Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Fake news, real violence


Jamie O'Dell delves into the subject of Fake news, real violence 


 

On the 23rd of June 2018, separate pictures of a mutilated man and child began circulating Facebook. Shared along with calls to revenge their deaths that had occurred in the Gashish district of Plateau State, Nigeria, supposedly at the hands of Fulani Muslims. A day later 11 men were pulled from their cars and murdered on the street of Jos, the state’s capital, all accused of being Fulani.

 

In this case, neither of the photos was from their stated context. The photo of the baby was months old and the man pictured died in Congo-Brazzaville in 2012, about 1,000 miles away, but the authenticity of the photos was unimportant, all that mattered was the mobilisation of existing ethno-religious tensions. The impact of this was clear, with the BBC team investigating this case quoting one Berom youth leader stating that “As soon as we saw those images, we wanted to just strangle any Fulani man standing next to us”.

 

This case is one of identity-based violence. Here building blocks of our identities, our nationalities, ethnicities, races, religions, classes and genders, the groups we socialise into and identify with, are seen as threatened, in this case the perceived Fulani attack against two Berom individuals. As this case exemplifies, in cases of identity-based violence when people perceive their identity group to be threated or attacked, they are much more susceptible and/or willing to be incited into actual incidences of violence along the lines of these identities.

 

It is important to note however, that violence has been incited via the use of identities throughout time. This however, has done via centrally organised mass mobilisation and information campaigns, done with the technologies of the day. For instance Pope Urban II launched the crusader movement with a speech in 1095 that exploited racial and religious distinctions, four years later Jerusalem was captured by Christians who slaughtered every inhabitant of the city. More recent examples range from the ‘hate media’ during the Rwandan genocide, to the Sun and the Daily Mail ‘fuelling prejudice’ and incidents of racial violence in the UK.

 

The violence on the 24th of June however represents a shift from this elite based incitement because of the pluralism it produces. Individuals are able, through Facebook and other platforms to make unchallenged claims and spread these, only requiring an initial audience able to spread the incendiary claims and make them viral within hours of their publication. The violence in Jos is far from the only example of this too. In Sri Lanka the government blocked Facebook and other platforms across the country entirely, in response to the rampant hate speech it says contributed to the anti-Muslim riots in Kandy that left three dead in March this year. U.N human rights experts investigating the possible genocide in Myanmar have also stated that Facebook played a ‘determining role’ in spreading hate and fuelling the crisis that has forced some 700,000 Rohingya into becoming refugees in neighbouring Bangladesh.

 

Elite groups such as government, owners of news outlets and the military obviously still maintain the ability to incite violence, either through traditional methods preciously referenced or via encouraging or initiating the dissemination of fake news. The Rohingya example doubles up as a clear example of this as hundreds Myanmar military personal also disseminated fake news through fake or personal Facebook accounts, demonstrating how Facebook provides both access to individuals to incite violence, and another avenue for elites to spread their existing access to their populations and exploit this.

 

The violence incited against the Rohingya however was still principally the result of an orchestrated military propaganda campaign. Fake news was clearly central to this, but it was carefully constructed and planned in the same manner that many instances of identity-based violence were before the advent of social media. The distinction between this and the examples of Jos and Kandy, is that the pluralism offered by social media, this ability for individuals to make unchallenged incendiary claims, producing violence that is more unpredictable and instantaneous. Government cannot regulate or even fact-check these sources of information in the manner in which they can for print, radio or TV based media, especially due to the speed at which fake news can snowball and go ‘viral’ directly onto people’s personal social media accounts and the amount of people that can participate in this. This leaves security services constantly on the back foot. Indeed the BBC team investigating the violence on the 24th June revealed how police in Plateau State, where the violence happened, have a team of ten officers monitoring Facebook for false information in an attempt to anticipate and counter violence before it emerges (as a point of comparison Facebook only has four fact checkers for the whole of Nigeria).

