identified significant variations even among parties within the same party system. The dynamics of intra-party conflicts differ from those at the national or sub-national levels, and therefore should be treated as a subject in its own right. Ghana returned to multi-party democracy in January 1993. The country’s democratic bona fides, evidenced by seven general elections and three alternations of power has been praised by scholars and practitioners of democracy around the world. Nevertheless, political parties in Ghana are beset by intra-party conflict, which poses significant threat to the democratic development of the country, but scholars have not paid much attention to the problem. The paper draws on elite interviews conducted between March and May 2017 and ethnographic observations. Although Ghana’s party system challenges the dominant view that African parties are weakly organized, there are deficits in intra-party procedures. We found that struggle for power, lack of internal democracy, ethnicity, factionalism, and patronage politics are key contributors to internal conflicts in the NPP and NDC.

Ernest Mensah Akuamoahis an aspiring Africanist scholar currently undertaking a doctoral research degree in Political Science in the School of Politics and International Relations at the Australian National University. He holds a Master of Philosophy in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Studies. Prior to joining ANU, he was enrolled in a master’s program in International Development Studies at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax Canada. My research interests lie in the field of African politics with particular focus on elections and democratization, electoral violence, party politics and political economy of development. His doctoral research focuses on electoral violence in “stable” democracies in Africa, comparing Ghana and Senegal.

Hassan Wahab, PhD, is a lecturer of political science at the University of Ghana, Legon, and a partner at the Chicago-based consulting firm, H & M Africa Group, Inc. He is an affiliated faculty at the Legon Center for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD). His current research interests are on politics and state provision of welfare, party systems, democracy and democratization. Currently a member of the editorial boards of the International University of Sarajevo Law Journal and the Review of Religions (London), Wahab was previously the managing editor of Africa Today, a peer-reviewed academic journal published by Indiana University Press through the University’s African Studies Program.

 


 

Ethnic minority needs and aspirations in Myanmar and the institutional arrangements required to build an inclusive multinational state
Cecile Medail, PhD Candidate, University of New South Wales, Canberra

Democratic transitions in multi-ethnic countries can be tricky when a majority group dominates and tries to impose its vision of the nation. This is the case in Myanmar where since independence, ethnic people’s aspirations have clashed with the military’s vision of a centralized state and a unified national identity as Bamar, not the Bamar as one group among many. As a result, civil war has been raging until now. This suggests that building an inclusive national identity that respects the multinational character of the country would positively support peace. My research therefore seeks to answer the following question: What institutional arrangements would be best suited to the development of an inclusive multinational state in Myanmar? While scholarly debates have been largely elite focused, my research seeks to bring a greater understanding of ethnic aspirations by paying special attention to a grassroots perspective. Using an ethnographic approach, it specifically focuses on the aspirations of two groups, the Mon and the Pa-O. In order to address the cultural, economic, social and political insecurities that they are facing, my findings show that institutional reforms should bring about equality of status and greater autonomy. Among the existing institutional models, the state-nation model appears as the most suitable for Myanmar. This is because in addition to upholding core institutional reforms such as the institution of federalism, it promotes deliberate policies that foster the development of multiple but complementary identities, which is desperately needed in order to build trust and an inclusive national identity in Myanmar.

Cecile Medail worked with Burmese grassroots organizations in Thailand and in Myanmar for several years. She provided capacity building support to young community activists from various ethnic backgrounds, advocating for genuine democracy in Myanmar and campaigning for an economic development respectful of the rights of local indigenous communities. She has been a PhD candidate at the UNSW-Canberra since 2015 and has completed her fieldwork in Myanmar with Mon and Pa-O communities. Taking an ethnographic approach, her research seeks to determine the perceived needs and aspirations of Myanmar’s ethnic nationalities and shed light on the institutional arrangements required to build an inclusive society.

