Human Intelligence for Human Security

31.10.08

Categorie: Africa |

This summer I got caught in the crossfire during a two-hour gunfight in Abeche, Chad, that killed at least one person. It never was clear who was shooting at whom, or why. The Chadian army said rebels had invaded Abeche. The Chadian government said the battle was actually just celebratory fire. One element of the E.U. peacekeeping force corroborated the army’s rebels claim; another element said the fighting was just a huge friendly-fire incident between Chadian army units. To this day, I have no idea what really went down that apocalyptic night. Said one French officer, “It’s very hard to get good information here.”

So when I spoke with Army Major Shannon Beebe (pdf!), the top intel analyst for Africa, I wanted to know how the Pentagon aims to handle intelligence operations as it rolls out a new “human security” strategy for Africa. Said Beebe:

Having spent some time in that area of the world, yeah, it is confusing. And I call this — you know, when the violence continues to manifest on itself, it really just turns into a vortex of violence. And it is, no one really knows why, who they’re fighting, why they’re fighting. All they know is that it’s a chaotic world. It’s Mad Max in the Thunderdome. And it’s, again, it’s about personal survival.

But I would also agree with you. And you hit on a great point there, which is this, that the intelligence required of human security takes things very much out of the arena of the top secret, the compartmentalized information. We want to flip that paradigm on its head which is, we want to share as much information as humanly possible, in a transparent manner, so folks do understand what’s going on as best as possible. And this is definitely an argument that I get from the NGO community is, well, you know, what you’re trying to do is again invade humanitarian space, and we don’t want to be seen as lackeys of the intelligence community.

Well, the challenge there and one I present to them is, look, we’re wanting to share information well beforehand, so all of us are on the same sheet of music or have visibility on the challenges, so we can try to find a solution together. Now, do I have any solid examples of how this works? Absolutely not, and that’s one of the challenges is, when you look at a map of Africa, if you were to color code, if you took these seven different components of human security and you have NGOs and you have, you know, military working in a lot of these seven different components, if you color-coded those seven different components and you put them on a map of Africa, it would look like a bowl of Skittles.

Now, why is that? Because we’re not doing things together. The NGO community; I go to a lot of seminars and a lot of presentations where folks stand up and say, you know, we’re not doing enough in Africa.

I’m sort of the skunk at the party that asks the question, is it truly that we’re not doing enough in Africa? Or is it that we’re not doing enough together in Africa? And again if we’re shifting our thinking to more of human security, there’s more of a willingness to work together. There’s more of an understanding that this is proactive, because the strength of human security works much better before things break than after they break.

And so for — you know, I’ve worked a little bit with AFRICOM. I’m not a part of AFRICOM and obviously can’t speak on their behalf, but I’ve tried to get this — inject a lot of this thinking into AFRICOM, into their intelligence, knowledge, development section. And while this has settled in, that you can’t take environment as something as soft, because the floods, the droughts are creating environmental refugees which are creating security and stability concerns. You can’t take health as something fluffy and nice to have. These are things driving securities of militaries in Africa.

And so these have to be factored in to the intelligence; how do we gain the intelligence? It also speaks to the metrics of how we view security. So absolutely, this should be factored in.

How do we gain the intelligence? With people, on the ground, interacting with the local populace and asking a lot of questions, that’s how. Just don’t expect perfect results in Thunderdome’s “vortex of violence.”

(Photo: me)

Related:
Army’s “human security” strategy
U.S. Navy’s soft power: “perception is reality”
Navy’s perception problem
Assault ship’s bad day in Nicaragua
Chad’s many problems
What I learned from a Somali warlord
What’s wrong with Somalia

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3 Responses to “Human Intelligence for Human Security”

  1. Max says:

    Looks like good news today! The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo is its largest in the world!
    Max

    Aid convoy delivers medical supplies in Congo
    By MICHELLE FAUL – 1 hour ago

    KIBATI, Congo (AP) — A 12-vehicle U.N. aid convoy rumbled past rebel lines Monday in eastern Congo, carrying medical supplies for clinics looted by retreating government troops. It was the first humanitarian aid delivery behind rebel lines since fighting broke out in August.