 

This represents the essence of the new dimension to identity-based violence that is provided by fake news and exemplified by the violence in Jos. The amount of access and speed of access that social media provides people produces violence that is more spontaneous and more dynamic, making the societies experiencing this more volatile and at risk of escalating identity-based violence. Governments, be they democratic or autocratic by and large have a vested interest in maintaining peace, and the presence of social media sites such as Facebook significantly undermines their ability to ensure this. Whilst the benefits of social media for social awareness and popular uprisings where widely publicised during the early days of the Arab Spring, the so called ‘Twitter revolution’, but the ugly side of this is now clear.

 

The risk now is that with the expansion of social media continuing apace, the rise of fake news causing real violence will continue unabated alongside it. Freedom of speech is one of the key components of progressive democracy, and social media can and does make a significant positive impact upon this. However, unless both governments and providers, like Facebook, get a handle upon fake news on these platforms, uncontrolled and unpredictable instances of identity-based violence will only lead to more death.

 

 

 

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

A Political Economy of Hajj: When embarking on Hajj becomes political, even violent




Examining the interface between religion, politics and violence, Sarah Schroeder presents:



A Political Economy of Hajj:

When embarking on Hajj becomes political, even violent

 

One question increasingly brought to my attention is about the Muslim pilgrimage of Hajj; does one go in order to fulfill a Muslim obligation, or should one boycott the practice as a moral statement? While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia claims a monopoly on the Islamic faith, can and should one separate religion from politics? I think we have arrived at a point, where going on Hajj is difficult – if not impossible – to defend and reconcile with our moral values. Let’s talk about this and try to unpack how Hajj has surpassed as a mere religious endeavor and become a political and moral decision and a tool with violent outcomes. Violence here is broadly seen as a “force that directly threatens bodies” and “the outcome of particular cultural, political and economic struggles”.

 



Mecca’s Grand Mosque (Al Jazeera, 2018)

As the fifth pillar of Islam and a lifetime obligation for able-bodied Muslims in possession of necessary financial means, Hajj is a six-day pilgrimage to Mecca. During Hajj, special emphasis is placed on equality; the practice removes any indication of class, socio-economic background and material difference, signified by the simple cloth worn by pilgrims. But in reality, Hajj is built on and produces stark inequalities through violence. As revenues from Hajj constitute approximately $8 billion making it Saudi’s second biggest source of income after natural oil and gas, it is important to talk about Hajj in a wider context and in relation to violence. We cannot ignore what is achieved with the money we readily invest, in what we deem a religious and spiritual experience.

 

Firstly, let’s delve into who gets to go on Hajj. The Saudi government sets a quota for each country, according to its Muslim population. While markers of wealth and class are removed during the pilgrimage, being able to go on Hajj is in itself a marker of wealth. Securing a place on the waiting list may cost around $2000 in Indonesia, which can be between one to three annual salaries. In addition, Hajj packages which include travel costs between cities, accommodation and food range around $5000 per person. How can this promote equality?

 

Apart from financial obstacles, Saudi has politicized Hajj further by preventing travel for Qatari nationals and Palestinian refugees. In 2017, after a Saudi-led blockade was imposed on Qatar, Muslims from Qatar were prohibited from entering the country, making it impossible to participate in the pilgrimage. Since 12 September 2.94 million displaced Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, East Jerusalem, and Israel without travel documents are no longer issued visas for Hajj, as part of bilateral agreements between Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) and Israel. So although Mecca should “not [be] owned by any government” but accessible for all Muslims, as Abdelmajid Mrari from the Alliance for Freedom and Dignity stressed, Saudi claims a monopoly over the way in which Hajj is both practiced and who is allowed to participate in it.

 

It is crucial that we frame Hajj within the wider political picture, as life in Saudi Arabia is marked by violent inequalities. Small political reforms and new ‘reformist’ rulers such as MBS, supposed to appease the West, have not changed lived realities for women and migrants and do not fool anyone. MBS’ regime is one that grants citizenship to an Artificial Intelligence before granting it to thousands of migrants spending their lives living and working there, and hinders women’s freedom of movement without male escorts. Although women are legally allowed to drive, it is up to six times as expensive for women compared to men to obtain their driver’s license, which affords only some women this privilege. Political parties are banned, protests prohibited, and activists and critics of Saudi Arabia, like Israa al-Ghomgham and Jamal Khashoggi, arrested, sentenced to death, tortured, or dismembered and dissolved.