 


 

The United Nations and Nihilist Non-State Actors in Mali
Asima Rabbani, PhD Candidate, University of New South Wales, Canberra

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is the deadliest peacekeeping mission in the UN’s history. Despite an extremely robust mandate that borders on war fighting, it is failing to protect its peacekeepers. Its partisan approach in supporting the government of Mali and in building the state in the midst of conflict is proving counter-productive. The presence of UN peacekeepers instead of being a source of protection for civilians has emerged a risk factor to their lives. MINUSMA’s mandate and the willingness of peacekeepers to adopt military driven approach is failing to deter the return of Al-Qaeda in Maghreb and its affiliates, whom I have labelled as ‘nihilist non-state actors’ (NNSAs). Why is MINUSMA failing to manage the conflict in Mali? Who are NNSAs? What challenges they present to the United Nations’ (UN) conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms? Based on the UN reports, existing scholarship and my interviews with the UN staff in New York, I will argue that it is the presence of NNSAs - who do not accept the UN’s legitimacy function and whose objectives are in contradiction to international law and norms - that is making the UN’s existing conflict prevention, management and resolution mechanisms fail.

Asima Rabbani is a PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales, Canberra, researching on nihilist non-state actors (NNSAs) and the challenge they present to the United Nations’ conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms. Her academic interests include global security, United Nations and the existing global order, VNSAs and terrorism. By profession, she is a diplomat and has done diplomatic assignments to Jordan, New Zealand and Australia. She holds Masters of International Relations and Masters of Diplomacy degrees from the Australian National University. 

 


 

The Effectiveness and Appropriateness of National Child Protection Policies in Rural Laos: Service Providers' Experiences and Perceptions
Anna Souvannalath, Honours Student, University of New South Wales, Sydney

Laos ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1991, which is the most widely ratified global human rights treaty in history. As part of the obligation of the convention, Laos has established numerous national legislations, action plans, committees and child protection networks at community level. Despite the legal promulgation, violence against children in Laos is still a serious social issue. Many children who experienced violence and abuse do not receive the supports they need, and the issues are more prominent in rural areas. In 2019, Laos ranks the lowest in child safety among ASEAN region and one of the lowest in the world. The project aims to understand why national child protection policies, which were designed on a national scale and influenced by the UNCRC, are unable to effectively tackle diverse circumstances in rural Laos. The project explores the issue from the perspectives of service providers, who worked or are working in international non-government organisations that operating child protection programs. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect data from service providers in Vientiane Capital and Luang Prabang. It is an exploratory study that will develop insights from the experiences of people working on the frontline of child protection.

Anna Souvannalath is an Arts and Social Sciences Honours student at UNSW. She has always had a passion in children's rights. Growing up in Laos, she has heard and experienced injustice towards children, which is why she chose to focus on child protection in Laos in her thesis. 

 


 

Youth, Peacebuilding, and Foreign Aid: A Review
Primitivo III C. Ragandang, PhD Candidate, Australian National University

This paper examines studies on young peacebuilders, the trends on peacebuilding, and how foreign aid shapes peacebuilding sustainability. First, I will focus on youth and talk about youth as victims of conflict, youth as troublemakers, youth as peacebuilders, challenges of young peacebuilders, and their limitations. Second, I explore studies on peacebuilding per se (and the interaction between local and foreign actors). It is divided into four sub-sections, as follows: local-led peacebuilding, foreign peacebuilding interventions, the interaction between local and foreign peacebuilding actors, and prospects for peacebuilding sustainability. The third section of this paper focuses on foreign aid. It first discusses the motivations of foreign aid allocation, followed by a review on critics of foreign aid. Finally, I will review the studies examining the effectiveness of foreign aid. Recommendations culled out from previous studies will be discussed.

Primitivo Ragandang joined ANU as ANU Philippines Project scholar to examine youth-led peace-building programs and the role played by development aid. He co-founded a youth-based peace-building organization which uses arts and creative movement as a tool to create empathetic communities in Mindanao, an initiative recognized as one of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organization in Malacañang Palace, Manila. He is part of a team commissioned by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to craft the executive’s guide in crafting the local peace agenda in the Philippines in 2018. Prime earned a doctorate degree in Sustainable Development Studies in the Philippines in 2018, where he studied the sustainability of two arts-based, youth-led organizations in Mindanao. In 2018, his first book on arts-based approach of addressing youth vulnerability in times of conflict has been used by 20 schools in three provinces across Mindanao.