    U.N. peacekeepers escorted the trucks north from the provincial capital of Goma, past the village of Kibati, where tens of thousands have sought safety from the fighting of the past week, to Rutshuru, a village 55 miles (88 kilometers) north of Goma.

    Both the Congolese army and the rebel leader it has been battling assured the convoy’s safe passage, said Gloria Fernandez, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in eastern Congo.

    Medical supplies and tablets to purify water were the priority in this shipment, she said, adding that another convoy on Tuesday would be bringing food for some of the 250,000 refugees displaced by fighting in this central African nation.

    She said health clinics north of Goma have been “looted and completely destroyed,” leaving the Rutshuru hospital as the only operating medical facility in a region of hundreds of thousands of people.

    Food, however, was the critical issue for most people.

    “Everybody is hungry, everybody,” said Jean Bizy, 25, a teacher, who watched with envy as the U.N. convoy stopped to deliver a sack of potatoes to U.N. troops in Rugari. Bizy said he has been surviving on wild bananas for days.

    Rebel leader Laurent Nkunda went on the offensive Aug. 28 and brought his fighters to the edge of Goma last week before declaring a unilateral cease-fire.

    The conflict is fueled by festering ethnic hatred left over from Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and Congo’s civil wars from 1996-2002. Nkunda claims the Congolese government has not protected ethnic Tutsis from the Rwandan Hutu militia that escaped to Congo after helping slaughter a half-million Rwandan Tutsis.

    All sides are believed to fund fighters by illegally mining Congo’s vast mineral riches, giving them no financial interest in stopping the fighting.

    Tens of thousands of people in Kibati have received little food aid since they fled their homes a week ago. Fernandez said families here have been forced to move four or five times in the past 10 days.

    “They go around in circles … fleeing the movement of troops and the lines of combat,” she said.

    Since Thursday, streams of refugees have thronged the roads around Goma trying to get home, lugging babies and bundles of belongings, guiding children, pigs and goats.

    To ease food shortages, rebels on Monday allowed farmers to reach Goma in trucks packed with cabbages, onions and spinach.

    Nkunda began a low-level insurgency in 2004, claiming Congo’s transition to democracy had excluded the Tutsi ethnic group. Despite agreeing in January to a U.N.-brokered cease-fire, he resumed fighting in August.

    Nkunda wants direct talks with the government. He has especially complained about a $9 billion agreement in which China gets access to Congo’s valuable minerals in return for building a highway and railroad.

    Nkunda’s rebellion has threatened to re-ignite the back-to-back wars that afflicted Congo from 1996 to 2002, drawing in a half dozen African nations. Congo President Joseph Kabila, elected in 2006 in Congo’s first election in 40 years, has struggled to contain the violence in the east.

    Congo has charged Nkunda with involvement in war crimes, and Human Rights Watch says it has documented summary executions, torture and rape committed by soldiers under Nkunda’s command in 2002 and 2004.

    Yet rights groups have also accused government forces of atrocities and widespread looting.

    The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo is its largest in the world, yet only 6,000 peacekeepers of the 17,000-strong U.N. mission in Congo are in the east because of unrest in other provinces.

  2. [...] David Axe continues his tale: Somalia hasn’t had a functional central government in 18 years. Clan conflict, starvation and anarchy have contributed to what the U.S. Army’s top intel agent for Africa called a “vortex of violence” where the fighting at times escapes any rational motivation. That vortex of violence is a hallmark of so-called “Fifth-Generation Warfare.” [...]

  3. [...] Sounds like nonsense, at best. At worst, it’s ill-advised compensation for poor strategy and vague mission statements from higher command. We shouldn’t fight battles, or wars, without clear goals, no? Then I recalled intel Major Shannon Beebe’s theory of the “vortex of violence,” where old conflicts lose touch with their roots: No one really knows why, who they’re fighting, why they’re fighting. All they know is that it’s a chaotic world. It’s Mad Max in the Thunderdome. And it’s, again, it’s about personal survival. [...]

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