 

This monopoly of violence extends beyond Saudi’s borders, as it grips firmly onto regional states, imposes blockades where states do not conform, and fights a disastrous war in Yemen. Saudi Arabia expends approximately 10% of its GDP on weapons and $14.5 billion in its arms deal with the United States. Participating in Hajj means contributing to the purchase of weapons deployed in Yemen, which has devastatingly left 85,000 Yemeni children dead, 14 million Yemenis at risk of famine, and cities and heritage sites destroyed. Are we really willing to accept our complicity in Saudi’s violence in exchange for our freedom to religious practice? This begs the question – does our freedom to go to Mecca ultimately come at the expense of other people’s freedom and lives?

 

In (re)focusing the conversation about Hajj, we may begin to understand how Hajj becomes a tool for the Saudi regime to conceal the violence it deploys in its devastating wars, structural and more ‘mundane’ everyday violence. Violence and Hajj constitute one another and are instrumentalized to maintain the status quo. Acts of violence, such as restrictions and exclusions from an obligatory practice, sustain Hajj and frame its nature. Hajj is no longer just religious; its social life becomes political and violent, as it leaves violence unchallenged and contributes to it financially, and socio-politically through reifying inequalities. Hajj thus becomes violence, serving to maintain Saudi’s assertion of power and legitimate authority in the Islamic world.

 

After this reflection, any insistence on viewing Hajj as separate from politics and violence would seem unconscionable. Separating politics from all other domains of life, such as art, sport, or religion, is a dangerous privilege reserved only for specific groups of people. This is a privilege the oppressed cannot afford, as the very politics, which religion can mask, shape the way people may live, survive, move and practice their freedoms.

 
Our freedom and privilege do not stand in isolation. Saudi uses religion to legitimate its use of violence, but as its government and rulers are not held accountable, we need to address our complicity now more than ever. Will you join me?

Monday, 3 June 2019

Development and Conflict Summer School in July


From 22 July to 9 August, I will be teaching the Development and Conflict Summer School. It's three weeks of studying, discussion and presenting, in the heart of sunny London. I have done a quick Question & Answer session that gives a bit of background to my research and teaching at SOAS.


1) Could you tell us more about yourself and your areas of research?
All the research I have done has at its core this question of how conflict and development interact. I started off working on the question of who receives humanitarian assistance in contexts of conflict and why, carrying out research in Sierra Leone, Rwanda, the area that is now South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I published that research in a book called “Not Breaking the Rules, Not Playing the Game” in 2006. I then turned to research more intensely in Congo, investigating how Congolese people conceptualise and pursue security in situations of unremitting structural and direct violence, and published my second book “Formal Peace and Informal War” in 2013. From my research in Congo I started to dig into research questions about other narratives – distinct from the mainstream – and how they present perspectives on, and resist, violence and conflict. This led to a book, “Cultural Resistance from Below” which is currently in print and investigates how resistance is communicated through the Afro-Brazilian art form of capoeira.
2) Why did you decide to form the Development and Conflict summer course?
All of our teaching is research-led. At SOAS I convene a masters programme MSc Violence, Conflict and Development, and a MSc and BA module in Security. Violence and conflict are often perceived or presented as disruptions from otherwise peaceful processes of development, but something that is clear from my teaching and research is that different forms of conflict are persistent and ubiquitous and shape the way that development takes place. Understanding how conflict and development interact is fundamental to understanding how the world operates, how security is formulated and how power, identities and interests are formed. The Development and Conflict summer school provides the possibility of investigating these questions, and as they are fundamental, provides a base for analysis across a range of professional or academic contexts.
You can read the rest of the blog here (and find a pic of me in Congo, with a life-jacket): https://soasacademicsummerschool.wordpress.com/


Details of the Summer School are here: https://www.soas.ac.uk/summerschool/subjects/development-and-conflict/



Sunday, 26 May 2019

"I am not safe" by Clara Caldero Delgado





"I am not safe" by Clara Caldero Delgado exposes the reality of sexual exploitation of young refugees and migrants in European cities



Thierry Geoffroy Colonel, "I am not safe" at Victoria Square, April 8th 2017. Part of the contemporary art exhibition Documenta 14 in Athens.



Life unfolds as usual in Victoria Square, a public space in central Athens, next to Pedion tou Areos Park. Passers-by rush home, to the shops that surround the square or to grab their diary caffeine dose at Coffee Island. A woman takes her dog for a walk, young refugees sit in a bench awaiting for an old man to offer them money or food in exchange for sex, and kids play football all around. Business as usual, nothing outrageous to highlight, right?
 
This article will try to bring some light to how it has been possible that abuse and sexual exploitation of young refugees and migrants have been naturalized as part of the city life,  rendering this outrageous form of violence invisible in the eyes of diary witnesses (and of politicians who receive reports about it sitting behind  their bureaus in other capitals).
 
In Athens, Victoria Square and its surroundings have been the epicentre of the so-called “refugee” crisis (“political will” crisis would be a far better name) since refugee and migrant arrivals peaked in 2015. By November 2018, 67,100 refugees and migrants are stuck in Greece, being 3,400 of them unaccompanied children (93’5% boys). A huge shortage of accommodation leaves 2,363 children without official shelter, and forces hundreds to live in the streets.
 
As the Greek asylum system remains collapsed, and the European Union’s (EU) relocation system cracked due to EU member states unwillingness to take in refugees (last data on relocations can be accessed here), refugees and migrants face eternal bureaucratic procedures while they do not have any means at their disposal to ensure survival. Some of them do not even have hope to be granted protection nor relocation: The 2016 EU-Turkey agreement put all those who arrived after 20th March 2016 at risk of deportation. The same is true for all those considered to come from ‘’safe’’ countries, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, from which most of unaccompanied children in Greece come from.
 
No shelter. No food. No school. No work. No way to move forward. Nothing but their body to get the money they need to pay smugglers and reach another European country. Many of the unaccompanied children living in the streets of Athens, as well as those in official shelters, are facing commercial sexual exploitation. It is taking place in open public spaces, mainly Victoria Square and Pedion tou Areos Park, in a way that its made self-evident to local authorities and Athenians, while academics, UNHCR, local NGOs and social workers point at it repeatedly in their reports. Last January 2017, Harvard Center for Health and Human Rights published a throughout study on the topic. However, political responses remain absent.
 
In the words of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Fillipo Grandi, ‘’there is a lot of survival sex that is happening, there is sexual harassment and sexual abuse. I think that this is something we cannot tolerate, in particular in the European Union.” But we do. At this point, estimated reader, I would ask you to just Google ‘’male refugee sexual exploitation greece’’ to navigate through some personal accounts of the tragedy, so numbers become to you actual people, with a name, a face, a story.
 
The first reaction: How can this be happening, nowadays, here, in the daylight, in front of us? How can this have been happening since 2015, or even before? This article argues that the normalized presence of this form of violence is not circumstantial, exceptional, or something to be isolated from the rest of social interactions and norms, but constitutive of Greek (and may we say European?) society. In order to do so, we will use two simple conflict analysis tools: Galtung and Riches’ triangles (to find more about them, just click on the links!).
 
Galtung’s triangle of violence is useful to our analysis because it allows us to realize that the acts of sexual exploitation are just a manifestation of deeper structural and cultural violences, which are invisible. In our case, structural violence would be refugees and migrants’ deprivation, caused by the failure of asylum seekers’ protection system and the socioeconomic conditions that make for them impossible to find a job. Cultural violence would have to do with the value system that nourishes this sexual violence, such as racism, xenophobia or classism, a dehumanization of “the other” mixed with specific gender understandings.
 
In Victoria Square and its surroundings, the three types of violence come into play and their interaction results in a very particular outcome. They can help us explain why even if sexual exploitation of young refugees and migrants is a well-known secret, there is no general public nor governmental response to it. Even if young boys are seen to engage in transactional sex with old men, it is not perceived as violence. Structural and cultural violences have not only fed, but also made invisible direct acts of violence in the eyes of the public.
 
Here is where Riches’ triangle of violence enters the scene. Perception is essential to the understanding of violence because it is what constitutes a violent act as legitimate or illegitimate, or as our case proves, going even further, as violent or non-violent. In this particular case, the witnesses are not able to see the act as violent because, in their biased perception, being subject to sexual exploitation is part of victims’ identity, having sex with old men is something they are used to. As it is natural for them, they are not actual victims (See outrageous interview to UNCHR consultant regarding the myths about Afghan boys).
 
Finally, it is also interesting to apply Riches triangle to this particular case because it allows us to see beyond the perpetrator as the individual who engages in transactional sex, and point at the Greek state as the actor enabling the conditions for this violence to take place. Going even further, we can also claim responsibility to the European Union for the imposition of austerity policies that weakened welfare provisions of Greece, as well as the all-encompassing securitization of migration flows and borders that resulted in the protracted “refugee” crisis in countries of arrival.
 
In short, the fact that sexual exploitation of refugee and migrant children has been integrated in daily life routine in a European capital raises important moral and political concerns. Looking at it throughout the lens of conflict analysis helps us to identify issues of perception and responsibility. What remains now is only the hope that understanding brings consciousness, and consciousness, social change.




Friday, 24 May 2019

Misdiagnosing knife crime: the ‘epidemic’.



Jake Tacchi tackles the way that knife crime is portrayed and analysed in his blog:


Misdiagnosing knife crime: the ‘epidemic’.


The House of Commons recently published its latest statistics on knife crime, showing a radical 8-year high, whilst also reflecting the mounting wave of knife offences around the UK, beyond the usual epicentre: London. The problem is not just growing, but spreading.

This has led to many labelling knife violence an ‘epidemic’. News outlets are, unsurprisingly, at the forefront of this. The overuse of ‘epidemic’, alongside phrases like ‘war on our streets’ and ‘child soldiers’ reflect an age-old willingness for reporters to draw on a hyperbolic, apocalyptic repertoire; words usually associated with Famine, War, Conquest and Death, seem to sell papers best. Although seemingly trivial, the overuse of this term creates issues, namely in the clear semantic links it creates between violence, and disease. Furthermore, this link is also permeating policy, where a shift to treating violence as a public health issue is becoming increasingly popular.


In turn, certain individuals, typically from the medical profession, have been catapulted to messianic roles at the forefront of violence-prevention-policy. An example is Gary Slutkin who, following decades of experience working with disease outbreaks, focused his attention to the gun violence in his hometown of Chicago. In TED talks and academic papers alike, Slutkin is quick to equate Chicago’s gun violence with the outbreaks of infectious diseases he has experienced first hand. The Cure Violence model he developed is based on methods used to prevent AIDS, cholera and tuberculosis, and sees interpersonal violence very much like disease. As such, responses look to reduce ‘transmission’ and change community norms, by using ‘violence interrupters’ to cool and mediate conflicts, alongside community education and organisation. The approach has proved to be a policy makers dream. In all the communities using the Cure Violence approach, a 41-73% fall in shootings has been recorded. Slutkin’s model clearly makes a difference; and, importantly for policy makers, that difference is immediate and tangible.


A similar approach was also adopted in Glasgow, which, in 2005, held the title of Europe’s most violent city, but has since seen a drastic reduction in the levels of interpersonal violence and, in particular, knife crime. Some have argued the main reason for this has been the work of Karen McCluskey and the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) she spearheaded. McCluskey sees violence ‘like an infectious disease’ which you can ‘catch’, and looked to include public-health-style approaches amongst the work of the VRU. McCluskey’s success and growing profile has led her to urge London to also treat knife crime as a ‘disease’. Her calls have been answered. At the end of September, Sadiq Khan announced his plans to establish a Violence Reduction Unit, drawing on ‘Glasgow’s success’.
If London, with its large and diverse population, can replicate the success of Glasgow and Chicago, it will be a great thing. All violence, and in particular knife violence, takes huge tolls on communities, families and individuals, both physically and, as is becoming more and more prevalent, mentally. Any methods that can bring about tangible reductions should be welcomed.


However we must be wary. The proliferation of public health approaches, and the use of disease-related terminology has become more universal, and, as such, disease is creeping into the accepted lexicon as an explanation for why knife violence occurs. We are starting to see knife violence as if it were a disease epidemic. Undoubtedly, this provides an ease of explanation and, at times, a fitting metaphor, but it drastically oversimplifies various complexities and hinders a willingness to better understand the issue and thus prevent it.


Infectious disease is indiscriminate; violence is not. A disease-based reading of violence does not explain why the majority of those who are exposed to an environment where knife crime is prevalent, do not, themselves, engage in knife crime. Nor does it explain why others who have lived in seeming ‘quarantine’ from knife crime may engage in it. Similarly, knife violence does not spread exponentially, as an epidemic would. Nor does it necessarily grow more quickly in areas with higher populations. Although growing, knife crime still remains in pockets around the UK: areas typically blighted by deep-rooted socio-economic issues. Knife violence is clearly endemic in many areas, but it does not behave like an epidemic.


Public health approaches, like Slutkin’s, also assume the majority of violence occurs as a result of ‘heat of the moment’ passion, where primitive instincts supersede reason and sweep through communities. This only captures part of the picture and leads to an ultimately classist and racist reading of the types of violence it hopes to prevent. Does it not assume that those in areas with high levels of violence (typically poorer areas with higher numbers of ethnic minorities) are unable to make level-headed decisions, and instead act on animal impulses without any regard for consequences?


Unquestionably, Chicago and Glasgow are testament to the fact that public health approaches can help. However, we cannot sit back comfortably thinking that they ‘immunise’ against violence. Violence occurs for a variety of reasons. Often it is a calculated decision, involving intricate incentive structures, that leads people to carry a knife, and to use it. Undoubtedly it affords people a level of control and respect within their environment, something to which Omar Sharif, a former gang member, alludes. Furthermore, The Economist has highlighted the growing economic incentives surrounding knife crime, especially following the boom in the supply of crack cocaine to the UK. Individuals make the decision to carry a knife, to suggest otherwise misrepresents both the issue and its perpetrators.


Perhaps arguing for a more thoughtful definition as to why violence occurs is merely a semantic squabble that trivialises the horrific effects of knife crime. However, we must be wary of reductive understandings that hinder future prevention and misdiagnose issues. We should embrace public-health-style approaches to help curb the knife violence, so long as we accept they will not fix the problem. These approaches may also need a rebrand. Save the term ‘epidemic’ for diseases.


Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Libya: Deciphering a Paradoxical War

With Libya in the headlines, guest blogger Emadeddin A Badi tackles the subject of:

Libya: Deciphering a Paradoxical War
Prior to leaving Libya to come and study for my MSc in the UK, I attended one of the last of many meetings that were routinely held as part of my job in neighboring Tunisia due to security concerns. This one in particular involved looking into modifying the strategy for the delivery and implementation of a multi-million post-conflict stabilization project in the country I call home. I will spare you the details, but one person in particular mentioned something that resonated with me: “Sadly, the situation in Libya is a perpetual paradox… It’s becoming widely known as a country that is very rich with people becoming increasingly poor”.
Fast forward a few months later to my Violence, Conflict and Development (VCD) course at SOAS, and I feel that I have few answers yet more questions pertaining to how this paradox came to be, and how to reconcile it with reality.
A War of Semantics
Is the conflict in Libya a civil war? Does it matter if it is? And more importantly, how can it be ended? These are questions I have grappled with over the past few years and armed with my VCD reading list, am keen to answer.
Ironically, I recently had the chance to meet the scholar Jacob Mundy on another trip to Tunisia during reading week. After a quick conversation, he shared an amazing piece of research he has written on the conceptualizations of civil wars and “new wars” (a term coined by Mary Kaldor that I will elaborate on), taking the Algerian case as an example. I don’t want to reduce the paper’s findings to one, though a particular conclusion does resonate with me: civil/new wars must be viewed through the lens of politics and not through their coherence with historical conceptions of civil wars. That would allow the study of civil/new wars to be informed by the needs of the people rather than get lost in debates surrounding coherence with other occurrences of civil war in the past.

One particularly interesting phenomenon to note is that, while Libyans often draw parallels between 2011’s conflict and France’s 1792 revolution, there is a wide rejection amongst observers, journalists, analysts and some academics that the country is experiencing a civil war. This rejection may be associated with different conceptual frameworks of civil war, with some perceiving the violence as confined “geographically and temporally” as Wolfram notes here. However, I also believe that part of this intransigence is related to the politicization of the appellation of civil war. In a way, most Libyans are internalizing and shielding themselves from disillusionment that would follow recognizing that the country’s conflicts in 2011 and 2014 do possess features of a civil war, and that they are actors in it or victims of it. Those who directly or indirectly participated in the 2011 “revolution” would not be able to reconcile that the once idealistic statement and values shared at the dawn of conflict contrast sharply with the abuses seen perpetrated by those that were once considered “freedom fighters”.

This war of semantics and conceptualizations has therefore, in a way, becomes an attribute of the civil/new war itself.
A Persistent Libyan Conflict
Another attribute of the Libyan conflict is a consistent articulation of the need for peace, only for that to be followed by vigorous attempts to prolong war, which raises the puzzling question of whether it can be ended.


According to Kaldor’s theory regarding an “inconclusive war” parties are not seeking a victory, but rather the preservation of a lucrative status quo. This points to the fact that the Libyan conflict is not a contest of wills between antagonist parties, but rather a mutual enterprise fueling violence in an environment where lines between state and non-state actors are blurred, and where the international support exacerbates pre-existing rifts. The problem is that reality is often dissociated from the actual solutions proposed to “end the conflict”, which suggests it cannot be ended.
Having stumbled upon this video of professor Kaldor during further research, it was interesting to correlate the theoretical approaches of raising income through violence as part of the conceptualization of “new wars” with the practices seen in the contemporary Libyan war economy. Tying these observations to practical policy solutions is extremely challenging, especially since, as noted during lectures, peacebuilders often live in a world of their own, with idealistic values and perspectives. The continued reliance on those whose goal has clearly been identified as seeking to perpetuate the system of war in Libya to devise a solution to end it exemplifies this dichotomy.
My previous reasoning behind Libya’s conflict not being intractable was that parties would eventually reach a “mutually hurting stalemate” (MHS), and that, as explained by Zartman in his ripeness theory, if negotiations between parties are timed appropriately post-MHS, they would be successful. However, given the fact the system of war is so lucrative and that armed groups are increasingly prone to indiscriminately target civilians, it seems not only unrealistic to expect an MHS to be reached but also cruel to passively watch civilians die as collateral damage.



The MHS as explained by Zartmann
Whether Libya’s conflict was a civil war and whether the country’s current state can be improved are definitely questions that I will research further. However, I also believe that these questions are important for Libyans to ask and debate in order to reclaim ownership of the narrative surrounding their own conflict and their agency in crafting a solution. After all, some Libyans sympathize with armed groups’ grievances and views them as an extension of social structures that just reacted to the failure of the Libyan state by finding other means to extract “rent”. Others considers them illegitimate criminal networks motivated by greed that instrumentalize their ability to provide security to capture the state’s resources. The greed-versus-grievance debate surrounding conflict may be heated in academic circles, but it is definitely an important one to have as a stepping stone for peace.